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Rashid v. Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority

United States District Court, D. Maryland

March 22, 2018




         Presently pending and ready for resolution in this employment case are the motion for partial summary judgment filed by Plaintiff Pervez Rashid (“Plaintiff”) (ECF No. 13) and the cross-motion for summary judgment filed by Defendant Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (“Defendant”) (ECF No. 15). The issues have been briefed, and the court now rules, no hearing being deemed necessary. Local Rule 105.6. For the following reasons, the motion for summary judgment filed by Plaintiff will be denied, and the cross-motion for summary judgment filed by Defendant will be granted in part and denied in part.

         I. Background

         A. Factual Background[1]

         Plaintiff is a Muslim of Pakistani descent. (ECF No. 4 ¶ 1). Defendant hired Plaintiff in September 2011 as a Manager, Inventory Planning for Bus Maintenance. (ECF Nos. 14-5; 14-19). Vyron Johnson initially supervised Plaintiff's work. Plaintiff's initial performance review covered the time period from September 19, 2011 until December 31, 2012.[2] Mr. Johnson evaluated Plaintiff's ability to meet a variety of “job standards/performance goals” on a five level scale - “Outstanding, ” “Exceeds Expectations, ” “Competent, ” “Needs Improvement, ” and “Unacceptable.” Mr. Johnson rated Plaintiff “competent” in four aspects of his job, “needs improvement” in one, and “exceeds expectations” in one. (ECF No. 14-7, at 3-4). Of eight “Performance Factors, ” Mr. Johnson rated Plaintiff “competent” in seven and “needs improvement” in one. (Id. at 5-6). Mr. Johnson gave Plaintiff an overall score of “competent.” (Id. at 9).

         It appears that the style of performance review changed in 2013. At the beginning of 2013, Mr. Johnson identified six objectives for Plaintiff to meet, and Mr. Johnson performed a midyear review where he determined whether Plaintiff was on pace to meet all six objectives. (ECF No. 14-9, at 3-6). In the 2013 year-end review, Mr. Johnson evaluated whether Plaintiff: “met objective;” “did not meet objective;” or “exceeded objective.” Mr. Johnson gave Plaintiff a “met objective” on each of the six objectives. (Id. at 8). Mr. Johnson also rated Plaintiff's behaviors in eight different areas from zero to two - two being the highest - and gave Plaintiff a “1” on each behavior for an overall score of “solid performer, ” the middle of three categories. (Id. at 11).

         Mr. Johnson retired in June 2014, and Tara Wasiak replaced him. (ECF No. 4 ¶¶ 40-42). At some point in either 2013 or 2014, Defendant changed Plaintiff's job title and duties. Plaintiff alleges this occurred in 2014 under Ms. Wasiak's supervision and points to Mr. Johnson's affidavit for support. (Id. ¶ 49; 14-6). According to Defendant, Plaintiff's responsibilities had been divided by Mr. Johnson because Plaintiff had been unable to perform all the duties assigned. (ECF No. 14-19).

         In 2014, Plaintiff was given seven objectives to meet.[3] Ms. Wasiak performed the year-end review. It initially showed that Plaintiff met four objectives and did not meet three objectives. His overall objectives rating was “less than half of objectives met/exceeded, ” the lowest score. His overall performance based on the eight different behaviors was deemed “improvement required.” (ECF No. 14-15, at 7-12). Because Defendant's human resources department did not believe Ms. Wasiak had supervised Plaintiff “long enough to justify the rating” (ECF No. 15, at 5; see ECF No. 17, at 6), the evaluation was revised to show that Plaintiff had met five objectives and did not meet two objectives. He received an overall objectives rating of “half or more of objectives met” and an overall performance rating of “solid performer.” (ECF No. 14-16).

         Defendant had to implement changes in 2015. Prior to 2015, Defendant did not have a mechanism in place to ensure quality control for material going into its buses, and the Federal Transit Administration (“FTA”) standards mandated this mechanism. (ECF No. 14-17, at 3). Defendant wanted to install the quality control system in 2015. (ECF No. 15-15, at 6). This task gained added urgency after the FTA conducted an audit in March and April 2015 and published a report on June 17, 2015, stating that Defendant's “bus maintenance materials procurement process [was] not being executed in accordance with FTA standards[.]” (ECF No. 14-17, at 3).

         This new program fell under Plaintiff's purview. Before the beginning of 2015, Ms. Wasiak provided Plaintiff with a series of objectives designed, at least in part, to measure the progress toward this new quality control system. As best can be gleaned from the record, to establish the program, Plaintiff had to create a system to manage data about the incoming products, hire new inspectors, provide them with necessary materials to perform inspections, determine a standard operating procedure for what to inspect and how to inspect it, and manage data relating to the quality of newly procured material in a way that helped the business run efficiently.[4] (ECF No. 14-18, at 3-8).

         In his 2015 mid-year review, Plaintiff was warned that he was not on target to meet seven of nine objectives. (ECF No. 14-18, at 7). In his 2015 year-end review, Plaintiff was deemed not to have met eight out of the nine objectives. He received an overall performance rating of “improvement required.” (ECF No. 14-18, at 10-18). Plaintiff challenged his performance review (ECF No. 14-25), but his challenge was denied (ECF No. 14-26).

         Plaintiff wrote to Defendant's Director of the Office of Equal Employment Opportunity, James Wynne, on December 20, 2015. His email did not mention or identify any discrimination and simply stated that he “had open and outstanding grievances which need review and resolution.” (ECF No. 14-21). Mr. Wynne wrote back explaining that the grievance was not within the scope of his office. (ECF No. 14-22).

         On December 30, 2015, Plaintiff sent Ms. Wasiak a request for an alternative schedule to allow him to leave early on Friday. (ECF No. 14-12, at 4). In his response brief, Plaintiff explains that he made this request to attend Muslim Friday prayers. (ECF No. 17, at 5).

         Following his 2015 evaluation, Plaintiff was not given a performance improvement plan (“PIP”). (ECF No. 15-15, at 10). Defendant terminated Plaintiff's employment on April 12, 2016. The parties dispute whether a PIP is a pre-termination requirement. (Compare ECF No. 17, at 10 with ECF No. 20, at 2).[5]

         B. Procedural Background

         On April 18, 2016, Plaintiff filed a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) alleging age, religion, and national origin discrimination. (ECF No. 14-28).

         The EEOC issued Plaintiff a right to sue letter on December 20, 2016. (ECF No. 14-30).

         Plaintiff filed suit on March 16, 2017, and filed an amended complaint on April 6. Plaintiff asserts claims for discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., on the basis of national origin, race, and religion. Plaintiff also asserts a claim of retaliation for reporting discrimination. (ECF No. 4-1). Defendant answered and raised a number of affirmative defenses. (ECF No. 5).

         On October 25, 2017, Plaintiff moved for partial summary judgment on Defendant's “third, fourth, and fifth affirmative defenses” which assert a failure to exhaust administrative remedies generally, a failure to exhaust administrative remedies as it related to the claims of racial discrimination and retaliation specifically, and that the suit is barred by the statute of limitations. (ECF No. 14, at 5). Defendant responded and filed a cross-motion for summary judgment arguing: Plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies for his claims of racial discrimination and retaliation; Plaintiff failed to establish his prima facie case because he was terminated for not meeting Defendant's legitimate expectations; and Plaintiff had failed to establish a religious accommodation claim because Plaintiff did not notify Defendant about the need for a religious accommodation. (ECF No. 15).

         II. Standard of Review

         A motion for summary judgment will be granted only if there exists no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986); Emmett v. Johnson, 532 F.3d 291, 297 (4th Cir. 2008). To prevail on a motion for summary judgment, the moving party generally bears the burden of showing that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. at 248-50. A dispute about a material fact is genuine “if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Id. at 248. In undertaking this inquiry, a court must view the facts and the reasonable inferences drawn therefrom “in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion, ” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986) (quoting United States v. Diebold, Inc., 369 U.S. 654, 655 (1962)); see ...

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