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Whitaker v. Maryland Transit Administration

United States District Court, D. Maryland

December 7, 2018

ERIC WHITAKER, Plaintiff,
v.
MARYLAND TRANSIT ADMINISTRATION, ET AL., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          A. DAVID COPPER WHITE, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Defendants. Maryland Transit Administration, Kevin Quinn, Jr., Richard Simmons, and Eric Bowser ("Defendants"), move this Court for summary judgment (the "Motion") (ECF No. 41). Defendants seek a ruling from the Court that Plaintiff Eric Whitaker cannot prevail on his retaliation claim against Defendants because he cannot demonstrate the required elements of the claim. ECF No. 41-1 at 1-2. Plaintiff filed an opposition to Defendants' Motion (ECF No. 42) and Defendants replied (ECF No. 44). After considering the Motion and responses thereto, the Court finds that no hearing is necessary. See Loc.R. 105.6 (D.Md. 2018). In addition, having reviewed the pleadings of record and all competent and admissible evidence submitted by the parties, the Court finds that there is insufficient evidence from which a jury could find in Plaintiffs favor on the retaliation claim. Accordingly, the Court will GRANT Defendants* Motion (ECF No. 41).

         Factual Background

         This lawsuit arises out of Plaintiff s allegation of retaliation against his current employer, Maryland Transit Administration, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The facts are viewed in a light most favorable to Plaintiff. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986) (citation omitted).

         The Maryland Transit Administration ("MTA") is a state-operated agency responsible for administering mass transit throughout Maryland. ECF No. 1-2 at 1. MTA is headquartered in Baltimore. Maryland, and employs approximately 3, 200 employees. Id. Defendant Kevin B. Quinn. Jr. is the current MTA Administrator, the chief executive of the agency. ECF No. 41-2, ¶ 3. At the time of the alleged retaliation in October 2014, Defendant Richard Simmons was the Superintendent of Bus Facilities Maintenance for MTA, see ECF No. 1-14, and Defendant Eric Bowser was the Superintendent of Metro Facilities Maintenance for MTA, ECF No. 41-3, ¶¶ 2-3. Mr. Bowser is currently the Manager of Metro Maintenance for MTA. ECF No. 41-3, ¶ 3. Messrs. Quinn, Simmons, and Bowser are parties only in their official capacity with MTA. ECF No. 25, ¶¶ 7-8; ECF No. 28 at 1.

         Plaintiff, an African-American, has been employed with MTA since 1989 and is a member of the Amalgamated Transit Union, Local 1300 (''Local 1300"), which represents certain classes of MTA employees. ECF No. 1, ¶¶ 21-22. Plaintiff's claim of retaliation stems from a decrease in his hourly pay rate that occurred when he voluntarily transferred from his position as an "A" Repairman-Welder in the Bus Facilities Maintenance Office to an "A" Repairman-Electro-Mechanic position with no welding duties in the Metro Facilities Maintenance Office in October 2014. ECF No. 43 at 13-17. However, before addressing MTA's alleged retaliatory actions, a discussion of the collective bargaining agreement governing Plaintiffs "A" Repairman position is warranted.

         A. Collective Bargaining Agreement & "A" Repairman Job Classification

         A collective bargaining agreement ("CBA") executed between Local 1300 and MTA governs certain terms of employment for Local 1300 members, including classification of employees and rate of pay. ECF No. 41-4 at 5-7, 8-11, 12-16. The CBA divides Local 1300 members into two departments: Operating and Non-Operating. ECF No. 41-3, ¶ 4. The Non-Operating Department, which provides facility and vehicle maintenance, is at issue in this case. Id.

         Pursuant to the CBA, the Non-Operating Department is divided into groups according to function. ECF No. 41-4 at 5-7. Pertinent to this case is Group 6, the Facilities Maintenance Group. Id. Group 6 is divided into two separate offices: Bus Facilities Maintenance and Metro Facilities Maintenance. ECF No. 41-3, ¶ 4. Both offices employ Local 1300 members that are classified as "A" Repairmen. ECF No. 41-4 at 8-9. "A" Repairmen are a class of employees created under the CBA that perform various and unrelated functions, including bus and vehicle mechanics, electricians, plumbers, and carpenters. ECF No. 41-2, ¶ 5; ECF No. 41-3, ¶ 5. Employees within the "A" Repairman classification also have a sub-classification, such as "A" Repairman-Bus Mechanic, "A" Repairman-Plumber, or "A" Repairman-Rail. ECF No. 41-2, ¶ 5. Each "A'" Repairman sub-classification requires different minimum qualifications, testing, and licensing. Id. However, under the CBA, employees in the "A" Repairman classification generally receive the same rate of pay. Id.

         Because "A" Repairmen have different job qualifications and licensing requirements, Local 1300 and MTA agreed in the CBA to a concept referred to as "expert" pay, which permits some "A" Repairmen to receive and retain a higher pay rate after passing a test of expert skills administered by the MTA or obtaining certification through external testing in a particular field. Id. 1 6. Local 1300 and MTA also agreed to another concept, referred to as “skilled trades” pay, in which they created special classifications of "A" Repairman that received a higher pay rate based on sub-classification. Id.¶ 7. These special classifications of "A" Repairman included "A" Repairman-Plumber, "A" Repairman-Electrician, "A" Repairman-Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning, and ""A"" Repairman-Welder. Id. The rationale for the "skilled trades" pay concept was that each of these sub-classifications are a skilled trade requiring either a journeyman's license or certification from an accredited facility as a minimum job qualification. Id.

         After these concepts became effective in May 2009. disputes arose between Local 1300 and MTA regarding the higher pay rate under the "skilled trades" pay concept. See generally ECF No. 1-8. In November and December 2009, sixteen "A" Repairmen filed grievances claiming entitlement to “skilled trades” pay for welding. Id. at 7-8. The resulting arbitration award, issued on January 19, 2011, granted "skilled trades" pay to certain "A"' Repairmen that had obtained their welding certification from a particular facility before the "skilled trades" pay concept became effective in May 2009. Id. at 25-26, 28-29. However, the arbitrator remanded the question of "skilled trades" pay for other "A" Repairmen back to the parties for further negotiation, id. at 29, and the parties later reached an agreement in November 2011, ECF No. 1-10. Notably, this dispute did not involve Plaintiff. See ECF No. 1-10 at 4.

         B. Alleged Retaliation by MTA

         Plaintiff began his employment with MTA in 1989 as a Bus Mechanic. ECF No. 1, ¶ 22. In September 2001, Plaintiff submitted a bid for an open "A" Repairman-Electro-Mechanic position in the Bus Facilities Maintenance Office and was awarded the position. Id. ¶¶ 24, 26. This position was part of Group 6 of the Non-Operating Department pursuant to the CBA. ECF No. 41-4 at 5-6, 8-9. From September 2001 to October 2014, Plaintiff worked as an "A" Repairman-Electro-Mechanic in the Bus Facilities Maintenance Office. ECF No. 1, ¶¶ 24, 65.

         During Plaintiffs time in the Bus Facilities Maintenance Office, MTA recommended welding training for "A" Repairmen. Id. ¶ 38. Plaintiff requested to participate in training but was allegedly denied.[1] See Id. Thereafter, Plaintiff filed a complaint with the Maryland Commission on Civil Rights and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in June 2012 alleging, inter alia, that MTA denied him the opportunity to receive the welding training. Id. ¶ 48; ECF No. 41-5 at 9-10. On January 10.2013, after a hearing, Plaintiff entered into a settlement agreement with MTA in which MTA agreed that Plaintiff would be eligible for the training and Plaintiff agreed not to pursue the complaint further. ECF No. 1-6 at 2. During the fall of 2013, Plaintiff completed the welding training and received his certification on November 11, 2013. ECF No. 1-12. MTA then reclassified Plaintiffs position as an "A" Repairman-Electro-Mechanic to "A" Repairman-Welder and gave him the "skilled trades" pay rate of $28.55 in November 2013. ECF No. 41-6.

         In the fall of 2014, Mr. Bowser advertised a vacancy for an "A" Repairman-Electro-Mechanic position in the Metro Facilities Maintenance Office. ECF No. 41-3, ¶ 6. Plaintiff indicated his interest in the position, ECF No. 41-7 at 1, and was then transferred into the position. ECF No. 41-3, ¶ 6. Upon transfer, Mr. Simmons, Plaintiffs supervisor in the Bus Facilities Maintenance Office, completed an AS-1 form[2] to document the transfer, but he incorrectly identified Plaintiffs position with the Bus Facilities Maintenance Office as "A" Repairman-Electro-Mechanic, rather than "A" Repairman-Welder. ECF No. 1-14. MTA's Department of Employment Services corrected this error in a second AS-1 form in November 2014 to show that Plaintiff moved from an "A" Repairman-Welder position to an "A" Repairman-Electro-Mechanic position. ECF No. 1-16. Plaintiffs voluntary transfer from the "A" Repairman-Welder position to the "A" Repairman-Electro-Mechanic position resulted in a pay decrease from the "skilled trades" pay rate of $28.55 for welding to the ordinary “A” Repairman rate of $27.63, as reflected in the corrected AS-1 form. Id.

         Upon learning of the decrease in pay. Plaintiff filed a union grievance in December 2014, arguing that his transfer was a "lateral move within the same job classification and group" and that he was, therefore, still entitled to the increased pay rate of $28.55 awarded to "A" Repairman-Welders. ECF No. 1-17 at 1. After a hearing on January 26, 2015, the hearing officer issued a written decision on February 5, 2015 finding that Plaintiff was still entitled to the "skilled trades" pay after his transfer and ordering MTA to reinstate that pay rate as well as provide Plaintiff with backpay. ECF No. 1-18. Additionally, the hearing officer noted that "MTA may elect not to have certified welders in the Metro Facilities Maintenance [Department" where there is no welding work, at which time MTA could remove the ...


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