United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division
J. HAZEL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Michael Wayne Brisco alleges that his employer, the electric
utility company Defendant W.A. Chester, LLC, unlawfully
demoted him because of his race in violation of Title VII of
the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and 42 U.S.C. § 1981. ECF
No. 1. Pending before the Court is Defendant's Motion for
Summary Judgment. ECF No. 38. No. hearing is necessary.
See Loc. R. 105.6 (D. Md. 2016). For the following
reasons, Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment is
hired Plaintiff, who is African-American, as a Journeyman
Lineman on March 6, 2005. ECF No. 38-3 ¶ 5; ECF No. 38-4
at 29:8-9. A Journeyman Lineman's job includes connecting
electricity to new homes and existing homes that storm or
heavy rain have damaged or cut of their power supply. ECF No.
1 ¶ 9. A Journeyman Lineman is supervised by a
Foreman. ECF No. 38-4 at 6:3-7:1.
promoted Plaintiff to a Foreman position on March 8, 2007.
ECF No. 38-3 ¶ 6. Plaintiff served as a Foreman from
2007 until Defendant demoted him back to a Journeyman Lineman
position in February 2015. Id. ¶ 6. A Foreman
is “responsible for the men” working under him.
ECF No. 38-4 at 6:3-7:1. Among a foreman's responsibilities
are assessing the jobs, ensuring the safety of the crew,
supervising the men on the crew, and communicating with upper
management. Id. at 8:16-9:8.
his tenure as a Foreman, Plaintiff was disciplined several
times. ECF No. 38-3 ¶¶ 7-13. Although Plaintiff
could only recall two specific instances of discipline, he
does not dispute that he received warnings on other
occasions. ECF No. 38-4:11-18; ECF No. 40-1 at 7. Among
raising other issues, these warnings addressed times that
Plaintiff had failed to communicate with his supervisors and
directed Plaintiff to take corrective action to keep his
supervisors informed about his crew's status. ECF No.
38-3 ¶¶ 10-12.
receiving several warnings, Plaintiff received another final
written warning regarding his performance as a Foreman on
July 28, 2014. ECF No. 38-3 ¶ 13; ECF No. 38-3 at 17-18.
That final written warning stated that Plaintiff was
“not maintaining a line of communication with his
General Foreman” and that “[t]oo often the
General Foreman [was] hearing about issues after the
fact.” Id. at 18. The warning also
As a Foreman, Mike Briscoe is considered a manager. In his
role he is expected to direct his work force to achieve the
goals of W.A. Chester. You are expected to make job
assignments, not job requests. When you request an employee
to perform a task it is a point of politeness and respect.
They “decline” or “refuse” it then
becomes an order. Failure to follow that request/order is
deemed to be gross insubordination. The penalty for which is
termination. This applies to orders from you to your
subordinates or orders given from Emory Kelly to you.
warning directed Plaintiff to take corrective actions like
contacting his supervisor twice a day with updates on
Plaintiff's crew. Id. Finally, the warning
explained that if Plaintiff failed to address the issues
discussed, Defendant would have to re-evaluate his
supervisory position. Id.
colleague Brian Goldberg, who is Caucasian, was temporarily
upgraded from Journeyman Lineman to Foreman in October 2013
and was formally promoted to the position of Foreman in
January 2014. ECF No. 38-3 ¶ 14. He had previously
reported to Plaintiff. ECF No. 38-4:13-21. When Mr. Goldberg
was formally promoted, he and Mr. Briscoe both worked as
Foremen at the Rockville yard. ECF No. 38-3 ¶ 14. Thus,
the men working at Rockville yard at times reported to
Plaintiff and at times reported to Mr. Goldberg. ECF No. 40-7
at 3:6-8. The supervision assignments varied day to day,
depending on Defendant's needs. Id.
least three occasions between November 2014 and January 2015,
Brandon Wakefield, the Union Steward, reported to Plaintiff
and Mr. Goldberg various workplace issues, including twice
reporting issues related to an employee named Lawrence
Verrett. ECF No. 38-3 ¶ 18; id. at 19-22. These
issues concerned safety on jobsites and Mr. Verrett's
behavior. Id. For example, in or around December
2014, Mr. Wakefield discussed with Plaintiff and Mr. Goldberg
an incident in which Mr. Verrett threatened other members of
the crew. ECF No. 38-3 at 20. Although Plaintiff claims that,
at the time Mr. Wakefield brought these issues to his
attention, both Mr. Wakefield and Mr. Verrett were working
under Mr. Goldberg's supervision, ECF No. 40-4 ¶ 18,
he acknowledges that men in his crew were uncomfortable
working with Mr. Verrett, that Mr. Wakefield made him aware
of his concerns, and that he received at least one written
note about the issues. ECF No. 38-4 at 14:22-18:14;
18:10-19:20; 19:12-21:4; 22:9-17. On each occasion when Mr.
Wakefield raised an issue with Plaintiff and Mr. Goldberg,
Plaintiff responded that he would look into or take care of
the issue. ECF No. 38-5 at 10:16-11:22; ECF No. 38-3 ¶
Plaintiff nor Mr. Goldberg reported any of Mr.
Wakefield's concerns up the chain to Ed Lavelle,
Defendant's Human Resources Manager; Emory Kelley, the
General Foreman; or anyone else. ECF No. 38-3 ¶ 16;
id. at 23-24; ECF No. 38-4 at 21:15-17; ECF No. 38-4
talked to Mr. Kelley three to four times a week in the
evenings; Mr. Goldberg did not. ECF No. 38-4 24:12-25:17.
Because Plaintiff took responsibility for “looking
into” the issues with Mr. Verrett, Mr. Goldberg did not
report any of Mr. ...