United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
W. Grimm United States District Judge
McBride, an African-American man, worked for Washington
Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (“WMATA”) as
a plumber until WMATA terminated his employment “for
falsifying reports and for his unauthorized absence from the
worksite.” Def.'s Stmt. of Facts ¶¶ 1,
11, ECF No. 28-2; Pl.'s Resp. to Stmt. ¶¶ 1,
11, ECF No. 29-1. His termination followed an investigation
of him, two African-American co-workers, and two Caucasian
co-workers “for potential misconduct.” Pl.'s
Opp'n 4, ECF No. 29; Def.'s Reply 4 n.1, 5, ECF No.
33. He views his termination as discriminatory because WMATA
terminated the employment of the three African Americans but
not the Caucasians. Am. Compl. ¶ 33, ECF No. 10. He
filed suit, alleging race discrimination based on his
termination, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights
Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq.
(“Title VII”). Compl., ECF No. 1. Now pending is
the Motion for Summary Judgment, ECF No. 28, that WMATA
filed. Because Mr. McBride cannot prevail on his
claim as a matter of law, I will grant Defendant's
McBride, an African American, worked for WMATA as a plumber,
beginning in 2003. Def.'s Stmt. of Facts ¶ 1;
Pl.'s Opp'n 4; Def.'s Resp. to Requests for
Admissions 1, ECF No. 29-4. WMATA assigned McBride, along
with Ronald Bellamy and Tyrone Gibson, both of whom are
African American, and David Eichen and Thomas McCaskill, both
of whom are Caucasian, to work the night shift in 2015.
Pl.'s Opp'n 4; Defs.' Reply 4 n.1 &5;
Def.'s Stmt. of Facts ¶¶ 5, 19; Def.'s
Resp. to Requests for Admissions 1, 7-10. They worked as a
crew “performing maintenance checks on fire suppression
systems in locations operated by Defendant and repairing
those systems as necessary.” Am. Compl. ¶ 21.
Jordan, the Assistant Superintendent of McBride's
department at WMATA, stated that he had “observed
employees in Plaintiff's crew at the end of their shift
coming in late, with red eyes, and disheveled clothes.”
Def.'s Stmt. of Facts ¶ 3; Pl.'s Resp. to Stmt.
¶ 3. As a result, WMATA investigated all five employees
“for potential misconduct.” Pl.'s Opp'n
4; Def.'s Reply 5; see also Def.'s Reply 4
n.1 (noting that these “evening shift plumbers were
under investigation by their supervisors for sleeping on the
the evening shift beginning May 17, 2015, the crew had been
assigned to work at WMATA's Southern Avenue Station.
Pl.'s Opp'n 4; Defs.' Reply 4 n.1 &5;
Def.'s Stmt. of Facts ¶¶ 5, 19. All five crew
members completed their work and left the worksite at the
same time early in the morning on May 18, 2015, before their
shifts ended. McBride Dep. 76:10-19, 77:2-3, ECF No. 29-2.
After that, WMATA took disciplinary measures and terminated
the employment of all three African Americans but not the
Caucasians, leading McBride to believe that the termination
was discriminatory. Am. Compl. ¶ 33.
discuss the facts concerning the individuals' actions and
repercussions in the discussion below, in the context of the
elements that McBride must prove to prevail on his claim for
judgment is proper when the moving party demonstrates,
through “particular parts of materials in the record,
including depositions, documents, electronically stored
information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations . . .
admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials,
” that “there is no genuine dispute as to any
material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a
matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a), (c)(1)(A); see
Baldwin v. City of Greensboro, 714 F.3d 828, 833 (4th
Cir. 2013). “A disputed fact presents a genuine issue
‘if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could
return a verdict for the non-moving party.'”
Cole v. Prince George's Cty., 798 F.Supp.2d 739,
742 (D. Md. 2011) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby,
Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)). If the party seeking
summary judgment demonstrates that there is no evidence to
support the nonmoving party's case, the burden shifts to
the nonmoving party to identify evidence that shows that a
genuine dispute exists as to material facts. See
Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475
U.S. 574, 585-87 & n.10 (1986).
VII makes it “an unlawful employment practice for an
employer . . . to discriminate against any individual with
respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges
of employment, because of such individual's race . . .
.” 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(1). A plaintiff may
prove discrimination using direct evidence or under the
McDonnell Douglas burden-shifting approach. Ruffin v.
Lockheed Martin Corp., 126 F.Supp.3d 521, 526-27 (D. Md.
2015), aff'd as modified, No. 15-2067, 2016 WL
4750626 (4th Cir. Sept. 13, 2016); see Hill v. Lockheed
Martin Logistics Mgmt., Inc., 354 F.3d 277, 284 (4th
Cir. 2004). “Under either avenue of proof, the focus is
on whether a reasonable juror could conclude that illegal
discrimination was a motivating factor in the employment
decision.” U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity
Comm'n v. Dimensions Healthcare Sys., No.
PX-15-2342, 2016 WL 4593470, at *3 (D. Md. Sept. 2, 2016)
(citing Sawicki v. Morgan State Univ., No.
WMN-03-1600, 2005 WL 5351448, at *6 (D. Md. Aug. 2, 2005),
aff'd, 170 Fed.Appx. 271 (4th Cir. 2006)).
does not contend that there is direct evidence of
discrimination. Pl.'s Opp'n 8. Accordingly, under the
McDonnell Douglas burden-shifting framework, he must
first make out a prima facie case of race
discrimination. Wright v. Sw. Airlines, 319
Fed.Appx. 232, 233 (4th Cir. 2009). If he does so, the burden
shifts to the employer, which must “proffer evidence of
a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for the adverse
employment action.” Id. The burden then shifts
back to McBride “to prove by a preponderance of the
evidence that the proffered reasons were pretextual.”
Id. at 233.
elements of a prima facie case of race discrimination under
Title VII are “(1) membership in a protected class; (2)
satisfactory job performance; (3) an adverse employment
action; and (4) less favorable treatment than similarly
situated employees outside the protected class.”
Linton v. Johns Hopkins Univ. Applied Physics Lab.,
LLC, No. JKB-10-276, 2011 WL 4549177, at *5 (D. Md.
Sept. 28, 2011) (citing White v. BFI Waste Servs.,
375 F.3d 288, 295 (4th Cir. 2004)); see also
Coleman, 626 F.3d at 190. A plaintiff is “not
required as a matter of law to point to a similarly situated
. . . comparator [outside the protected class] in order to
succeed on a race discrimination claim.” Bryant v.
Aiken Reg'l Med. Ctrs., Inc., 333 F.3d 536, 545 (4th
Cir. 2003) (noting that in Dennis v. Columbia Colleton
Med. Ctr. Inc., 290 F.3d 639, 648-49 n.4 (4th Cir.
2002), the Fourth Circuit held that a “plaintiff need
not prove that she was better qualified than a successful
applicant if other circumstantial evidence suggests
discrimination”); see also Mabry v. Capital One,
N.A., No. 13-2059-AW, 2013 WL 6410983, at *2 (D. Md.
Dec. 6, 2013) (noting that comparison to similarly situated
employees “is the general rule” and not a
“categorical requirement”). Here, however,
McBride has chosen to base his claim on the fact that he and
two other African-American employees were fired when two
Caucasian employees were not, under circumstances that
McBride contends are similar. Am. Compl. ¶ 33; see
also Pl.'s Opp'n 5-6 (“As a result of the
similarities in position and conduct, specifically leaving
the worksite without authorization, Mr. Eichen and Mr.
McCaskill are proper comparators for Mr. McBride and they
both should have been investigated for misconduct by
Defendant as Mr. McBride was.”). And, WMATA focuses its
challenge on the fourth element, insisting that
“Plaintiff's prima facie case fails
because there is no proper comparator.” Def.'s
Reply 4. Thus, the issue is whether either Eichen and
McCaskill, who are Caucasian, can serve as a “similarly
situated employee.” See Linton, 2011 WL
4549177, at *5.
purpose of the similarly situated requirement is to eliminate
confounding variables, such as differing roles, performance
histories, or decision-making personnel” and thereby
“isolate the critical independent variable: complaints
about discrimination.” Humphries v. CBOCS W.,
Inc., 474 F.3d 387, 405 (7th Cir. 2007),
aff'd, 553 U.S. 442 (2008); Bell v. Univ. of
Md. Coll. Park Campus Facilities Mgmt., No. PX-17-1655,
2018 WL 3008325, at *8 (D. Md. June 14, 2018) (quoting
Humphries). Therefore, “[c]omparators must be
‘similar in all relevant respects,' including being
subject to the same supervisors and performance standards,
and having ‘engaged in the same conduct without
[meaningful] differentiating or mitigating
circumstances.'” Caban v. MET Labs., Inc.,
No. JKB-17-1872, 2019 WL 2146915, at *10 (D. Md. May 16,
2019) (quoting Haywood v. Locke, Civ. No. 09-1604,
387 Fed.Appx. 355, 359 (4th Cir. 2010)). Thus, I must
consider Eichen and McCaskill's disciplinary histories
and their actions early in the morning on May 18, 2015, in
comparison to McBride's, to determine whether they are
and McCaskill were on the same crew as McBride, worked with
him on the evening shift that began May 17, 2015, and left
the worksite when he did. With that, however, their