United States District Court, D. Maryland
WILLIAM E. MATHEWS, JR. Plaintiff,
JOHNS HOPKINS HEALTH SYSTEM, CORP., et al., Defendants.
XINIS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
before the Court is Defendants' motion for summary
judgment. ECF No. 33. The motion is fully briefed, and no
hearing is necessary. See Loc. R. 105.6. For the
following reasons, Defendants' motion is GRANTED.
William E. Mathews, Jr. brings this employment discrimination
action against Defendants, The Johns Hopkins Health System
Corp. and Suburban Hospital (collectively,
“Defendants”). Suburban Hospital
(“Suburban”) is located in Bethesda, Maryland and
was acquired by The Johns Hopkins Health System Corp.
(“JHHS”) in 2009. ECF No. 33-16 at 17.
worked in the Maintenance Department at Suburban for 20 years
until his termination on January 4, 2016. ECF No. 33-3 at
3-4, 19-20 (Mathews Dep.). For the last 11 years at Suburban,
Mathews acted as the Maintenance Manager. Id. at 4.
In that role, Mathews supervised 18 employees and was
responsible for overseeing the Maintenance Department's
daily operations and ensuring employee compliance with
Suburban's policies and procedures. Id. at 4-5.
Mathews reported to the Director of Maintenance, James
Keyzer, who had been placed at Suburban as a contract
employee of Sodexo Operations, LLC (“Sodexo”).
Id. at 5. Although Sodexo directly employed Keyzer,
Keyzer reported to Joseph Linstrom, Suburban's Vice
President of Operations. Id.
December 21, 2015, two maintenance employees notified Mathews
that they had discovered articles on a Department printer
entitled “Top Ten Differences between White Terrorists
and Others;” “Hate Groups for Dummies: How to
Build a Successful Hate Group;” and “Study says
White Extremists Have Killed More Americans in the U.S. than
Jihadists.” ECF No. 33-3 at 12-13; ECF No. 33-4 at 28.
One of the employees who had found the articles believed a
maintenance mechanic, Harshan Yakeem, had printed the
documents because Yakeem had been seen sitting at one of the
computers at the time. ECF No. 33-3 at 13. Mathews found the
articles “very disturbing, ” and so he delivered
them to Joseph Linstrom who said he would “launch an
in turn, brought the incident to the attention of Wayne
Stockbridge, the Senior Human Resources Director at Suburban.
ECF No. 33-6 at 11 (Linstrom Dep.). Two investigators in
Johns Hopkins' Department of Corporate Security, Gary
Kulik and Ricky Mason, also became involved. ECF No. 33-10 at
3, 8 (Kulik Dep.). Kulik, Mason, and Stockbridge met at
Suburban to begin interviewing employees about this incident.
Id. at 7-9. By this time, Suburban's Information
Technology Department had determined Yakeem did in fact
access websites which included the articles. Id. at
Mason, and Stockbridge interviewed Yakeem who admitted that
he printed the articles. Yakeem explained that he was seeking
information about why “white people hate . . . others
because of . . . religion.” ECF No. 33-18 at 20 (Dec.
23 Interview Transcript). Yakeem, who immigrated to the
United States from Sri Lanka in 1990, also told the
investigators that members of the Maintenance Department
called him “Osama Bin Laden” and
“Taliban” (id. at 31), and that someone
had taped to his locker a photograph of men who appeared to
be terrorists. See ECF No. 33-5 at 2 (Picture of
Yakeem's locker). When Yakeem removed the photo, another
appeared in its place. ECF No. 33-10 at 15. Yakeem confirmed
that Mathews knew about the harassing conduct but took no
action. ECF No. 33-8 at 14; ECF No. 33-18 at 28, 32-33.
end of Yakeem's interview, the investigators and
Stockbridge agreed that “the investigation had turned
from a risk assessment” focused on the articles to a
“personnel matter” concerning discriminatory
actions of Department employees against Yakeem. ECF No. 33-10
at 10. With this new focus, Stockbridge and the investigators
next interviewed Mathews. Id. at 23. On the topic of
the employees harassing Yakeem, Mathews commented that
“guys are guys, you know how guys are.” ECF No.
33-12 at 18 (Mason Dep.). Mathews also recalled, in response
to a question about whether Yakeem had been referred to as
“Taliban, ” telling the investigators that
another employee, Adrian Hernandez, had referred to Yakeem as
“Taliban.” ECF No. 33-3 at 15. Mathews reported
that he had “verbally counsel[ed]” Hernandez
about the impropriety of this comment. Id. at 20.
Mathews did not identify any other steps that he took to deal
with his employees' misconduct involving Yakeem.
and Linstrom also interviewed Gard Shoff, Yakeem's direct
supervisor and one of the employees who initially brought the
articles to Mathews' attention. ECF No. 33-14 at 12-13,
18 (Shoff Dep.). Shoff corroborated Yakeem's account of
the name calling in the Maintenance Department. Id.
at 5. Shoff said he heard workers use the slurs once or twice
a week, which he believed made Yakeem uncomfortable at times.
Id. at 10-11. He also confirmed that Mathews had
witnessed what Shoff referred to as “joking”
directed towards Yakeem but that Mathews did nothing to stop
it. Id. at 6. Shoff also volunteered that he should
have stood up and said something to curb this discriminatory
behavior directed at Yakeem. Id. at 18.
summarized his findings from the interviews in “a short
paragraph to the executive members of Suburban
Hospital” and debriefed the executives in person. ECF
No. 33-10 at 11- 12, 20. Kulik concluded that Yakeem had been
“working in a hostile work environment” and that,
although the investigators believed that “any threat
concerns [were] minimal, ” the Department had
“management issues” that required attention. ECF
No. 33-17 at 2. Stockbridge and Linstrom also met with Jackie
Schultz, then-acting Chief Executive Officer of Suburban, and
had a “full discussion about the findings.” ECF
No. 33-16 at 13. They determined that Mathews should be
terminated because he failed to enforce Suburban's
anti-harassment policy or take any meaningful steps to curb
the employees' mistreatment of Yakeem. Id. at
Mathews returned from winter vacation on January 4, 2016,
Schultz and Stockbridge terminated Mathews for
“allow[ing] a hostile work environment.” ECF No.
33-3 at 20 (Mathews Dep.). Mathews' supervisor, James
Keyzer, was also replaced for failing to enforce
Suburban's anti-harassment policy and for not properly
supervising Mathews. ECF No. 33-20 ¶ 3.
December 16, 2016, Mathews filed this action, alleging his
termination violated the Age Discrimination in Employment Act
(“ADEA”) and the Employee Retirement Income
Security Act (“ERISA”), 29 U.S.C. §
1140. Defendants now move for summary judgment
on both counts. See ECF No. 33.