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Asi v. Information Management Group, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Maryland

September 13, 2019

EYAD ASI, Plaintiff,
v.
INFORMATION MANAGEMENT GROUP, INC., Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          GEORGE L. RUSSELL, III UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         THIS MATTER is before the Court on Plaintiff Eyad Asi's Motion for Leave to File First Amended Complaint (ECF No. 18). The Motion is ripe for disposition, and no hearing is necessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D.Md. 2018). For the reasons set out below, the Court will grant the Motion in part and deny it in part.

         I. BACKGROUND[1]

         Asi is a Muslim United States citizen from Kuwait who identifies his race as Arab and Palestinian. (1st Am. Compl. ¶ 5, ECF No. 18-1). On May 1, 2017, Asi began working for Defendant Information Management Group, Inc. (“IMG”). (Id. ¶ 7). At the time, IMG, which is headquartered in Fairfax, Virginia, was a subcontractor to Absolute Business Solutions Corporation (“ABS”) and provided employees such as Asi for a U.S. Department of the Army (the “Army”) security screening services contract (the “Project”). (Id. ¶ 6). On or about May 15, 2017, IMG assigned Asi to work at Fort Meade in Maryland as an Open Source Analyst, a Counter-Intelligence Analyst from the Army's perspective. (Id. ¶¶ 4-5, 8).

         IMG did not provide Asi with access to the part of the government database he needed to do his job, which meant he had to rely on coworkers or his reviewers to obtain information for his reports. (Id. ¶ 9). Yet Asi wrote at least as many reports, and as well, as his colleagues and rarely received correction requests beyond formatting issues after he submitted them. (Id. ¶ 14). In helping other Counter-Intelligence Analysts on the Project who were in training, Asi noticed that they commonly received requests for substantive corrections. (Id.). Still, in June 2017, the Army supervisor of the Project, Chief Warrant Officer Christopher P. Harrod, who had not seen any of Asi's reports, asked Shafiq Khan, an ABS Counter-Intelligence Analyst who tracked other employees' time, to remove Asi from the Project. (Id. ¶¶ 11-13). Khan relayed this information to Asi but did not remove him. (Id. ¶ 13). Asi is not aware of any similar effort by Harrod to remove white, American-born, or non-Muslim analysts. (Id. ¶ 16).

         When he learned of Harrod's attempt to remove him, Asi complained orally to IMG Operations Manager Steven Walter and two ABS managers about discrimination on the basis of his race and “where I came from”. (Id. ¶¶ 17-18). Walter dismissed Asi's concerns, saying Asi “would be okay as long as Chief Harrod's statements did not affect [Asi's] security clearance, ” and IMG took no action regarding the alleged discrimination or to prevent retaliation against Asi for making the discrimination complaint. (Id. ¶¶ 19- 20, 26). Thereafter, Asi became more introverted at work, simply tried to do his job and avoid getting fired, and felt anxious and humiliated. (Id. ¶ 20). Sometime thereafter, Anthony Stafford, Harrod's successor, told Asi's immediate supervisor that he had lost confidence in Asi's performance. (Id. ¶ 21).

         On March 5, 2018, Asi submitted a written complaint to an IMG Human Relations Generalist Caitlin Covington, alleging that he had endured “unprofessionalism, contempt, and harassment because of my race and ethnicity.” (Id. ¶ 27). He suggested people were trying to get him fired and that he would protect himself through Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. (Id. ¶¶ 27-28). Asi noted in his written complaint that Daniel Clark of ABS removed critical information from Asi's reports over Asi's objections. (Id. ¶ 29). Asi also complained about receiving a $50.00 Amazon gift card when other employees received a $100.00 American Express gift card. (Id. ¶ 38).

         On March 6, 2018, Walter met with Asi about his complaint. (Id. ¶ 32). In addition to asking Asi questions, Walter noted that Asi was not issuing two reports per day, the first time IMG had cited any problem with Asi's production. (Id. ¶¶ 34-35). IMG had set production standards for the entire workforce but had never offered any individual appraisal to Asi until after his complaint. (Id. ¶ 35). Walter also stated that the employees who received the $100.00 American Express gift cards had been more productive than Asi. (Id. ¶ 39). When Asi noted the more productive employees were more experienced than him, Walter started “angrily screaming” at him, and Asi left the meeting. (Id. ¶ 41).

         From March 12, 2018 through March 14, 2018, IMG monitored Asi's productivity, which it had not done prior to his complaint. (Id. ¶¶ 42-44).[2] On March 14, 2018, IMG fired Asi. (Id. ¶ 46). In opposing Asi's application for unemployment, Covington told the Maryland Department of Labor and Regulation's Division of Unemployment Insurance that IMG fired Asi at a client's request because he had only produced three reports from March 12, 2018 to March 14, 2018 when he was required to produce two reports per day. (Id. ¶¶ 48-49). On June 1, 2018, an IMG Program Support Manager wrote Asi to tell him about work opportunities with IMG, but when he expressed interest, IMG did not reply. (Id. ¶¶ 61, 64).

         On September 24, 2018, Asi filed a charge of discrimination against IMG and ABS with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) and the Maryland Commission on Civil Rights, alleging discrimination and harassment based on his race, national origin, and religion, and subsequent retaliation for complaining about the discrimination.[3] On October 11, 2018, Asi sued IMG, ABS, and ABS employees Sam Caltagerone and Matthew Rice. (ECF No. 1). He alleges: discrimination, harassment, and hostile work environment on the basis of Asi's Arab and Palestinian race in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981 (Count I); retaliation by terminating his employment and opposing his application for unemployment in violation of § 1981 (Count II); discrimination on the basis of Asi's Arab, Palestinian, and Kuwaiti race or national origin, and Muslim religion in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e (Count III); and retaliation in violation of Title VII (Count IV).[4] (Compl. ¶¶ 108-115; Am. Compl. ¶¶ 68-75).

         On January 11, 2019, Asi, ABS, Caltagerone, and Rice filed a Joint Motion to Dismiss, stating they had settled the ABS-related part of the case. (Jt. Mot. Dismiss at 1, ECF No. 12). On January 15, 2019, the Court granted the Joint Motion, (ECF No. 12), leaving IMG as the only remaining Defendant.

         On January 28, 2019, Asi filed his Motion for Leave to File First Amended Complaint. (ECF No. 18). On February 11, 2019, IMG filed its Opposition. (ECF No. 20). On February 25, 2019, Asi filed his Reply. (ECF No. 21).

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Standard of Review

         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a), “[t]he court should freely give leave [to amend a complaint] when justice so requires.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2). Although the federal rules favor granting leave to amend, the decision lies within the sound discretion of the district court. Medigen of Ky., Inc. v. Pub. Serv. Comm'n of W.Va., 985 F.2d 164, 167-68 (4th Cir. 1993) (citing Nat'l Bank v. Pearson, 863 F.2d 322, 327 (4th Cir. 1988)). The Fourth Circuit has stated that leave to amend under Rule 15(a) should be denied in three situations: (1) when the moving party has exhibited bad faith; (2) when the opposing party would be prejudiced; or (3) when the proposed amendment would be futile. Laber v. Harvey, 438 F.3d 404, 426 (4th Cir. 2006).

         B. Analysis

         IMG opposes Asi's Motion on all three grounds cited in Laber. The Court will consider each in turn.

         1. Bad Faith

         IMG argues that Asi's First Amended Complaint “appears” to be in bad faith because the Complaint alleges ABS controlled Asi's database access whereas the First Amended Complaint alleges IMG failed to provide database access. Asi counters that the ...


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