United States District Court, D. Maryland
ERNEST A. THOMAS, Plaintiff,
WASHINGTON METROPOLITAN AREA TRANSIT AUTHORITY, Defendant.
XINIS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
before the Court is Defendant Washington Metropolitan Area
Transit Authority (“WMATA”)'s motion for
summary judgment. ECF No. 15. The motion is fully briefed,
and no hearing is necessary. See D. Md. Loc. R.
105.6. For the following reasons, summary judgment is denied.
Ernest A. Thomas (“Thomas”) has worked at WMATA
since he was first hired as an electrical mechanic in 2005.
ECF No. 1 at 6; ECF No. 19-3 ¶ 6. Thomas was eventually
promoted to Senior Vehicle Engineer. ECF No. 19-3 ¶ 6.
Thomas, a black male originally from Liberia, is trained and
educated in engineering. ECF No. 15-4; ECF No. 15-6 at
7:18-8:4. This discrimination case arises from WMATA's
decision to not promote Thomas to the position of
“Manger, Operations Training” (“the
position” or “Training Manager”) in the
summer of 2017. ECF No. 1 at 10.
19, 2017, WMATA posted an announcement for the Training
Manager position. ECF No. 15-2 ¶ 4. This position,
classified as one in the engineering department, is
responsible for creating and administering technical training
programs for WMATA employees. ECF No. 15-9 at 1-3; ECF No.
19-9 at 15:16-17. To apply for the position, applicants first
submitted resumes online. See ECF No. 19-9 at
5:9-18; ECF No. 19-10 at 6:4-7. WMATA Human Resources
(“HR”) Recruiter, Marcus Washington, then
reviewed these resumes to determine if the applicants were
“minimally qualified.” ECF No. 15-2 ¶ 7; ECF
No. 19-9 at 5:19-6:13. According to WMATA's job posting,
an applicant is minimally qualified if he or she has either
(1) “[g]raduat[ed] from an accredited college or
university with a bachelor's degree in Engineering,
Engineering and Technology, Transportation Management, or
related field” and has at least eight years'
experience “in maintenance, engineering, or technical
management with specific experience that includes training
and supervision, ” or (2) has “an equivalent
combination of post high school education, industrial or
vocational training” plus 12 years' experience
“in maintenance, engineering, or technical management
with specific experience that includes training and
supervision.” ECF No. 15-9 at 4.
evaluated 86 applicants, nine of whom, including Thomas, were
deemed “minimally qualified.” ECF No. 15-2
¶¶ 6-7; ECF No. 19-10 at 6:8-11. Washington
forwarded the nine applicants' resumes to the hiring
official, Joseph Robinson. ECF No. 15-2 ¶¶ 3, 7.
Robinson, as the hiring official, decided which candidates to
interview from the pool of minimally qualified applicants.
ECF No. 19-9 at 6:16-19. Robinson attests that he evaluated
the applicants' resumes for experience in training and
management of training programs, knowledge of the
construction and maintenance of railroad systems, and
management experience more broadly. ECF No. 15-2 ¶ 10.
He based his decision of whom to interview solely from the
information included in the applicants' resumes. ECF No.
15-2 ¶¶ 12, 15; ECF No. 19-10 at 6:11-12. Robinson
then decided who to hire from the interviewed applicants. ECF
No. 19-10 at 6:13-16.
Roy is WMATA's Director of Talent Acquisition. ECF No.
15-6 at 12:1-5. Roy explained that the Talent Acquisition
Department, a subdivision of the HR Department, is
responsible for the “managing and oversight” of
the recruitment process. ECF No. 19-9 at 10:22-11:2. Although
Robinson remained the “ultimate decision maker”
as to hiring for individual positions, see Id. at
10:11-13, 11:3-4, according to Roy, Talent Acquisition
recruiters may attend interviews and review the hiring
manager's “selection document[s] . . . for
thoroughness and the like” and “[i]f there's
any question or anything along those lines, the appropriate
parties are engaged, ” id. at 7:14-18, 12:1-7.
16, 2017, Thomas emailed Roy to ask about the status of his
application. ECF No. 19-5 at 6. Ten days later, Roy informed
Thomas that WMATA had decided “to proceed with a first
round of candidates whose resumes demonstrate current
relevant training experience before considering additional
candidates, such as yourself, who meet the minimum
qualifications but whose relevant experience may be less
current.” ECF No. 19-5 at 4. Roy also told Thomas that
as of June 26, “the department has not yet commenced
interviews” for the position and that Thomas'
application remains pending. Id. Roy maintains that
the information she communicated to Thomas “was
supplied to [her], ” possibly through an HR recruiter,
although she does not remember by whom. See ECF No.
19-9 at 22:22-23:5.
testified, however, that he did not evaluate the resumes
based on the recency of relevant experience, as Roy
described. ECF No. 19-10 at 21:7-14. Robinson further
confirmed that he never spoke with Roy about the status of
Thomas' application. Id. at 20:14- 20. In fact,
by the time Roy responded to Thomas, WMATA not only had
completed the interview process, but had hired a Caucasian
man, Christopher DiFatta, for the position. ECF No. 15-3 at
1-2; ECF No. 19-3 ¶ 11.
attested that the selection of DiFatta occurred as follows:
Robinson invited five of the nine minimally qualified
applicants to interview, two of whom declined. ECF No. 15-2
¶¶ 8-9. Thomas was not among the invitees.
Id. Three WMATA employees, including Robinson,
conducted the interviews. ECF No. 15-3 at 1; ECF No. 15-2
¶¶ 16-18. The interviewers used an “interview
script” and ask each interviewee a standard template of
questions. ECF No. 19-9 at 7:19-8:3. Each interviewee was
scored based on the interview. See ECF No. 15-3 at
1. DiFatta received 126 points and was ranked as
“exceeds expectations.” Id. The other
two interviewees received scores of 91 and 83 and were ranked
as “d[id] not meet requirements.” Id.
and Thomas' education and experience differ in material
ways. Thomas earned his bachelor's degree in mathematics
from the University of Liberia in 1977, a master's degree
in electrical engineering from the Illinois Institute of
Technology and a postgraduate certificate in power system
engineering from General Electric. ECF No. 15-4 at 1. For 20
years, Thomas worked as an instructor in the field of
electrical engineering at the University of Liberia.
Id. at 3. He has taught in the United States at
DeVry University in Pennsylvania. Id. Also, for
about 20 years, Thomas designed and managed
“telecommunication systems” as well as the
“development and expansion of electric power
distribution systems” at Liberia Telecommunications
Corporation and the Liberia Electricity Corporation.
Id. at 2. During his time at WMATA, Thomas taught a
course on railcar maintenance, which was so well received it
became part of the mandatory curriculum for all engineers and
engineering managers in WMATA's Office of Chief Vehicle
on the other hand, was not educated as an engineer. ECF No.
19-10 at 9:11-14.; see ECF No. 15-3 at 7. DiFatta, a
high school graduate, briefly attended the Community College
of Baltimore County in 2005. ECF No. 15-3 at 7. DiFatta has
spent 12 years working in the railroad industry. See
Id. at 5-7. While employed at North American Rail
Solutions from 2004 to 2010, his job duties included
investigating accidents, inspecting machinery, and managing
and overseeing railway workers. Id. at 6-7. From
2010 to 2012, DiFatta next worked for Amtrak as a Document
Control Specialist/Material Specialist. Id. at 6.
DiFatta then went briefly to work at Alstom, where he planned
and coordinated “supplier activities.”
Id. Then DiFatta moved to Bombardier Transportation
in 2013, where he worked as a Trainmaster and
“[c]oordinat[ed] commuter rail movement” with
dispatchers. Id. In 2015, Bombardier promoted to
DiFatta to the position of Manager of Training and Regulatory
Compliance, where he was responsible for creating and
administering a “training program in accordance with
regulatory and contractual requirements.” Id.
at 5. DiFatta next accepted a consulting job at the Boyd
Canton Group in 2016 and was there until WMATA hired him in
June 2017. Id. At the Boyd Canton group, DiFatta
“review[ed] organization staffing and training for
operations functions at rail transit agencies, ” among
other consulting-related tasks. Id.
has proffered three reasons why he chose not to interview
Thomas. ECF No. 15-2 ¶ 11. First, Robinson noted errors
in Thomas' resume, to include misspelling “North
Carolina” as “North Caroline, ” and listing
interest in a position at WMATA different than the one under
consideration. Id.; see ECF 15-4 at 1. To
Robinson, these errors reflected Thomas' lack of
attention to detail and failure to tailor his resume to the
open position. ECF No. 19-10 at 34:10-35:2. Notably, however,
DiFatta's resume includes similar typographical and
grammatical errors, and is likewise not tailored to the
relevant position. ECF No. 15-3 at 5-7
(“Responsibilities include investigated [sic]
accidents . . ., demonstrated [sic] use of safety
equipment.” (emphasis added)); Id. at 6
(stating DiFatta's “objective” is “[t]o
achieve a position with a growing company that will
allow [him] to utilize [his] skills in Transportation to
initiate change and growth within the organization.”
Robinson asserts that Thomas was not selected because of his
“very limited classroom training and training
management experience.” ECF No. 15-2 ¶ 11; ECF No.
19-10 at 27:11-16. Thomas' prior experience at
WMATA's was confined to the Vehicle Engineering
Department, whereas the open position would encompass the
entirety of WMATA's Rail Department. ECF No. 15-2 ¶
11; ECF No. 19-10 35:12-19. Robinson viewed Thomas' prior