312 F.3d 645 (4th Cir. 2002), 01-2097, Thompson v. Potomac Electric Power Co.

Docket Nº:01-2097.
Citation:312 F.3d 645
Party Name:George F. THOMPSON, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. POTOMAC ELECTRIC POWER COMPANY, Defendant-Appellee.
Case Date:December 12, 2002
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit

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312 F.3d 645 (4th Cir. 2002)

George F. THOMPSON, Plaintiff-Appellant,



No. 01-2097.

United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit

December 12, 2002

Argued Sept. 24, 2002.

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Joe Carl Ashworth, Leonardtown, Maryland, for Appellant.

William Patrick Flanagan, Hogan & Hartson, L.L.P, McLean, Virginia, for Appellee.


Dean A. Romhilt, Hogan & Hartson, L.L.P, Washington, DC, for Appellee.

Before LUTTIG and TRAXLER, Circuit Judges, and MOON, United States District Judge for the Western District of Virginia, sitting by designation.

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Affirmed by published opinion. Judge TRAXLER wrote the opinion, in which Judge LUTTIG and Judge MOON joined.


TRAXLER, Circuit Judge.

George F. Thompson appeals a grant of summary judgment in favor of his former employer, Potomac Electric Power Company ("PEPCO"), on his employment discrimination claims under Title VII and Section 1981. See 42 U.S.C.A. §§ 2000e-2(a), 2000e-3(a) (West 1994); 42 U.S.C.A. § 1981 (West 1994). Thompson alleges that PEPCO unlawfully denied him certain training opportunities because of his race and retaliated against him for complaining about PEPCO's allegedly discriminatory conduct. For the reasons set forth below, we affirm.


Thompson, who is African-American, joined PEPCO in 1977 and worked for twenty-three years at the Morgantown Generating Station ("Morgantown") in Newburg, Maryland. During his career at PEPCO, Thompson successfully completed more than eighty training courses, thirty-two of them between 1996 and 1998. He started at the lowest position in his job classification, Power Plant Operator ("PPO") Helper, but steadily advanced through the ranks and was promoted to the highest PPO classification, "A" Operator, in 1994. As an "A" Operator, Thompson worked chiefly in Morgantown's nerve center, the Control Room, operating equipment. During the relevant period, Thompson's immediate supervisor was Robert Chase, a Senior Power Plant Operator ("SPPO") who is also African-American. Chase, in turn, reported to Shift Supervisor Clifford Fluharty, and Fluharty reported to William Hutchins, the General Supervisor of Plant Operations. Both Fluharty and Hutchins are white.

In 1996 and 1997, PEPCO had an unwritten practice of allowing PPOs, like Thompson, to upgrade to SPPO positions on a temporary basis in order to provide cover in the Control Room. Individuals who were temporarily upgraded to SPPO performed chiefly technical duties, but they also directed the work of Control Room operators and thus acquired a modest degree of supervisory experience. They did not, however, perform such supervisory functions as conducting performance appraisals, recommending discipline, or reviewing leave requests. The duration of upgrades varied and lasted up to one year. Thompson was temporarily upgraded to the SPPO position on one occasion for approximately forty minutes. Two white employees, John Norris and Lester Combs, were upgraded to SPPO positions for lengthier intervals. Norris was also an "A" Operator, but had fewer years of company service than Thompson, and Combs held the lower rated position of "B" Operator. Two other white employees, William Pilkerton and Kim Morris, both "A" Operators senior to Thompson, were never upgraded at all.

Although he never sought additional opportunities for the temporary upgrades, Thompson "thought someone would look at [his] achievements and say, well, let's give [him] a chance." J.A. 44. When specifically approached by Fluharty and asked whether he would like to be upgraded, Thompson responded that he would "try it" so long as he was provided training and the support of a supervisor. J.A. 44. Thompson was encouraged to work alongside Chase in the Control Room, but according to Chase, Thompson did not take advantage of the opportunity.

Thompson applied for a permanent SPPO position in 1997 and 1998. As part

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of the application process, PEPCO required applicants to complete a First Line Supervisory Assessment Center (the "Assessment Center"), a test comprising six simulation exercises designed to measure the applicant's abilities in various supervisory areas, including communication, problem-solving, judgment, leadership, and inter-personal relations. The simulation exercises were not, however, based on power plant operations. When Thompson participated in the Assessment Center, he was presented with scenarios out of a retail setting. Applicants participating in the Assessment Center received scores ranging from "Best" to "Needs Improvement," with those applicants scoring higher than "Needs Improvement" proceeding to the interview stage. Both times Thompson participated in the Assessment Center he received an overall score...

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