Gibbs v. Wash. Metro. Area Transit Auth., Civil Action No. 12–1388 (CKK)

CourtUnited States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
Citation48 F.Supp.3d 110
PartiesMuhammed Gibbs, et al., Plaintiffs, v. Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, Defendant.
Docket NumberCivil Action No. 12–1388 (CKK)
Decision Date09 July 2014

48 F.Supp.3d 110

Muhammed Gibbs, et al., Plaintiffs,
Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, Defendant.

Civil Action No. 12–1388 (CKK)

United States District Court, District of Columbia.

Signed July 9, 2014

Motion granted in part and denied in part.

[48 F.Supp.3d 114]

Daniel E. Kenney, Morris Eli Fischer, Law Office of Morris E. Fischer, LLC, Silver Spring, MD, for Plaintiff.

Gerard Joseph Stief, Janice Lynn Cole, Nicholas Stephen Nunzio, Jr., Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, Washington, DC, for Defendant.


COLLEEN KOLLAR–KOTELLY, United States District Judge

Plaintiffs Muhammed Gibbs, Elmer Crisco and Emiliano Crisostomo (“Plaintiffs”) have filed suit against the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (“WMATA” or “Defendant”) alleging discrimination and retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Presently before the Court is Defendant's [22] Motion for Summary Judgment.

[48 F.Supp.3d 115]

Upon consideration of the pleadings,1 the applicable authorities, and the record as a whole, the Court GRANTS IN PART and DENIES IN PART Defendant's motion. Specifically, the Court GRANTS Defendant's motion with respect to Plaintiffs' claims of discrimination premised on negative performance evaluations, as well as Plaintiffs' retaliation claims. However, the Court DENIES Defendant's motion with respect to Plaintiffs' discrimination claims premised on the termination of their employment.

A. Factual Background

Plaintiffs are three former escalator and elevator mechanics for WMATA. In March 2011, they were employed as journeymen mechanics in WMATA's Elevator/Escalator (“ELES”) Department. Def.'s Ex. 1 (Am.Compl.) ¶ 6; Def.'s Ex. 7 (Crisco EEOC Charge); Def.'s Ex. 5 (Crisostomo EEOC Charge). Plaintiffs Gibbs and Crisco are African–American, and Plaintiff Crisostomo is Asian–American. Def.'s Ex. 4 (Crisostomo EEOC Intake Questionnaire) at 1, 3.

Before proceeding to the main facts underlying this case, the Court first addresses the circumstances of Plaintiffs' employment during the time at issue, which provides relevant background to the sequence of events in this case. On or about December 2010, Andrew Mitchell became Plaintiffs' first-line supervisor. Pls.' Ex. 1 (Nici Dep.) at 16:1–5. Mitchell supervised a team of approximately eleven mechanics, seven of whom, including Plaintiffs, were minorities. Pls.' Opp'n at 14. Pls.' Ex. 4 (Guthrie Dep.) at 21:3–22:15. Plaintiffs contend that during his tenure as Plaintiffs' supervisor, Mitchell experienced significant tension with the minority mechanics working under him. As support for this position, Plaintiffs point to testimony from WMATA employees in the ELES Department. According to Ron Nunemaker, a Caucasian mechanic supervised by Mitchell, Mitchell exhibited “racist tendencies” including socializing with Caucasian mechanics, but pointedly ignoring minority mechanics in his team. Pls.' Ex. 3 (Nunemaker Dep.) at 24:6–13 (“I've seen, and witnessed many situations, where he was talking to Caucasians, and other members of his crew walked by, wouldn't say, none of them look at him, of ethnic—Q: Minorities? A:—be it Hispanic, be it—yeah. Or black. He wouldn't say anything to them.”). In addition, Al Aiken, another supervisor in the ELES Department stated that minority mechanics under Mitchell's supervision complained to him that Mitchell was “acting like a racist”, although Aiken could not specifically recall the racist comments allegedly made by Mitchell. Pls.' Ex. 5 (Al Aiken Aff.) ¶¶ 12–14. Vincent Dew, one of the African–American mechanics who complained to Aiken, filed a discrimination complaint against Mitchell in June 2011 with WMATA's Office of Civil Rights alleging that Mitchell had discriminated against him by imposing improperly harsh sanctions for performance related issues and giving him a negative performance evaluation. Pls.' Ex. 13 (Dew EEO Complaint Outcome). In response to Dew's complaint, Dew was transferred out from under Mitchell's supervision. Id.

As further evidence of racial tension between Mitchell and the minority members of his team, Plaintiffs point to Mitchell's

[48 F.Supp.3d 116]

performance evaluations of his subordinates. Performance evaluations for mechanics re-commenced in the ELES department in early 2011 after a 10 year absence. Def.'s Ex. 14 at 48:10–20. The evaluations were to be filled out by supervisors on a quarterly basis. Id. at 44:15–19. Mitchell submitted two sets of performance evaluations for his subordinates, with the second set consisting of evaluations for the period ending April 1, 2011. Pls.' Ex. 14 (Performance Evaluations); Pls.' Ex. 23 (Performance Evaluations). Plaintiffs argue that Mitchell's performance evaluations show a clear pattern, such that Caucasian mechanics received positive evaluations while minority mechanics received negative reviews. For example, in his April 2011 evaluation for Paul Botto, a Caucasian mechanic, Mitchell wrote “Having Mr. Botto in sector 4 has been a joy.” Pls.' Ex. 23 at 13. Mitchell described another white mechanic, Scott Doering, as “a good mechanic with a willingness and knowledge to teach other mechanics if the opportunity rises [sic]. I look forward to working with him in the future.” Id. at 7. In a positive evaluation for another Caucasian mechanic, Nicholas Guthrie, Mitchell again wrote “Having Mr. Guthrie in sector 4 has been a joy.” Id. at 2. By contrast, the evaluations for Plaintiffs and other minority mechanics include the following negative language: “Mr. Gibbs' quality of work and productivity have suffered due to the fact that he lacks the skills needed to become proficient in his job.”; “Mr. Crisostomo needs to improve multiple areas. His lack of knowledge is affecting his job productivity, the quality of work he produces, and his ability to perform independently. His overall job performance needs major improvement.”; and “[Mr. Crisco's] lack of knowledge has hurt his quality of work and his ability to work independently.” Pls.' Ex. 14 at 8 (Crisostomo Evaluation); id. at 11 (Crisco Evaluation); Pls.' Ex. 23 at 17 (Gibbs Evaluation). For the April 2011 period, Plaintiff Crisostomo received three “poor” ratings, four “below satisfactory” ratings and three “satisfactory” ratings. Pls.' Ex. 14 at 8. In the same period, Plaintiff Crisco received three “below satisfactory” ratings, five “satisfactory” ratings, and two “above satisfactory” ratings. Id. at 11. Plaintiff Gibbs April 2011 evaluation includes five “poor” ratings, two “below satisfactory” ratings, and three “satisfactory” ratings. Pls.' Ex. 23 at 17. During this April 2011 period, no Caucasian mechanics under Mitchell's supervision received any “poor” ratings. In addition, the only Caucasian mechanic to receive “below satisfactory” ratings was Scott Doering, whom, as noted, Mitchell's written evaluation described as “a good mechanic with a willingness and knowledge to teach other mechanics if the opportunity rises [sic]. I look forward to working with him in the future.” Pls.' Ex. 23 at 6–7.

Defendant contests the apparent pattern in these evaluations, noting that minority mechanics, including Plaintiffs Crisco and Crisostomo, did not receive negative evaluations from Mitchell in January 2011, Pls.' Ex. 14 at 9 (Crisco Evaluation); Pls.' Ex. 23 at 21 (Crisostomo Evaluation), while Caucasian mechanics received merely satisfactory evaluations for this period. Pls.' Ex. 23 at 3. On this point, Defendant notes that in January 2011, Plaintiff Crisco received a performance evaluation where nine of ten categories were rated “above satisfactory” and one category was rated “satisfactory.” Pl.'s Ex. 14 at 9 (Crisco Evaluation). For this same time period, Plaintiff Crisostomo received seven “above satisfactory” ratings and three “satisfactory” ratings.” Pl.'s Ex. 23 at 21. Further, Defendant points to testimony of WMATA supervisors stating that performance evaluations are not used for promotion or assignments.

[48 F.Supp.3d 117]

Def.'s Ex. 9 (Bitar Aff.) ¶ 15. According to Rodrigo Bitar, the General Superintendent of WMATA, “[t]heir purpose is to allow new supervisors to have some information regarding the ELES mechanics, who often move to different job assignments through the union ‘pick’ process, which is dependent upon their seniority status.” Id. Similarly, Mitchell Nici, Plaintiffs' second-line supervisor, testified that although performance is considered when a mechanic applies for a promotion, under an agreement with Plaintiffs' union, performance evaluations prepared by supervisors are not considered. Pls.' Ex. 1 at 45:2–46:13. See also Missing Deposition Pages Filed in Response to June 26, 2014 Minute Order, ECF No. [26]; Additional Deposition Pages Filed in Response to June 26, 2014 Minute Order, ECF No. [28]. Nevertheless, apparently due to complaints from members of his team, Mitchell's performance evaluations were removed from all of his subordinates' personnel files after consultation with WMATA's Office of Civil Rights in April 2011. Def.'s Ex. 9 ¶ 15. The Office of Civil Rights determined that Mitchell had not been given any training in how to write performance evaluations and determined that the best option was to remove the evaluations from his team members' files. Id.

With this background, the Court proceeds to the events underlying the vast majority of this suit. On the evening of March 9, 2011, all three Plaintiffs, working as a team, reported to WMATA's Courthouse Metrorail Station in Arlington, Virginia to perform preventive maintenance on three exterior escalators at the station. Def.'s Ex. 1 ¶ 40; Def.'s Ex. 5. The internal WMATA designations of these three escalators are K01X01, K01X02, and K01X03. Def.'s Ex. 14 at 67:18–21. One component of WMATA's preventive maintenance procedures involves testing the comb impact device, an apparatus located at the top and bottom of each escalator. Id. at 113:1–4. The...

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  • Gibbs v. Wash. Metro. Area Transit Auth.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Columbia
    • 9 Julio 2014
    ...48 F.Supp.3d 110Muhammed Gibbs, et al., Plaintiffsv.Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, Defendant.Civil Action No. 12–1388 CKKUnited States District Court, District of Columbia.Signed July 9, 201448 F.Supp.3d 114Daniel E. Kenney, Morris Eli Fischer, Law Office of Morris E. Fisch......

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