Hall v. Giant Food, Inc., 98-7112

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
Citation336 U.S.App. D.C. 63,175 F.3d 1074
Parties79 Fair Empl.Prac.Cas. (BNA) 1684 Marvin W. HALL, Appellant, v. GIANT FOOD, INC., Appellee. District of Columbia Circuit
Docket NumberNo. 98-7112,98-7112
Decision Date25 May 1999

Page 1074

175 F.3d 1074
79 Fair Empl.Prac.Cas. (BNA) 1684
Marvin W. HALL, Appellant,
GIANT FOOD, INC., Appellee.
No. 98-7112.
United States Court of Appeals,
District of Columbia Circuit.
Argued March 22, 1999.
Decided May 25, 1999.

Page 1075

Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Columbia (No. 97cv00470).

Stephan J. Boardman argued the cause and filed the brief for appellant. Edward C. Golumbic entered an appearance.

Edward R. Levin argued the cause and filed the brief for appellee.

Before: EDWARDS, Chief Judge, SENTELLE and HENDERSON, Circuit Judges.

Opinion for the Court filed by Chief Judge HARRY T. EDWARDS.

Separate statement filed by Circuit Judge KAREN LeCRAFT HENDERSON, concurring in the result.

HARRY T. EDWARDS, Chief Judge:

On August 18, 1995, Marvin W. Hall, who was employed as a tractor trailer driver with Giant Food, Inc. ("Giant"), was discharged by Giant for repeated acts of misconduct. A grievance was filed on Hall's behalf by his union, Local 639 of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters ("Local 639"), and the matter was subsequently submitted to arbitration. The arbitrator converted Hall's discharge to a disciplinary suspension and ordered his reinstatement without back pay.

Following his reinstatement, Hall filed a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"), alleging for the first time that his termination had been motivated by age discrimination. Hall's claim was based on an alleged discussion that he had with a supervisor shortly after his return to work. According to Hall, the supervisor told him that he

Page 1076

was too old for the job and had been terminated for that reason. Hall, who was forty years old at the time of his termination, then sued Giant under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"), 42 U.S.C. §§ 621-34, alleging that Giant terminated him because of his age. The District Court granted summary judgment for Giant, and we now affirm.

Hall cannot establish discrimination, either directly or indirectly, because he has failed to raise a triable issue of discriminatory intent on the part of Giant, or to create a jury question as to Giant's asserted grounds for discharging him. This is a run-of-the-mill case concerning employee misconduct and the appropriateness of the disciplinary penalty imposed therefor. The issues in dispute here do not implicate the federal laws against discrimination. The matter was properly submitted to arbitration and resolved there. Hall may be dissatisfied with the arbitrator's judgment, but his mere displeasure does not afford him a further avenue of redress in the federal courts.


On June 27, 1988, Giant hired Hall as a tractor trailer driver. Until 1994, Hall apparently performed his job without incident. Beginning in late 1994, however, problems began to arise. Between November 1994 and July 1995, Hall was subject to disciplinary actions for failure to properly notify the company when absent, driving company equipment in an unsafe manner, and wasting time on the job.

The incident that resulted in Hall's termination occurred on August 4, 1995, when Lorin Turnblacer, a Giant driver supervisor, observed a Giant truck illegally parked in a right turn lane off of its designated route. Turnblacer discovered that Hall had been shopping for motorcycle parts without recording the break on his "trip card." Company policy requires all drivers to maintain detailed records of the start and end times of all breaks and activities occurring during the course of their work shifts, and to record the times and locations of breaks at the start of those breaks. Company policy further prohibits shopping on company time and traveling off-route without an authorized reason. Abuse of these policies may subject a driver to dismissal.

Following the August 4, 1995 incident, Turnblacer suspended Hall, citing violations of Giant's break and off-route policies. On August 7, 1995, Turnblacer reported the facts of the incident to Pamela Sanford, Giant's General Manager of Transportation. Sanford, in turn, provided written notice of Hall's suspension to union officials at Local 639. Sanford also relayed the information to Chris Balodemas, Giant's Director of Transportation, Traffic and Fleet Maintenance. Although Sanford is responsible for disciplining drivers who do not comply with company policies and procedures, she does not have the authority to terminate drivers. Upon review, Balodemas determined that Hall's violation of multiple company policies warranted dismissal. On August 18, 1995, following a grievance meeting between Hall, Giant, and Local 639, Giant terminated Hall. Hall was forty years old at the time.

On August 21, 1995, in accordance with the collective bargaining agreement between Giant and Local 639, union officials filed a grievance contesting Hall's termination. Giant attempted to settle the matter by offering to reinstate Hall if he would sign a conditional reinstatement agreement, but Hall declined this offer on three separate occasions. Negotiations between the parties were ultimately unsuccessful, and the matter proceeded to arbitration. After "careful consideration," the neutral arbitrator was "unable to conclude that the discharge was for good cause," but was also "unable to conclude that [Hall's] offense ... was 'minor.' " Arbitration Statement and Award at 2, reprinted in Supplemental Appendix ("S.A.") 27. The arbitrator believed that, although Hall had violated company rules, the penalty of discharge was too severe. Accordingly, he

Page 1077

directed Giant to reinstate Hall with seniority, but denied Hall's request for back pay or benefits, instead treating the time off as a "disciplinary suspension." Id.

On May 7, 1996, following his reinstatement, Hall filed a charge with the EEOC, alleging for the first time that his termination had been motivated by age discrimination. Hall's claim was based on a discussion that he had with Sanford shortly after his return to work. According to Hall's affidavit, Sanford "informed [him] that the true reason for [his] termination was [his] age." Hall Affidavit p 6, reprinted in Appendix ("App.") 24. Sanford allegedly told Hall that he was "too old" for the job, and that she wanted him "to resign because [she] want[ed] younger and safer drivers in here." Transcript of Deposition Testimony at 41, reprinted in S.A. 90. The EEOC issued a right-to-sue letter.

Hall then filed suit in District Court under the ADEA, alleging, inter alia, that Giant terminated him because it wanted to replace him with younger drivers. On May 27, 1998, the District Court granted Giant's motion for summary judgment. See Hall v. Giant Food Inc., No. 97-470 (D.D.C. May 27, 1998) ("Memorandum"), reprinted in App. 4-12. The court found that Hall had established a prima facie case of age discrimination, that Giant had advanced legitimate nondiscriminatory reasons for Hall's termination, and that Hall had failed to create a jury question as to whether Giant's stated reasons were pretextual. See id. at 6, reprinted in App. 9. In the court's view, the remark allegedly made by Sanford was of only limited probative value, because it was made eight months after the decision to terminate Hall, and because Balodemas, not Sanford, made the final decision to terminate Hall. See id. This appeal followed.


A. Standard of Review

In reviewing a district court's grant of summary judgment, we consider the evidence de novo. See Aka v. Washington Hosp. Ctr., 156 F.3d 1284, 1288 (D.C.Cir.1998) (en banc). "[A] party is only entitled to summary judgment if the record, viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, reveals that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact." Id...

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