Holland v. Washington Homes, Inc., 06-1309.

Citation487 F.3d 208
Decision Date25 May 2007
Docket NumberNo. 06-1309.,06-1309.
PartiesDorn B. HOLLAND, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. WASHINGTON HOMES, INCORPORATED, Defendant-Appellee.
CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (4th Circuit)

Edward Smith, Jr., Smith & Garret, P.A., Baltimore, Maryland, for Appellant. Steven R. Semler, Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C., Washington, D.C., for Appellee.

Before WILLIAMS, KING, and DUNCAN, Circuit Judges.

Affirmed by published opinion. Judge WILLIAMS wrote the opinion, in which Judge DUNCAN concurred. Judge KING wrote a separate opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part.


WILLIAMS, Circuit Judge.

Appellant Dorn B. Holland appeals the district court's award of summary judgment to Appellee Washington Homes, Inc. Holland claims that Washington Homes discriminated against him and wrong-fully terminated his employment because of his race and his complaints of discrimination. Because Holland has failed to present a genuine issue as to any material fact, we affirm the district court's grant of summary judgment to Washington Homes.


The following facts are presented in the light most favorable to Holland. See, e.g., Howard v. Winter, 446 F.3d 559, 562 n. 2 (4th Cir.2006) ("When reviewing a district court's grant of summary judgment, we construe the facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, which in this case was [the appellant].").

Holland is a black male who began working as a sales manager for Washington Homes on October 31, 1998. He sold homes in several subdivisions in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, D.C. for five years before he was terminated on October 30, 2003. Holland's compensation consisted of a base salary plus a commission of one percent for each home he sold. His gross salaries for his years of employment with Washington Homes were: 1998 - $4,614.88; 1999 - $65,444.46; 2000 - $74,197.04; 2001 - $58,818.80; 2002 - $40,430.73; 2003 - $131,520.77.

Holland's first assignment was to sell homes at Fairfield Commons, where he worked until the early months of 2001. Fairfield Commons is a predominately African-American community with a substantial crime rate. Holland was able to sell 89 of the 91 homes in Fairfield Commons and was named "rookie of the year" in 2000 due to his performance. At one point in March 2000, Holland met with his supervisor, Didi Peck, a white female vice president, to complain that a white male sales manager, Joseph Macco, was raiding his customers that were under contract. Holland claims that he was forced to share his commissions with Macco, but Macco was not required to share his commissions with Holland. Holland further alleges that Macco was given other perks that Holland was not given during this time period.

In February 2001, Peck assigned Holland to the Winterset subdivision, where he worked until June 2001. Holland alleges that Peck transferred him to Winterset because of his race. He further claims that Washington Homes raised the sales prices of the homes in Winterset by $40,000 around the time of his transfer, thereby making it difficult for him to sell the homes. Finally, he alleges that during this time period, Carla Temple, a white female sales manager, was given certain benefits that were denied to him.

In July 2001, Holland was reassigned to the Arbor West subdivision, where he worked for a couple of months. Holland claims that his assignment to Arbor West was discriminatory because Cliff Martin, a white male sales manager, was allowed to continue selling homes at Arbor West for a week after Martin was reassigned elsewhere.

In September 2001, Peck assigned Holland to the Kingsview subdivision, which he felt was unfair because it required him to increase his transportation expenses. He also claimed that there were only nine homes to sell in Kingsview and that he was denied the opportunity to participate in a company promotion during this period.

In January 2002, Holland was reassigned to the Robinswood subdivision. He claims that this assignment also was discriminatory because Peck had tried to give the assignment to a white sales manager, but that sales manager turned it down. Nevertheless, he admitted that the assignment was "a big money maker and . . . fast money." (J.A. at 228.)1 Holland says that during this period, Peck refused to sign him up for a National Association of Home Builders class. Moreover, on one occasion in March 2003, Hugo DeCesaris, the president of Washington Homes, asked Holland to make a pot of coffee. Holland claims that this request was discriminatory based on his race.

In September 2003, Peck informed Holland that his next assignment would be Hamlin Park. When Holland told her that Hamlin Park was a blighted community and a bad assignment, Peck assured him that Hamlin Park was ready to be sold and that good money would be made there. When Holland viewed Hamlin Park, it was, in his opinion, not ready to be sold. Around the same time, Peck assigned Macco to the allegedly more desirable community of Winshire Estates.

On September 1, 2003, Holland went to see Edward Kaplan, Washington Homes' human resources vice president. Holland indicated that Peck might be discriminating against him. Kaplan told Holland to express his concerns to human resources manager Gretchen Leftrict. The human resources staff attempted to investigate the matter and resolve the conflict between Peck and Holland.

On September 16, 2003, Holland addressed his concerns over the Hamlin Park assignment to DeCesaris. Holland stated that DeCesaris told him that Holland would have success there because Holland knew "those people" and had "sold that kind of community before." (J.A. at 265.) Holland believed that even though he was enjoying his most successful year at Washington Homes, this new assignment was part of a company design to remove blacks from its workforce.

In late October 2003, Holland discussed his distaste of Peck with Maura Arndt, a new vice president. Thereafter, Arndt expressed concerns that Holland might physically hurt Peck. According to Arndt, Holland said, among other inflammatory things, that Peck "was a crazy bitch" and that he was "gonna show her!" (J.A. at 69.) Although Holland denies these allegations, Arndt claimed that she was so frightened of Holland and what he might do to Peck that she went to Leftrict and stated that she did not want Holland working for her because she was afraid of him. She also went to Peck and warned her to be careful. Upon reporting these allegations to management, Leftrict was instructed to immediately begin an investigation.

During the investigation, Arndt verified her story, and the allegations against Holland were corroborated by Peck's assistant, Brenda West. Leftrict also learned that Peck had previously sent Holland to anger management class and that Holland had expressed his hatred for Peck to others.

On October 30, 2003, DeCesaris met with Peck and Leftrict to review Holland's complaints about his assignment to Hamlin Park. At this meeting, DeCesaris learned about Holland's physical threats toward Peck and determined that Washington Homes "cannot keep this guy around here if he is making these kinds of threats." (J.A. at 59-60.) After DeCesaris expressed his view that Holland must be terminated immediately, Leftrict explained that she was scheduled to meet with Holland later that day, and she would notify him of his termination at that time. Shortly thereafter, Holland met Leftrict in her office to get a copy of his personnel file. At that time, Leftrict told Holland that Peck had filed a formal charge against him and that he was being terminated immediately. Holland denied threatening Peck and claimed that his termination was retaliation.

Although Holland was fired on October 30, he was told that his end date would be changed to November 3, 2003, so that his 401K plan would reach five-year maturity. Washington Homes thereafter informed the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation that Holland was dismissed because of lack of work. Thus, the company failed to inform the state agency that Holland was terminated for "gross misconduct." Washington Homes contends this "was done so as to not deprive appellant of unemployment compensation," just as his discharge date was changed to ensure that Holland's retirement benefits vested. (Appellant's Br. at 26.)

On May 4, 2004, Holland filed a charge of discrimination with the Prince George's County Human Relations Commission and the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). On August 26, 2004, the EEOC issued a right to sue letter. On November 8, 2004, Holland filed a complaint against Washington Homes in the District of Maryland pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C.A. § 2000 et seq. (West 2003 & Supp.2006). Holland alleged that he was fired due to his race and as retaliation for complaining of racial discrimination. He also claimed that during the course of his employment, he was denied employment opportunities because of his race.

On February 14, 2006, the district court entered summary judgment in favor of Washington Homes. The district court explained its judgment in a well-reasoned, thirty-three page memorandum opinion. See Holland v. Washington Homes, Inc., No. 8:04-cv-03581-DKC (D.Md. Feb. 14, 2006). First, the district court determined that Holland could not show that he was terminated based on his race because Holland presented no evidence that DeCesaris did not believe that Holland had threatened Peck. Because Holland presented no evidence that could show that DeCesaris's legitimate proffered reason for firing Holland was disingenuous, the district court concluded that no issue of fact existed with respect to pretext. The district court also rejected his retaliation claim, finding once again that Holland could not show pretext. Finally, the district court rejected Holland's denial-of-opportunity claims because he could not...

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