Rodgers v. Eagle All.

CourtUnited States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Maryland)
PartiesKRISTIN RODGERS, Plaintiff, v. EAGLE ALLIANCE, et al. Defendants.
Docket NumberCivil Action ELH-19-3268
Decision Date22 February 2022



Civil Action No. ELH-19-3268

United States District Court, D. Maryland

February 22, 2022


Ellen L. Hollander, United States District Judge.

In a First Amended Complaint alleging employment discrimination (ECF 13), plaintiff Kristin Rodgers sued defendants COSMO, Inc. (“COSMO”); Eagle Alliance (“EA, ” “Eagle, ” or “Eagle Alliance”); CSRA, Inc. (“CSRA”); and General Dynamics Information Technology (“GDIT”). She alleges discrimination based on sex (Count 1) and retaliation (Count 2), in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended (“Title VII”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et seq.

Rodgers was hired by COSMO in August 2013 and was assigned to work as a subcontractor for Eagle Alliance. In turn, Eagle had a contract with the National Security Agency (“NSA”) to provide technical support services, pursuant to a contract known as “Groundbreaker, ” on which plaintiff worked.

Plaintiff claims that she was “jointly employed by COSMO and EA/CSRA.” ECF 13 at 4.[1] At the relevant time, EA was owned by CSRA, which was subsequently acquired by GDIT. Id. ⁋⁋ 17, 18, 40. I shall refer to CSRA, GDIT, and EA collectively as the “EA Defendants.”


The events underlying plaintiff's suit are largely rooted in plaintiff's removal from the Groundbreaker contract in August 2016 and the failure of the EA Defendants to place plaintiff elsewhere. Thereafter, on August 12, 2016, COSMO terminated plaintiff's employment. In plaintiff's view, she was subjected to sex discrimination and retaliation by EA. Thus, she filed two discrimination charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”), one alleging sex discrimination and the other alleging retaliation. Both named “Eagle Alliance/CSRA, Inc.” ECF 23-1; ECF 54-25.[2] In October 2019, the EEOC issued written determinations as to each charge. ECF 54-25 at 2-3, 4-5. It found that there was reasonable cause to believe that EA's conduct amounted to sex discrimination and retaliation. Id. at 2, 4. This suit followed.

COSMO moved to dismiss the First Amended Complaint, pursuant to Rules 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. ECF 19. By Memorandum Opinion (ECF 37) and Order (ECF 38) of April 3, 2020, I granted the motion, based on plaintiff's failure to exhaust her administrative remedies. As noted in ECF 37, plaintiff's EEOC complaints did not implicate COSMO. Accordingly, COSMO was dismissed from the suit. Thereafter, the remaining parties engaged in discovery.

The EA Defendants have now moved for summary judgment (ECF 53), supported by a memorandum of law (ECF 53-1) (collectively, the “Motion”) and many exhibits. Plaintiff opposes


the Motion (ECF 54) and also submitted “Plaintiff's Responses To Defendants' Statement of Uncontested Material Facts” (ECF 54-1) (collectively, the “Opposition), as well as numerous exhibits. Defendants have replied. ECF 55 (the “Reply”). They also submitted an additional exhibit. See ECF 55-1.

No hearing is necessary. See Local Rule 105.6. For the reasons that follow, I shall grant the Motion in part and deny it in part.

I. Factual Background[3]

EA was formed in 2001 as a “partnership” between Computer Science Corporation (“CSC”) and Northrop Grumman (“Northrop”). ECF 54-4 (Christopher Maudlen Dep.) at 3 (Tr. at 8).[4] CSC “split its government division off in [November 2015] to become . . . CS Government Solutions, ” and simultaneously “merged with a company called SRA to form CSRA.” Id. at 5 (Tr. at 10); see Id. at 8 (Tr. at 19) (clarifying that these transactions occurred in November 2015). Thereafter, in April 2018, “General Dynamics”[5] acquired and then “dissolved” CSRA, merging it


with one of its divisions, GDIT. Id. at 4-6 (Tr. at 10-11); see Id. at 8 (Tr. at 19). Through this acquisition, GDIT obtained CSRA's ownership interest in EA. Id. at 4, 8 (Tr. at 9, 19).

On July 2, 2013, COSMO issued an offer letter to plaintiff. ECF 53-3 (“Offer Letter”); ECF 54-6 at 2 (same). Among other things, the Offer Letter indicated that COSMO would pay Rodgers a bi-weekly salary. ECF 53-3. However, it also noted that plaintiff would remain in “non-pay status, pending approval from COSMO's prime contractor of [her] experience and qualifications; agency acceptance and approval of [her] clearances; and satisfactory completion of [her] reference checks.” Id. Further, the Offer Letter stated: “Once these conditions have been met, [Rodgers] will transition from non-pay to pay status.” Id. Rodgers accepted COSMO's offer on the date of issuance. Id.

The hire was effective on August 27, 2013, “for a help desk on a DOD[6] program.” ECF 54-3 (Paul Sager Dep.) at 3 (Tr. at 9).[7] Plaintiff was deemed a “subcontractor, ” and Eagle was the “prime contractor.” Id. at 4 (Tr. at 10), id. at 12 (Tr. at 20). In particular, EA served as the prime contractor on “a classified federal program aimed at providing Help Desk support to the National Security Agency (‘NSA') and modernizing the NSA's information technology infrastructure.” ECF 53-4 (Kelly Miller Decl.), ⁋ 3; see ECF 54-3 (Sager Dep.) at 4 (Tr. at 10); ECF 54-12 (Rodgers Decl.), ⁋ 1.[8] As mentioned, the contract was known as “Groundbreaker.” ECF 54-3 at 4 (Tr. at 10).


Due to the classified nature of the Groundbreaker contract, Eagle employees as well as the subcontractors assigned to the contract “were required to possess various levels of security clearances.” ECF 53-4 (Miller Decl.), ⁋ 4. And, “the Government was notified of and had to approve any Eagle Alliance employee or subcontract worker's onboarding onto the contract.” Id. ⁋ 5. Similarly, “[t]he Government also had to be immediately notified of any worker's removal from the contract.” Id.

At the time, Paul Sager served as a “Program Manager” for COSMO. See ECF 53-14 (Letter from Sager to Rodgers, reflecting Sager's title).[9] Sager testified concerning the nature of the relationship between COSMO's employees and EA. He indicated that when EA determined that a COSMO employee was suitable for work on an EA contract, an EA official would send an email to Sager indicating the firm's formal acceptance of the employee for a particular position. ECF 54-3 at 4 (Tr. at 10). Sager also noted that on occasion EA rejected candidates who were selected by COSMO. Id. at 12-13 (Tr. at 20-21).

Theresa “Terri” Bryant was employed by Eagle in August 2016 as the “Subcontractor Hiring Specialist.” ECF 53-9 (Bryant Decl.), ⁋⁋ 1, 2.[10] Her duties included the handling of requests for hiring or terminating subcontractors working on Groundbreaker. Id. ⁋ 3; see ECF 53-6 (Bryant Dep.) at 6 (Tr. at 5); see also ECF 53-6 at 19-29 (Tr. at 101-11).


According to Bryant, EA employees lacked authority “to hire, fire, or discipline any subcontract workers.” ECF 53-9, ⁋ 4. All discipline, “including removal from Eagle Alliance and termination from the direct employer-was handled by the subcontract worker's direct employer.” Id. ⁋ 5. In contrast, Bryant also noted: “If an Eagle Alliance manager requested discipline, counseling, or removal of a subcontractor, they would explain the situation and request to me.” Id. ⁋ 6. In turn, Bryant would “then explain the request to the direct employer, who ultimately determined whether to implement the requested discipline.” Id. ⁋ 7.

In addition, Bryant averred that EA “did not maintain any personnel, employment, insurance, benefits, payroll, or other similar records for any subcontractors.” Id. ⁋ 8. However, Rodgers posits that “EA maintained documents on its subcontractors including security clearance paperwork.” ECF 54-12 (Rodgers Decl.), ⁋ 5.

Sager testified that if EA wanted to “remove a COSMO employee from the subcontract, ” COSMO would “receive a notice, typically, from either [EA's] security office or the staffing department directing [COSMO] to remove an employee.” ECF 54-3 (Sager Dep.) at 5 (Tr. at 11). Upon receipt of such a notification, Sager called “the person who notified or the staffing manager looking for an explanation for the removal.” Id. at 6 (Tr. at 12). Further, if the notification was not “provided in writing[, ] [Sager] would follow up . . ., especially if it was news to [him].” Id.

Notably, Sager indicated that if he did not hear of a complaint with respect to an employee before receiving a removal notification, his view was that “the decision should not be to remove the person from the program.” Id. at 20 (Tr. at 28). However, where a removal was effectuated, COSMO was obligated to ask the removed employee to “come down to [COSMO's] office or meet them offsite to give them the news that they've been removed . . . .” Id. at 5 (Tr. at 11).


Prior to being hired, Rodgers was interviewed in person by two EA managers, Matt Morgan and Michael Kenny. ECF 54-7 (Rodgers Dep.) at 3, 4 (Tr. at 86, 90). According to plaintiff, Morgan and Kenny “relayed . . . back to COSMO” that they “like[d] [plaintiff]” and that she was “qualified.” Id. at 3 (Tr. at 86). Thereafter, Rodgers was placed at EA and assigned the role of Tier-One Help Desk Technician for the Groundbreaker contract. See ECF 53-6 (Bryant Dep.) at 7 (Tr. at 8); ECF 54-3 (Sager Dep.) at 6 (Tr. at 12); ECF 54-12 (Rodgers Decl.), ⁋ 1; ECF 53-1 at 4, ⁋ 2. Rodgers received training from an EA employee on the Help Desk's operations and her role within it. ECF 54-5 (Bryant Dep.) at 5-6 (Tr. at 10-11); ECF 54-3 (Sager Dep.) at 9 (Tr. at 15). Notably, COSMO did not provide the training. ECF 54-5 at 6 (Tr. at 11); ECF 54-3 at 9 (Tr. at 15).

As a Help Desk Technician, Rodgers was responsible for fielding and resolving customer issues such as “their computer usage [and] their access.” ECF 54-3 at 7 (Tr. at 13). In particular, when a client called or emailed the Help Desk with an issue, a “trouble ticket” describing the problem would be “assigned to a technician on that desk for...

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