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Foroozesh v. Lockheed Martin Operations Support

March 24, 2006

PARVIN FOROOZESH, PLAINTIFF,
v.
LOCKHEED MARTIN OPERATIONS SUPPORT, INC., A/K/A LOCKHEED MARTIN TECHNOLOGY SERVICES, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Terrence F. McVerry United States District Court Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER OF COURT

Before the Court for consideration and disposition are LOCKHEED MARTIN OPERATIONS SUPPORT, INC.'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (Document No. 55), LOCKHEED MARTIN OPERATIONS SUPPORT, INC.'S MEMORANDUM OF LAW IN SUPPORT OF ITS MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (Document No. 56), PLAINTIFF'S RESPONSE OPPOSING LOCKHEED MARTIN OPERATIONS SUPPORT, INC.'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY (Document No. 61), PLAINTIFF'S BRIEF IN OPPOSITION TO LOCKHEED MARTIN OPERATIONS SUPPORT, INC.'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (Document No. 62), PLAINTIFF'S RESPONSES TO LOCKHEED MARTIN OPERATIONS SUPPORT, INC.'S CONCISE STATEMENT OF MATERIAL FACTS IN SUPPORT OF ITS MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT UNDER LOCAL RULE 56.1 (Document No. 63) and LOCKHEED MARTIN OPERATIONS SUPPORT, INC.'S REPLY BRIEF IN FURTHER SUPPORT OF ITS MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (Document No. 64). The issues have been fully briefed, and the matter is ripe for disposition. For the reasons which follow, the Motion for Summary Judgment will be granted in part and denied in part.

Background

Construed in the light most favorable to Plaintiff, the record facts are as follows: Plaintiff Parvin Foroozesh ("Plaintiff") was employed by defendant Lockheed Martin Operations Support ("Defendant") as a LAN/WAN administrator*fn1 from December of 1997 until her employment was terminated in January of 2002. Pltf's Stmt. of Facts at ¶ 1. Plaintiff is a female of Iranian descent, with a bachelor's degree in computer science from the University of Pittsburgh and is certified as a Novell network administrator. Id. at ¶ 4. Plaintiff's role as a LAN/WAN administrator was to provide support under the National Airspace Systems Implementation Support Contract II ("NISC II"). Id. at ¶ 15. The Federal Aviation Administration ("FAA") obtained information resource management ("IRM") support services through the NISC II. Id. Plaintiff was required to support the service area included within the Pittsburgh Systems Management Office ("PSMO"). Id. at ¶ 16. The area covered by the PSMO included approximately 200 computer users and twenty separate FAA facilities, including (i) ten air traffic towers located in Pittsburgh, PA; Allegheny County, PA; Rochester, NY; Buffalo, NY; Erie, PA; DuBois, PA; Charleston, WV; Martinsburg, WV; Roanoke, VA; and Clarksburg, WV, and (ii) ten systems service centers ("SSCs"). Id.

The NISC II is a task order contract. Pltf's Stmt. of Facts at ¶ 17. Pursuant to the NISC II, the tasks were "the needs of the FAA facility." Id. (quoting Pltf's dep. at 70). Under the arrangement between Defendant and the FAA, a "government technical interpreter" ("GTI") employed by the FAA identifies the needs of the FAA facilities for IRM support and communicates those needs to the NISC II contractors. Id. at ¶ 18. The GTI is not authorized to direct NISC II contractors how to perform their responsibilities, but rather presents tasks and, if the task is time-sensitive, a requested completion date. Id. GTIs are not supervisors of NISC II employees, do not have the authority to hire, fire or discipline them, and may not project a supervisory relationship over them. Id. at ¶ 20.

Plaintiff's GTI was always an FAA employee, and was never employed by Defendant. Id. at ¶ 21. During her employment with Defendant, the GTIs were Dennis Damp (December 1997 - December 1998); Dan Vallish (December 1998 - February 1999); and Richard Leonard (February 1999 - January 2002). Id. Unlike the GTIs, Plaintiff was "under Lockheed Martin contract, supervision and their payroll, not FAA." Pltf's Stmt. of Facts at ¶ 22 (quoting Pltf's dep. at 233). At all relevant times Plaintiff's immediate supervisor or "task order manager" was Dan Hamilton ("Hamilton"), whose office was in New York. See id.

The FAA funded two LAN/WAN administrator positions in the Pittsburgh Systems Management Office when Plaintiff was hired. Id. at ¶ 24. Approximately six months after Plaintiff was hired, the other LAN/WAN administrator was fired due to time and attendance issues and lack of attention to the FAA customer. Id. Plaintiff identified Michael Hester ("Hester") to Defendant as a "good candidate" for the vacant position. Id. at ¶ 26. Plaintiff and Hester were co-workers at the University of Pittsburgh for approximately two or three years. Pltf's Stmt. of Facts at ¶ 27.*fn2 Defendant hired Hester as a LAN/WAN administrator under the NISC II contract in November of 1998. Id. at ¶ 32. Hester abruptly resigned in July of 2000 and took a job in New Jersey. Id. at ¶ 33. Defendant rehired Hester when he returned to Pittsburgh in July of 2001. Id. at ¶ 37.

Plaintiff testified at her deposition that two of her government technical interpreters from the FAA, Vallish and Leonard (who replaced Vallish), made inappropriate sex-based and national origin-based comments. Plaintiff testified that Vallish would make comments like "this work is for women," that he was constantly demeaning and degrading, and that he once commented to Hester about an article which purportedly explained that women cannot do technical work. Pltf's dep. at 237. When Plaintiff reported this conduct to Hamilton, his response was "just put up with it, get the work done, make the man happy." Id.*fn3 As for Leonard, Plaintiff testified that he "would make comments like, when you work with a woman what you have to do is to check the calendar to see what time of the month it is ..." Pltf's dep. at 215. In January of 2001, after Plaintiff returned from a trip to Iran, Leonard made inappropriate comments about her "making a pilgrimage to Iran," asked whether she would have to cover her face in Iran, and asked whether she would trip because of the cover. Pltf's dep. 214, 223-24. Plaintiff also testified that Leonard would "constantly make comments about foreign people ..." Id.

On December 18, 2000, Plaintiff faxed a written complaint regarding Leonard's conduct to Frank Merrick, the NISC II human resources manager, and to Marvin Miller of the FAA. Pltf's Stmt. of Facts at ¶ 74. None of the allegations in the December 18, 2000 complaint related to Plaintiff's national origin. Id. at ¶ 75. The complaint described two alleged incidents in which Plaintiff considered Leonard's conduct to be argumentative or hostile, as well as a few other off-color and inappropriate comments. Id. at ¶ 76. The FAA Accountability Board conducted an investigation in response to the complaint and sent Leonard to sensitivity training for approximately a week. Id. at ¶ 79. Leonard was not demoted, suspended or denied compensation or benefits due to the investigation, but he apparently was resentful and demoralized about having to attend sensitivity training. Pltf's Stmt. of Facts at ¶ 79. After the training he made sarcastic and disdainful comments about the training, e.g., "I'm so sensitive I can cry now," and "oh, I didn't know that black people don't like to be called niggers anymore ..." Pltf's dep. at 189-90; Pltf's Stmt. of Facts at ¶ 80.

The December 18, 2000 complaint was the only "formal" written complaint made by Plaintiff regarding Leonard's conduct. Id. at ¶ 87. However, on or about February 22, 2001 Plaintiff orally informed Hamilton of Leonard's post-complaint behavior and Hamilton apparently took no responsive action. Pltf's dep. at 209-11.

The record reflects that Plaintiff had some conflicts with Hester.*fn4 For example, Plaintiff and Hester had a disagreement on October 15, 2001 over who would take a trip to Roanoke, Virginia. Pltf's Stmt. of Facts at ¶ 93. Plaintiff and Hester discussed the disagreement with Hamilton, who reprimanded them for their apparently childish behavior. Id. Following this disagreement, Hamilton sensed that there was a problem with the relationship between Plaintiff and Hester. Id. at 94. Hester reported to Hamilton that he was spending so much time with arguments and confrontation that his productivity was affected. Id. at ¶ 94. At around this time Hamilton asked both Plaintiff and Hester to document the problems that they experienced with each other. Id. There is no evidence that Hester made inappropriate comments to Plaintiff or anyone else.

In October or November of 2001, Hamilton received complaints from Leonard that Plaintiff was having time and attendance problems. Pltf's Stmt. of Facts at ¶ 95. In response to the complaints, Hamilton instructed Plaintiff, as well as other employees who were experiencing similar problems, to annotate the times that they arrived and left work on their time and attendance sheets. Id. at ¶ 96. On November 19, 2001 Hamilton wrote Plaintiff an e-mail regarding her whereabouts on Friday, November 16, 2001. Id. at ¶ 97. Hamilton wrote the e-mail in response to a complaint he had received from the FAA's regional IRM Manager, Warren Herman, who had complained that Plaintiff could not be located and did not return any pages or phone messages. Id. at ¶ 97. Hamilton also informed Plaintiff that Leonard had complained that she had failed to properly coordinate her absence from the office on the day after Thanksgiving, and because Hester was also out of the office there was "no coverage at the SMO." Id. at ¶ 99. In her response, Plaintiff asserted that she was at work all day, but because Leonard and Hester were out of the office she was unable to take calls as they came in, but nevertheless "returned calls accordingly." Pltf's Stmt. of Facts at ¶ 97. On November 27, 2001 Hamilton sent Plaintiff another e-mail advising her that she had not followed the proper procedure for reporting absences when she called in sick that day. Id. at ¶ 100. Hamilton asserted that Plaintiff was the only employee who had not followed the proper procedure when she called in sick that day. Id. Plaintiff contends that these e-mails were of a "harassing nature." Id.

On or about November 26, 2001, Leonard visited Hamilton at Hamilton's office. Id. at ¶ 102. Hamilton asked Leonard about complaints that Leonard had made previously regarding Plaintiff's time and attendance. Id. at ¶ 103. Issues regarding time and attendance were discussed, and Leonard also mentioned that Plaintiff's technical performance was substandard. Pltf's Stmt. of Facts at ¶ 102. Leonard stated that several FAA managers, including James Cook, Leonard Smith and David Smith, did not want Plaintiff back at their facilities. Id. Hamilton asked Leonard to document the complaints, and the next day Leonard sent him an e-mail which described the complaints. Id.

Plaintiff contends that Leonard's e-mail contained false information. Id. Specifically, the e-mail recites that managers in Elkins and Clarksburg, West Virginia had complaints about Plaintiff's performance, but Plaintiff contends that she never visited those facilities. Id. at ¶ 103. Additionally, Leonard's e-mail recitation of problems experienced by James Cook and Leonard Smith differs in some minor respects from their later deposition testimony. See id.

Before he became aware of the complaints brought to his attention by Leonard, Hamilton had been contemplating a performance improvement plan for Plaintiff based upon 1) time and attendance problems and 2) Plaintiff's conduct toward Hester. Pltf's Stmt. of Facts at ¶ 104. After he received Leonard's e-mail, Hamilton wrote a memorandum dated December 5, 2001 to Frank Merrick ("Merrick"), one of Defendant's human resources managers, which summarized Plaintiff's allegedly unacceptable performance and recommended that she be given a formal letter of warning and then put on a performance improvement plan. Id. at ¶ 106.

Hamilton and Nicholas Luca ("Luca"), another one of Plaintiff's superiors, held a teleconference with Plaintiff on December 11, 2001 to review the terms of her performance improvement plan. Id. at ¶¶ 78, 108. That same day, Plaintiff, Hamilton and Luca all signed the performance improvement plan. Id. Plaintiff prepared a four-page summary of the teleconference. Id. at ¶ 109. Plaintiff forwarded the summary to Merrick, along with an e-mail contesting the propriety of the performance improvement plan. Id. In neither the summary nor her e-mail did Plaintiff identify harassment or retaliation by Leonard as having any relation to the matters addressed in the performance improvement plan. Pltf's Stmt. of Facts at ¶ 109.

In October or November of 2001, the FAA engaged two contractors under a separate contract called the National Information Resources Management Augmentation Contract ("NIRMA"), to provide LAN/WAN administration within the area covered by the Pittsburgh Systems Management Office. Id. at ¶ 118. The contractor for the NIRMA contract is AMTI, and Defendant is not a participant in the NIRMA contract. Id. The purpose of the NIRMA contract was to supplement the FAA's IRM field resources. Id.

Plaintiff contends that she was replaced by two individuals who were engaged pursuant to NIRMA shortly before her layoff. Id. at ¶ 119. One of the contractors was hired to help with assignments in Charleston, while the other was hired to help with assignments in Buffalo, New York. Id. Both contractors provided the same type of IRM support that Plaintiff provided. Pltf's Stmt. of Facts at ¶ 119. The decision to place the NIRMA contractors in Charleston and Buffalo was made by the FAA's regional IRM staff in New York, and Leonard had no role in deciding where to deploy the two new NIRMA contractors. Id. at ¶ 20. According to Herman, the NIRMA contractors were placed in Charleston and Buffalo to significantly reduce the amount of travel required to support the outlying facilities. Id. at ¶ 21.

The NISC II contract under which Plaintiff was employed is a ten-year contract which is funded on a yearly basis. Id. at ¶ 125. For each year of the contract, the FAA requests a certain set of tasks or services for which it allocates funding. Id. For the NISC II task order beginning February 1, 2002, the FAA reduced operational funding by over $300,000.00, which required Defendant to eliminate seven (7) full-time positions, including one of the two LAN/WAN administrator positions which were held by Plaintiff and Hester. Id. at ¶¶ 126, 161-62. The determination of the support which would be cut was made by the FAA, but Defendant determined who would be laid off or terminated. Pltf's Stmt. of Facts at ¶¶ 126 & 162. Leonard had no role in the decision regarding support staff reduction under the NISC II contract. Id. at ¶ 163.

Plaintiff's employment was terminated as of January 31, 2002. Pltf's dep. at 88. On November 7, 2003, Plaintiff filed a Complaint which alleges violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Specifically, Plaintiff alleges gender and national origin discrimination, a hostile work environment and unlawful retaliation.*fn5 Defendant has moved for summary judgment on all of Plaintiff's claims.

Standard of Review

Rule 56(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure reads, in pertinent part, as follows: [Summary Judgment] shall be rendered forthwith if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.

An issue of material fact is genuine only if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). The court must view the facts in a light most favorable to the non-moving party, and the burden of establishing that no genuine issue of material fact exists rests with the movant. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. The "existence of disputed issues of material fact should be ascertained by resolving all inferences, doubts and issues of credibility against the moving party." Ely v. Hall's Motor Transit Co., 590 F.2d 62, 66 (3d Cir. 1978) (quoting Smith v. Pittsburgh Gage & Supply Co., 464 F.2d 870, 874 (3d Cir. 1972)). Final credibility determinations on material issues cannot be made in the context of a motion for summary judgment, nor can the district court weigh the evidence. Josey v. John R. Hollingsworth Corp., 996 F.2d 632 (3d Cir. 1993).

In Title VII actions, the familiar McDonnell Douglas*fn6 formulation regarding the appropriate burdens of proof and allocation of production of evidence govern and guide the analysis of the evidence presented on a motion for summary judgment. Under McDonnell Douglas, the plaintiff must establish a prima facie case of discrimination; if this burden is met, the defendant must then articulate some legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for the employee's treatment. McDonnell Douglas, 411 U.S. at 802. If the defendant articulates a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for the employee's treatment, then the plaintiff must demonstrate that the defendant's stated reasons were a pretext for discrimination. Id. at 804. The prima facie case under McDonnell Douglas "is not intended to be onerous." Sempier v. Johnson & Higgins, 45 F.3d 724, 728 (3d Cir.), cert. denied, 515 U.S. 1159 (1995). The prima facie case raises an inference of discrimination because the courts presume that the challenged acts, if otherwise unexplained, are "more likely than not based on the consideration of impermissible factors." Id.

Discussion

A. Gender and National Origin Discrimination

Under Title VII it is unlawful for an employer "to discharge any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual's race, color, religion, sex, or national origin." 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a); see also Storey v. Burns Intern. Security Services, 390 F.3d 760 (3d Cir. 2004).*fn7 To establish a prima facie case of religious or national origin discrimination under Title VII, Plaintiff must establish that 1) she is a member of a protected class; 2) she was qualified for an employment position; 3) she suffered some form of adverse employment action; and 4) the circumstances give rise to an inference of unlawful discrimination. Jones v. School Dist. Of Philadelphia, 198 F.3d 403, 411 (3d Cir. 1995); see also Waldron v. SL Industries, Inc., 56 F.3d 491, 494 (3d Cir. 1995). In order to state a prima facie case of sex or gender discrimination under Title VII, Plaintiff must establish that: 1) she is a member of a protected class; 2) she was qualified for the position; 3) she suffered some form of adverse employment action; and 4) the circumstances suggest unlawful discrimination, such as when a similarly-situated person not of the protected class is treated differently. See McDonnell Douglas, 411 U.S. at 802 & n. 13; Jones, 198 F.3d at 410-12. Additionally, the Third ...


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