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Duff v. Lockheed Martin Energy Systems

August 25, 2006


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Thomas W. Phillips nited States District Judge



Plaintiff Mabrey Duff has sued his former employers, Lockheed Martin Energy Systems, Inc. (LMES) and BWXT Y-12, L.L.C. (BWXT), alleging racial discrimination on the basis of his race. Duff claims that (1) he was denied a promotion, and (2) he was subjected to a hostile work environment, all in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq., (Title VII) and 42 U.S.C. § 1981 as amended. Defendant LMES has moved for summary judgment asserting that there are no genuine issues as to material facts, and that LMES is entitled to judgment as a matter of law on plaintiff's claims. For the reasons which follow, defendant's motion for summary judgment will be granted, and this action will be dismissed against LMES.

Factual Background

Beginning April 1, 1984, pursuant to a contract with the Department of Energy, LMES managed, operated and maintained the Y-12 facility in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. LMES' contract for operating the Y-12 facility ended on October 31, 2000, and BWXT assumed management and operation on November 1, 2000. Duff, an African-American male, was employed by LMES and the predecessor government contractors at Y-12 from 1982 until October 31, 2000. Duff was employed by BWXT from November 1, 2000 until his discharge on August 4, 2004.

In 1982, Duff was hired as a machine specialist in the tool grinding division at Y-12. In 1985, he transferred to the Security Department as an Inspector. One year later, he bid for and was awarded the position of Lieutenant in the Fire Department. Lieutenants in the Y-12 Fire Department are salaried, non-exempt employees who act as dispatchers in the alarm room. Lieutenants are not governed by a union contract.

Duff's responsibilities while in the Fire Lieutenant position included monitoring the alarm systems from the Fire Department's alarm room, answering 911 calls, dispatching individuals to the site of alarms, and other administrative duties. Further, while a Fire Lieutenant with LMES, Duff served as a Safety Officer. The Safety Officer was responsible for identifying and correcting any unsafe conditions that arose at the scene of incidents to which the Fire Department was responding, and ensuring that equipment used in the field was handled in a safe and proper manner. Duff's supervisors noted that he was a "good safety officer" and that he "demonstrated strength" in the "management and administration of on-scene safety and accountability." In addition to his role as a Safety Officer, Duff also served as a Fire Captain on occasions when the position was temporarily vacant and needed to be filled by overtime. As a stand-in Captain, Duff had all the responsibilities of a full-time Captain, including responding to alarms, and directing the activities of the Fire Inspectors and Fire Truck Operators working on the shift.

EEO/AA Policies

At LMES, employment was subject to the company's Equal Employment Opportunity/Affirmative Action (EEO/AA) policy. The policy prohibits discrimination based on race, religion, color, sex, national origin and age. The policy covered recruitment and employment, promotion, demotion, transfer, layoff and termination, and other working conditions, including maintenance of a work environment free of physical, psychological, and verbal harassment on the basis of age, sex, ancestry, color, disability, national origin, race/ethnicity, religion/creed, or veteran status. An Employee Concern Response Program (ECRP) was also promulgated in the LMES Employee Handbook. The ECRP encouraged employees to report concerns about EEO/AA matters to their direct manager or the next appropriate level of management. Concerns could be reported orally or in writing. Other avenues for reporting concerns included the bargaining unit, Safety and Health representatives, the Y-12 Safety Work Action Team, and the I Care - We Care Program.

Hostile Work Environment

Duff's amended complaint asserts that he was subjected to a hostile work environment during his employment at LMES. Duff testified to two occasions in which racial slurs were either directed at, or spoken in his presence. On one occasion, Duff was informed that Larry Lawson, a supervisor (White), had referred to Duff as a "smart-ass nigger." Additionally, Duff testified that he heard a white employee describe a piece of equipment as "nigger-rigged." Duff further alleges that Lawson spoke harshly toward him and threatened to discipline him on multiple occasions without any basis for doing so, including an incident where Lawson wrongful accused Duff of improperly dealing with a sprinkler system alarm. Supervisor Mike Isaacson (White) warned Duff that if he "missed any more alarms," he would be terminated, despite the fact that several white employees had missed alarms without any discipline whatsoever.

Failure to Promote

On November 5, 1998, LMES posted an opening for two Fire Captain positions at Y-12. The following individuals submitted applications for the vacant Fire Captain positions: Duff, James Russell, Timothy Dougal, George Potprocky, Frederick Winstead, Darrell Lawson and Luis Revilla. Each applicant was interviewed by a panel that consisted of Brock Rains, Ralph Honeycutt and Scott Hackler. Hackler was the Fire Department Chief, Honeycutt was a Shift Commander, and Rains was a Captain at the time of the interviews.

The interview panel utilized a Targeted Selection Interview Process. The Targeted Selection interview questions related to human factors and judgment, rather than specific job requirements of the position, to determine how applicants would manage situations and projects. Each applicant for the Fire Captain position was asked identical questions, and the interview panel possessed limited discretion to ask follow up questions. Each member of the interview panel scored each applicant's answers to the respective questions. The interview panel, after each interview, convened to arrive at a score for each applicant and to complete the necessary documentation.

Dougal and Potprocky, with interview scores of 45 and 42, respectively, received the highest scores of the seven applicants. The interview panel scored Revilla's interview at 41.25, which was the third highest score. Duff, with an interview score of 32.25, received the lowest grade of any of the seven applicants. The interview panel based its scores for each applicant on the quality of responses given to each identical question. Each member of the interview panel testified that race was not a factor.

In the scoring system employed by the interview panel, applicants received a score of one through five, depending upon the quality of the answer. A five was the highest score for each response and one was the lowest score. Unacceptable responses for each question resulted in a score of less than three. Two unacceptable scores precluded an applicant from being considered for the position.

In addition to receiving the lowest overall score, Duff received two scores below the minimally acceptable score of three. His unacceptable scores related to deficient responses to questions concerning safety and judgment. Honeycutt testified that Duff's interview scores relating to safety and judgment "meant that all three . . . interviewers agreed one hundred percent that the question was not answered adequately." Duff's unacceptable scores barred him from receiving additional consideration for the Captain positions.

In January 1999, Dougal and Potprocky were offered the two vacant Fire Captain positions based upon their interview scores. The promotion offer was rejected by Potprocky. Revilla, who received the third highest interview score, was subsequently offered the position which Potprocky declined. The Fire ...

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