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Miller v. Lockheed Martin Energy Systems

October 18, 2006


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Phillips


Plaintiff William Eugene Miller has sued his former employer, Lockheed Martin Energy Systems, Inc., alleging he was wrongfully discharged in 1999 because of his race and that during his employment he was subjected to unequal terms and conditions of employment, including racially disparate supervision and discipline. Defendant has moved for summary judgment asserting that there are no genuine issues as to material facts, and that Lockheed Martin is entitled to judgment as a matter of law on all of plaintiff's claims. For the reasons which follow, defendant's motion for summary judgment will be granted, and this action will be dismissed.

Factual Background

In 1970, Miller, an African-American male, was employed by Union Carbide Corporation, the contractor for the government-owned nuclear facilities at Oak Ridge, as an associate engineer. He soon left for three years in the United States Army. He returned to active employment with Union Carbide in 1973. He became employed by defendant Lockheed Martin Energy Systems, Inc. (LMES) in 1984 and remained in that employment until his termination in December 1999. At that time, Miller was employed in the Y-12 Engineering Division.

During his employment with Union Carbide and LMES, Miller consistently received satisfactory performance reviews. He was promoted a number of times, first to Senior Engineering Assistant, then Associate Design Engineer, Engineer I, Engineer II, Engineer III, Engineer IV, and in 1997 to Engineer Specialist. Miller's relationship with his supervisors was very good and he felt he was treated fairly by them. Miller never made an informal or formal complaint regarding his treatment by management during his employment.

LMES policy prohibited employees from using government-owned computers for personal reasons. The policy stated that excessive misuse could result in termination, even for a first offense. The policy was made known to employees by handbook, letter, and by instruction on the computer screen when the computer was activated.

In December 1999, LMES management received an anonymous complaint alleging excessive non-work related use of the internet on company premises by Miller. LMES investigated the allegations and found Miller had violated the computer policy and had also falsified his time records. His computer records showed that he had used his computer for personal purposes for approximately 90 hours over a four-month period, averaging 54 minutes a work day. The investigation also revealed a large history file with access to a number of non-work related sites, such as sports and travel. Moreover, Miller charged the time thus used for cost accounting to specific work projects he had been assigned.*fn1

Miller was presented with the results of the investigation on December 20, 1999. He acknowledged that he had used the computer for personal use and attributed it to mental lapses on his part. Miller was told the matter would be reviewed and that he should return at 9:00 a.m. on December 21. Miller was placed on crisis suspension, relieved of his badge, and escorted from the premises following the meeting.

At the December 21 meeting, Miller was asked if he had anything to add. He said that he had not had time to think about it, that he was guilty of improper use of the computer, but that had not been his intent. He further stated that he had acted as he had because work was slow. Miller was informed the matter had been reviewed by senior management and because there was no tolerance for such conduct, that he was to be terminated. In lieu of termination, Miller was permitted to retire.

LMES has moved for summary judgment asserting that (1) the undisputed evidence fails to support Miller's claim for wrongful termination, and (2) the evidence fails to establish a racially hostile work environment.*fn2 Therefore, LMES asserts that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law on plaintiff's claims.

Plaintiff William Miller has responded in opposition, stating that the evidence in this case demonstrates that he was subjected to an investigation and punishment disproportionate to that given to similarly-situated white peers.

Standard of Review

Summary judgment is proper 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 a judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the court views the evidence, all facts, and any inferences that may be drawn from the facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). To withstand summary judgment, the non-movant must show sufficient evidence to create a genuine issue of material fact. Klepper v. First Am. Bank, 916 F.2d 337, 342 (6th Cir. 1990). A mere scintilla of evidence is insufficient; there must be evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the non- movant. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 252 (1986). Entry of summary judgment is ...

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