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Arnwine v. Lockheed Martin Energy Systems

June 20, 2007


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Phillips


Plaintiff Donald J. Arnwine has sued his former employer, Lockheed Martin Energy Systems, Inc., alleging he was wrongfully discharged because of his race and that during his employment he was subjected to unequal terms and conditions of employment, and retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et. seq., and 42 U.S.C. § 1981. Defendant Lockheed Martin Energy Systems, Inc., 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. Because plaintiff has failed to make a prima facie showing that any adverse action was racially motivated, and because the defendant has articulated a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for its employment decision and plaintiff has not shown the stated reason to be pretext, defendant Lockheed Martin's motion for summary judgment will be granted, and this action will be dismissed.

Factual Background

This case involves the Y-12 Plant in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, which is one of four DOE facilities in Oak Ridge. These four DOE facilities house classified materials pertaining to national security, secret scientific research, and the development of nuclear weapons. Pursuant to its contract with DOE, Lockheed Martin was responsible for providing security (guard services) at Y-12. The Y-12 Plant maintains the nation's stockpile of weapons-grade uranium. Improper access into any one of these Oak Ridge facilities threatens national security, could benefit foreign governments or terrorist groups, and jeopardizes the safety of the nation's military and civilian populations. Thus, the security of the Y-12 Plant is vital to national security.

The work performed by security guards at Y-12 is subject to extensive DOE regulations that apply to protective force personnel at government-owned facilities like Y-12. See 10 C.F.R. Part 1046. These regulations require security guards to meet certain physical fitness and other requirements, at specified intervals, to maintain their status. DOE regulation 10 C.F.R. § 1046.14 expressly requires all protective force personnel to have a "current access authorization for the highest level of classified matter to which they potentially have access [security clearance]." Lockheed Martin required its security guards to obtain and maintain a Q-Clearance as a condition of their employment. Arnwine understood he had to have a Q-clearance in order to work as a guard at Y-12.

Plaintiff Arnwine, an African-American, was employed by Lockheed Martin in the protective forces at Y-12 from 1984 until 1998, when Lockheed Martin terminated his employment because his security clearance was revoked by DOE. From 1984 to 1988, Arnwine worked as a security inspector, a bargaining unit position covered by the Collective Bargaining Agreement between Lockheed Martin and the Guards Union. In May 1988, Arnwine became a Plant Lieutenant, a nonsupervisory position outside the bargaining unit, which he continued to hold until the revocation of his clearance and the resulting termination of his employment in March 1998.

DOE has exclusive authority to grant, suspend and terminate security clearances. Lockheed Martin has no role in decisions relating to the granting, suspending or terminating/revoking security clearances. Arnwine maintained a Q-Clearance from 1984 until 1998. DOE suspended Arnwine's security clearance in October 1996 because of his "pattern of financial irresponsibility." In its letter informing Lockheed Martin of the suspension, DOE told Lockheed Martin that it should reassign Arnwine to "activities not involving access to classified information . . . until a final decision as to his eligibility [for a security clearance] has been made."

Under the federal regulations, DOE may either suspend or terminate an employee's security clearance. Under the practice followed by Lockheed Martin at Y-12, there is an important difference between the termination of a clearance and the suspension of a clearance. If an individual's clearance is suspended, Lockheed Martin continues to employ the individual but assigns the individual to a position not requiring a clearance pending DOE's decision whether to reinstate or to terminate the individual's clearance. If the individual's suspended clearance is later reinstated, the individual's employment is continued. But if the individual's clearance is terminated or revoked, the individual's employment is terminated.

When DOE suspended Arnwine's clearance, Lockheed Martin assigned Arnwine to a job at the company's Central Training Facility, not involving access to classified information, pending DOE's decision whether to reinstate or to revoke/terminate Arnwine's clearance. This assignment, which was made in accordance with DOE's instruction and Lockheed Martin's policy, did not affect Arnwine's salary. Arnwine remained at the Central Training Facility until his clearance was revoked, and his employment terminated, in March 1998.

Arnwine requested a hearing following the suspension of his security clearance. The hearing officer issued a decision concluding that Arnwine's "access authorization [security clearance] should not be restored." Pursuant to 10 C.F.R. § 710.28(b), Arnwine appealed the hearing officer's adverse decision, but his appeal was not successful. By letter of January 29, 1998, the Director of DOE's Office of Security Affairs informed Arnwine that a final decision had been made to revoke his clearance, and notified Lockheed Martin of the revocation on March 4, 1998. Lockheed Martin terminated Arnwine on March 5, 1998 because DOE had revoked his clearance. It was Lockheed Martin's policy and practice at Y-12 to terminate the employment of any employee whose security clearance had been revoked or terminated by DOE. The termination of the employee is not delayed pending any appeal the employee may elect to take from DOE's action. The policy and practice of forthwith terminating an employee whose clearance has been terminated was also consistently followed by the previous government contractors at Y-12: Martin Marietta Energy Systems and Union Carbide Corporation. From August 1989 to April 1999, fifty-four employees at the Y-12 Plant had their security clearance terminated and in each instance, Lockheed Martin and its predecessors forthwith terminated the employee upon being notified of the security clearance termination by DOE. Lockheed Martin did not re-employ any Y-12 employee who had been terminated due to the termination/revocation of a security clearance.

At the time of his termination, Lockheed Martin told Arnwine that he was being terminated because of the revocation of his security clearance. Arnwine did not file any charge with the EEOC or the Tennessee Human Rights Commission which asserted that his termination violated Title VII or the Tennessee Human Rights Act.

Arnwine previously filed an EEOC charge against Lockheed Martin in 1995 alleging denial of a promotion in August 1995. Arnwine withdrew this charge before the EEOC issued a determination.

Lockheed Martin has moved for summary judgment asserting that (1) the undisputed evidence fails to support Arnwine's claim for wrongful termination, (2) Arnwine's failure to promote claim is time barred, (3) Arnwine's Title VII claims are barred for failure to timely file a charge with the EEOC, and (4) his § 1981 claims are barred by the statute of limitations. Therefore, Lockheed Martin asserts that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law on all plaintiff's claims.

Plaintiff Arnwine has responded in opposition, stating that the evidence in this case demonstrates that he was terminated on account of his race while white employees were treated more favorably, and that he was terminated in ...

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