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Morgan v. Chao

United States District Court, D. Arizona

April 25, 2018

Gerald Morgan, Plaintiff,
v.
Elaine Chao, Secretary, U.S. Department of Transportation, Defendant.

          ORDER

          Douglas L. Rayes United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Gerald Morgan alleges that his employer, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by discriminating against him on account of race and retaliating against him for engaging in protected activity. Defendant United States Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao moves for summary judgment on all claims. (Doc. 62.) The motion is fully briefed and neither party requested oral argument. For the following reasons, Defendant's motion is granted.

         SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD

         Summary judgment is appropriate when there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and, viewing those facts in a light most favorable to the nonmoving party, the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). Summary judgment may also be entered “against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). A fact is material if it might affect the outcome of the case, and a dispute is genuine if a reasonable jury could find for the nonmoving party based on the competing evidence. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).

         The party seeking summary judgment “bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of [the record] which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.” Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. The burden then shifts to the non-movant to establish the existence of a genuine and material factual dispute. Id. at 324. The non-movant “must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts, ” and instead “come forward with specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-87 (1986) (internal quotation and citation omitted). Conclusory allegations, unsupported by factual material, are insufficient to defeat summary judgment. Taylor v. List, 880 F.2d 1040, 1045 (9th Cir. 1989). If the non-movant's opposition fails to cite specifically to evidentiary materials, the court is not required to either search the entire record for evidence establishing a genuine issue of material fact or obtain the missing materials. See Carmen v. S.F. Unified Sch. Dist., 237 F.3d 1026, 1028-29 (9th Cir. 2001); Forsberg v. Pac. N.W. Bell Tel. Co., 840 F.2d 1409, 1417-18 (9th Cir. 1988).

         In addition to these general principles, this District's Local Rules of Practice impose specific requirements on the form and content of summary judgment motions. “Any party filing a motion for summary judgment must file a statement, separate from the motion and memorandum of law, setting forth each material fact on which the party relies in support of the motion.” LRCiv 56.1(a). Each of these facts “must refer to a specific admissible portion of the record where the fact finds support (for example, affidavit, deposition, discovery response, etc.).” Id. Likewise:

Any party opposing a motion for summary judgment must file a statement, separate from that party's memorandum of law, setting forth: (1) for each paragraph of the moving party's separate statement of facts, a correspondingly numbered paragraph indicating whether the party disputes the statement of fact set forth in that paragraph and a reference to the specific admissible portion of the record supporting the party's position if the fact is disputed; and (2) any additional facts that establish a genuine issue of material fact or otherwise preclude judgment in favor of the moving party. Each additional fact must be set forth in a separately numbered paragraph and must refer to a specific admissible portion of the record where the fact finds support.

LRCiv 56.1(b). The court may deem a movant's separate statement of facts to be true if the non-movant does not comply with these rules. See Szaley v. Pima Cty., 371 Fed. App'x 734, 735 (9th Cir. 2010).

         BACKGROUND[1]

         Plaintiff is an Electronics Technician tasked with installing, certifying, and maintaining the FAA's communications and navigational equipment. (Doc. 63 ¶¶ 1, 3.) During the relevant time period, Plaintiff was assigned to the Central Arizona System Support Center (SSC), and his primary work site was the Scottsdale Tower. (¶ 1.) The Central Arizona SSC includes hundreds of facilities located across central Arizona, which Plaintiff regularly visited to perform facility reviews and building maintenance. (¶¶ 2, 73.)

         On July 26, 2012, Will Younger, an Environmental Technician at the Central Arizona SSC, confronted Plaintiff at the FAA's Tempe office by asking why he was not at his primary work site and whether he was afraid of the manager there. (¶¶ 5, 16-18.) Plaintiff told Younger to mind his own business and later reported the interaction to Mary Hart, Plaintiff's and Younger's direct supervisor. (¶¶ 9-10, 17-19.) After being informed of the dispute, Steven Sherwood, Younger's and Plaintiff's second-line supervisor, consulted with Mal Coghlan, the Executive Technical Representative responsible for employee relations issues, about bringing mediators and a conflict resolution trainer to the region. (¶ 88.)

         Over the next several months, Plaintiff's supervisors took steps to resolve the conflict between Plaintiff and Younger. Plaintiff and Younger participated in a mediation on August 21, 2012 and, about a week later, participated in a telephonic “outbrief” to discuss the outcomes of the mediation with Hart and the mediator. (¶¶ 25-27.) This call ended, however, when Plaintiff and Younger became hostile towards each other. (¶ 27.)

         To alleviate tensions, on August 30, 2012, Sherwood emailed Coghlan that he wanted to reassign Plaintiff to Prescott. (¶ 30.) Hart responded to Sherwood the next day, informing him that she had discussed with Plaintiff a temporary reassignment to Prescott and that Plaintiff did not object to the reassignment. (¶¶ 31, 36.)

         Accordingly, Plaintiff worked in the Norther Arizona SSC for several days during mid-September 2012. (¶ 35.) The reassignment was short-lived, as management at the Prescott facility informed Sherwood that it no longer had work for Plaintiff. (¶ 37.) Sherwood also was informed that the Southern Arizona SSC had an upcoming National Air Space System Technical Evaluation Program (NASTEP) inspection and potentially could use Plaintiff. (Id.) ...


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