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El-Sayed v. Garda CL New England, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

July 13, 2016

MOHAMED EL-SAYED, Plaintiff,
v.
CARDA CL NEW ENGLAND, INC., and GARDA WORLD SECURITY CORPORATION, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER ON DEFENDANTS’ MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (DOC. NO. 30)

          Leo T. Sorokin United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Mohamed El-Sayed (“El-Sayed”) filed this employment discrimination action against Defendants Garda CL New England, Inc. and Garda World Security Corporation (collectively “Garda”), alleging three violations under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 151B, § 4(1). See Doc. No. 1-1. Garda has moved for summary judgment. Doc. No. 30. El-Sayed opposed the motion, Doc. No. 38, Garda filed a reply brief, Doc. No. 40, and the Court held a hearing. Doc. No. 43. After careful consideration of the parties’ briefs and arguments, the motion is ALLOWED IN PART and DENIED IN PART.

         I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND[1]

         In August 2011, El-Sayed began working for Garda as an Armored Driver/Messenger at Garda’s Needham, Massachusetts location. Doc. No. 32 ¶¶ 1, 2. El-Sayed emailed two superiors-Regional Director Jaime Lopez and Corporate Security Manager Brian Wilkins-on February 4, 2014, expressing interest in “grow[ing] within the organization and lead[ing] a successful branch.” Id. ¶ 3. El-Sayed particularly wanted a job at Garda’s Needham branch which did not involve driving armored trucks. Id. ¶ 16. He had expressed interest in getting a supervisory branch job as early as April 2013. See Doc. No. 32-2 at 27-28. Later in February 2014, Associate Director William Chouinard (“Chouinard”) interviewed El-Sayed, among others, for a new “Supervisor of Operations” role. Doc. No. 32 ¶ 4.

         In March 2014, a snowplow struck the armored car El-Sayed was driving on Interstate 95. Id. ¶ 5. Afterwards, El-Sayed requested a medical leave of absence, and, in support of his request, “submitted documents from his health care providers indicating that he was suffering from medical conditions that rendered him unable to perform any of his job functions.” Id. ¶ 6. Sometime after March 31, 2014, Garda placed El-Sayed on Family and Medical Leave Act leave. See Doc. No. 32-2 at 70-77. While nobody at Garda precluded El-Sayed from returning to work, he never did. Doc. No. 32 ¶¶ 8-10. As of July 14, 2015, medical reasons still prevented El-Sayed from working. Id. ¶ 11.

         Garda ultimately decided not to add, let alone fill, the new Supervisor of Operations position. Doc. No. 32-5 ¶ 5. In or around February 2014, Garda reassigned Brandon Rodriguez, a Driver/Messenger and Crew Leader, from driving armored trucks to working in the Needham branch’s vault. Doc. No. 32-6 ¶¶ 4, 5. Rodriguez remained classified as a Driver/Messenger and Crew Leader, and his compensation did not change. Id. ¶ 5. However, Rodriguez did receive a badge normally reserved for supervisors, and employees at the Needham branch regarded Rodriguez as, at the least, a de facto supervisor to turn to when necessary. Doc. No. 32-2 at 147.

         El-Sayed filed a complaint, dated July 1, 2014, with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (“MCAD”). Doc. No. 39-1. El-Sayed’s MCAD complaint contained a single count of discriminatory failure to promote. Id. at 4. “Specifically, ” it alleged, “on at least two different occasions, Garda promoted employees who are not members of Mr. El-Sayed’s protected class, instead of [him], a Muslim Egyptian-American employee, despite the fact that [he] was sufficiently qualified for the position.” Id. ¶ 18. Earlier in the MCAD Complaint, in a paragraph incorporated within Count I, see id. ¶ 16, El-Sayed alleged that shortly after he began at Garda, “coworkers and managers . . . would make derogatory comments and jokes about [his] Egyptian heritage, and following the Boston Marathon Bombings on April 15, 2014 [sic], Garda employees targeted [him] with disparaging comments about his religion and Muslims in general.” Id. ¶ 6.

         El-Sayed subsequently filed the instant Complaint in Superior Court on October 17, 2014. Doc. No. 1-1. Garda then removed the case to this Court on December 24, 2014. Doc. No. 1.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         Summary judgment is appropriate when “the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). Once a party “has properly supported its motion for summary judgment, the burden shifts to the non-moving party, who ‘may not rest on mere allegations or denials of [its] pleading, but must set forth specific facts showing there is a genuine issue for trial.’” Barbour v. Dynamics Research Corp., 63 F.3d 32, 37 (1st Cir. 1995) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 256 (1986)). The Court is “obliged to review the record in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, and to draw all reasonable inferences in the nonmoving party’s favor.” LeBlanc v. Great Am. Ins. Co., 6 F.3d 836, 841 (1st Cir. 1993). Even so, the Court is to ignore “conclusory allegations, improbable inferences, and unsupported speculation.” Prescott v. Higgins, 538 F.3d 32, 39 (1st Cir. 2008) (quoting Medina-Muñoz v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., 896 F.2d 5, 8 (1st Cir. 1990)). A court may enter summary judgment “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).

         III. DISCUSSION

         El-Sayed’s Complaint brings three claims for relief: a discrimination claim on the basis of religion and national origin “by failing (repeatedly) to promote him, ” Doc. No. 1-1 ¶ 20; a hostile environment claim stemming from “El-Sayed’s coworkers and managers engag[ing] in a pattern and practice of harassing, humiliating and embarrassing him about his Muslim religion, ” id. ¶ 23; and a similar hostile environment claim, stemming from “El-Sayed’s coworkers and managers engag[ing] in a pattern and practice of harassing, humiliating and embarrassing him about his Egyptian national origin.” Id. ¶ 26. Garda raises multiple arguments which, if all correct, require dismissal of the whole Complaint. See Doc. No. 31. The Court addresses these arguments by count, grouping (as the parties have in their briefs) the two hostile environment claims together.

         A. Count I-Failure to Promote Claim

         El-Sayed first claims that Garda discriminated against him by promoting people from driving armored trucks to working in Garda’s Needham branch who were neither Egyptian nor Muslim. Doc. No. 1-1 ¶ 20. In cases such as this one, where El-Sayed has not produced an explicit acknowledgment from Garda that it declined to promote him because of his religion and/or national origin, the Court utilizes the three-step burden-shifting framework the Supreme Court promulgated in McDonnell Douglas Corp v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 802-05 (1973). See Ray v. Ropes & Gray LLP, 799 F.3d 99, 113 (1st Cir. 2015) (“Because [the plaintiff] has not offered ‘direct proof’ of [the defendant’s] alleged discriminatory animus, ‘we allocate the burden of producing evidence according to the now-familiar three-step framework set forth in McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green.’”) ...


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