On appeal from the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights, Docket No. ET02WB-52682.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted December 16, 2009
Before Judges Fisher and Espinosa.
In this appeal, we review a final decision of the Division on Civil Rights (Division) that found a lack of probable cause to believe the termination of Mansoor Moussavi's employment relationship with Verizon Wireless (Verizon) was the product of discrimination.
The record reveals that, at the time of his termination, Moussavi was a fifty-two year-old Iranian-American man. In February 1990, he was hired by Bell Atlantic Mobile, a Verizon predecessor, as a member of its technical staff. He held that position for more than sixteen years when terminated in August 2006.
Moussavi filed a verified complaint with the Division on September 14, 2006. Specifically, Moussavi accused Verizon of firing him because of his national origin and age or, alternatively, in retaliation for reporting a supervisor to the Verizon's human resources department (hereafter "human resources"). The Division served Verizon and demanded that it produce Moussavi's employment file and its discrimination policies. Verizon answered and produced the requested materials.
During the fact-finding conference on April 26, 2007, a Division investigator examined Moussavi and two Verizon supervisors. A few days after the conference, the parties submitted additional documentation.
In May 2008, the investigator released his decision, recommending that the Division issue a finding of no probable cause because Moussavi had not produced sufficient evidence of discrimination or reprisal to sustain a claim. On May 30, 2008, the Division issued a finding of no probable cause and dismissed the complaint. This timely appeal followed.
In appealing, Moussavi contends that the evidence does not support the Division's finding of no probable cause. We find no merit in that argument.
As a member of the technical staff, Moussavi had various responsibilities, including: scheduling, coordinating and completing engineering projects; managing multiple, concurrent product development projects; organizing highly complex activities for the successful launch of engineering projects; risk management; and preparing regular reports for upper management. He was also expected to "work closely with a variety of internal teams... efficiently and effectively." According to Verizon's written expectations, "[s]trong communication skills," "excellent problem solving skills," "self-motivation," and "leadership" were critical to the job.
The record reveals that Moussavi was, for the most part, a good but not great employee during his first thirteen years at Verizon. From 1995 through 1999, Moussavi was consistently rated "on target" by his supervisors,*fn1 meaning he met but did not exceed his managers' expectations. According to his performance reviews from those years, Moussavi was "very technically astute" and "a solid performer, achieving results with each project he was given." He was also "always willing to help out when asked" and "demonstrated many of the [company's] values well." However, his "direct style of communication" was often "misinterpret[ed]" and "[a]t times, [Moussavi] trie[d] to limit the scope of his work to just technical issues." It was reported that, at his level, Moussavi should have been showing "more initiative." His managers recommended that Moussavi "pursue leadership and communication skills training."
From 2000 through 2003, Moussavi's supervisors rated him as "meeting expectations," the middle rating on a five-category scale. From a positive perspective, Moussavi was described as "very thorough" and a "bright and dedicated individual," and he continued "to perform all tasks that [were] asked of him quite competently." However, problems remained. One supervisor commented that Moussavi could "operate at a level of performance much higher than what we are seeing today" and wanted Moussavi to "take on a more aggressive role... by assuming a greater level of responsibility and risk." It was reported that Moussavi "need[ed] to set an example to his team" and "help his other team members by owning up to issues that may or may not operate directly within [his] realm of responsibility." Another supervisor commented that Moussavi must become "highly self-motivated, hard driving and assertive" and "be proactive and decisive in his decision[-]making."
Moussavi alleged that in 2002 he experienced problems with one of his supervisors. According to Moussavi, this supervisor "was harassing everybody" in the office and was "extremely" biased. Moussavi complained to Verizon's human resources department but, after interviewing Moussavi's fellow employees, human resources found no evidence to support his contentions. Instead, human resources found that the supervisor ...