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McKinnon v. Gonzales

January 26, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Jerome B. Simandle United States District Judge


SIMANDLE, District Judge


This matter is before the Court on Defendants' motion for reconsideration [Docket Item 31]. Defendants request reconsideration of this Court's Order granting in part and denying in part Defendants' motion for summary judgment [Docket Item 29]. The Court must decide whether it overlooked the factual matters identified by Defendants, and if so, whether they are dispositive. Because, as discussed below, the Court concludes that it did not overlook any dispositive factual matters, the motion will be denied.


Plaintiff Henry E. McKinnon, a forty-six-year-old African-American man, is a senior Unit Manager for the Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) at Fort Dix, New Jersey. He alleges that his employer discriminated against him in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2, et seq. ("Title VII"). The facts of the case are set forth in detail in the Opinion on Defendants' motion for summary judgment [Docket Item 28]. They are summarized below to the extent they are relevant to this motion.

Between August 2004 and March 2006, Plaintiff's immediate supervisor was Associate Warden Jacqueline Nichols. The complaint arises in part out of various conflicts between the two. On April 11, 2005, Plaintiff attempted to call Nichols about a recent conflict, and reached her secretary. The parties dispute the contents of the call. Defendants allege that Plaintiff made various threatening remarks.

In May 2005, Plaintiff met with the Warden at the time, John Nash, on three occasions to complain that he felt that he was being harassed by Nichols. (Nash Dep. 27:19-22.) Nash did not believe Plaintiff was being harassed. (Id. at 32:1-23.) Plaintiff asserts that Nash warned Plaintiff not to do anything that Plaintiff would regret. (McKinnon Dep. 55:11-21.) Nash denies having made any such comment to Plaintiff.

An investigation into the April 11 phone call was initiated at some point, and it eventually resulted in Plaintiff's suspension for three days. The timing of the investigation, as well as the relationship between the investigation and other events that transpired during the summer of 2005, are also the subject of dispute between the parties. Plaintiff alleges that the investigation did not begin until just three days after he commenced an EEO complaint.

On June 6, 2005, following an exchange of emails between Plaintiff and Nichols concerning scheduling matters, Plaintiff wrote to Nichols (and sent a copy to Nash) asking her to "acknowledge this response as my official filing of an EEO Complaint against you for Harassment, Retaliation/Reprisal, Threats, Interfering With An On-going EEO Investigation, etc." (Blaine Cert. Ex-G5, at 1.) Plaintiff met with his EEO counselor that day, complaining that he had been harassed. (Blaine Cert. Ex-B.)

On June 9, 2005, Plaintiff and the other witnesses to the events of April 11, 2005 were interviewed by John Pittman, FCI Fort Dix's Special Investigative Agent ("SIA Pittman"), (Blaine Cert. Ex-G5, at 3). On summary judgment, the Court found that "there appears to be no evidence in the record that establishes that the investigation was launched immediately after the April 11, 2005 telephone call" as Defendants contend. [Docket Item 28, at 10-11.]

In August 2005, Plaintiff was transferred from Unit Six to Unit Three. According to Plaintiff, none of the unit managers "wanted to go to Unit 3 . . . because that's the hostile unit." (Id. at 161:5-11) Plaintiff amended his EEO complaint in September 2005 to assert that he had been transferred to a hostile working environment (Unit Three), (Blaine Cert. Ex-B1, at 1), and amended it again in November 2005 after he was disciplined as a result of the phone call investigation. (Blaine Cert. Ex-B2, at 1.)

Plaintiff filed the Complaint in this action on April 9, 2007 [Docket Item 1]. He alleges that he was retaliated against for engaging in Title VII-protected activity (Count I), that he was discriminated against on account of his sex (Count II), and that he was exposed to a hostile work environment (Count III).

Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment on February 20, 2009 [Docket Item 21]. The motion was granted except as to Plaintiff's retaliation claim, to the extent that the claim was premised upon Defendants' allegedly retaliatory investigation and discipline of Plaintiff for the April 11, 2005 ...

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