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Gary v. Facebook, Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Asheville Division

July 25, 2018




         THIS MATTER is before the Court on the Defendants' Motions for Summary Judgment [Docs. 59, 61].


         The Plaintiff Robert Louis Gary initiated this action in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California on November 22, 2016, asserting claims of employment discrimination based on his race in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981.[1] [Doc. 1]. The action was transferred to this Court on May 8, 2017. [Doc. 34].

         The Plaintiff, who is African-American, alleges in his Complaint that he was denied a promotion and equal pay in whole or in part on the basis of his race.[2] [Id. at 17]. Specifically, the Plaintiff asserts that he was discriminated against when he was not promoted in the first quarter of 2014 (“Q1 2014”) and instead was promoted later in the third quarter of 2014 (“Q3 2014”). He also alleges that, because of this delay in his promotion, his compensation has lagged compared to the compensation paid to other white employees who were more quickly promoted.

         The Defendants Facebook, Inc. (“Facebook”) and Wayne Hawkins (“Hawkins”) move for summary judgment with respect to the Plaintiff's claims.[3] The Court held a hearing on these motions on July 6, 2018. Having been fully briefed and argued, these motions are now ripe for disposition.


         Summary judgment is proper “if 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). A fact is “material” if it “might affect the outcome of the case.” News and Observer Publ'g Co. v. Raleigh-Durham Airport Auth., 597 F.3d 570, 576 (4th Cir. 2010). A “genuine dispute” exists “if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).

         A party asserting that a fact cannot be genuinely disputed must support its assertion with citations to the record or by showing that the adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to support that fact. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1). “Regardless of whether he may ultimately be responsible for proof and persuasion, the party seeking summary judgment bears an initial burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.” Bouchat v. Baltimore Ravens Football Club, Inc., 346 F.3d 514, 522 (4th Cir. 2003). If this showing is made, the burden then shifts to the non-moving party who must convince the court that a triable issue exists. Id. Finally, in considering a party's summary judgment motion, the Court must view the pleadings and materials presented in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, and must draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-movant as well. Adams v. Trustees of Univ. of N.C. -Wilmington, 640 F.3d 550, 556 (4th Cir. 2011).


         Viewing the forecast of evidence in the light most favorable to the Plaintiff as the non-moving party, the following is a recitation of the relevant facts.

         Facebook is a global technology company that provides a social networking service for users worldwide. [Normandy Dec. at ¶ 3]. Facebook operates data centers that house the company's large computer storage systems, including the data center in Forest City, North Carolina, where the Plaintiff is employed. [Id.; Gary Dep. at 30-31]. Defendant Hawkins is a white male who was formerly[4] the facilities manager at the Forest City data center. [Hawkins Dep. at 11-12].

         The Plaintiff began his tenure at Facebook as a contract Critical Facilities Technician through Siemens Corporation (“Siemens”) in July 2012. [Gary Dep. at 29]. Siemens' contract was overseen by Hawkins. [Id. at 40]. The Plaintiff was eventually offered a position with Facebook as a Critical Facilities Technician (later called Critical Facilities Engineer or “CFE”) at the Forest City facility. As part of that transition process, the Plaintiff was interviewed by, among others, Hawkins. [Id. at 33]. The Plaintiff accepted the position on October 28, 2012, and began his duties on November 12, 2012. [Id. at 36, 39].

         The Plaintiff was brought in at an entry-level, or “IC1” level, position. [Gary Dep. at 39]. Each CFE at the Forest City data center is assigned to an IC (individual contributor) level based on the quality of his or her performance. [Normandy Dec. at ¶ 6]. A CFE is considered for promotion to the next highest IC level once he or she has succeeded at the existing level and consistently demonstrated the skills necessary to succeed at the higher level. Each employee's performance is assessed in semi-annual performance reports. [Id.]. As for employee compensation, Facebook's Compensation Department controls all pay decisions. [Singh Dec. at ¶ 7]. Managers in the Forest City data center do not set pay for other employees. [Id.]. Rather, the Compensation Department sets employee pay under a formula that considers numerous factors, including the employee's performance review rating, IC level, and existing pay. [Id.].

         From November 2012 until February 2013, the Plaintiff worked the third shift, from 7:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m., alternating between three and four days per week. [Gary Dep. at 41-42, 43]. Based upon his performance in the first and second quarter of 2013, the Plaintiff was assessed as “meet[ing] all expectations” and was awarded a bonus. This performance assessment was signed by Hawkins. [Gary Dep. Ex. 4; Gary Dep. at 64-65]. In February 2013, the Plaintiff transitioned from third to first shift, and he remained in that position until June of 2013. [Gary Dep. at 44, 53]. In June 2013, the Plaintiff was asked to resume his position on third shift, and the Plaintiff accepted the arrangement, thereby entitling him to a shift differential raise. [Id. at 54]. Upon resuming third shift, the Plaintiff's supervisor and primary evaluator was Matt Hamrick. [Id. at 55]. The Plaintiff continued in his third shift position from June 2013 until June 2014 when Hamrick offered him another first shift position. [Gary Dep. at 55, 56].

         The Plaintiff was initially on a list of IC1 employees to be promoted for the Q1 2014 performance review period based upon his work product during the second and third quarter of 2013. [Faccone Dep. at 49-50]. When that promotion list was sent to Facebook's headquarters in Menlo Park (MPK), MPK decided there were too many employees on the promotion list, thus requiring the Forest City managers to reevaluate those employees, including the Plaintiff. [Faccone Dep. at 49-51]. A group of several managers, including James Swensen, Wayne Hawkins, Matt Hamrick, Wesley Gordon, and James Faccone, therefore met to reevaluate the promotion decisions for Q1 2014. [Faccone Dep. at 37-38, 50]. The Plaintiff was one of the employees the managers decided to take off the promotion list. [Faccone Dep. at 53].

         The review of the Plaintiff's performance was led by Hawkins. Of the other managers present, Gordon did not have any input regarding the Plaintiff's performance as Gordon supervised CFEs in another building. [Hawkins Dep. at 40]. Faccone, as the global facilities manager, was responsible for evaluating the performances of all CFEs at the Forest City data center [Marciari Dec. at ¶ 8]; however, he admitted that he did not review any documents pertaining to the Plaintiff's performance prior to this meeting. [Faccone Dep. at 49]. As the Plaintiff's current supervisor, Hamrick offered some feedback and a peer summary review, which he completed in late 2013 shortly after he began supervising the Plaintiff. [Hamrick Dep. at 31-33, 122-23, 126-29]. While the group agreed that the Plaintiff was “trending towards promotion” [Hawkins Dep. at 110; Hamrick Dep. at 123], the group decided not to promote the Plaintiff to IC2 at that time ...

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