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Giri v. Integrated Laboratory Systems, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Western Division

February 7, 2019

DIPAK GIRI, Plaintiff,
v.
INTEGRATED LABORATORY SYSTEMS, INC., Defendant.

          ORDER

          LOUISE W. FLANAGAN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter is before the court on defendant's motion for summary judgment (DE 42) as well as defendant's motion to maintain confidential designation (DE 48) and motion to seal document (DE 51). The matters have been fully briefed, and in this posture the issue raised are ripe for ruling. For the reasons that follow, the court grants defendant's motions.

         STATEMENT OF THE CASE

         Plaintiff instituted this action by filing complaint on October 12, 2016, in the 412th District Court of Brazoria County, Texas, asserting a breach of contract claim as well as negligent misrepresentation and fraud-based claims, stemming from an alleged rescinded offer of employment made by defendant to plaintiff via letter dated September 18, 2014 (“employment offer letter”). (DE 43-1). Defendant removed this action on November 23, 2016, to the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas.

         On February 13, 2017, plaintiff filed first amended compliant, asserting the same claims as stated above, to which defendant, a North Carolina corporation, filed motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction or in the alternative motion to transfer venue, which the court granted on April 12, 2017, transferring the case to this court.

         On April 24, 2017, the court entered case management order, and on August 2, 2017, the court granted the parties' consent motion for protective order. Following grants of motions to amend the case management order, defendant filed the instant motion for summary judgment on April 25, 2018. In support, defendant has filed statement of material facts as well as the employment offer letter and plaintiff's letter in response, deposition excerpts from plaintiff, David Allen (“Allen”), Mary Mulleady (“Mulleady”), Bradley Blackard (“Blackard”), and Terry Adams (“Adams”), as well as affidavit of Adams, all of whom are employed by defendant with the exception of plaintiff. Defendant additionally relies upon select emails concerning the employment position in question.

         On May 29, 2018, defendant also filed the instant motion for protective order and instant motion to seal document, relying on affidavit from Blackard in support.

         Plaintiff filed opposition to both motions, and in support to his opposition to defendant's summary judgment motion, plaintiff relies on statement of material facts as well as declaration of plaintiff, award/contract between defendant and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (“NIEHS”) as well as the NIEHS statement of work, deposition and deposition excerpts from the same defendant employees as relied upon by defendant, select emails concerning the employment position in question, plaintiff's job searches and results for 2014-2015, and a document from defendant identifying plaintiff as “not best qualified” for job requisition number 1418.

         STATEMENT OF THE FACTS

         The relevant facts taken in light most favorable to plaintiff are summarized below.

         In 2014, defendant was preparing a proposal (“NIEHS contract proposal”) for the recompete of a NIEHS contract in which defendant would provide pathology support services to NIEHS (the “NIEHS contract”).

         As part of creating a competitive contract proposal, defendant sought to demonstrate to NIEHS the availability and interest of qualified candidates who could assist defendant in servicing the NIEHS contract. Accordingly, in September of 2014, Allen, defendant's vice president of science and strategy, reached out to plaintiff to inquire as to his availability and interest in staffing the NIEHS contract. Allen reached out to plaintiff because he had previously been employed by defendant and generally had the skills necessary to service the NIEHS contract as it was being bid in the Fall of 2014.

         During plaintiff's prior employment with defendant, like all defendant employees servicing a NIEHS contract, plaintiff had been an at-will employee and was required to work on-site at defendant's facilities in the Research Triangle Park. Plaintiff expressed interest and stated he was available. In order to memorialize plaintiff's interest, defendant sent plaintiff the employment offer letter dated September 18, 2014, which states as follows:

I am pleased to offer you the full time position of Toxicologic Pathologist with Integrated Laboratory Systems, Inc. (ILS) at the hourly rate of $75.56 with a start date of July 15, 2015. This offer is contingent upon ILS being awarded the Pathology Peer Review and Pathology Support for the Divisions of the National Toxicology Program (DNTP) and the Division of Intramural Research (DIR) at the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) contract and a determination that an opening for this position exists; your willingness to sign the Confidentiality and Work Ownership Agreement; and your successful completion of a drug test and criminal background check . . . . We look forward to your acceptance of our offer. If you find this offer to be acceptable, please sign and return the enclosed letter.

         (Employment Offer Letter (DE 43-1)).

         On September 23, 2014, plaintiff accepted the contingent offer “in accordance with the terms” of the employment letter. During this time, from mid-2014 to mid-2015, plaintiff applied to nine other pathologist positions and received rejection notices or no responses between August 2014 and July 10, 2015. These employment positions were located both domestic and abroad.

         Defendant submitted its proposal for the NIEHS contract on October 8, 2014, and as part of its proposal, defendant included the names of pathologists that were available to defendant. Plaintiff's name was included in that proposal as a staff pathologist. In addition to plaintiff, defendant included the names of two other pathologists who received identical “contingent offer” letters in the fall of 2014, neither of whom were actually hired after the NIEHS contract was awarded.

         In July 2015, defendant was awarded the NIEHS contract, and an opening for a pathologist position was available. Adams, defendant's toxicologist pathologist and pathology program manager, was involved in staffing a pathologist to work on the NIEHS contract. Adams recruited and hired Rebecca Moore (“Moore”) from a competitor of defendant for the pathologist position.[1]Plaintiff alleges he had the skill set and background needed in order to fulfill whatever requirement was needed for the NIEHS contract.[2]

         While defendant was finalizing its staffing decisions, plaintiff sent multiple e-mails to defendant, inquiring of the status of the position and whether defendant had made a “decision.” Specifically, on July 31, 2015, plaintiff emailed defendant to inquire “if there is any decision for the contingency offer given to me last year . . . .” (DE 44-7 at 6). As defendant was still in discussions with Moore, defendant responded that “[t]o date, we have not made any decisions.” (Id.). On August 31, 2015 and September 9, 2015, plaintiff again emailed defendant to ask defendant to “let [him] know of a decision” regarding employment under the NIEHS Contract. (Id. at 3-4; DE 57-4). Adams responded on September 11, 2015 stating that defendant was in the final stages of finalizing staffing decisions and decisions would be made within the next two weeks. Moore accepted the offer of employment on September 8, 2015. On September 24, 2015, Adams notified plaintiff that he would not be hired to work on the NIEHS contract.

         DISCUSSION

         A. Standard of Review

         Summary judgment is appropriate where “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). 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 Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986).

         Once the moving party has met its burden, the non-moving party must then “come forward with specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-87 (1986) (internal quotation omitted). Only disputes between the parties over facts that might affect the outcome of the case properly preclude the entry of summary judgment. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986) (holding that a factual dispute is “material” only if it might affect the outcome of the suit and “genuine” only if there is sufficient evidence for a reasonable jury to return a verdict for the non-moving party).

         “[A]t the summary judgment stage the [court's] function is not [itself] to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial.” Id. at 249. In determining whether there is a genuine issue for trial, “evidence of the non-movant is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in [non-movant's] favor.” Id. at 255; see United States v. Diebold, Inc., 369 U.S. 654, 655 (1962) (“On summary judgment the inferences to be drawn from the underlying ...


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