Plaintiff Gregory Gibson worked for Marjack Company for a
year before he was terminated. Gibson participated in an Equal Employment
Opportunity Commission (EEOC) investigation involving the sexual harassment
claims of another employee because Gibson witnessed the sexual harassment. Three
months after Gibson was interviewed for the EEOC investigation, he was fired
from Marjack for mismanaging company invoices.
After being terminated, Gibson filed an EEOC Complaint
against Marjack. The Complaint alleged that the company violated § 704(a) of
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by retaliating against him for
participating in protected activity. The EEOC Director found Marjack had
violated the statute, and Gibson thus sued, alleging retaliation. Judge
Alexander Williams granted Marjack's Motion for Summary Judgment because he
found there was no genuine issue as to any material fact.
In order to prevail on his retaliation claim, Gibson must
first establish a prima facie case by proving: 1) He participated in or opposed
a protective activity under § 704(a); 2) Markjack took adverse action against
him; and 3) A causal connection existed between Gibson's protected activity and
Markjack's adverse employment action. See McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 11
U.S. 792, 802 (1973).
While Gibson did participate in protected activity under §
704 (a) because he testified and assisted in the EEOC investigation regarding
his co-worker's sexual harassment claims, and Marjack did take adverse action
against him by terminating him, he still cannot establish his prima facie case.
The Court held that Gibson was unable to establish that Markjack knew Gibson was
ever involved in the EEOC sexual harassment investigation. The Fourth Circuit
has held that an employer must have knowledge that the employee engaged in a
protected activity because an employer cannot retaliate against something of
which he or she is not aware. See Causey v. Balog, 162 F.3d 795, 803–04 (4th
Cir. 1998). Because Gibson failed to establish his employer knew of his
protected activities, Gibson failed to establish a prima facie case of
Assuming arguendo that Gibson could establish his prima
facie case, his retaliation claim still fails because the burden would then
shift to the employer to provide a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for the
termination. Markjack met this burden because it had provided uncontroverted
evidence that Gibson mismanaged company invoices when he modified invoices
without authorization to do so.
Once the employer articulates a legitimate,
nondiscriminatory reason for the action, the burden thus shifts back to the
employee to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the employer's reason
was pretextual. Gibson did not rely on any specific facts or extrinsic evidence
to establish pretext. Rather, he relied on his own belief that his employer lied
about the real reason for his termination. Without more, the Court held Gibson
failed to prove pretext by a preponderance of the evidence.
The Court thus held that Gibson failed to establish a prima
facie case of retaliation, and Gibson also failed to rebut Marjack's contention
that the termination was legitimate and for nondiscriminatory reasons. As a
result, the Court granted Marjack's Motion for Summary Judgment on Gibson's