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Intoxicated Employee Failed to Support an Employment Discrimination Claim

Ronald K. Hart v. Broadway Services, Inc.
Civil Action No. RDB-11-2261 (D. Md. September 27, 2012)

by Gregory L. Arbogast, Associate
Semmes, Bowen & Semmes (

In Hart v. Broadway Services, Inc., Judge Bennett of the United States District Court of the District of Maryland granted summary in favor of Broadway Services, Inc. (“Broadway Services”) for an employment discrimination claim brought by Plaintiff Ronald Hart arising out of his termination for being intoxicated on the job. Judge Bennett held that Mr. Hart failed to produce any evidence to prove a “mixed motive” on the part of Broadway Services, and Mr. Hart also failed to produce evidence sufficient to shift the burden of proof to Broadway Services.

Broadway Services is a company that specializes in janitorial services, specifically in cleaning hospital rooms. Mr. Hart was a supervisor for Broadway Services. He was responsible for managing a team that cleaned hospital rooms. Broadway Services hired Mr. Hart on May 1, 2006. From 2006 to 2007 Mr. Hart had a strong employment record. After that time, however, his job performance began to deteriorate. Specifically, Mr. Hart’s job performance came under scrutiny at least ten times. Those ten instances included: (1) failure to submit required paperwork; (2) poor handling of disposable biohazard trash; (3) poor job performance which led to a patient remaining in the emergency room longer than necessary; (4) leaving trash piled up on a shift; and (5) excessive absences. Ultimately, Mr. Hart was terminated after he came to work while under the influence of alcohol, which is a violation of the substance abuse policy that Mr. Hart signed.

Mr. Hart filed this employment discrimination lawsuit against Broadway Services alleging that Broadway Services discriminated against Mr. Hart on the basis of his race. Mr. Hart alleged that his supervisor continuously harassed him. Mr. Hart also alleged that his ultimate termination was as a result of his race. Broadway Services countered that his termination was as a result of his failure to adhere to the substance abuse policy along with his extensive record of poor performance. Broadway Services filed a Motion for Summary Judgment on the grounds that Mr. Hart failed to adduce any evidence in discovery which could reasonably support his employment discrimination claim.

In deciding Broadway Service’s Motion for Summary Judgment, The United States District Court for the District of Maryland assessed: (1) whether Mr. Hart established that Broadway Services had a mixed-motive in terminating Mr. Hart; or (2) whether Mr. Hart adduced sufficient evidence to shift the burden to Broadway Services to show that it had a legitimate reason for terminating Mr. Hart. Under the “mixed-motive” framework, a plaintiff can establish a discrimination claim through direct or circumstantial evidence that his race was a motivating factor in the employer’s decision to terminate him. The plaintiff can defeat summary judgment by establishing a mixed motive. The Court, however, found that Mr. Hart failed to produce any evidence which showed that Mr. Hart’s race played any role in his termination. Therefore, the Court failed to find a mixed-motive for Mr. Hart’s termination.

Under the burden-shifting framework, a plaintiff bears the initial burden of proving a prima facie discrimination case by a preponderance of the evidence. If the plaintiff meets his burden, then the burden shifts to the employer to provide a legitimate nondiscriminatory justification for its decision to terminate the employer. If the employer meets that burden, then the plaintiff must show that the employer’s legitimate nondiscriminatory reason for termination was merely a “pretext” for discrimination. The Court held that Plaintiff failed to set forth a prima facie case that his termination was as a result of his race. Instead, the record is clear that Mr. Hart was performing his job duties at a poor level. Moreover, the Court found that even if Mr. Hart had carried his burden, Broadway Services produced sufficient evidence to show that Mr. Hart’s termination was as a result of his violation of the substance abuse policy. Mr. Hart did not produce any evidence which would show that Broadway Services’ decision was a mere pretext for racial discrimination. Therefore, the District Court granted summary judgment in favor of Broadway Services and dismissed Plaintiff’s claims.