Sampson v. Leonard et al
ORDER granting 30 Motion for Summary Judgment. Signed by Chief Judge James C. Dever III on 9/4/2012. (Sawyer, D.)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF NORTII CAROLINA
MIKE LEONARD, BRAD BAZEMORE,
LEI ZHENG, and HOSPIRA, INC.,
On March 31, 2010, Richard Sampson ("plaintiff' or "Sampson") filed suit in Halifax County
Superior Court against three former co-workers, Mike Leonard, Brad Bazemore, Lei Zheng
(collectively "individual defendants"), and against his former employer Hospira, Inc. ("Hospira")
Sampson alleged that defendants wrongfully discharged him from employment in
violation of North Carolina public policy, that defendants intentionally and negligently inflicted
emotional distress, that defendants injured his business reputation, and that defendants engaged in
a civil conspiracy to wrongfully discharge him. On September 3, 2010, defendants removed the
action to this court based on diversity jurisdiction and asserted that Sampson fraudulently joined the
individual defendants [D.E. I].
On January 12, 2011, the court dismissed the individual defendants and dismissed
Sampson's claims for intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress, injury to business
reputation, and civil conspiracy [D.E. 20]. Thus, Sampson's sole remaining claim is his North
Carolina wrongful discharge claim against Hospira.
On October 31, 20 11, Hospira moved for summary judgment on the wrongful discharge
claim [D.E. 30] and filed a supporting memorandum and exhibits [D.E. 31]. On November 21,
2011, Sampson responded in opposition and filed supporting exhibits [D.E. 32]. On December 8,
2011,Hospirareplied [D.E. 33]. On December 13,2011, Sampson objected to Hospira'sreply [D.E.
34]. As explained below, the court grants Hospira's motion for summary judgment.
From July 2003 to July 2007, Hospira employed Sampson as a chemistry lab technician in
Hospira's chemical plant in Rocky Mount, North Carolina (the "Rocky Mount plant"). See
Sampson Dep. [D.E. 30-4] 10, 18, 119, Ex. 7; Leonard Decl. [D.E. 30-1] , 7. In December 2006,
Sampson had a brief intimate relationship with Shantres Clark ("Clark"), a fellow technician in the
Rocky Mount plant. See Sampson Dep. 14-15. As a result, Clark became pregnant with Sampson's
child. Id. Sampson is Native American, and Clark is African-American. See id. 13,25.
On Friday, June 22, 2007, a co-worker announced "in front ofthe entire lab" that Sampson
was the father of Clark's unborn child. Id. 19. On Monday, June 25, 2007, Mike Leonard
("Leonard"), Sampson's supervisor, called Sampson into his office and asked Sampson ifhe was the
father ofClark's unborn child. Id. 20; see Leonard Decl. ,,2,4. Sampson answered affmnatively,
to which Leonard replied, "That's not good. That's not good," without elaborating further. Sampson
Dep. 20. Leonard and Sampson then visited Lei Zheng ("Zheng"), the chemistry manager of the
Rocky Mount plant. Sampson Dep. 20-21; Zheng Decl. [D.E. 30-2] , 2. Zheng was ''very
emotional" about the news and told Sampson that she was "disappointed that Shantres Clark was
pregnant from [Sampson]." Id.21-22.1 Leonard and Zheng made no other comments to Sampson
about Clark's pregnancy. See Sampson Dep. 22.
On Tuesday, June 26,2007, Leonard asked Sampson to repair a gas chromatography machine
(the "CO") that was producing errant chromatogram readings. See id. 37, 53-54, 90-91, 95.
1 For purposes of summary judgment, the court assumes that Leonard and Zheng made the
statements that Sampson attributes to them. Cf. Leonard Decl. , 20 (denying that he made "a
comment ... expressing disapproval that [Sampson] had gotten a co-worker pregnant"); Zheng Decl.
,7 (denying that she expressed or implied "disapproval that [Sampson] had gotten a co-worker
According to Sampson, as part of repairing the CG, he performed a number of "junk runs" with
different working standards to determine the cause of the CG's errant readings. See id. 88-93. A
working standard is essentially a control sample ofa chemical solution, against which other samples
of the solution are measured and tested. See id. 40-41. When the CG is functioning properly, a
technician injects both a working standard and a solution sample into the CG. See id. The CG
produces a chromatogram for both the standard and the sample, and the technician compares the
respective chromatogram readings. See id.; see also id. 55. The chromatogram is automatically
stored in a software application called Chem Store Chem Station ("Chem Store"). See id. 55-58;
see also Leonard Decl. ~ 15-16; Zheng Decl. ~ 4.
To prepare a working standard, a technician measures an amount of the stock standard into
a volumetric, and then dilutes the stock standard as prescribed. See Sampson Dep. 39,42, 102. The
technician then weighs the working standard and records the weight in a log book. Id. 52-53;
8. The technician also writes the weight on the volumetric itself. See Sampson
Dep. 53. As a further safeguard, Hospira requires that a second technician sign off on the working
standard's weight in the log book. See id. 16-17; Leonard Decl. ~ 8; Bazemore Decl. ~ 6; cf.
Sampson Dep. 59-60. In addition, all chromatograms include the weight of the working standard
and are time stamped and saved in Chem Store. See Sampson Dep. 86; Leonard Decl. ~~ 15-16;
Zheng Decl. ~ 4; see also Sampson Dep. 57-58.
According to Sampson, he performed the following steps to repair the CG. Sampson used
a pre-existing working standard that he found in the lab to conduct two junk runs on the CG.
Sampson Dep. 88-92. Both of these junk runs produced chromatograms with errant readings. Id.
91-92. Sampson did not record these two runs in the log book. Id. 90-91. Suspecting that the
problem might be the working standard and not the CG, Sampson then prepared his own working
standard with which to test the CG. Id. 53-54,92-93. Sampson's working standard weighed 408.15
mg (the "408 standard"). Id. Sampson used the 408 standard to conduct a third junk run and
received another chromatogram with errant readings. See id. 92. After using the 408 standard to
test the CG, Sampson washed out the volumetric. Id. 87. Because he received an errant reading with
his self-prepared 408 standard, Sampson decided to breakdown and then reassemble the CG. Id.
92-95. Once Sampson reassembled the CG, he prepared another working standard that had a weight
of396.67 mg (the "396 standard"). See id.; see also id. 54. Sampson recorded the correct weight
of the 396 standard on a worksheet, on the volumetric, and in Chern Store. See id. 77. However,
he wrote 408.15 mg in the log book as the weight of the 396 standard. See id. 45-46, 74.
Sampson claims that on Wednesday, June 27, 2007, he realized that he had recorded the
wrong weight for the 396 standard, and he corrected the log book by striking through "408.15 mg,"
recording "396.67 mg," and including the notation ''wrong weight." See id. 45-46, 53,95-96, Ex.
1 (log book entry); see also Leonard Decl. ~ 10. Shortly thereafter, Leonard reviewed the log book
and noticed that Sampson had changed a working standard's weight from 408.15 mg to 396.67 mg.
11. Leonard asked Sampson about the alteration to the log book, and Sampson
explained that 408.15 mg was from the log book entry of another standard, and that he had
mistakenly recorded that weight instead of396.67 mg. See id.; see also Zheng Decl. ~ 3. Leonard
notified Zheng of the incident, and Zheng asked Sampson and Leonard to join Zheng in her office.
Leonard Decl. ~ 11; Zheng Dec!. ~ 3. Zheng asked to see the log book entry for the standard that
supposedly weighed 408.15 mg. See Leonard Decl.
11; Zheng Decl.
3. Zheng and Leonard
doubted Sampson's explanation for the 408.15 mg log book entry. Leonard Decl. ~ 12.
When Sampson arrived atwork on Thursday, June 28, 2007, Leonard asked Sampson to meet
Leonard in Zheng's office. Sampson Dep. 36; see Leonard Decl. ~ 12. In Zheng's office, Leonard
again asked Sampson to explain the 408.15 mg entry. Leonard Decl.
12; Zheng Decl. ~ 3; see
Sampson Dep. 43. Sampson explained that he had mistakenly recorded the weight of another
standard (Le., the 408 standard), and he offered to provide the volumetric for the other standard as
proof. See Sampson Dep. 44-47; Leonard Decl. ~ 12; Zheng Decl. ~ 3. Sampson went to retrieve
the volumetric for the other standard but returned without the volumetric. See Leonard Decl. ~ 12;
Zheng Decl. ~ 3; Sampson Dep. 44-47, 87.
After Sampson returned empty handed, Leonard and Zheng accused him of falsifying data.
See Sampson Dep. 47. Sampson then explamed that the original recorded weight was simply a
"transcription error." Leonard Decl.
13; Zheng Dec!.
4. Leonard and Zheng did not believe
Sampson's "transcription error" explanation because neither "396.67" nor "407.52" closely
resembled the original log book entry of "408.15." Leonard Decl. ~ 13; Zheng Decl. ~ 4; cf.
Sampson Dep. 48. Sampson was offended that Leonard and Zheng accused him of falsifying data
and walked out ofZheng's office. Sampson Dep. 48. Sampson went to Steve Plating ("Plating"),
a senior manager at the Rocky Mount plant, and informed Plating that Leonard and Zheng had
accused Sampson of falsifying data. Id.63. Plating told Sampson that an investigation would be
conducted. See id. 63-65.
Suspecting that Sampson had falsified the original entry in the log book, Leonard and Zheng
asked Brad Bazemore ("Bazemore"), a human resources employee, to investigate. Leonard Decl.
14-15; see Zheng Dec!. ~ 5. Zheng, Leonard, and Bazemore then met with Sampson and asked
him to explam the log book entry. Leonard Decl. ~ 15. Sampson stated that he could not remember
what had happened, and expressed his frustration because he did not understand ''what the big deal
was" because both weights (408.15 mg and 396.67 mg) were "within specifications" for the working
standard. Leonard Dec!.
15; Zheng Decl.
4; Sampson Dep. 47. Leonard and Zheng told
Sampson that the concern was not with whether the standard satisfied the specifications, but
whether Sampson had actually weighed the working standard. Leonard Decl. ~ 15; Zheng Decl. ~
4. Leonard and Zheng explamed that because there was no evidence ofa standard weighing 408.15
mg, they doubted that Sampson had performed an actual weighing; Leonard Decl.
Decl. ~ 4; see Sampson Dep. 78-79, 86 (admitting that there is no evidence of the 408 standard).
Sampson responded that he had recorded the weight ofthe standard into Chern Store. Leonard Dec!.
15; Zheng Decl.
4; cf. Sampson Dep. 55-58. Leonard and Zheng then checked Chern Store.
Although there was an entry for a standard weighing 396.67 mg, there was no entry for a standard
weighing 408.15 mg. Leonard Decl. ~ 15; Zheng Dec!. ~ 4; Bazemore Decl. ~ 6; see SampsonDep.
Leonard, Zheng, and Bazemore concluded that Sampson never weighed a standard before
recording the weight of 408.15 mg in the log book and, therefore, had falsified the original log book
entry. Leonard Decl.
16; Zheng Decl.
5; Bazemore Decl.
6; see Sampson Dep. 25, 47, 63.
Accordingly, Leonard, Zheng, and Bazemore recommended that Sampson's employment be
terminated for falsifying company documents. Leonard Decl. ~ 16; Zheng Decl. ~ 5; Bazemore Decl.
6.2 Hospira suspended Sampson pending further investigation. Leonard Decl. ~ 18; Bazemore
Decl. ~ 8. Hospira never found any evidence ofa standard weighing 408.5 mg. Leonard Decl. ~ 18;
Bazemore Decl. ~ 8. The Rocky Mount plant's human resources manager, the Rocky Mount plant's
manager, and Hospira's corporate human resources department reviewed and approved the
recommendation to terminate Sampson's employment. See Bazemore Decl. ~ 8. On July 11,2007,
Hospira terminated Sampson's employment. Bazemore Decl. ~ 8.
Hospira has a no-tolerance policy for falsifying company documents. See Bazemore Dec!.
~ 9, Ex.
1 (employee handbook); see also Leonard Decl. ~ 6. Sampson knew that Hospira considered
recording an activity that did not actually occur to be falsification ofcompany documents, which is
grounds for immediate termination. See Sampson Dep. 30; see also id. 69-70, Exs. 4, 5; Leonard
5-6. Since January 1,2006, Hospira has terminated more than thirty employees at the
Leonard, Zheng, and Bazemore also determined that Sampson violated company policy by
performing steps out oforder (Le., entering 396.67 mg into Chem Store before making an entry into
the log book) and by failing to have a second technician confirm the weight change in the log book.
See Leonard Dec!. ~~ 5, 8, 16; see also Zheng Dec!. ~ 5; Bazemore Decl. ~ 6. Hospira did not
terminate Sampson for these policy violations because Hospira considered these policy
violations-unlike the deliberate act of falsifying data-''to be the product of simple sloppiness or
unintentional mistakes on Sampson's part." Leonard Dec!. ~ 17; Bazemore Decl. ~ 7.
Rocky Mount plant for falsifying company documents. Bazemore Decl.
9. In his deposition,
Sampson stated that he heard a rumor that Hospira did not terminate another a lab technician, John
Minchew ("Minchew"), for falsifying documents. See Sampson Dep. 31. Bazemore, however,
dispelled this rumor by disclosing that although somebody once accused Minchew of falsifying a
document, the accusation lacked merit. Bazemore Decl. ~ 9.
Hospira seeks summary judgment on Sampson's claim that Hospira wrongfully discharged
Sampson on the basis of his race, in violation ofthe public policy enunciated in the North Carolina
Equal Employment Practices Act, N.C. Gen. Stat. § 143·422.2. See Mot. Summ. J. [D.E. 30] 1.3
In making the argument, Sampson equates discrimination based on his interracial relationship with
Clark with discrimination based on his race.
In considering Hospira's motion for summary judgment, the court views the evidence in the
light most favorable to plaintiff and applies well·established principles under Rule 56 ofthe Federal
Rules of Civil Procedure.
Fed. R. Civ. P. 56; Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372,378 (2007);
Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325-26 (1986); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby. Inc., 477 U.S.
242,247-55 (1986); Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 585-87
(1986). Summary judgment is appropriate "ifthe movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as
N.C. Gen. Stat. § 143·422.2 states in full:
It is the public policy ofthis State to protect and safeguard the right and opportunity
of all persons to seek, obtain and hold employment without discrimination or
abridgement on account ofrace, religion, color, national origin, age, sex or handicap
by employers which regularly employ 15 or more employees.
It is recognized that the practice of denying employment opportunity and
discriminating in the terms of employment foments domestic strife and unrest,
deprives the State of the fullest utilization of its capacities for advancement and
development, and substantially and adversely affects the interests of employees,
employers, and the public in general.
to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter oflaw." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a);
see Anderson, 477 U.S. at 247-48. The party seeking summary judgment bears the burden of
initially coming forward and demonstrating an absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex
Com., 477 U.S. at 325. Once the moving party has met its burden, the nonmoving party then must
affirmatively demonstrate that there exists a genuine issue ofmaterial fact for trial. See Matsushim,
475 U.S. at 586--87. "[T]here is no issue for trial unless there is sufficient evidence favoring the
nonmoving party for a jury to return a verdict for that party." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249.
Conjectural arguments will not suffice. See id. at 249-52; Beale v. Hardy, 769 F.2d 213,214 (4th
Cir. 1985) ("The nonmoving party ... cannot create a genuine issue of material fact through mere
speculation or the building of one inference upon another."). Nor will a "mere ... scintilla of
evidence in support of the [nonmoving party's] position ... ; there must be evidence on which the
[fact finder] could reasonably find for the [nonmoving party]." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252. In
evaluating affidavits submitted in support ofor in opposition to a motion for summary judgment, the
court may reject inadmissible evidence (such as hearsay) described in such affidavits. See Fed. R.
Civ. P. 56(c); Evans v. Techs. Applications & Servo Co., 80 F.3d 954,962 (4th Cir. 1996).
Because Sampson has no direct evidence that he was discharged due to his interracial
relationship with Clark, his claim proceeds under the burden-shifting framework established in
McDonnell Douglas Com. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792 (1973).
Hughes v. Bedsole, 48 F.3d
1376, 1383-84 (4th Cir. 1995); Lloyd v. New Hanover Reg'l Med. Ctr., No. 7:06-CV-130-D, 2009
WL 890470, at *4 (E.D.N.C. Mar. 31, 2009) (unpublished). A plaintiff must first establish a prima
facie case of discrimination.
st. Maty's Honor Ctr. v. Hicks, 509 U.S. 502, 506 (1993);
Tex. Dep't of Cmty. Affairs v. Burdine, 450 U.S. 248, 252-53 (1981). If a plaintiff establishes a
prima facie case, the burden shifts to the employer to produce evidence that the employer took the
adverse employment action "for a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason." Burdine, 450 U.S. at 254.
Ifthe employer offers admissible evidence sufficient to meet its burden of production, "the burden
shifts back to the plaintiff to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the employer's stated
reasons were not its true reasons, but were a pretext for discrimination." Hill v. Lockhead Martin
Logistics Mgmt., Inc., 354 F.3d 277, 285 (4th Cir. 2004) (en bane) (quotation omitted);
Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods .. Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 143 (2000); Burdine, 450 U.S. at 256;
King v. Rumsfeld, 328 F.3d 145, 151 (4th Cir. 2003).
Sampson may establish a prima facie case of race discrimination by showing that (1) he is
a member of a protected class; (2) his job performance was satisfactory; (3) he was terminated; and
(4) other employees who are not members of the protected class were retained under similar
circumstances. See Hughes, 48 F.3d at 1383; Carter v. Ball, 33 F.3d 450, 458-59 (4th Cir. 1994).
If Sampson presents a prima facie case, Hospira then may "produc[e] evidence of legitimate,
nondiscriminatory reasons for the dismissal." Hughes, 48 F.3d at 1383-84. If Hospira presents
such evidence, Sampson then must show that Hospira proffered mere pretextual reasons for his
termination. See Hill, 354 F.3d at 285; King, 328 F.3d at 151; Hughes, 48 F.3d at 1384. "[A]t the
summary judgment stage, [Hospira] must demonstrate that no genuine issue ofmaterial fact exists
and, in turn, [Sampson] must present evidence from which a rational jury might conclude that [he]
was discharged because [of his race]." Hughes, 48 F.3d at 1384; see Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a); Celotex
Corp., 477 U.S. at 322; Anderson, 477 U.S. at 247-48; Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co.,475 U.S. at 587.
First, Hospira argues that Sampson is not a protected class member; therefore, he has failed
to establish a prima facie case. See Mem. Supp. Mot. Summ. 1. 10-12. Specifically, Hospira
contends that a person in an interracial relationship is not a member of a class protected by section
143-422.2. See Mem. Supp. Mot. Summ. 1. 11-12.
No North Carolina appellate court appears to have addressed whether discrimination due to
an interracial relationship equates to race discrimination under section 143-422.2. Cf. Holcomb v.
lona CoIl., 521 F.3d 130, 138-39 (2d Cir. 2008) (holding that discrimination due to an individual's
interracial relationship may constitute "race" discrimination under Title VII). Sitting in diversity,
the court must predict how the Supreme Court ofNorth Carolina would rule on this issue. See Twin
City Fire Ins. Co. v. Ben Arnold-Sunbelt Beverage Co. of S.C., 433 F.3d 365,369 (4th Cir. 2005).
In making this prediction, the court is aided by the decisions ofthe North Carolina Court ofAppeals,
relevant treatises, and the practices ofother jurisdictions, id., but must not "create or expand [North
Carolina] public policy." Time Warner Entm't-AdvancelNewhouse P'shipv. Carteret-Craven Elec.
Membership Corp., 506 F.3d 304, 314 (4th Cir. 2007) (quotations omitted).
Instead ofopining on this unresolved issue ofNorth Carolina law, the court assumes (without
deciding) that Sampson falls within the protected class and analyzes whether Sampson has
established a prima facie case. Hospira argues that Sampson has not established a prima facie case
because there is no evidence that (1) Sampson's job performance was satisfactory or (2) Hospira
retained employees who are not in interracial relationships after those employees falsified
documents. See Mem. Supp. Mot. Summ. 1. 13-15.
Sampson has failed to raise a genuine issue of material fact concerning whether his job
performance was satisfactory. Notably, Hospira has a no-tolerance policy for falsifying documents.
See Bazemore Decl.
9; Hospira Employee Handbook [D.E. 30-3] 9; Sampson Dep. 30-31.
Moreover, Hospira terminated Sampson for falsifYing documents. See Leonard Decl.
Zheng Decl. ~~ 5-6; Bazemore Decl. W6,8, 10; cf. Sampson Dep. 24-25.4
Likewise, Sampson has failed to raise a genuine issue of material fact as to whether other
employees who are not members of the protected class were retained under similar circumstances.
See Hughes, 48 F.3d at 1383-85; Carter, 33 F.3d at 460-61. In fact, Sampson has provided no
evidence that Hospira retained another employee who falsified documents. See Bazemore Decl. ~
9 (noting that Hospira has fired 30 employees for falsifying documents from the Rocky Mount plant
4 Regardless ofwhether the court analyzes this issue as part ofthe prima facie case or as part
ofthe pretext analysis, Sampson has failed to raise a genuine issue ofmaterial fact regarding whether
Hospira fired him because he falsified documents. See Smith v. Martin. No.5: 1O-CV-248-0,2011
WL 3703255, at *5 (E.D.N.C. Aug. 23, 2011) (unpublished).
since 2006 and dispelling rumor that Minchew falsified docwnents).
Because Sampson has not shown that his job perfonnance was satisfactory or that Hospira
retained other, similarly-situated employees of a different race who falsified docwnents, Sampson
has failed to present a prima facie case of wrongful discharge. Accordingly, the court grants
Hospira's motion for summary judgment.
Alternatively, even asswning that Sampson has presented a prima facie case of wrongful
discharge, Hospira has presented a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for discharging Sampson:
falsifying company docwnents. Leonard Decl.
16; Zheng Decl.
5; Bazemore Decl.
Accordingly, the burden shifts back to Sampson to provide evidence that creates a genuine issue
of material fact concerning whether Hospira's explanation is in fact pretext for intentional
discrimination. See Holland v. Wash. Homes. Inc., 487 F.3d 208,214 (4th Cir. 2007).
An employee may establish that the employer's true reason was discriminatory "either
directly by persuading the court that a discriminatory reason more likely motivated the employer or
indirectly by showing that the employer's proffered explanation is unworthy ofcredence." Burdine,
450 U.S. at 256; see Reeves, 530 U.S. at 143; Mereish v. Walker, 359 F.3d 330, 336 (4thCir. 2004).
"Thus, a key factor for courts to consider is the probative value of the proof that the employer's
explanation is false." Holland, 487 F.3d at 215 (quotation omitted); see Reeves, 530 U.S. at 149.
An employer is entitled to swnmary judgment on the issue ofpretext ifthe employee "create[s] only
a weak issue of fact as to whether the employer's reason [is] untrue and there [is] abundant and
uncontroverted independent evidence that no discrimination occurred." Reeves, 530 U.S. at 148;
see Holland. 487 F.3d at 215. To survive Hospira's motion for summary judgment, Sampson must
demonstrate that there is a genuine issue ofmaterial fact concerning whether Leonard, Zheng, and
Bazemore honestly believed that Sampson did not prepare a standard that weighed 408.15 mg. See
Reeves, 530 U.S. at 148; Holland, 487 F.3d at 215; Smith. 2011 WL 3703255, at *4; Lloyd, 2009
WL 890470, at *5.
Sampson has not provided sufficient evidence for a rational jury to find that Hospira's
explanation for terminating him. is unworthy of credence.
Leonard, Zheng, and Bazemore
recommended that Sampson be tenninated for falsifying company documents based on the honest
belief that Sampson entered a weight of 408.15 mg into the log book without ever measuring a
standard that weighed 408.15 mg. Leonard Decl. -U 16; Zheng Decl. -U 5; Bazemore Decl. -U 6.
Moreover, in analyzing this pretext issue, the court is not concerned with whether Leonard, Zheng,
and Bazemore were correct in believing that Sampson did not prepare a standard that weighed
408.15 mg. Rather, the court focuses only on whether they honestly believed Sampson did not. See.
487 F.3d at 217; Hill, 354 F.3d at 293-94.
Sampson insists that he has created a genuine dispute about whether Leonard, Zheng, and
Bazemore honestly believed that Sampson did not prepare a standard that weighed 408.15 mg. In
support, Sampson offers the declarations of Little and Strickland, two former Hospira employees,
who opine that Sampson's conduct should not qualify as falsification of data. See Little Decl. W
3-4,9; Strickland Decl. -U-U 3-4,8-9. However, the court is concerned only with the perception of
the actual decision makers-Leonard, Zheng, and Bazemore-notthe opinions ofother third parties
or co-workers. See Hill, 354 F.3d at 289-91; King, 328 F.3d at 153. Here, Leonard, Zheng, and
Bazemore were unable to find any evidence confirming that Sampson ever prepared a working
standardthatweighed408.15 mg. See Sampson Dep. 78-79,86-87; Leonard Decl. -U-U 16,18; Zheng
4-5; Bazemore Dec!. -U 6. Thus, assuming Sampson offered a consistent and coherent story
for why he altered the log book, S there remains the undisputed fact that Leonard, Zheng, and
Leonard, Zheng, and Bazemore state that their conclusion that Sampson falsified the log
book entry is based, in part, on Sampson having repeatedly changed his explanation for the 408.15
mg entry. See Leonard Dec!. -U 16; Zheng Decl. -U 5; Bazemore Decl. -U 6. If Sampson did change
his explanation, that fact also would support Leonard, Zheng, and Bazemore having honestly
believed that Sampson lied about preparing a standard that weighed 408.15 mg. However, in the
light most favorable to Sampso~ Sampson provides a version of events in which he offered a
consistent explanation to Leonard, Zheng, and Bazemore for the log book entry.
Bazemore could not find any evidence corroborating Sampson's story that he actually prepared a
standard that weighed 408.15 mg. See Leonard Decl. " 16, 18; Zheng Decl. ,,4-5; Bazemore
Decl. , 6; see also Sampson Dep. 78-79, 86. Indeed, Sampson himself concedes that if he had
prepared a working standard that weighed 408.15 mg, there would have been some evidence of it,
see Sampson Dep. 55-58, but there was none. See id. 78-79, 86. Other facts bolster the honest
beliefs of Leonard, Zheng, and Bazemore.
Specifically, Sampson never obtained a second
technician's signature confirming the correct weight of the working standard and attempted to
minimize the alteration to the log book when confronted by Leonard, Zheng, and Bazemore. See
Leonard Decl., 16; Zheng Decl.' 5; Bazemore Decl.' 6; see also Sampson Dep. 47-48. In light
of the undisputed evidence that Sampson could provide no proof that he had prepared a working
standard that weighed 408.15 mg (and there should have been some), that Sampson never asked a
second technician to confirm his correction to the log book, and that Sampson minimized the
seriousness ofthe matter, no reasonable jury could conclude that Leonard, Zheng, and Bazemore did
not honestly believe that Sampson had never prepared a working standard that weighed 408.15 mg
and, therefore, had falsified the original entry in the log book.
Sampson also provided no evidence that Hospira discriminated against him due to his
interracial relationship with Clark. The fact that Sampson was terminated one week after a co
worker disclosed that Sampson impregnated Clark is not evidence of race discrimination. See
Riddick v. MAlC, Inc., 445 F. App'x 686, 689 (4th Cir. 2011) (per curiam) (unpublished).
Moreover, even ifLeonard and Zheng expressed disapproval on June 25, 2007, of Sampson having
impregnated Clark, neither Leonard nor Zheng made a single comment about Sampson's race,
Clark's race, or the fact that the two had been in an interracial relationship. See Sampson Dep.
21-22. 6 Similarly, although Little, a former Hospira employee, is "personally familiar with joking
6 In his response to Hospira's motion for summary judgment, Sampson attached a declaration
in which he states that "[w]hile walking out [of Zheng's office], Mr. Leonard made a negative
[of unidentified personnel] in the laboratory regarding Mr. Sampson and his relationship with
[Clark]," Little Decl.
11, Little's recollection fails to suggest that the "joking" was due to the
relationship being interracial. Indeed, Sampson has provided no evidence of a single Hospira
employee expressing interest in-much less hostility against or discriminatory conduct on account
of-Sampson and Clark being in an interracial relationship. Accordingly, no reasonable juror could
find that Hospira terminated Sampson's employment due to race discrimination.
No rationaljury could find that Hospira terminated Sampson's employment because he had
been in an interracial relationship with a co-worker. Accordingly, the court GRANTS Hospira's
motion for summary judgment [D.E. 30]. The clerk shall close the case.
SO ORDERED. This
A.:. day of September 2012.
comment about my sleeping with someone of a different race." Sampson Decl. ~ 11. Sampson's
declaration, however, contradicts Sampson's earlier deposition testimony, in which he testified that
Leonard and Zheng' s comments were limited to Sampson having impregnated a co-worker, and did
not broach the topic ofrace. See Sampson Dep. 21-22. In light ofthe conflict between Sampson's
earlier deposition testimony and his eleventh-hour declaration, the court disregards the contradictory
statement in Sampson's declaration. See Rohrbough v. Wyeth Labs .. Inc., 916 F.2d 970,975-76
(4th Cir. 1990); Barwick v. Celotex Corp., 736 F.2d 946,960 (4th Cir. 1984).
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