Fourth Circuit affirms summary judgment on Title VII claims

In Bonds v. Leavitt, No. 09-2179 (4th Cir. Jan. 3, 2011) the Fourth Circuit affirmed the District Court's award of summary judgment to the defendant employer for three Title VII claims. (Note: the Court reversed the dismissal of the federal whistle blowing statute claims which are not addressed here.) The employment relationship appears to have been soured, in large part, by a dispute about the medical ethics of immortalizing cell lines taken from children who were subjects of a sickle cell study.

The employee attempted to assert a Title VII claim on the basis that she was retaliated against for opposing actions by the employer that allegedly infringed upon the rights of minority patients participating in a clinical trial. The Court ruled that even if the employee was attempting to prevent the employer from participating in allegedly discriminatory acts, the acts did not constitute unlawful employment practices. The Court stated that Title VII is not a general bad acts statute and affirmed summary judgment on the claim.

The employee also asserted a hostile work environment claim alleging that she was harassed. The claim was dismissed because the actions she alleged were harassing, such as her dismissal, were taken in response to performance issues and were not due to her race or gender. The Court upheld the dismissal.

Finally the Court affirmed the award of summary judgment on the Title VII claims because the Employee failed to demonstrate that the reasons for her dismissal were pretextual. The employee was not able to produce evidence to challenge the employer's non-discriminatory explanation for its decision to terminate her employment.