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Malekpour v. Foxx

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

August 5, 2016

ANTHONY FOXX, Secretary of Department of Transportation, Defendant.



         Plaintiff Shahram Malekpour, a Federal Aviation Administration employee, brings this action under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq., alleging that he was subjected to race, national origin, and religious discrimination, as well as retaliation and hostile work environment.

         Currently before me is Defendant’s motion for summary judgment. Because Malekpour has failed to present sufficient evidence to defeat summary judgment on any of his claims, I am granting Defendant’s motion and dismissing this case.


         Malekpour was employed by the Federal Aviation Authority (“FAA”) since 2004 as an aerospace engineer. His work involves reviewing changes to aircraft designs requested by aircraft and helicopter manufacturers to determine if the changes are appropriate. Malekpour is an Iranian-American male and Muslim.

         At all times relevant to Malekpour’s claims, Mary Ellen Schutt was the branch manager of the aircraft structure group (Malekpour’s first-line supervisor); Royace Prather was the office manager for the aircraft certification office (Malekpour’s second-line supervisor); and Evangelia Kostopolos was the senior composite engineer, a non-supervisory co-worker.

         The first alleged incident occurred in August 2005 when Prather ordered Malekpour to a meeting in Prather’s office at the end of the day concerning an issue with the shipment of elastic blade dampeners. After Malekpour stated that he needed to catch his bus, Prather replied, “If you stay your course, I fire your ass out of this office.” The next two incidents occurred over a year later in October 2016 when Kostopolos embarrassed him by insinuating in a loud and angry tone in front of Malekpour’s colleagues that he lacked knowledge and that she had to do his work and Prather told Malekpour that he would not last long in the organization.

         The next few events occurred seven months later when Malekpour’s name was removed from a key document related to the Enstrom project in May 2007. Two months later, in July 2007, Malekpour was informed of his reassignment to the position of aircraft structural engineer.

         Things began to warm up in August 2007 when Malekpour’s initial request for compensatory time was denied and later approved after he filed a grievance in November 2007. After Malekpour filed a grievance, he and several fellow FAA employees were informed that, due to a new interpretation of the FAA’s policy on travel compensatory time, they were being awarded 4 hours, 2.3 hours, 5 hours, and 1.25 hours, respectively. Malekpour was awarded an additional 4 hours of compensatory time by Prather after Prather reviewed Malekpour’s grievance. This result followed email communications that Prather and Schutt had with other FAA officials regarding the correct interpretation of the compensatory-time policy.

         Around this time, Kostopolos treated Malekpour rudely while Malekpour was on the phone and accused him of not being a team player. After Malekpour complained, the Equal Employment Opportunity (“EEO”) office for the FAA was reluctant to schedule a mediation for his informal complaint so as to avoid incurring travel expenses for a mediator. Malekpour testified that he felt the FAA mediators were not neutral. When Schutt and Prather had a conversation with Malekpour in his cubicle on the topic of where the mediator would come from, Malekpour felt that he was physically threatened by Schutt and Prather because they stated there could be consequences. Malekpour testified that neither Schutt nor Prather verbalized a physical threat.

         Malekpour received a performance appraisal for the period ending September 30, 2007, where he alleges that he was unjustly accused of delaying the Enstrom project. Malekpour was rated “Meets Expectations” and the review did not affect his basic salary or compensation. The appraisal also noted praise from a company with whom Malekpour worked during the period. Malekpour and Schutt engaged in an email exchange in February 2008 further discussing why Schutt felt Malekpour had responsibility for the delay to the Enstrom project.

         After arriving fifteen minutes late to the office on August 20, 2008, Greg Michalik, an FAA supervisor, asked Malekpour to take personal leave because of his tardiness. Following a conversation with Michalik, in which Malekpour explained that he was part of a van pool that was late and that Malekpour went to the bathroom immediately upon reaching the office that morning, Michalik rescinded the demand for the use of personal leave.

         Malekpour testified that he filed a “hotline” complaint with the FAA concerning the Enstrom issue and that on or about June 30, 2008, Malekpour received a phone call from the director of the office of accident investigation at FAA, Steve Wallace, where he was informed that his “hotline” complaint was not valid. John J. Hickey, director of aircraft certification services, had previously prepared a memo on June 3, 2008, responding to Malekpour’s concerns and finding that the FAA had acted appropriately in regard to the Enstrom issue.

         At some point during all of this, Malekpour claims that someone placed a post-it note on his desk with the ...

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