The opinion of the court was delivered by: Robert L. Carter, District Judge.
Plaintiff Realdalist A. Fahie was employed by the Federal
Bureau of Prisons (the "Bureau") as a probationary
correctional officer at the Metropolitan Correctional Center
("MCC") in New York City, from November 13, 1983, to September
14, 1984, when he was terminated. Fahie brought this action in
January, 1986, pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act
of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., alleging that
he was terminated because of his race and national origin. On
January 12, 1989, the court dismissed this action as abandoned.
It was later reopened pursuant to a motion by the plaintiff and
a bench trial was held in April, 1990.
Fahie was born in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands and is
African-American. He joined the Navy in 1975, rising to the
position of Master of Arms in which he performed various
security functions. After receiving an honorable discharge
from the Navy, Fahie attended the University of Alabama and
received a Bachelor of Arts degree in criminal justice in
Fahie was hired by the Bureau and began work as a
probationary correctional officer at MCC on November 13, 1983.
All correctional officers employed by the Bureau must
successfully complete a one-year probationary period before
they may become permanent employees. All races are represented
as correctional officers at MCC and it was estimated that at
the time Fahie was employed 70-80% of the correctional
officers were African-American.
Like all new correctional officers, Fahie spent his first
week in training. Fahie began actual work in his second week
and had what might fairly be called a difficult week on the
job. Fahie testified that on his first day working the inmates
were not behaving properly during strip searches. According to
Fahie, he insisted on their compliance with the regulations
and the inmates plugged the lock to his office door in
retaliation. On his second day, this time in response to his
enforcement of kitchen duty rules, the inmates serving food
refused to do so and there was general bedlam in the kitchen.
On his fourth day, as a result of disciplining a male inmate
for talking to a female inmate rather than doing his work, the
inmate retaliated by
throwing a trash can full of garbage on the floor. All three
of these incidents required one of Fahie's superiors to come
restore order to the floor.
Beginning in May, 1984, Fahie was assigned to Unit 7
North.*fn1 While stationed there, Fahie had disagreements
with both inmates and other staff members. There was testimony
from John Sanders, the Unit 7 North correctional counselor at
the time Fahie was associated with the unit, that the inmates
complained about Fahie, and that Fahie had argued with other
staff members in front of inmates. In Sanders' opinion, Fahie
treated the inmates in an unprofessional manner, and this led
to their resentment of him. Additionally, Fahie and Sanders
had a personality conflict which apparently arose from their
incompatible philosophies regarding prison administration.
There was testimony that Fahie had an unexcused absence on
June 24, 1984, when he was scheduled to work a double shift
beginning at 3:30 p.m. and continuing until 8 a.m. the next
day.*fn2 It is undisputed that Fahie called MCC at
approximately 2:00 p.m. that day and told Lieutenant Smith
that he could not come in, but here the recollections of the
parties part ways. According to Fahie, he told Lieutenant
Smith that he was sick and that he was vomiting blood, but
that Lieutenant Smith insisted that Fahie come to work or he
would be marked AWOL and possibly terminated from his job.
Lieutenant Smith's recollection of the event is that although
Fahie told him he was sick, he refused to provide anymore
information. Lieutenant Smith then told him that if he did not
provide more information, he would be put on AWOL status for
Captain Bettencourt's review. It is undisputed that Fahie
showed up for the second half of his shift, midnight to 8 a.m.
There was also testimony regarding Fahie's observance of the
Bureau's uniform policy. The basic uniform for a correctional
officer is grey pants, blue or white shirt, navy blazer and a
tie. The uniform requirement is meant to be strictly observed
and correctional officers are given an allowance to purchase
the uniform. It is undisputed that Fahie did not wear a
regulation uniform, but there is disagreement over whether or
not he received a uniform allowance. The Bureau was unable to
produce any sort of record showing that Fahie received the
While employed by the Bureau, Fahie received a number of
evaluations. He received second, fourth and sixth month
evaluations at MCC, and an evaluation in connection with
training at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in
Glynco, Georgia ("Glynco"). These reports all have various
categories in which the employee is rated on a predefined
scale. There is also room for general written comments.
Fahie's second month evaluation rated him as "marginal" in
one-half of the categories and as "fully meets requirements"
in the other half. Fahie was given an overall rating of "fully
meets requirements." Plaintiff's fourth month evaluation rated
him as "fully meets requirements" in every category. Fahie's
sixth month evaluation, prepared in April 1984, rates him as
fully successful in all areas, and as exceeding the
performance standard in the areas of "Care and Accountability
of Equipment, Tools and Keys" and "Supervision of Inmate
Details and Activities." In all the evaluations, the written
comments were mixed. In particular, there were a
noticeable number of comments indicating that Fahie required
Fahie's final report card for Glynco rated him as
satisfactory in all categories and he was awarded a
certificate of graduation. Among other things, the narrative
summary of overall performance stated that Fahie "cannot
accept constructive criticism as a means of improving his
performance" and that with the proper training and guidance he
should develop into an "average correctional employee."
Under the Bureau's guidelines, a probationary correctional
officer may be terminated based on "deficiency in duty
performance, lack of aptitude or cooperativeness, or
undesirable suitability characteristics evidenced by his/her
activities either during or outside official working hours."
Federal Personnel Manual § 8-4(a)(1), (2). No sanction other
than termination is available for probationary employees and
approximately 30% of probationary employees are terminated.
On August 24, 1984, Captain Bettencourt recommended that
Fahie be terminated. A termination letter signed by the Warden
was given to Fahie on September 11, 1984, which stated that he
was being terminated for his "continued marginal performance."
More specifically, the termination letter mentions that Fahie
was AWOL on June 23, 1984; that on July 13 and 14, 1984, he
was involved in confrontations with other Bureau personnel;
that he was unable to accept constructive ...