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McCollum v. Jacobs Eng'g Group, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Northern Division

January 21, 2014

SCOTTY MCCOLLUM, PLAINTIFF
v.
JACOBS ENGINEERING GROUP, INC., and JACOBS PROJECT MANAGEMENT CO., DEFENDANTS

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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For Scotty McCollum, Plaintiff: J. Brad Pigott, LEAD ATTORNEY, PIGOTT, REEVES, JOHNSON, P.A., Jackson, MS; Timothy L. Brooks - PHV, PRO HAC VICE, TAYLOR LAW PARTNERS, LLP, Fayetteville, AR.

For Jacobs Engineering Group, Inc., Defendant: Marion F. Walker - PHV, PRO HAC VICE, LAW OFFICE OF MARION F. WALKER, Birmingham, AL; Michael L. Waldman - PHV, Richard A. Sauber - PHV, William J. Trunk - PHV, PRO HAC VICE, ROBBINS, RUSSELL, ENGLERT, ORSECK, UNTEREINER & SAUBER, LLP, Washington, DC; Robert E. Hauberg, Jr., BAKER, DONELSON, BEARMAN, CALDWELL & BERKOWITZ, PC - Jackson, Jackson, MS.

For Jacobs Project Management, Co., Defendant: Robert E. Hauberg, Jr., BAKER, DONELSON, BEARMAN, CALDWELL & BERKOWITZ, PC - Jackson, Jackson, MS; William J. Trunk - PHV, PRO HAC VICE, ROBBINS, RUSSELL, ENGLERT, ORSECK, UNTEREINER & SAUBER, LLP, Washington, DC.

OPINION

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MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

David Bramlette, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

This cause is before the Court on the defendants Jacobs Engineering Group, Inc., and Jacobs Project Management Co.'s Motion for Summary Judgment (docket entry 57). The Court has carefully considered the motion and response, as well as the memoranda of the parties, all supporting documents, and the applicable law. The Court held a hearing on the motion on December 10, 2013, and received supplemental briefing from the parties. Being fully advised in the premises, the Court finds as follows:

In 2008, the Federal Bureau of Prisons (" BOP" ) awarded Caddell-Yates a contract to design and build a federal correctional institution for women in Aliceville, Alabama. Jacobs Project Management Co.

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(" Jacobs" ) was awarded a separate contract to perform construction management services for the BOP on the Aliceville Project.

As construction manager, Jacobs provided advice and assistance to the BOP in managing the construction of the prison by Caddell-Yates. In October of 2008, Jacobs hired Scotty McCollum (" McCollum" ) as a resident field engineer for the Aliceville Project.

One of McCollum's responsibilities was to prepare independent government estimates (" IGEs" ) for the BOP. Among other things, the BOP used IGEs to negotiate the pricing of change orders with Caddell-Yates. As is customary, Jacobs hired McCollum for a single project - the Aliceville Project - and his employment was to conclude at the end of that project. See Exhibit 5 to Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment,[1] 42:2-43:4 (Reeves-Long). McCollum's employment was expected to conclude on August 5, 2011, when the Aliceville Project was scheduled to be completed. Def. Ex. 6, at 1.

Beginning in February of 2009, the BOP's on-site supervisor, Darell Hainline, made a series of complaints to Jeff Adamo, McCollum's direct supervisor, about the timeliness with which McCollum was preparing estimates. Def. Ex. 7, 77:10-17 (Adamo). Hainline made similar complaints to Bob Paul, Adamo's supervisor. Def. Ex. 8, 70:7-72:22 (Paul). Hainline felt that McCollum was taking too long to prepare IGEs, and that the IGEs he ultimately did prepare contained obvious errors and omissions. Def. Ex. 9, 41:1-24, 42:0-43:17 (Hainline).

Hainline was also critical of McCollum's work ethic. He complained to Adamo, Paul, and others that McCollum would arrive to work late, and take lunches well beyond the allotted thirty minutes. Def. Ex. 7, 77:14-21 (Adamo); Def. Ex. 9, 31:19-33:17, 49:7-23, 182:5-12, 205:7-206:3 (Hainline).

Paul and Adamo spoke with McCollum on a number of occasions about these complaints. They offered McCollum constructive criticism and encouraged him to improve his performance. Def. Ex. 10, at 1; Def. Ex. 4, at 2.

McCollum disagreed with Hainline's assessment of his performance, and felt that Hainline's approach to processing change orders was misguided. He insisted that his IGEs were only delayed because he did not have the documents necessary to do his job. Def. Ex. 11, at 4-5; Def. Ex. 10, at 1.

In July of 2009, Adamo conducted McCollum's annual performance review. Adamo was generally positive about McCollum's performance, and principally was concerned with repairing his poor relationship with Hainline. Def. Ex. 2, 132:23-134:24 (McCollum).

McCollum's relationship with BOP's Hainline did not improve. In August and September of 2009, Hainline reiterated to Paul and Adamo that McCollum's performance and work ethic were unacceptable. Def. Ex. 7, 104:3-16 (Adamo); Def. Ex. 8, 171:6-172:5 (Paul). Hainline explained that McCollum's habit of arriving late and taking long lunches was getting worse, not better. Def. Ex. 9, 30:7-33:17, 34:11-36:3, 37:23-38:5 (Hainline).

Hainline had started keeping track of the times that McCollum arrived in the morning, took lunch, and left in the afternoon. Id., 30:7-31:18. Hainline felt that

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McCollum's attendance was " completely unacceptable." Id., 30:15-19. Hainline notified Jacobs that the BOP wanted Jacobs to replace McCollum on the Aliceville Project. Id., at 178:3-19; Def. Ex. 10, at 2.

Paul and Adamo informed McCollum of the BOP's decision. Def. Ex. 8, 202:15-203:4 (Paul); Def. Ex. 10, at 2-3. They offered to provide good references, and Paul agreed to keep McCollum in mind for positions that might become available in the future. Def. Ex. 2, 140:14-141:8, 145:20-22 (McCollum); Def. Ex. 8, 179:4-12, 193:19-194:6 (Paul).

Paul also contacted Jacobs' managers in Arlington and Orlando on McCollum's behalf to try to find him another position. Def. Ex. 8, 183:7-20 (Paul). Meanwhile, McCollum demanded to see the BOP's complaints about his performance in writing. Def. Ex. 2, 163:13-22 (McCollum).

On October 6, 2009, John Hume - a contracting officer with the BOP - sent a letter to Jacobs formally directing that McCollum be replaced " as soon as practicable." Def. Ex. 1, at 2. The letter stated that McCollum's estimates were " not being completed in a timely fashion," and were " not thorough" or " sufficiently credible to allow the BOP to adequately evaluate or negotiate proposals from the Design Builder with confidence." Id. at 1.

The October 6th letter noted that under paragraph E.6 of the agreement between Jacobs and the BOP, the BOP " reserves the right to require a change or replacement of [Jacobs] personnel." The BOP's letter then concluded:

This letter is to notify Jacobs Technology that the current Estimator [McCollum] is not satisfactorily performing the duties required by our contract. It is in the best interests of the Government to replace the CMF [2] staff member ... Please ...

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