William A. Cooper (“Cooper”) sued MICROS Systems, Inc. for violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et seq., Maryland’s Fair Employment Practices Act, Md. Code Ann., State Gov’t § 20-601 et seq., and Howard County law, Howard Cty., Md., Code of Ordinances § 12.208, alleging employment discrimination on the basis of gender identity. At the time of his termination, Cooper had worked for MICROS for approximately twenty-five years, mostly as a business analyst. In 2010, Cooper was “diagnosed as a transgendered person.” Until 2013, Cooper had told only one co-worker, Heather Connor, about his diagnosis, although Cooper believes other co-workers suspected he was transgender. In 2013, Cooper told two other MICROS employees he was transgender. He informed his direct supervisor, Jason Looper (“Looper”), on February 2, 2013. Cooper asked Looper to keep the information confidential, and Looper said he would. ooper told Debra McIntyre (“McIntyre”), MICROS’s vice president of human resources, he was transgender on February 12, 2013, as she investigated an incident involving Cooper and a co-worker that ultimately would lead to Cooper’s termination. During this time period, Cooper grew out his hair, but continued to dress as a man, used the men’s room, and “tried not to act like a girl.”
Cooper alleges that on November 15, 2010, a co-worker, Patrick Ogbenna (“Ogbenna”), came to Cooper’s cubicle and said he would rape Cooper. Cooper claims that Ogbenna threatened Cooper because he is transgender. Cooper did not report the incident to Looper until 2011. Cooper also alleges that, at various points while they were co-workers, Ogbenna would enter Cooper’s cubicle and poke him in the arm, chest, and back.On or about January 2012, Looper conducted a meeting with Cooper and Ogbenna, in whichOgbenna gave Cooper a “weak apology.”
On February 11, 2013, an incident occurred between Cooper and Ogbenna. Ogbenna was having lunch in the office of Jim Walsh (“Walsh”), MICROS’s chief security officer. Cooper alleges that Ogbenna told Walsh that Fidel Castro should be banished to Venezuela, “just like [Cooper.]” (Id. ¶ 33.) In response, Cooper raised his middle finger at Ogbenna and told Ogbenna to stop talking about and harassing him. (Id. ¶¶ 34-35.) Cooper then followed Ogbenna from Walsh’s office to the break room, and asked whether he “wanted to take the argument [*4] outside,” which Cooper claims was offered solely to avoid disturbing their co-workers. (Id. ¶ 38.) When he received no response, Cooper asked Ogbenna if he “was deaf or too stupid to understand what [Cooper] said.” (Id. ¶ 41.) Cooper says he “probably” also used verbal profanity. (Cooper Dep. 123.)
Looper conducted an investigation after the incident, in which he interviewed several MICROS employees. Shannon Liggett (“Liggett”), a MICROS employee, said she saw Cooper follow Ogbenna into the break room and angrily yell at him. Dennis Hurry (“Hurry”), another MICROS employee, said he heard Cooper curse at Ogbenna in the break room. After receiving a copy of Looper’s report, McIntyre further investigated the incident. It was at this point that Cooper told McIntyre he was transgender, and requested she keep the information confidential. McIntyre consulted with James Borkowski, vice president of the business services team on which Cooper worked, and Thomas Patz, executive vice president and general counsel, about the February 11 incident. On February 13, 2013, they collectively decided that Cooper should be suspended and that he should not be allowed to return to work unless he passed a fitness-for-duty evaluation. Over the next two weeks, MICROS continued to investigate Cooper’s behavior. McIntyre says that, during the investigation, she learned of prior confrontations involving Cooper and his co-workers’ concerns about his volatile behavior. On February 25, 2013, Cooper was terminated before undergoing any evaluation.
Cooper alleged that he was terminated because he is transgender, in violation of Title VII, Maryland state law, and Howard County law. The court rejected his claim and found that MICROS has reason to fire him.