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Date: 04-16-2024

Case Style:

Keith Singleton v. International Business Sales & Services Corporation

Case Number: 5:22-cv-00070

Judge: Michael F. Urbanski

Court: United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia (Harrisonburg Count)

Plaintiff's Attorney: Jason F. Zellman

Defendant's Attorney: Jason Alexander Ross and Nigel Lance Wilkinson

Description: Harrisonburg, Virginia civil rights lawyer presented the Plaintiff on a job discrimination theory.

This case was filed in the Frederick Circuit Court, 069CL22000687-00, and was removed to federal court by International Business Sales & Services Corporation.

Singleton, a Virginia resident, worked as a cybersecurity coach for IBSS, a Maryland corporation, from December 16, 2021, until the company discharged him on February 8, 2022. Am. Compl., ECF No. 26, at ¶¶ 5, 21. During the less than two months that Singleton worked for IBSS, he never visited the company's office in Maryland, instead working remotely from his home in Stephenson, Virginia. Id., at ¶ 7. Nijel Redrick, IBSS's Director of Governance, Risk Management, and Compliance, supervised Singleton throughout his employment. Id. at ¶ 6. Singleton provided cybersecurity coaching for approximately 15 of the company's independent contractors, some of whom he believed IBSS intended to convert from contractors to employees. Id. at ¶¶ 8-9.

Singleton took issue with IBSS's classification of these cybersecurity apprentices as independent contractors. Id. at ¶¶ 10, 12. On January 18, 2022, Singleton sent an email to Francesa Urrutia, IBSS's Human Resource Manager, in which he shared his concern that the apprentices' status as contractors could pose a problem for the company in the future. Id. at ¶ 10. He cited guidance from the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”), suggesting that IBSS needed to convert the contractors to employees to avoid running afoul of tax law. Id. On January 25, 2022, Redrick called Singleton and informed him that “we normally wouldn't put things like that in writing,” and asked if Singleton “expected to bind HR to take some action” with the email. Id. at ¶ 11.

Singleton called Urrutia on January 26, 2022, to follow up on his January 18, 2022, email. Id. at ¶ 12. He reiterated his concern regarding the “questionable legality” of IBSS's classification of the apprentices as contractors. Id. Urrutia informed Singleton that converting each of the apprentices to employees was cost-prohibitive at the time and that the classification was only a temporary measure until IBSS “could figure out the logistics of the program.” Id. at ¶ 13. She further explained that Bruce Arvand, President of IBSS, had created the apprenticeship program and that “his wishes are grand but are difficult to execute.” Id. at¶ 14. Urrutia told Singleton that the company had contacted legal counsel about the classification issue, and that Arvand had already approved the conversion of one apprentice from contractor to employee. Id. at¶ 15.

In a February 7, 2022, meeting, Redrick told Singleton that the cyber apprentices needed to work uncompensated time in addition to their regular 40-hour work schedule to achieve their training milestones. Id. at ¶¶ 17-19. Singleton told Redrick that this requirement was illegal and stated that “[i]t would put you, the cyber apprenticeship program, and IBSS at risk.” Id. at¶ 18.

Singleton alleges only that Redrick raised the prospect that the apprentices could work without pay, not that they did in fact work without pay.

Urrutia and Redrick informed Singleton that IBSS was terminating his employment in a virtual meeting on February 8, 2022. Id. at ¶ 21. Urrutia told Singleton that she had received a complaint from one of his cybersecurity apprentices, who told Urrutia that Singleton had spoken to her in a “demeaning, unprofessional, and disrespectful manner.” Id. at ¶ 22. Urrutia refused to respond to the apprentice's allegations, and Redrick indicated that Arvand had approved Singleton's discharge. Id. at ¶¶ 24. Singleton told Urrutia that he believed IBSS was terminating his employment because he had raised “legal and ethical concerns over misclassifying the cybersecurity apprentices as independent contractors,” and objecting to Redrick's expectation that the apprentices work without pay Id. at ¶¶ 25-26.

Outcome: 04/02/2024 31 MEMORANDUM OPINION. Signed by Chief Judge Michael F. Urbanski on 4/2/2024. (jv)
04/02/2024 32 ORDER granting 27 Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim. Signed by Chief Judge Michael F. Urbanski on 4/2/2024. (jv)

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