United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Charleston Division
Roger Scott Desmarais, Plaintiff: Jeremy Morgan Forrester,
Mary Fitzsimons Fishburne, LEAD ATTORNEYS, Wigger Law Firm,
North Charleston, SC.
Scientific Research Corporation, Defendant: Cherie Wilson
Blackburn, William Chase McNair, LEAD ATTORNEYS, Nexsen Pruet
(Chas), Charleston, SC.
C. NORTON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter is before the court on defendant Scientific Research
Corporation's (" SRC" ) motion for summary
judgment. For the reasons set forth below, the court grants
a foreign corporation organized under the laws of Delaware
and operating in Charleston, South Carolina. Compl. ¶ 2.
SRC is under a contract with Space and Naval Water Systems
Command (" SPAWAR" ) to provide aviation technical
services in Antarctica. Def.'s Mot. Ex. A, Lloyd Depo.
9:16-10:18. SRC hired plaintiff Roger Desmarais ("
Roger" ) as an Air Traffic Controller in February 2002.
Compl. ¶ 6. Beginning in 2003, Roger managed an air
traffic control tower in McMurdo Station, Antarctica.
Id. ¶ 7. As the manager, Roger was responsible
for the security, safety, and overall operations of the air
traffic control tower. Id. ¶ 9.
SRC's contract with SPAWAR, SRC also provided weather
observers who were located in the air traffic control tower
with the air traffic controllers. In the Spring of 2011,
Roger complained to SRC's Program Manager James Lloyd
(" Lloyd" ) that the weather observers'
presence in the control tower violated FAA regulation 7210.3
and USN (80T) because the observers distracted the air
traffic controllers. Compl. ¶ 12; Lloyd Depo.
20:22-21:9. Specifically, Roger alleges that the weather
observers would make telephone calls, play loud music and
video games, and occasionally come to work intoxicated.
Compl. ¶ 18. Roger claims that he continuously made
complaints throughout his employment, but SRC claims that
Roger first made complaints in the Spring of 2011. In July
2011, SRC employees and government officials met to discuss
the location of the weather observers. Def.'s Mot. Ex. B,
Roger Depo. 71:9-12; 80:6-19. After the meeting, everyone
understood that the weather observers would be moved to the
ground floor of the air traffic control tower. Roger Depo.
80:6-23. However, the government had final decision-making
power. Roger Depo. 80:20-24.
August 2011, Roger arrived in Antarctica to begin the season
and moved the weather observers' equipment to the lower
level of the tower. Roger Depo. 84:1585:17. Additional
government personnel arrived in Antarctica in October 2011.
On October 11, 2011, Jeremy Clark (" Clark" ),
SPAWAR Office of Polar Program's Air Traffic Manager and
overall Site Lead, notified Roger that SPAWAR did not
authorize the weather observers to be moved to the lower
level and that they would have to be relocated to the tower
cab. Roger Depo. 86:5-87:9. In response, Roger told Clark
that he would " not work under weather
regulations." Roger Depo. 87:6-10. Roger then had a
discussion with Lloyd, during which Roger reiterated that he
would not work under weather regulations. Roger Depo.
90:21-91:22. Roger and Lloyd agreed that Roger would stay for
a few days and try to resolve the situation. Id.
That same day, Roger received notification that he was being
" manifested" off the ice on the next available
flight. Roger arrived in Charleston a few days later.
attended a meeting with government officials in Charleston on
October 14, 2011. Government officials decided that the
weather observers did not pose a safety risk in the control
tower. Roger submitted a complaint to the United States Navy,
arguing that the weather observers' presence in the air
traffic control tower violated federal law. Def.'s Mot.
Ex. E. John Gampel (" Gampel" ), Interim Inspector
General of the Department of Defense, notified Roger by
letter dated February 23, 2012 that " [a]ll parties
agreed neither the Weather Observer nor the Air Traffic
Controller should or would be distracted from proper
performance of his/her duties as long as the other acts in a
professional manner." Def.'s Mot. Ex. F. The letter
further stated that " it was determined the facilities
are appropriate and Federal requirements
for Air Traffic Controllers are satisfied." Id.
filed the present action against SRC on October 14, 2014, and
SRC removed the case to this court on February 11, 2015.
Roger brings a single cause of action for wrongful discharge
in violation of public policy. Compl. ¶ ¶ 25-29.
SRC filed the present motion for summary judgment on July 22,
2015. Roger filed a response on August 10, 2015, and SRC
filed a reply on August 20, 2015. The motion has been fully
briefed and is now ripe for the court's review.