The opinion of the court was delivered by: URBINA
Granting Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment or, in the alternative, Motion for Summary Adjudication in Part and Denying it in Part
Plaintiff Priscilla Villines brings this action alleging race and sex discrimination, and retaliation pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. (1994), Section 1981 of the Civil Rights Act of 1866, 42 U.S.C. § 1981 (1994), and the District of Columbia Human Rights Act ("DCHRA"), D.C. Code § 1-2501 et seq. (1992). In a subsequent pleading, the plaintiff withdrew her sex discrimination claims.
The remaining claims include three counts of race discrimination and three counts of retaliation.
This matters comes before the court on Defendant United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners's ("UBC") Motion for Summary Judgment. There are four issues for the court to decide: whether (1) defendant's conduct over a six year period represents a series of related discriminatory events to constitute a continuing violation; (2) defendant's alleged conduct created a racially hostile work environment; (3) this hostile work environment made working conditions intolerable as to constructively discharge the plaintiff from her employment; and (4) defendant retaliated against the plaintiff during her employment for exercising her statutory right to complain of unlawful employment practices.
Upon consideration of the parties' submissions, the applicable law and the record herein, the court concludes that there are genuine issues of material fact in dispute concerning the existence of a racially hostile work environment and retaliation that allegedly resulted in the constructive discharge of the plaintiff. The court further concludes that plaintiff failed to establish a continuing violation of her rights and may not base her claims on events outside the applicable statute of limitations. As a result, the court grants the defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment in part and denies it in part.
Plaintiff Priscilla Villines, a female African-American, began employment with defendant UBC in September 1974 as a research analyst. In 1986, the plaintiff was assigned to a wage and benefit analyst position in the defendant's Pension Department, where she was the only non-white employee. In 1990, a white male employee, Mr. Timothy Dunbar became plaintiff's supervisor. Plaintiff alleges that from May 1990 until her constructive discharge on August 18, 1995, Mr. Dunbar subjected her to persistent verbal intimidation and harassment on the basis of her race and treated her differently from white employees working in the office.
Plaintiff's complaint is based on several events. First, the plaintiff avers that in May 1990, Mr. Dunbar singled her out for verbal abuse when she and a white co-worker left the office a few minutes before their scheduled coffee break.
The plaintiff alleges that Mr. Dunbar screamed at her to return to her desk, but allowed a white co-worker to leave for a break.
The plaintiff complained to Mr. Fred Reese, her union shop steward, about the incident. Mr. Reese arranged a meeting with himself, the plaintiff, Mr. Dunbar, and Ms. Barbara Wilson, defendant's Personnel Manager. At this meeting, Mr. Dunbar allegedly admitted that he yelled at the plaintiff and exhibited a different attitude towards her.
Plaintiff alleges that racial bias motivated Mr. Dunbar's disparate treatment. Defendant, on the other hand, attributes Mr. Dunbar's conduct to managerial and personality shortcomings rather than racial animus.
Second, the plaintiff alleges that Mr. Dunbar's discriminatory treatment reached a "crisis point" in the spring of 1992.
After the May 1990 incident, the plaintiff alleges that Mr. Dunbar's continued his disrespectful and discriminatory conduct towards her.
In response, the plaintiff filed informal complaints with Mr. Reese.
The plaintiff confronted Mr. Dunbar and accused him of being a racist.
Plaintiff avers that this accusation prompted an outburst from Mr. Dunbar and he raised his arm as if to strike her.
A meeting with Mr. Dunbar, Mr. Reese, Ms. Wilson, and Mr. Tim Sears, defendant's Union Director, was held to discuss the plaintiff's allegation. Mr. Reese, at his deposition, testified that during this meeting Ms. Wilson questioned Mr. Dunbar whether race in fact motivated his disparate treatment of the plaintiff. Mr. Dunbar allegedly replied, "Well, she's black, isn't she?"
Mr. Reese testified that this comment confirmed his ongoing suspicion that Mr. Dunbar exhibited prejudice towards the plaintiff.
The defendant attributes Mr. Dunbar's statement to his frustration and displeasure with being branded a racist by the plaintiff.
Third, plaintiff relies on a reprimand that Mr. Dunbar received in the fall of 1993 for allegedly drawing swastikas on a file cabinet situated near the desk of a Jewish co-worker, his disparaging remarks associating the plaintiff with Mayor Marion Barry after his arrest for drug use, and the lack of complaints from white co-workers as evidence of Mr. Dunbar's racial animus.
Plaintiff also alleges that Mr. Dunbar retaliated against her for making informal complaints to her union shop steward and personnel manager in complaining of conduct she reasonably believed to be discriminatory.
Finally, plaintiff points to a series of incidents in June through August 1995 that she alleges culminated in her constructive discharge from her employment. Plaintiff asserts that Mr. Dunbar isolated plaintiff's work station from the rest of her co-workers and subjected her to more frequent and intense verbal abuse and intimidation because of missing checks and missing files.
On July 27, 1995, plaintiff contacted Ms. Wilson regarding Mr. Dunbar's behavior and when no action was taken, she filed a grievance with her union.
On August 2, 1995, the plaintiff met with Ms. Wilson to discuss another incident where Mr. Dunbar yelled and screamed at the plaintiff. At this meeting, plaintiff requested a transfer to a comparable position under a different supervisor because she felt she could no longer work with Mr. Dunbar.
Defendant denied her transfer request. On August 18, 1995, the plaintiff again met with Ms. Wilson and sought an unpaid leave of absence due to severe stress and resulting health problems.
On December 20, 1995, plaintiff filed an administrative charge of discrimination with the EEOC. The defendant formally terminated the plaintiff's employment on August 1, 1996. Subsequently, on August 13, 1996, the plaintiff filed this action.
A. Legal Standard for Summary ...