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CARTER v. DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA

August 4, 1998

FE CARTER, Plaintiff,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: FRIEDMAN

OPINION

 This matter is before the Court on defendant's motion for summary judgment on plaintiff's claim of employment discrimination based on race/ethnicity and national origin under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and 42 U.S.C. § 1983, plaintiff's claim of employment discrimination based on race/ethnicity under 42 U.S.C. § 1981, and plaintiff's claim of retaliation under Title VII and 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981 and 1983. Defendant contends that plaintiff's claims must be dismissed on the ground that they are time-barred.

 Upon consideration of defendant's motion, plaintiff's opposition, and the exhibits thereto, and plaintiff's and defendant's supplemental filings, as well as the arguments presented at the July 16, 1998 motions hearing, the Court concludes that plaintiff's employment discrimination claim under Title VII is not time-barred, while her employment discrimination claims under Sections 1981 and 1983 are barred by the applicable statutes of limitations. Plaintiff's employment discrimination claim under Section 1983 also fails to allege violations necessary to establish municipal liability. Plaintiff's retaliation claim under Title VII and Section 1981 are timely. Plaintiff's retaliation claim under Section 1983 also fails to allege violations necessary to establish municipal liability. Defendant's motion for summary judgment therefore will be granted in part and denied in part.

 I. BACKGROUND

 Plaintiff, a Hispanic female originally from the Dominican Republic, was an employee of the District of Columbia Metropolitan Police Department. She alleges that defendant discriminated against her on the basis of race/ethnicity and national origin when one of its African-American male employees, Bennie Coates, referred to her by an ethnically negative name. Plaintiff also alleges that defendant, through Mr. Coates, retaliated against her for charging him with discrimination by trying to run her over with his car and generally harassing her through other remarks and actions over a period of years. Plaintiff further alleges that defendant discriminated against her on the basis of her race and national origin when the MPD did not take effective steps to stop this treatment.

 Sometime in 1991, plaintiff received an award from a professional organization known by the letters "A.P.C.O." On September 24, 1991, in plaintiff's presence, Mr. Coates showed other coworkers a napkin on which he had written that "A.P.C.O." stood for "Asshole Puerto Rican Communications Operator." Mr. Coates later put the napkin in the trash and plaintiff retrieved it, brought it to the MPD EEO officer, and filed an informal written complaint alleging that she had been discriminated against on the basis of her "Hispanic ethnicity." The Director of the Communications Division took a statement from Mr. Coates in which Mr. Coates admitted the incident. Thereafter, Mr. Coates was detailed to another division and location and ordered to stay away from MPD headquarters, where the Communications Division was housed. See Pl.'s Opp'n to Mot. for Summ. J., Ex. 13. In addition, on November 19, 1991, the Labor Relations Division of the MPD recommended that Mr. Coates receive a five-day suspension, but the recommendation was never implemented. Plaintiff claims that she never received a formal interview or notice about the outcome of her complaint. Plaintiff alleges that after the 1991 "napkin incident" she repeatedly asked her supervisors to transfer her, but nothing was done.

 Plaintiff also alleges that in December of 1991, while Mr. Coates was not supposed to be near MPD headquarters, he tried to run her over with his car outside police headquarters, driving toward her in a reckless manner and stopping only a few feet from the intersection in which she and other employees were walking. Plaintiff allegedly reported this incident to her supervisors, but no action was taken. Plaintiff says she was told that investigators thought Mr. Coates was just "playing" with her. In February of 1992, plaintiff alleges another employee told her that Mr. Coates commented that as soon as he was promoted to supervisor he was going to make her regret that she had charged him with discrimination. Mr. Coates became a supervisor in November, 1992, but he was not plaintiff's direct supervisor; rather, he was assigned to supervise the shift opposite that on which plaintiff worked.

 Plaintiff alleges that after Mr. Coates returned to headquarters and became a supervisor, he would seek contact with her just so he could order her around. She describes various incidents in which he singled her out and spoke to her harshly. On one occasion, for example, plaintiff was talking with two other employees, one of whom was on duty. Although Mr. Coates did not demand that the other off-duty employee stop the conversation and leave the area, plaintiff alleges that he yelled at plaintiff and ordered her to leave. On another occasion, plaintiff had been authorized by a supervisor to get change from a box in the supervisor's office, but, she alleges, when Mr. Coates saw her he yelled that she was "not allowed to get her hands in that box." Plaintiff also alleges that Mr. Coates constantly bothered and intimidated her by making nasty remarks and by standing near her. She began to seek counseling for job-related stress and was diagnosed with bi-polar depression.

 On May 24, 1994, plaintiff was called to a supervisor's office where money for a retirement gift was being collected. Mr. Coates was in the office. Mr. Coates did not say anything to plaintiff, come near her or touch her. Upon seeing him, however, plaintiff alleges that she suffered a reaction in which she became very upset and went home sick. She did not return to work and has been collecting disability pay since then.

 On July 12, 1994, an MPD EEO officer conducted an exit interview with plaintiff. At that time, she was informed by written memorandum of the action taken by the MPD regarding her complaint about the "napkin incident." The memorandum stated that Ms. Carter had been verbally advised, at the completion of the "napkin incident" investigation, "of the outcome of that investigation and what other options that were available to [her]. The record does not reflect any written notice." Pl.'s Opp'n to Mot. for Summ. J., Ex. 15. The memorandum also advised plaintiff that she could "pursue any other action that [she] deemed appropriate," but it did not advise plaintiff of her right to file a formal complaint within 15 days. Id.

 On August 22, 1994, plaintiff filed charges of discrimination with the District of Columbia Office of Human Rights ("DCHR") and with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, alleging, inter alia, national origin discrimination and retaliation. Pl.'s Opp'n to Mot. for Summ. J., Exs. 19 and 23. In January 1997, DCHR issued a "Letter of Determination" stating that it had failed to find probable cause to pursue the matter. With respect to plaintiff's subsequent rights, the letter advised plaintiff that she could appeal the decision to the City Administrator but that the matter would only be reopened if she had new evidence. Pl.'s Opp'n to Mot. for Summ. J., Ex. 20. When plaintiff tried to appeal to the City Administrator, she was advised that she had to appeal instead to the DCHR, but she did not do so.

 On February 20, 1997, plaintiff filed suit in this Court. On May 28, 1998, the Department of Justice issued her a right-to-sue letter.

 At a July 16, 1998 motions hearing, the Court issued a decision from the Bench, partially granting the District's motion for summary judgment, and entered judgment for the defendant on plaintiff's claims of discrimination on the basis of sex and disability, as well as on plaintiff's due process violation claim. After concluding that the only remaining claims were plaintiff's claims of discrimination on the basis of race/ethnicity and national origin and plaintiff's claim of retaliation, the Court took under advisement whether these claims were time-barred under the applicable statutes of limitations. The Court now concludes that plaintiff's discrimination claim under Title VII and her retaliation claims under Title VII and Section 1981 are not barred and will proceed to trial, but that ...


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