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Bailey v. Henderson

April 20, 2000

VANESSA BAILEY, PLAINTIFF,
v.
WILLIAM J. HENDERSON, DEFENDANT.



MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Vanessa Bailey, an African American woman formerly employed as a clerk with the United States Postal Service, brings this action against her former employer alleging that she suffered sex, race, and disability discrimination in her employment in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 *fn1 and the Rehabilitation Act. *fn2 Defendant is William J. Henderson, Postmaster General of the United States, who is sued in his official capacity only. Before the court is the Postal Service's motion for summary judgment. Upon consideration of the motion, the opposition thereto, and the summary-judgment record, the court concludes that the Postal Service's motion must be granted as to Bailey's disparate-treatment Title VII and disability claims. The motion must also be granted as to Bailey's hostile-work-environment Title VII claim to the extent that it is based on race. In all other respects the motion will be denied, except that the court's consideration of the proper scope of damages should Bailey prevail on the issue of liability is held in abeyance.

II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

When viewed in a light most favorable to Bailey, *fn3 the facts disclosed by the summary-judgment record are as follows. Bailey began working with the Postal Service in 1973. In September 1993, she was assigned to work in an area on the fourth floor of the Ward Place Postal Station known as the "the cage." This area is where mail that is time sensitive or contains valuable items is processed and is surrounded by fencing that permits visibility into and out of the area. When Bailey was transferred to work in the cage area, she was trained by and worked with Betty Parker. Shortly thereafter, Parker was reassigned to a duty station on another part of the fourth floor. After Parker left, another Postal Service employee, Karen Hughley, was reassigned to work in the cage area and worked there with Bailey.

Bailey's troubles began about a week after Parker's reassignment. Parker and another fourth-floor employee, Charlene Archie, began addressing Bailey profanely. Upon Bailey's arrival at work, Archie and Parker would loudly comment, "Here comes the bitch!" *fn4 When Archie and Parker spoke to Bailey or required her attention, they often referred to her as "bitch" or "bitch in the cage." *fn5 When others would come to the fourth floor with mail or questions appropriately directed to Bailey, Archie and Parker would state "give it to the bitch in the cage." *fn6 Parker and Archie also called Bailey "toilet-paper wipe" or "toilet-paper tongue," suggesting she was a supervisor's favorite. *fn7 They also said Bailey was "giving it up out of both drawer legs," a crude accusation that Bailey was sexually promiscuous. *fn8 On one occasion, Parker and Archie followed Bailey into the women's room and cursed at her as she used the facilities. *fn9

Bailey endured Parker's and Archie's comments every working day from September 1993 through her separation from the Postal Service in May 1994. During this same period, Archie and Parker occasionally threw mail and small items at Bailey when she approached their working space and sometimes placed objects on the floor in front of the door to the cage area, evidently hoping to cause Bailey to trip.

Bailey complained about Parker and Archie's behavior to her supervisors. When her direct supervisor, Randolph Logan, evidenced a desire to intervene and stop Archie and Parker's behavior, Bailey's second-line supervisor, Rodney Payne, an African American, told him to take no action because the problems were attributable to "just some black women going through menopause." *fn10 Payne did meet with Bailey, Hughley, Parker, and Archie, however. Although Logan had apparently confirmed Bailey's accusations, Payne was presented with no other witnesses or evidence regarding the conflict between the women. Payne, indicating that he could not determine what had happened or who was at fault, directed the women to cease any bothersome behavior and to remain in their respective work areas. Parker and Archie's verbal abuse continued unabated.

On May 11, 1994, Bailey suffered what she terms a "mental breakdown at work," a condition she alleges was caused by Parker and Archie's harassment. *fn11 The next day at work, she again felt ill and needed medical attention. She asked her acting supervisor, Stephen Jones, to drive her to the medical unit. Jones declined to do so. Immediately thereafter, Bailey took medical leave. She received, and is apparently still receiving, medical treatment and worker's compensation. On November 16, 1996, the Department of Labor classified plaintiff as having no potential for reemployment in her prior capacity.

III. ANALYSIS

Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, summary judgment shall be granted if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, admissions on file, and affidavits show that there is no genuine issue of material fact in dispute and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Material facts are those "that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law." *fn12 The non-movant's opposition must consist of more than mere unsupported allegations or denials and must be supported by affidavits or other competent evidence setting forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. *fn13 The non-movant is "required to provide evidence that would permit a reasonable jury to find" in its favor. *fn14 If the evidence is "merely colorable" or "not significantly probative," the court may grant summary judgment. *fn15

A. Title VII Claims

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 states in relevant part that it is "an unlawful employment practice for an employer . . . to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual's race, color, religion, sex, or national origin." *fn16 Hardly a model of clarity, Bailey's complaint alleges two types of Title VII claims: disparate treatment on the basis of sex and race and hostile-work-environment based on sex and race. Each is considered in turn below.

i. Disparate Treatment Claims

Bailey claims that her supervisors treated her differently than similarly situated white male employees in two respects. First, while an appropriate protocol was in place and was followed by Payne when conflicts arose between male employees, *fn17 he did not follow this protocol and intercede appropriately when told of Bailey's accusations. Instead, he intervened in a most ineffective way in the conflict between Bailey and Parker and Archie, all of whom are African-American women, and counseled their direct supervisor Logan not to intercede because the female employees were merely "going through menopause." *fn18 Second, Bailey claims that a male acting supervisor, Stephen Jones, declined her request to drive her to receive medical treatment when she fell ill. Jones admitted in his deposition that "[a]s far as taking anyone to the medical facilities, especially female, I didn't opt to take any females in my personal car." *fn19

The Postal Service argues that it is entitled to summary judgment with respect to Bailey's disparate-treatment claims because, among other reasons, she has failed to establish a ...


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