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MCCAIN v. CCA OF TENNESSEE

March 27, 2003

NICOLE MCCAIN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CCA OF TENNESSEE, INC., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Emmet G. Sullivan, United States District Judge.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Introduction

Plaintiff Nicole McCain ("McCain") brings a diversity action against defendant CCA of Tennessee ("CCA") pursuant to the District of Columbia Human Rights Act, D.C. Code §§ 1-2510 et seq. ("DCHRA"). Plaintiff is employed as a corrections officer at the District of Columbia Correctional Treatment Facility ("CTF"), which is operated by CCA. Plaintiff alleges that she applied for, and was denied, a promotion to the position of Assistant Shift Commander because she refused a sexual advance by Chief of Security Larry Bynum ("Bynum"). (Compl., ¶ 8.) Plaintiff further alleges that there have been other complaints of sexual harassment against Bynum, that defendant knew or should have known about this harassment, and that defendant should be held liable for failing to take remedial measures with respect to the complaints of harassment. Id. at ¶¶ 10-11. Finally, plaintiff maintains that CCA retaliated against her for refusing Bynum's advances and for complying with physician's orders directing her to avoid "x-ray machines" at her place of employment. Pl.'s Opp'n at 9.

Plaintiff brings two counts against defendant: (1) sexual discrimination and harassment; (2)retaliation for "opposing unlawful sexual harassment." Compl. ¶ 19.

Defendant argues that neither count can withstand a motion for summary judgment. With respect to the harassment claim, defendant maintains that a single incident "is not severe or pervasive enough to constitute actionable sexual harassment." Furthermore, defendant submits that plaintiff was treated no differently than similarly situated males and that there is no evidence to indicate that the reason given plaintiff for rejecting her application was dubious or pretextual. In response to the retaliation allegations, defendant asserts that plaintiff cannot establish "that she met the minimum qualifications for the position." Def.'s Mot. at 2.

Upon consideration of defendant's motion, as well as the opposition and reply thereto and the relevant case law and statutory law governing the issues, it is by the Court hereby ORDERED that defendant's motion for summary judgment is GRANTED.

Events

CCA operates the CTF under contract with the District of Columbia Department of Corrections. Plaintiff has been employed by CCA since 1997. Assistant Warden of Operations Raymond Byrd ("Byrd") has been employed by the CTF since April 2001, as has Chief of Security, Larry Bynum ("Bynum"). Bynum reported to Byrd who, in turn, reported to Warden Carolyn Cross ("Warden" or "Cross"). As a Correctional Officer, plaintiff reported to all three individuals. Def.'s Mot. at 3.

In June 2001, CCA had two openings for the position of Assistant Shift Commander. Cross Dec., ¶ 3; Byrd Dec., ¶ 3. The requirements for the position were set forth in the notice of vacancy which, pursuant to CCA policy, was issued from CCA headquarters in Nashville, Tennessee and posted thereafter at all CCA facilities. Byrd Dec., ¶ 3. The notice provided, inter alia, as follows:

Qualifications: High school diploma, GED certification or equivalent, with three years experience in a criminal justice field which preferably includes one year in a supervisory capacity . . .
In or around June-July 2001, plaintiff applied for a promotion to Assistant Shift Commander. At approximately the same time, Bynum asked plaintiff whether she would visit him at the hotel in which he was staying. McCain Dep. at 14. After being rebuffed by plaintiff, Bynum raised the subject on a subsequent occasion, at which time he assured plaintiff that he would not tell anyone if she came to his hotel and plaintiff, in turn, replied that she would not do so under any circumstances. Id. at 14-15.

Warden Cross informed Byrd and Bynum that applicants who did not have experience as Senior Correctional Officers, or in equivalent supervisory positions, would not be considered for Assistant Shift Commander positions. Cross Dec., ¶ 4; Byrd Dec., ¶ 4; Bynum Dec., ¶ 4. Bynum screened the applications to see whether they met the qualifications set forth by the Warden. It was determined that Correctional Officer Wayne Bryan, Correction Officer Antoine Cobb, James Idleburg and plaintiff did not have the requisite supervisory experience. Byrd Dec., ¶¶ 6-7; Bynum Dec., ¶¶ 6-7. The applicants selected for interviews were La Var Matthews, Isiac Prosise, William Woods, and Lewis Bland. Each of these individuals had supervisory experience. Cross Dec., ¶ 7; Byrd Dec., ¶ 7. On July 18, 2001, Byrd sent each applicant who was not selected for an interview a memorandum setting forth the reasons for the applicant's rejection. Plaintiff, as well as Bryan, Cobb, and Idleburg, received memoranda stating that "[W]e are seeking applicants with prior supervisor experience at the Senior Correctional Level." Exhibits 8, 9, 10, and 11.

On July 16, 2001, plaintiff complained to Gloria Lloyd, the individual designated by the CTF to receive discrimination complaints. Plaintiff alleged that Bynum had sexually harassed her and that she had not been selected for an interview because she had declined his invitation. Byrd Dec., ¶ 10. Lloyd reported plaintiff's request to Warden Cross, who assigned CCA's investigator, Willie Meekins ("Meekins"), to investigate plaintiff's accusations. Cross Dec., ¶ 8. Meekins found that sexual harassment could not be established in light of the absence of corroborating witnesses and the denial by Bynum of plaintiff's allegations. Exhibit 17. Furthermore, Meekins found that plaintiff was not qualified for the interview, and consequently the position, in question. Plaintiff filed her lawsuit on August 2, 2001. On August 27, 2001, Warden Cross sent plaintiff a letter informing her of the results of Meekins' investigation. Exhibit 18.

Plaintiff contends that, since the filing of her lawsuit, the defendant has continued to harass her in numerous ways. Pl.'s Opp'n at 5. First, plaintiff alleges that, during the course of her pregnancy, and after having informed him of her need to work eight-hour days, Byrd responded that pregnancy was not a permanent disability and that he would not accommodate her physician's request. McCain Decl. ΒΆ 9. Second, plaintiff maintains that, while nobody had ever mentioned a problem with her hairstyle, jewelry or nails, Warden Figueroa directed her to change them subsequent to her filing of the present lawsuit. Finally, plaintiff claims that, after having informed defendant of her physician's orders to avoid metal detectors and x-ray machines, defendant rejected plaintiff's request, insisted that she pass through x-ray machines, and suspended her without pay for fourteen days. Pl.'s Opp'n at 5. In response to plaintiff's allegations, defendant counters that plaintiff omits important facts and that the activities related to plaintiff's suspension were in no way connected to those attributed to Bynum. Defendant maintains that when plaintiff bypassed the metal detector, she was questioned by Assistant Shift Supervisor Brian Murray, an employee who was new to CTF and unaware of the allowances made for pregnant women. Though plaintiff was asked to provide a doctor's note, she bypassed the metal detector a ...


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