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Miller v. Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority

June 11, 2006

DANA MILLER, PLAINTIFF,
v.
WASHINGTON METROPOLITAN AREA TRANSIT AUTHORITY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Rosemary M. Collyer United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Before the Court are cross motions for summary judgment. Plaintiff Dana Miller contends that she was fired from her job as a Special Police Officer ("SPO") with Defendant Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority ("WMATA") in retaliation for reporting sexual harassment by a male superior. According to WMATA, however, Ms. Miller was terminated for multiple violations of WMATA's rules and regulations that were unrelated to the alleged sexual harassment incident. After reviewing the record, the Court finds that Ms. Miller has no evidence of a causal relationship between the alleged sexual harassment and WMATA's decision to terminate her employment. Accordingly, WMATA's motion will be granted, Ms. Miller's motion will be denied, and judgment will be entered in favor of WMATA.

I. BACKGROUND FACTS

The material facts are essentially undisputed. On July 21, 2003, WMATA hired Ms. Miller as an SPO. Def.'s Stmt. of Material Facts Not In Dispute ("Def.'s Facts") ¶ 1. An SPO's primary duty is to serve as a security guard at WMATA facilities within WMATA's transit zone.

Id. As a condition of her employment under the applicable Collective Bargaining Agreement, Ms. Miller was required to serve a one-year probationary period. Id.

WMATA began experiencing problems with Ms. Miller's performance almost immediately. On December 29, 2003, less than six months into Ms. Miller's probationary period, Ms. Miller's supervisor, Deputy Chief Daniel Hall, drafted two memoranda documenting her multiple violations of WMATA's rules and regulations. The first memo detailed Ms. Miller's fourth incident of tardiness within three months and recommended a one-day suspension without pay. Def.'s Ex. 4. The second memo detailed a two-hour absence from Ms. Miller's guard post for which she had no permission or excuse. Def.'s Ex. 5. For that infraction, Deputy Chief Hall recommended a two-day suspension without pay. Id. Ms. Miller eventually served two one-day suspensions without pay for the violations detailed in the December 29 memos. Def.'s Facts ¶¶ 7-8.

On January 16, 2004, Deputy Chief Hall gave Ms. Miller her Mid-Year Performance Evaluation. Id. ¶ 9. In addition to the infractions detailed in the December 29 memos, the Mid-Year Performance Evaluation documented one incident in which Ms. Miller abandoned her post without authorization and another incident in which Ms. Miller failed to report for work due to inclement weather. Def.'s Ex. 6. Ms. Miller admitted that she was guilty of all the infractions detailed in the Mid-Year Performance Evaluation. See id.; see also Def.'s Ex. 16 (Pl.'s Resp. to Def.'s Requests for Admission) ¶¶ 15-19, 21-23. The report on the investigation into these incidents of misconduct stated that Ms. Miller was "unreliable" and concluded that it was in WMATA's best interest to "terminate [her] employment." Def.'s Ex. 6. Nonetheless, Deputy Chief Hall elected to give Ms. Miller one more chance and, instead of firing her, informed her that if her performance did not improve within the next 90 days she would be terminated. Id. The Evaluation stated that Ms. Miller was expected to report on time, be attentive to her duties, "and comply with WMATA's policies and procedures." Id. Deputy Chief Hall made it clear to Ms. Miller that "any type of disciplinary action within the next 90 days . . . would mean her termination." Def.'s Ex. 13 (Transcript of Pl.'s Grievance Hearing, Testimony of Daniel Hall) at 26:16-18.

On January 21, 2004, less than a week after Ms. Miller's Mid-Year Performance Evaluation, Special Police Lt. Franklin Johnson was sent to Ms. Miller's guard post to deliver two mousetraps. Def.'s Ex. 7. When Lt. Johnson arrived, he found the post unmanned and observed a combination radio/television on the counter. It is a direct violation of SPO General Post Instruction No. 10 to have a television of any kind, including a radio/television combo, in a guard post kiosk. See Def.'s Exs. 2 & 3. When Ms. Miller returned, Lt. Johnson (who was Ms. Miller's superior but not her supervisor) reminded her that it was a violation of WMATA rules to have a television at her guard post and instructed her to draft a statement admitting the infraction. Def.'s Ex. 7. Ms. Miller complied and wrote a statement in which she admitted to having a television in violation of WMATA rules. Def.'s Ex. 8. Ms. Miller also informed Lt. Johnson that she was on notice that any infraction would result in the termination of her employment and asked him to let her off with a warning instead of reporting the incident. Def.'s Ex. 7.

At this point, the facts take an unexpected and unfortunate turn. After Ms. Miller informed him of her tenuous employment situation, Lt. Johnson offered not to report the incident if she would agree to have sex with him later that evening. See Def.'s Ex. 9. Ms. Miller agreed but, unknown to Lt. Johnson, she had no intention of following through on his proposal; instead, she planned to bring her mother with her to the tryst in order to take photographs and witness Lt. Johnson's advances. Id. Ms. Miller claims that her mother called Deputy Chief Hall immediately after Ms. Miller informed her of the incident (Ms. Miller's mother is herself an SPO), but he did not answer the phone and she did not leave a message. Affidavit of Dana Miller ¶ 8.

When Ms. Miller arrived at Lt. Johnson's home that night (with her mother hiding in the backseat of her car), Lt. Johnson invited her inside, took off her coat, and began fondling her breast. Id.; Def.'s Ex. 9. Shortly afterwards, Ms. Miller's mother knocked on the door and Lt. Johnson let her in. Def.'s Ex. 9. Ms. Miller's mother stated that Lt. Johnson's conduct violated WMATA's sexual harassment policies and asked him to turn over the statement in which Ms. Miller admitted to having a television in her guard booth. Id. Lt. Johnson refused, and Ms. Miller and her mother left. After they departed Lt. Johnson's residence, Ms. Miller's mother called Deputy Chief Hall to report the incident. Id.

One week later, on January 28, 2004, Ms. Miller filed a sexual harassment charge against Lt. Johnson with WMATA's Office of Civil Rights. Def.'s Ex. 12. The Office of Civil Rights asked Deputy Chief Hall not to take any disciplinary action against Ms. Miller in connection with her possession of the television in her working booth pending the outcome of their investigation into her sexual harassment charge. See Def.'s Ex. 12 (Transcript of Pl.'s Grievance Hearing, Testimony of Daniel Hall at 35:4-12). The investigation concluded that there was probable cause to conclude that Lt. Johnson sexually harassed Ms. Miller, and Lt. Johnson was dismissed as a result. Def.'s Exs. 14 & 15. The investigation also noted that WMATA's sexual harassment policy requires that harassment be reported immediately after the incident occurs and that Ms. Miller (and her mother) violated that policy by failing to file a report until after the encounter at Lt. Johnson's house. Def.'s Ex. 14.

After completing the investigation into Lt. Johnson's transgressions, WMATA turned its attention back to Ms. Miller's recurrent misconduct In a memorandum dated May 4, 2004, Deputy Chief Hall informed Metro Transit Police Chief Polly Hanson of Ms. Miller's most recent breach of WMATA policy - namely, her possession of a television in a guard booth in violation of General Post Instruction 10. Def.'s Ex. 7. Deputy Chief Hall recommended that Ms. Miller's employment be terminated for cause "based upon continued unsatisfactory performance." Id. On June 1, 2004, Chief Hanson sent a termination letter to Ms. Miller explaining that she was being dismissed for violating General Post Instruction 10 after she was expressly warned during her Mid-Year Evaluation that any additional disciplinary action within a 90-day period would result in her termination. Def.'s Ex. 10.

Ms. Miller filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") Office on June 23, 2004. Miller Aff. ¶ 17. The EEOC issued a right-to-sue letter on September 8, 2005. Id. ¶ 18. Ms. Miller filed the Complaint in this action on December 7, 2005, in which she asserts four causes of action: three claims for employment discrimination against WMATA under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et seq.; and one claim for battery against Lt. Johnson, presumably under the common law of Maryland, which is where the alleged fondling took place.*fn1 After engaging in discovery, both parties filed dispositive ...


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