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Stone-Clark v. Blackhawk

November 1, 2006

CATHERINE STONE-CLARK, PLAINTIFF,
v.
BLACKHAWK, INC., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Paul L. Friedman United States District Judge

OPINION

This matter is before the Court on defendant's motion for summary judgment on plaintiff's claims of quid pro quo sexual harassment and retaliation. Upon consideration of defendant's motion and plaintiff's opposition, the Court grants defendant's motion for summary judgment as to the sexual harassment claim, but denies defendant's motion for summary judgment as to the retaliation claim.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Catherine Stone-Clark is a female former employee of defendant Blackhawk Security/RMJB LLC Security, Inc. See Complaint ("Compl.") ¶¶ 7, 10. Defendant provides security services, including armed and unarmed security guards, to various buildings in the District of Columbia metropolitan area. See Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment ("Def.'s Mot.") at 9. In October of 2001, defendant hired plaintiff to work as a security guard and eventually assigned her to work at 810 Vermont Ave., NW. See Compl. ¶ 7; Def.'s Mot. at 10. This building was one of several Department of Veterans Affairs ("VA") buildings defendant had contracted to secure. See Def.'s Mot. at 4. In May 2002, Anthony Summers, Project Manager for defendant's VA contract, began working at 810 Vermont Ave., NW. See Compl. ¶ 8. When Summers arrived at the building, plaintiff was assigned the task of escorting him around the building. See Declaration of Plaintiff Catherine Stone-Clark ("Pl.'s Decl.") ¶ 3; Plaintiff's Opposition to Defendant's Mot. for Summary Judgment ("Pl.'s Opp.") at 4. At that time, Summers requested a date with plaintiff, which request plaintiff declined. See Compl. ¶ 8; Pl.'s Decl. ¶ 3.

Plaintiff alleges that after she refused Summers' request for a date, her work schedule began to change without explanation. See Pl.'s Decl. ¶ 4. In the summer of 2002, Summers removed plaintiff from the schedule for several weeks because she failed a firearms course, which defendant required all employees to pass in order to carry a firearm. See Pl.'s Decl. ¶ 5. Plaintiff alleges that other individuals who failed the same course continued to work during the same period. See id.; Declaration of Paula Z. Ross ¶ 16. Plaintiff was at other times removed from the schedule without explanation. See Pl.'s Decl. ¶ 4. Other than the one request that she go out with Summers, he initiated no further discussion about the matter. See Deposition of Catherine Stone-Clark ("Pl.'s Depo.") at 27:16-28:2.

Summers also began to make comments about plaintiff's body after plaintiff rejected his request for a date. See Compl. ¶ 2. Two or three months after Summers' request for a date, plaintiff's co-workers overheard Summers comment about plaintiff's "butt." See Pl.'s Depo. at 28:10-28:18; Pl.'s Decl. ¶ 4. One co-worker heard Summers say to a fellow supervisor, "where is that big ass Stone working?" See Declaration of Clinton Sherrod ¶ 5. Summers did not make these comments to plaintiff herself. See Pl.'s Depo. at 28:20. Summers also commented on plaintiff's body in February of 2003. See Pl.'s Decl. ¶ 6. In response to plaintiff's question about why she had not received her credentials, Summers said "if I had gotten off my fat ass and gotten my paperwork in, I would have had my credentials by now." Id.

Plaintiff eventually reported Summers' behavior to defendant's Vice President, Nathaniel Wood, who urged plaintiff to file a complaint if she felt that Summers had retaliated against her for rejecting his request for a date. See Pl.'s Decl. ¶ 9; Affidavit of Nathaniel Wood ("Wood Aff.") ¶ 8. On May 23, 2003, plaintiff did file a formal complaint with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). See Compl. ¶ 10; Def.'s Mot. at 6. Plaintiff amended her EEOC complaint in October of 2003 to add a claim of retaliation.

On May 27, 2003, shortly after plaintiff filed her EEOC complaint, defendant claims that it received a request from the VA that defendant no longer allow plaintiff to work at VA buildings. See Def.'s Mot. at 5; Exh. C to Def.'s Mot., Department of Veteran Affairs Memorandum to Blackhawk Security. Defendant removed plaintiff from the work schedule for all VA buildings and did not reschedule her to work elsewhere. See Def.'s Mot. at 6. The parties dispute the reasons underlying defendant's failure to reschedule plaintiff. Defendant alleges that it offered to reassign plaintiff to buildings other than those of the VA, but that plaintiff rejected its offer. See Def.'s Mot. at 5-6. Plaintiff denies receiving an offer of reassignment at that time, though she admits that during an EEOC-sponsored mediation defendant's attorney commented that he might be able to explore the possibility of a reassignment. See Pl.'s Decl. ¶¶ 10, 11, 13.

Plaintiff brings suit, alleging quid pro quo sexual harassment and retaliation. See Compl. ¶ 1. Defendant moves for summary judgment on both of plaintiff's claims, arguing primarily that she cannot prove quid pro quo sexual harassment because she cannot show that Summers made sexual advances towards her and that she cannot prove retaliation because defendant did not terminate plaintiff. See Def.'s Mot. at 13-15.

II. DISCUSSION

A. Summary Judgment Standard

The Court may grant summary judgment if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits or declarations, if any, demonstrate that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c). Material facts are those that "might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986); see Holcomb v. Powell, 433 F.3d 889, 895 (D.C. Cir. 2006). When considering a summary judgment motion, the Court will accept as true the non-movant's evidence. See id. at 255; Washington Post Co. v. United States Dep't of Health and Human Services, 865 F.2d 320, 325 (D.C. Cir. 1989).

On a motion for summary judgment, the non-moving party's opposition must consist of more than mere unsupported allegations or denials and must find support in affidavits or other competent evidence setting forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. See FED. R. CIV. P. 56(e); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324 (1986). The non-moving party must "provide evidence that would permit a reasonable jury to find" in her favor. Laningham v. United States Navy, 813 F.2d 1236, 1242 (D.C. Cir. 1987). If the non-movant's evidence is "merely colorable" or "not significantly probative," the Court may grant summary judgment. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. at 249-50. To defeat summary judgment, a plaintiff must produce more than "a scintilla of evidence to support [her] claims."

Freedman v. MCI Telecommunications Corp., 255 F.3d 840, 845 (D.C. Cir. 2001). In an employment discrimination case, "[u]sually, proffering evidence from which a jury could find that the employer's stated reasons were pretextual will be enough to get a plaintiff's claim to a jury." George v. Leavitt, 407 F.3d 405, 413 (D.C. Cir. 2006) (citing Carpenter v. Fed. Nat'l Mortgage Ass'n, 165 F.3d 69, 72 (D.C.Cir.1999) ...


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