The opinion of the court was delivered by: Rosemary M. Collyer United States District Judge
Can an employer be held liable for fostering a hostile work environment when a plaintiff was offended by a co-worker's sporadic actions over the course of eleven years: the co-worker called her a "bitch" in 1995, sent a threatening email in 2001, bumped her chair in 2004, complained at a retreat in 2005 that he did not like an unnamed colleague, and roughly squeezed plaintiff's arm in 2006? The answer is no, as a matter of law. These incidents are insufficient to support a hostile environment claim under Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 2000(e) et seq. Michelle Tolson brought this action against her employer, Linda Springer, in her official capacity as Director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management ("OPM"). Ms. Tolson alleges race and gender discrimination in violation of Title VII due to harassment by a co-worker. The evidence of harassment that Ms. Tolson points to is insufficiently frequent and severe to implicate Title VII. Further, she fails to cite any evidence that the incidents from 2001 forward occurred because of her gender or race. Ms. Tolson also alleges that OPM denied her request for Family Medical Leave in retaliation for her complaint of discrimination. This claim lacks merit because OPM in fact granted the requested leave. To the extent that OPM was slow to grant the request, this was caused by Ms. Tolson's delay in providing proper medical documentation. Thus, summary judgment will be granted to OPM.
Ms. Tolson is an African American woman who has been employed as a program analyst by OPM since 1989. She contends that a co-worker, an African American man named James Sparrow, has subjected her to harassment pursuant to five separate incidents since 1995, and that OPM has "turned a blind [eye]" toward the situation. Pl.'s Opp'n [Dkt. #30] at 2.
First, Ms. Tolson avers that in 1995 when she was running for president of Local 32 of the American Federation of Government Employees (the "Union"), Mr. Sparrow told her that the Union "was not a place for a black woman" and he called her "a dressed up garbage can out of Southeast." Def.'s Notice of Filing Tolson Dep. [Dkt. # 29-2] ("Tolson Dep.") at 23 & 28. Ms. Tolson also alleges that Mr. Sparrow called her a "'red bone,' which is a derogatory term for a light skinned African American" and a "red bitch." Pl.'s Ex.*fn1 9 (Tolson Aff. at 4) [hereinafter "Tolson Aff."].*fn2 Ms. Tolson also claims that Mr. Sparrow threatened "to take [her] out mafia style." Tolson Dep. at 32. Ms. Tolson complained about this threat to the OPM security office.
Second, Ms. Tolson alleges that on February 28, 2001, Mr. Sparrow sent her an email stating that "satan doesn't need any prayers from you!!!!!" Pl.'s Ex. 8 (email).*fn3 The email chain between Ms. Tolson and Mr. Sparrow reads as follows:
Tolson: DELIVERY FOR ALL BARGAINING UNIT EMPLOYEES: Attached is the AFGE, Local 32 Newsletter for the month of February 2001. . . .
Sparrow: I really don't think you guys are worth the $$$$$$these poor souls pay you people!!!!!!!!!!
Tolson: James, The government pays us people. God bless you. Stay informed.
Sparrow: I'm glad to see your dumb ass is proof reading messages before you send me anything!!
Tolson: Hi James, Thanks for the compliment, I hope this email is not being monitored. God bless and you are still in my prayers. Luv U, Michelle
Sparrow: "satan" doesn't need any prayers from you!!!!!!
Id. Ms. Tolson viewed the email as intimidating. ...