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Jerenia Pierson v. Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority

November 4, 2011

JERENIA PIERSON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
WASHINGTON METROPOLITAN AREA TRANSIT AUTHORITY DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ricardo M. Urbina United States District Judge

Re Document No.: 32

MEMORANDUM OPINION GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART

THE DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

I. INTRODUCTION

This matter comes before the court on the defendant's motion for summary judgment. The plaintiff claims, inter alia, that the defendant, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority ("WMATA"), retaliated against her for making a sexual harassment complaint by: (1) terminating her employment, (2) not rehiring her and (3) sending creditors to harass her for overpaid vacation benefits. The defendant moves for summary judgment with respect to the plaintiff's retaliation claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e-2(a)(1). It argues that summary judgment is appropriate because the plaintiff failed to exhaust her administrative remedies and because the defendant's actions were justified by a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason.

Because the plaintiff failed to exhaust her administrative remedies with respect to her overpaid vacation benefits claim, the court grants in part the defendant's motion for summary judgment. On the other hand, because the plaintiff did exhaust her administrative remedies for her non-rehire claim, the court denies the defendant's motion for summary judgment on that claim. Finally, because a reasonable juror could infer that the defendant's legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for terminating the plaintiff was pretext for retaliation, the court also denies the defendant's motion for summary judgment as to the plaintiff's termination claim.

II. FACTUAL & PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

In March 2005, WMATA hired the plaintiff, a lesbian, as a temporary employee. Id. ¶¶11, 15; Pl.'s Opp'n, Ex. 7; Def.'s Reply, Ex. 1 at 2. On June 27, 2005, the defendant assigned the plaintiff to WMATA's revenue collection facility for a two-month assignment. Def.'s Mot. at 2. The plaintiff was instructed "to shadow" another employee, Betty Baines, "to learn how to do the job." Id.

On June 28, 2005, Baines allegedly invited the plaintiff to dinner at a restaurant frequented by the lesbian community. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 22-23. Despite the plaintiff's protestations, Baines purportedly telephoned a friend and said, "in a sexual way, 'I got this friend I'm bringing down there after work.'" Id. ¶ 24. The plaintiff ultimately declined Baines' invitation, and maintains that she angered Baines by not accompanying her to dinner that evening. Id. ¶¶ 23, 26.

The following day, on June 29, 2005, the plaintiff claims that Baines approached her and approximately five other co-workers, and exclaimed, "that damn dike over there looking like a man." Id. ¶¶ 26-27. The plaintiff believes that Baines' comments "were loud enough so that [the p]laintiff and others in the area could hear her." Id. The plaintiff also states that Baines referred to her as "slow," and stated that she could not type, "stamp cards" or use the telephone correctly. Id. ¶ 28. That same day, the plaintiff lodged a verbal complaint with her supervisor, Marlene Dottelis, explaining that Baines had sexually harassed and intimidated her. Id. ¶ 29.

Shortly thereafter, the plaintiff followed up her oral communication with a written letter to Dottelis. Pl.'s Opp'n at 3. The letter stated that "[o]n June 29, 2005, [a]t 3:25 p.m., [the plaintiff] brought to [Dottelis'] attention a problem [that the plaintiff] was experiencing on the job with a co-worker, Ms. Betty B[aines]." Def.'s Mot., Ex. C. The letter also noted that the plaintiff felt Dottelis had not "take[n] the matter very seriously because [the plaintiff] had to return to work to face a hostile work environment." Id. The plaintiff also expressed in her letter that Baines had spent more time instructing another worker about her job duties than Baines had spent explaining to the plaintiff her job duties. Id. The plaintiff indicated on the letter that the supervisor of the section that the plaintiff and Baines worked in, Angel Cabrera, was intended as a "carbon copy" or "cc" recipient. Id.

On July 1, 2005, the plaintiff met with Dottelis, Dottelis' subordinate and Cabrera. Am. Compl. ¶ 31; Def.'s Mot. at 3 & Cabrera Aff. ¶ 2. According to the plaintiff, she was telling the group that Baines had "sexually harassed and subjected [her] to hostile treatment," when Cabrera interrupted her and stated that he and Baines "had been friends for twenty-six years." Am. Compl. ¶¶ 32-33. The plaintiff represents that Cabrera then terminated her "on the spot." Id. ¶ 32. That same day, the plaintiff filed an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") charge of discrimination with the Alexandria Office of Human Rights against the defendant, claiming that she "was terminated in retaliation for having protested what [she] believed to be discrimination." Pl.'s Opp'n, Ex. 7.

As part of the EEOC investigation, the defendant submitted its "Position Statement," *fn1 and on January 4, 2007, the plaintiff responded with her "Rebuttal" letter. Id. at 18-19.

According to the plaintiff's letter, the defendant's collection agency contacted the plaintiff after her termination, seeking reimbursement for $299.60 for overpaid vacation pay. Am. Compl. ΒΆ 34. The plaintiff alleges that the defendant "threatened to take legal action against her and to report her to the credit reporting bureaus." Pl.'s Opp'n, Ex. 8. On May ...


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