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Camille Loya v. Kathleen Sebelius

January 10, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Royce C. Lamberth Chief Judge United States District Court for the District of Columbia


Plaintiff Camille Loya brings this action against Kathleen Sebelius, in her official capacity as the Secretary of Health and Human Services ("HHS").*fn1 She asserts that HHS discriminated and retaliated against her on the basis of her race and national origin in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., and failed to reasonably accommodate her disability in violation of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. § 701 et seq. Before the Court is the motion of HHS for summary judgment [Dkt. # 26]. Upon consideration of the motion, the opposition thereto, and the record of the case, the Court concludes that the motion should be granted in part and denied in part.


Camille Loya is a Mexican-American woman with Type I diabetes. Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. ("Def.'s Mot."), Ex. 1 (Dep. of Camille Loya (Sept. 14, 2010)) ("Loya Dep.") at 5, 7. She has been employed by HHS since 1995. Id. at 10. During the relevant time period, Loya served as Senior Advisor to the Director of the Office of Head Start ("OHS"). Id. at 64.

Between 2006 and early 2007, Loya worked closely with Ann Linehan, the Division Director for the Division of Program Management at OHS. Id. at 30--31. Their work together focused primarily on monitoring reports from on-site reviews of OHS grantees. Id. at 30. Much of their work took place at Linehan's house in Virginia. See id. at 27.

In 2007, this work arrangement ended, and Loya's responsibilities changed. Linehan had complained about Loya's behavior and requested that Loya no longer be assigned to monitoring reports, claiming that Loya caused her "extreme duress" and made her fear for her safety. See Def.'s Mot., Ex. 2 (Dep. of Ann Linehan (Mar. 25, 2010)) ("Linehan Dep.") at 24--25. Loya had also expressed an interest in performing different work. Loya Dep. at 32. According to Loya, her working relationship with Linehan had become "difficult," so it seemed "natural[]" for her to be assigned new responsibilities, given her desire to do different work and the timing of the reauthorization of the Head Start Act. Id. at 34--35.

Soon thereafter, however, Loya felt that her responsibilities had been diminished far beyond the loss of monitoring duties, which she had voluntarily given up.For instance, she was no longer involved in broad policy discussions about program operations, and she began to be excluded from meetings and training events. Id. (estimating that her portfolio of work was diminished by 80 percent). She believed that the reduction in responsibilities was attributable to discrimination. Id. at 37--38.*fn2

On or about June 4, 2007, Loya complained of discrimination to her supervisor Channel Wilkins, who was director of OHS. Id. at 36. She asserted that she was being discriminated against and harassed based on her race and national origin by Linehan and the Deputy Director of OHS, Frank Fuentes. Id. at 36--38; see also Pl.'s Opp'n, Ex. 1 (EEO Aff. of Camille Loya) ("Loya EEO Aff.") at 3. Some time after Loya's complaint, the Office of the Inspector General ("OIG") launched an investigation into Linehan's conduct with respect to contract irregularities. Def.'s Mot., Ex. 4 (Dep. of Frank Fuentes (Mar. 19, 2010)) ("Fuentes Dep.") at 81; Loya Dep. at 59--60.*fn3 For the duration of the investigation, Linehan was moved to an office approximately three blocks away from her normal office. The investigation cleared her of any wrongdoing and, after its completion, Linehan sought to return to her former office. Linehan Dep. at 40--42.

In the late fall of 2007, Patricia Brown, who had recently replaced Wilkins as the Acting Director of OHS, consulted with Gloria Patterson of the Office of Employee Relations about Linehan's request to return to her former office-in the Portals building, which also housed Loya's office-and the hostility that existed between Linehan and Loya. Brown Dep. at 21--23; see also Pl.'s Opp'n, Ex. 5 (Dep. of Gloria Patterson (April 30, 2010)) ("Patterson Dep.") at 40.*fn4

They determined that either Linehan or Loya would have to be permanently stationed in the Aerospace building, where Linehan had been working since the investigation. Brown Dep. at 23. Fuentes asked both Loya and Linehan if either would be willing to work in the Aerospace building; both refused. Fuentes Dep. at 36--37; Linehan Dep. at 40; Loya Dep. at 62.

Brown and Fuentes then decided to move Loya to the Aerospace building over her objection. They explained that Linehan had a greater need to be in the Portals building because she had a staff to supervise there, which Loya did not. Fuentes Dep. at 81; Def.'s Mot., Ex. 15 (Email from Frank Fuentes to Gloria Patterson (Jan. 9, 2008)); Brown Dep. at 21, 35--36. Accordingly, in January 2008, Fuentes directed Loya to move to the Aerospace building. Loya Dep. at 62. Her office was officially relocated, but Loya often worked out of the Portals building anyway. Id. at 67--68.

Loya alleges that, by the time of her transfer to the Aerospace building, her job responsibilities had been significantly eroded and that the move contributed to the diminishment of her role at OHS. See generally Loya Decl. Loya also asserts that the relocation to the Aerospace building caused her adverse health consequences. Id. ¶¶ 19--20. Travel back and forth to the Portals building, especially for "unanticipated meetings," made it difficult for Loya to manage her diabetes. Id. ¶ 20. Loya requested permission to return to her office in the Portals building, citing her diabetes, but her request was not granted. See Pl.'s Opp'n, Brown Dep. at 66. Due to the frequently wet or icy conditions on the path between the buildings, Loya struggled with the walk between the buildings and, at one point, fell and injured her ankle. Loya Decl. ¶ 18. Although there was a shuttle bus that ran regularly between the two buildings,*fn5 Loya appears not to have used it. On March 15, 2011, Loya was formally allowed back to the Portals building and was thereafter given the position of Tribal Policy Lead for OHS. Id. ¶¶ 23, 24.


A motion for summary judgment should be granted "if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." FED. R. CIV. P. 56(a). A material fact is one that "might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). The movant must support its factual positions by "citing to particular parts of materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations . . . , admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials." FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c)(1)(A); see Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986).

If the moving party meets its burden, the non-moving party must then establish that a genuine dispute as to any material fact actually exists. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). To meet its burden, the non-moving party must show that "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict" in its favor. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. Such evidence must consist of more than mere unsupported allegations or denials and must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine dispute for trial. See FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c)(1), (e); Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322 n.3. If the evidence ...

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