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Beverly Gurara v. District of Columbia

August 8, 2012

BEVERLY GURARA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Rudolph Contreras United States District Judge

Re Document No.: 23

MEMORANDUM OPINION GRANTING THE DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

I. INTRODUCTION

The plaintiff is a former employee of the District of Columbia. Her work record was not ideal: by her own admission, she was repeatedly late, missed several days of work, and failed to attend training sessions. One day, a co-worker noticed that her paper shredder was filled with remnants of relevant work documents; when asked why this was so, Ms. Gurura lost her composure, throwing a potted plant towards a co-worker and hurling invective which was heard by all within earshot. She was so agitated that her employers called 911. Her employers took progressive disciplinary measures, imposing two suspensions without pay for the missed days of work and missed training and, after her outburst, terminated her employment. The plaintiff brought suit against the District,*fn1 claiming that the defendant's acts were actually taken in retaliation for a discrimination complaint that she had previously filed. But she has not submitted enough evidence to convince a reasonable jury of her claim. The court will therefore grant the District's motion for summary judgment.

II. FACTUAL ALLEGATIONS AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Beverly Gurara is a former employee of the District of Columbia's Department of Transportation ("DDOT"), where she worked as a staff assistant. In August 2007, for reasons not fully explained by the parties, she filed a charge with the EEOC alleging that she had been subjected to a hostile work environment.*fn2 Over the next two years, her employer took three actions that are relevant to the plaintiff's case.

A. The Plaintiff's Nine-Day Suspension (April 2008)

In April 2008, the plaintiff was suspended without pay for nine days. Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. at 5 ("Def.'s Mot."); Pl.'s Mot., Ex. 1 ("Pl.'s Aff.") ¶ 7. The defendant alleges that Ms. Gurara repeatedly failed to show up to work, claimed dubious medical excuses for her absences, and failed to give timely notice of those absences. Def.'s Mot. at 5--6. The plaintiff contends that she was entitled to take accumulated sick and annual leave, Pl.'s Aff. ¶ 7, though the parties differ as to whether she properly obtained permission to use any such leave.

B. The Plaintiff's 15-Day Suspension (December 2008)

In December 2008, the DDOT gave Gurara notice that it planned to suspend her for fifteen days without pay due to her poor attendance, tardiness, and missed training.*fn3 The defendant cited several specific instances of absenteeism. First, Gurara failed to attend a "City Works training" on October 14--16, 2008, and a "snow training" that occurred in the same month. Def.'s Mot. at 8--9. Additionally, she was late for work on October 21 and 22, and she failed to show up at all on October 27 and October 28, 2008. Id. at 7, 10. Although the plaintiff admits that the defendant is correct, she claims that others similarly failed to attend the City Works training, and that she was unaware that her presence at the snow training was required. Pl.'s Aff. ¶¶ 10, 11. She also claims that other employees were commonly late to work, and those employees did not suffer similar consequences. Id.

C. The Plaintiff's Termination (June 2009)

In June 2009, Gurara entered a colleague's office to find her paper shredder on his desk. Def.'s Mot. at 13. The colleague-Francesco Pacifico, the DDOT's Chief of Street and Bridge Maintenance-states that he was "trying to figure out" why her shredder was filled with ribbons of certain work documents. Id. She denied shredding any original documents, instead maintaining that she had only shredded photocopies. Id. When Pacifico showed her slivers of paper with original ink and highlighting, she responded, "[t]his is bulls--t. You're accusing me," and asserted that the shredded documents were merely photocopied duplicates. Id. Gurara returned to her desk and, in the presence of other employees, said, "[i]f I wanted to shred f---ing [work order] tickets, I could have did that a year ago when they put me on this bulls--t [sic]." Id. at 14--15. She began to curse and talk to herself, repeating, "I can't believe this s--t." Id. She picked up the phone, saying: "I'm sick. I'm going crazy," and "you need to come over here right now" before slamming down the telephone. Id. She tossed the shredded tickets in the air and stated, "f--- that s--t." Id. at 15. Gurara then swiped various items from her desk, seized a flower pot, dumped its dirt onto the floor, and catapulted the pot across the room (it narrowly missed a co-worker before landing). Id. Her co-workers called Pacifico, who arrived to see Gurara with her head cradled in her hands. Id. Pacifico called 911. Id. When the ambulance arrived, Gurara refused to speak with the medics and stormed out. Id. at 15. She was fired soon thereafter. Id. The plaintiff does not contest this factual account except to insist that she never shredded any original documents, only photocopies. Pl.'s Aff. ¶ 17.

The plaintiff brought suit in September 2010, alleging three claims: (1) retaliation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, (2) retaliation under the D.C. Human Rights Act, and

(3) age discrimination under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. The defendant seeks summary judgment on all three counts. In her opposition, the plaintiff indicated that she no longer wishes to pursue ...


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