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Lyles v. District of Columbia

United States District Court, District of Columbia

February 20, 2014

EVELYN LYLES, Plaintiff,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT Re Document Nos.: 45, 47.

RUDOLPH CONTRERAS, District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

Evelyn Lyles brings this employment discrimination action against her former employer, the District of Columbia's Department of Mental Health ("District"). She alleges that the District discriminated against her on the basis of her sex and her disability in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. She also alleges that her employer retaliated against her by transferring her to a different department when she filed an EEOC complaint against it. The defendants moved for summary judgment on all claims. For the reasons that follow, the Court will grant in part and deny in part the defendant's motion.

II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

Evelyn Lyles began working for the District of Columbia's Department of Mental Health in 1994 as a Vocational Rehabilitation Specialist. See Second Am. Compl. ΒΆ 1, ECF No. 9 ("Compl."). She worked in the Department's Supported Employment Program, which was part of the Department's Community Service Administration. See Def.'s Mot. Summ. J. 1, ECF No. 45. Her job entailed "providing a full range of consumer employment and vocational rehabilitation services for persons with severe and persistent mental[] illnesses.... [with] [e]mphasis... on empowering individuals to change their own lives...." Pl.'s Ex. 2 at 9, ECF No. 46-3. From 2002 until 2003, Ms. Lyles generally received good or excellent work performance evaluations from her then-supervisor, Deborah Hobbs. See Pl.'s Opp'n Mot. 3, ECF No. 46. In 2003, the District hired Carroll Parks to serve as the Director of the Adult Services Program (also within the Supported Employment Program), and he became Ms. Lyles's supervisor See id. Mr. Parks also gave Ms. Lyles excellent work performance evaluations from 2003 through 2006. See id.

A. Allegations of Sexual Harassment

In the fall of 2006, Mr. Parks hired Steven Miller to join Ms. Lyles's team. Ms. Lyles served as Mr. Miller's supervisor. Id. Ms. Lyles alleges that from March 2007 through August 2008, Mr. Miller "verbally and physically sexually harassed" her. See Pl.'s Ex. 10, Pl.'s Resp. to Interrogatory No. 5, ECF No. 46-11. She alleges that Mr. Miller "made lewd gestures toward [her], including imitating that he was spanking [her]." Id. In addition, he "would go out of his way when passing [her] in the hall to brush up next to her." Id. Ms. Lyles also alleged that on or around August 2007, Mr. Miller "grabbed [her] breast while they were in [her] office." Id. Even after he was transferred to a different office in November 2007, he would find ways to harass her, by "brush[ing] up close against [her] and star[ing] menacingly at her." Id. In her formal complaint to the EEOC, Ms. Lyles stated that the sexual hostile work environment "consisted of [Mr. Miller] being inappropriate with his language. He would pat me on my buttocks and make gestures with his hands as if he was jingling [sic] a butt." See Pl.'s Ex. 33, ECF No. 46-34. He also told her he would have to take her somewhere to give her a spanking. See id. She testified in her deposition that "there were times where he would make verbal slurs about I could spank you and that would change your ways... [a]nd different times I would take information into his office and he would make hand gestures as though he was juggling boobs with his hands." Lyles Dep. 80:13-19, ECF No. 46-12. He would also try to close the door when Ms. Lyles would come into his office, even though she would ask him not to. Lyles Dep. 80:XX-XXXXXXXX:1-4.

Ms. Lyles also received reports that Mr. Miller sexually harassed two other women. According to Ms. Lyles, around March or April 2007, Melody Crutchfield told her that Mr. Miller walked up behind her and grabbed her (Ms. Crutchfield's) breasts. See Lyles Dep. 69:122012 22; see also Pl.'s Ex. 12 Alleged Conduct of Steven Miller - Supported Employment Program at 1, ECF No. 46-13. Also according to Ms. Lyles, around June 2007, Ms. Joan Mitchell reported to her that Mr. Miller had "approached her from behind, [and] he pressed his penis against the middle of her buttocks indicating that he was excited." See id. at 3. Another co-worker of Ms. Lyles (according to Ms. Lyles), Ms. Carolyn Stevens, told Ms. Lyles that Ms. Mitchell had reported to her that Mr. Miller had "grabbed [Ms. Mitchell's] breasts." See id. at 2.

Ms. Lyles explained that she did several things in response to these reports, and in response to her own alleged harassment. She first called Mrs. Green at the personnel office. Mrs. Green suggested that Ms. Lyles contact Brendolyn McCarty-Jones, the Senior Labor Relations Specialist for the Community Services Administration. Ms. Jones advised Ms. Lyles to contact Mr. Parks. See Lyles Dep. at 77201278. On or around June 14, 2007, Ms. Lyles contacted Mr. Parks to report her concern with Mr. Miller. See Pl.'s Ex. 12 at 1; see also Pl.'s Resp. to Interrogatory No. 4, ECF No. 46-2 ("[p]laintiff met with Carroll Parks regarding Mr. Miller's behavior toward the Plaintiff, and toward two other women, Melody Crutchfield and Joan Mitchell. In this meeting, the Plaintiff informed Mr. Parks of harassment that she was experiencing from Mr. Miller"). Mr. Parks told Ms. Lyles to write up her allegations, which she did in a statement she prepared on June 19, 2007. See Pl.'s Ex. 12 at 1 (explaining that the statement "is provided as a follow-up to the verbal report that I made to you on June 14, 2007 regarding allegations made against Mr. Steven Miller"). That document described Ms. Mitchell's and Ms. Crutchfield's incidents of sexual harassment, but did not include Ms. Lyles's own allegations of sexual harassment against Mr. Miller.[1]

In addition, according to Ms. Lyles, in January 2008, she met with Gillian Daniels, an Administrative Officer for the Vocational Rehabilitation Division regarding the harassment from Mr. Miller. See Pl.'s Resp. to Interrogatory No. 4, ECF No. 46-2. Ms. Daniels suggested that Ms. Lyles reach out to an EEO Officer for the Department of Mental Health named Mr. Boone. See id. Ms. Lyles contacted him by email and by voicemail in February and March of 2008. See id. Mr. Boone reported that his Department was unable to resolve her complaint. See id.

Ms. Lyles then filed a formal EEOC Complaint on June 4, 2008, where she alleged that she had been discriminated against on the basis of her sex and her disability, and had been subjected to a hostile work environment. See Def.'s Ex. K, ECF No. 45-2. On July 29, 2008, the defendant issued a "Statement of Position, " analyzing Ms. Lyles's claims. It found Ms. Lyles's allegations to be unfounded. See Def.'s Ex. F at 320124, ECF No. 45-1. In that Statement of Position, the District stated that "the two female employees the Complainant [Ms. Lyles] identified refused to validate the Complainant's report. As a result, the Manager had no complaint to take on behalf of the employees identified." See id. at 3. In that report, the District also took the position that Ms. Lyles " never reported to them [that] she was a victim of sexual harassment." See id. (emphasis in original).

B. Allegations of Disability Discrimination

Ms. Lyles also alleges that as a result of her harassment by Mr. Miller, her symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder ("PTSD") and Depression, which she had been diagnosed with in 1999, began to flare up. See Pl.'s Opp'n Mot. at 7. She alleges that she first requested accommodations for this disability in an email dated January 10, 2008, to Stephen Baron, the Director for the Department of Mental Health. See Pl.'s Ex. 19, ECF No. 46-20. She followed-up this email with another email to him dated February 21, 2008. See Pl.'s Ex. 20, ECF No. 46-21. In both emails, she mentioned that she intended to file complaints to the EEOC regarding her alleged mistreatment at work. She also wrote Mr. Baron another email dated April 21, 2008, to which he briefly replied the next day.[2] See Pl.'s Ex. 21, ECF No. 46-22.

Ms. Lyles's doctor, Dr. John Galotto, submitted a letter to Mr. Baron on June 27, 2008, requesting that Ms. Lyles be reassigned to a "non-threatening, non-hostile work environment for medical reasons." See Pl.'s Ex. 23, ECF No. 46-24. Mr. Baron responded to this request on July 2, 2008, explaining that he had referred the letter and the accommodation request to Ms. Juanita Price (Mr. Parks's supervisor). See id.

On August 28, 2008, Mr. Parks wrote a letter to Ms. Lyles informing her that she was being detailed from the Supported Employment Program to the Day Services Program "[d]ue to loss of staff in the Day Program to the Early Out and resignations...." See Pl.'s Ex. 24, ECF No. 46-25. In this role, Ms. Lyles claims she was no longer permitted to do client assessments, but instead was "responsible for driving case managers around in the community, watching, and observing their home visits as an aide, and later completing the home checklist to turn in at the end of the day." See Pl.'s Resp. to Interrogatory Nos. 16 & 17, ECF No. 46-2; see also Pl.'s Opp'n Mot. at 820129.

On November 6, 2008, Ms. Lyles was again reassigned, this time to the Community Support Team ("CST") 3. See Pl.'s Ex. 25, ECF No. 46-26. This detail was not specific to Ms. Lyles, rather, everyone involved in the Day Services Program was reassigned due to the closure of the program. See, e.g., Def.'s Ex. J, ECF No. 45-2 (letter dated March 3, 2008 explaining that the "Supported Employment Program [was] in the process of redesign"); Def.'s Ex. N, ECF No. 45-2 ("The reassignment is due to the closing of the day services and other needs within the Adult Services."); Pl.'s Ex. 26, ECF No. 46-27 ("due to closure of day program she was reassigned to CST 3").

On May 20, 2009, the defendant notified Ms. Lyles that she would be separated from District government services effective August 1, 2009. See Def.'s Mot. Summ. J. at 9. Ms. Lyles commenced the ...


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