Argued April 2, 2014
Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. (CAB-6832-09). (Hon. Gregory E. Jackson, Trial Judge).
Steven C. Kahn with whom Arthur P. Rogers, was on brief, for appellant.
Stacy L. Anderson, Senior Assistant Attorney General, with whom Irvin B. Nathan, Attorney General for the District of Columbia, Todd S. Kim, Solicitor General, and Loren L. Alikhan, Deputy Solicitor General, were on the brief, for appellees.
Richard T. Seymour and Les Alderman filed a brief for Metropolitan Washington Employment Lawyers Association as amicus curiae in support of appellant.
Before WASHINGTON, Chief Judge, BECKWITH, Associate Judge, and PRYOR, Senior Judge.
Appellant Tyrone Bryant filed an action in Superior Court alleging wrongful discharge from employment by the District of Columbia in retaliation for repeated statements of his intent to testify against the District in a different civil action. After Mr. Bryant had presented his case-in-chief to a jury in support of his claim, see McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 93 S.Ct. 1817, 36 L.Ed.2d 668 (1973), the trial court concluded that the evidence was insufficient to meet the required prima facie standard and dismissed the case. Mr. Bryant then moved to reopen his case to offer an additional deposition into evidence to meet his burden. The trial court denied the motion, stating that even with the deposition, Mr. Bryant did not present sufficient evidence to constitute a prima facie case. We conclude that with the proffered deposition, Mr. Bryant has stated a prima facie claim, and that the trial court abused its discretion by refusing to reopen the case to admit the deposition and likewise erred in dismissing Mr. Bryant's complaint. We vacate the trial court's judgment and remand the case for further proceedings.
Mr. Bryant was employed as a correctional officer with the District of Columbia Department of Youth Rehabilitative Services (DYRS) at its Oak Hill Youth Center in Laurel, Maryland. He worked as an at-will employee at DYRS for eighteen years until his termination on November 20, 2008. Mr. Bryant began working at an entry-level position in 1990 and received four promotions until ultimately becoming a shift commander in 2004. Prior to his termination, Mr. Bryant received several awards and positive performance reviews. Mr. Bryant's direct supervisor, DYRS Deputy Superintendent David Thomas, regarded Mr. Bryant as dependable and an overall good employee.
In 2005, a correctional officer at Oak Hill under Mr. Bryant's supervision filed suit against the District alleging that other DYRS managers had harassed her. In preparation for the litigation, an investigative team for the District toured the Oak Hill facility in September 2008. Mr. Thomas asked Mr. Bryant to lead the tour, and during the course of the tour Mr. Bryant informed the team members that he believed--and would so testify--that the employee had been sexually harassed at work. The following month, October 2008, Mr. Thomas told Mr. Bryant that counsel to DYRS would be contacting him soon to prepare him to testify at a deposition in the lawsuit against the District. Mr. Bryant told Mr. Thomas that he did not need to ...