United States District Court, District of Columbia
Todd M. Ladson, Plaintiff,
The George Washington University, Defendant.
P. MEHTA UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Todd M. Ladson filed this lawsuit against his former
employer, Defendant The George Washington University
(“GW” or “the University”), alleging
that he was terminated from his position as a campus police
officer due to: (1) race discrimination in violation of Title
VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 1981,
and the D.C. Human Rights Act; and (2) age discrimination in
violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act and the
D.C. Human Rights Act. This lawsuit stems from a complaint
made in March 2013, when Plaintiff, a 24-veteran of the GW
campus police, was accused by a fellow officer of making
inappropriate comments about her sexual preference and
activities. The University initiated a months-long
investigation into the complaint, which uncovered more
evidence of inappropriate comments by Plaintiff. Defendant
ultimately determined that Plaintiff's behavior violated
the University's policy against sexual harassment and
created a hostile work environment for his colleagues. In
September 2013, Plaintiff was terminated from his position.
views these events differently. He denies making the comments
in question and argues that, even if he did, they were not
harassing and discriminatory, but rather were innocent and
misinterpreted. He further argues that the University's
investigation was unfair and one-sided. Finally, Plaintiff
contends that the University terminated him due to his race
and age while it failed to punish other instances of similar,
or more egregious, conduct by white officers and younger
court now considers Defendant's Motion for Summary
Judgment. Having reviewed the parties' briefing and the
evidence, the court finds that no reasonable jury could
conclude that George Washington University discriminated
against Plaintiff based on his race or his age when it
terminated him. The court therefore grants Defendant's
Motion for Summary Judgment.
The Complaint Against Officer Ladson
Todd Ladson began working at The George Washington University
(“GW” or “the University”) in 1989.
Pl.'s Opp'n to Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J., ECF No.
15 [hereinafter Pl.'s Opp'n], at 8. By 2013,
Plaintiff was serving a supervisory role as a Master Patrol
Officer in GW's police force. Def.'s Mot. for Summ.
J., ECF No. 14 [hereinafter Def.'s Mot.], Def.'s
Stmt. of Material Facts, ECF No. 14-2 [hereinafter Def.'s
Stmt.], ¶ 1; Pl.'s Opp'n, Stmt. of Material
Facts in Dispute, ECF No. 15-1 [hereinafter Pl.'s Stmt.],
¶ 1. In March 2013, one of Plaintiff's colleagues,
GW police officer Tiffany Justice, complained to the
University that Plaintiff had made inappropriate comments
about her sexual preference and activities. Def.'s Mot,
Ex. 1, March 27, 2013, Email from Tiffany Justice to Tara
Pereira, ECF No. 14-3 [hereinafter Justice Email].
Specifically, Officer Justice alleged that Plaintiff had made
three inappropriate remarks, namely: (1) he made comments to
Officer Linda Queen regarding her (Queen's) sexuality and
suggesting that she was sexually involved with Officer
Justice; (2) he suggested to another officer that Officer
Justice was “one of you, ” thereby implying that
Officer Justice was a lesbian; and (3) he warned a new
officer that she will “have men and women after
her.” Justice Email at 1; Def.'s Stmt. ¶ 2;
Pl.'s Stmt. ¶ 2.
prohibits sexual harassment by its employees. Def.'s
Stmt. ¶¶ 3-4; Pl.'s Stmt. ¶¶ 3-4;
see also Def.'s Mot., Ex. 2, Interim Sexual
Harassment and Sexual Violence Policy and Procedures, ECF No.
14-4. Pursuant to its policy, upon receiving
Officer Justice's complaint against Plaintiff, GW began
an investigation into Plaintiff's comments. Def.'s
Stmt. ¶ 9; Pl.'s Stmt. ¶ 9. Plaintiff was
suspended with pay on April 2, 2013, “pending an
investigation regarding recent allegations that you have been
improperly making unwanted comments of a sexual nature about
a co-worker and her private life.” Def.'s Mot., Ex.
7, Letter to Officer Ladson from Chief Kevin Hay, April 2,
2013, ECF No. 14-9.
The Investigation by GW Into Officer Ladson's
Pereira, GW's then-Assistant Title IX Coordinator and
Director of Campus Inclusion Initiatives, received the
initial complaint from Officer Justice and conducted the
investigation into Plaintiff's alleged comments.
Def.'s Mot., Ex. 10, Email from Tara Pereira to Officer
Ladson, April 3, 2013, ECF No. 14-12. As part of her
investigation, Ms. Pereira interviewed approximately 13
people and met with Plaintiff multiple times. Def.'s
Stmt. ¶¶ 13-14; Pl.'s Stmt. ¶¶ 13-14.
Through her efforts, Ms. Pereira learned-among other
things-that Plaintiff had made “lots of racist and
sexually graphic” comments; that he had new officer
trainees “bark like a dog” as they crawled
through a small tunnel; and that he had taught an officer how
to smoke marijuana without being caught. Officer Justice, in
particular, told Ms. Pereira that Plaintiff's comments
“impacted her safety, her environment, her work
performance, and the culture of [Plaintiff's]
shifts.” Def.'s Mot., Ex. 9, Dep. of Tara Pereira,
ECF No. 14-11 [hereinafter Pereira Dep.], at 61-75. Officer
Justice further reported that Plaintiff's comments
“mak[e] it hard to come to work, ” and that
Plaintiff had once asked her “[w]hy are you staring at
me? Do I owe you child support?” Def.'s Mot., Ex
12, Pereira Investigation Notes, ECF No. 14-14.
Plaintiff and his union representative met with Ms. Pereira
as part of the investigation, he denied making these comments
and suggested that the witnesses who had come forward were
lying because they were jealous of him for “making the
most overtime” and being “very popular” and
a “happy-go-lucky person.” Def.'s Mot., Ex.
3, Dep. of Todd Ladson, ECF No. 14-5 [hereinafter Ladson
Dep.], at 85-86. However, Plaintiff was unable to point to
any evidence to corroborate his claim that the officers who
had testified against him were jealous of him, id.
at 86, or that his accusers had lied during the
investigation, id. at 95.
conclusion of her investigation, Ms. Pereira found that
Plaintiff's conduct was “longstanding” and
“pervasive” and had impacted numerous officers.
Def.'s Stmt. ¶ 33; Pl.'s Stmt. ¶ 22;
Pereira Dep. at 100. After the investigation, Plaintiff and
his union representative met with Ms. Pereira and Kevin Hay,
Chief of the GW Police Department. Def.'s Stmt ¶ 34;
Pl.'s Stmt. ¶ 22. The parties were unable to reach a
resolution and so, pursuant to University policy, Chief Hay
requested that a formal hearing be held. Def.'s Mot., Ex.
15, Memorandum Requesting Formal Hearing Regarding
Allegations Against Officer Ladson, ECF No. 14-17, at 1-2.
August 1, 2013, the University convened a Special
Panel to hear the complaint filed against
Plaintiff alleging sexual harassment and conduct that created
a hostile work environment. Def.'s Mot., Ex. 11, Special
Panel Report Regarding Complaint Against Officer Todd Ladson,
August 14, 2013, ECF No. 14-13 [hereinafter Special Panel
Report], at 1. At the hearing, Chief Hay and Plaintiff made
opening statements. Id. at 3. Chief Hay then
presented five witnesses, including Officer Justice and Ms.
Pereira. Id. Those witnesses “testified as to
remarks and comments made by Officer Ladson regarding their
sexuality or the sexuality of others.” Id. at
Special Panel heard numerous examples of inappropriate
comments made by Plaintiff and their effect on his coworkers,
• Officer Justice testified that Plaintiff had told the
parents of another officer that their daughter was in a
relationship with Officer Justice;
• Security Officer Octavia Livingston testified that
Plaintiff had told her that he did not approve of homosexuals
and tried “to convince her that she should be with
• Former Police Officer Suzanne Combs testified that she
had heard Plaintiff make negative comments following her
marriage to her female partner in 2011;
• Security Officer Livingston testified that Plaintiff
had made graphic comments while interrogating her about her
sexual behavior. She further testified that she had
“submitted] herself to Plaintiffs treatment and did not
file a formal complaint because Plaintiffs recommendation was
critical to her own status as an officer in the GW Police
• Officer Queen testified that Plaintiff had inquired
whether she and Officer Justice “were fucking”
and recalled being told that Plaintiff described her as
“crazy as shit” and that she “fucks with
girls when she wants to”;
• Three witnesses testified that Plaintiffs conduct made
it more difficult for lesbian officers to work among and be
accepted by their fellow officers, and mentioned specific
ways in which that “chilling effect” changed
their feelings or behavior; and . Witnesses
testified that they “dreaded their training
period” with Plaintiff and at least two ...