United States District Court, District of Columbia
MEMORANDUM OPINION [DKT. # 12]
RICHARD J. LEON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Content Robinson-Douglas ("plaintiff) brings this action
against her former employer, defendant Coastal International
Security, Inc. ("defendant" or "Coastal")
to challenge her allegedly unlawful termination. In her
amended complaint, plaintiff contends that Coastal violated
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §
2000e et seq., and the D.C. Human Rights Act
("DCHRA"), D.C. Code § 2-1401.01 et
seq., by discriminating against her on the basis of sex
and retaliating against her for engaging in statutorily
protected activities. See generally Am. Compl. [Dkt.
counters that plaintiff was terminated not on the basis of
sex or as an act of retaliation, but because plaintiff failed
a security test and committed various infractions of company
policy while stationed as a security guard at the Department
of Commerce ("DOC"). See Def.'s Mot.
Summ. J. ("Def.'s Mot.") 1 [Dkt. #12]. Coastal
has thus moved for summary judgment on all claims. Upon
consideration of the parties' submissions and the entire
record, defendant's motion for summary judgment is
provides security services to government agencies including,
as relevant here, the DOC. See Def.'s Mot. App.
A, Decl. of Josephine Coker ("Coker Decl.") ¶
2 [Dkt. # 12-2]. At the time of the events set out in the
amended complaint, Coastal served as a subcontractor for the
COGAR Group ("COGAR"), which was the DOC's
prime security contractor. See Def.'s Mot. App.
B, Decl. of John Spray ("Spray Decl") ¶ 2
[Dkt. # 12-3]. Individuals from DOC, COGAR, and Coastal were
together responsible for supervising the relevant security
operations at DOC. Those supervisors included John Spray,
Coastal's Deputy Program Manager for the DOC contract;
Charles May field, the Program Manager for COGAR; Ray
Wallace, COGAR's Special Police Officer in charge at DOC;
and William Smith, the DOC employee who served as the
Contracting Officer Technical Representative. See
Id. ¶¶ 1, 3.
worked for Coastal as a special police officer at the DOC.
See Def.'s Mot. App. C, Dep. of Content
Robinson-Douglas ("Pl's Dep.") 11:8-11 [Dkt. #
12-4]. In that role, plaintiff was responsible for manning
her station in accordance with the applicable regulations and
policies, ensuring that individuals accessing the building
had the requisite credentials, and detecting suspicious or
criminal activities near her post. See Spray Decl.
¶ 5. In light of the special police officers'
duties, it is no surprise that Coastal maintains written
policies prohibiting officers on duty from possessing or
using cell phones, reading unofficial material, or eating or
drinking at their posts. Id. ¶ 8; see also
Id. Ex. B; id. Ex. C. Indeed, Coastal officers
are subject to immediate discharge for "[violations of
general or specific Post Orders or directives to include, but
not limited to, inattention to duty" or "[n]eglect
of duty, which could cause a claim or penalty to be assessed
against" Coastal. Spray Decl. ¶ 8.
ensure that special police officers are fulfilling their
security functions, the Government conducts periodic
"intrusion tests" during which undercover employees
attempt to gain access to the Government facility without
proper credentials or while in possession of a prohibited
item. Id. ¶ 9. Coastal policy provides that an
officer who unintentionally fails an intrusion test is
subject to a five day suspension and refresher training.
See id.; id. Ex. B, Mem. from Coastal
Int'l Sec. Human Res. to Coastal Employees (Sept. 1,
2011). On the morning of March 29, 2016, the DOC Office of
Security performed an intrusion test to evaluate
officers' ability to "enforce access control
policies" at the tunnel entrance to the DOC's
Herbert C. Hoover Building, where plaintiff was then
stationed. Spray Decl. ¶ 10. DOC Office of Security
employee Sheryl Hollins ran the test; Spray, Mayfield, and
Wallace observed the test from the DOC command center.
Id. ¶¶ 10-\\\see also Spray Decl.
Ex. E ("Intrusion Test Report").
the least, plaintiff did not fare well on the intrusion test.
Specifically, plaintiff granted facility access to an
undercover individual with an "expired agency
identification (ID) badge with a photo bearing no resemblance
to the tester." Intrusion Test Report 2. Following the
exercise, plaintiff was informed that she had failed the
intrusion test and was immediately removed from her post.
See Spray Decl. ¶ 12; Pl's Dep. 61:19-22.
Pursuant to Coastal's policy, Spray met with plaintiff to
explain that she would be suspended for five days and would
need to complete a refresher training course prior to
returning as a security officer. See Pl's Dep.
63:2-13; Spray Decl. ¶ 12.
requested to view the video footage of the test, but was
denied permission to do so by DOC. Spray Decl. ¶ 13. Her
request, however, prompted Smith and Mayfield to review the
footage themselves. Id; see also Spray Decl. Ex. G
("Mayfield Statement"). Their review of the
morning's events showed that, in addition to failing the
intrusion test, plaintiff had committed numerous violations
of DOC, COGAR, and Coastal policy while at her post.
Plaintiffs violations included: 1) using her cell phone for
over seven minutes; 2) exchanging money for food; and 3)
standing with her back to the tunnel entrance, which
prevented her from facing approximately fifty-seven employees
who entered the building during that time period. Mayfield
Statement 1; Spray Decl. ¶ 14. According to DOC and
COGAR, plaintiffs conduct was so neglectful that it amounted
to her post being "open" or unstaffed on the
morning in question. Spray Decl. ¶ 15; see also
Mayfield Statement 1-2. As a result, DOC refused to pay
Coastal for staffing plaintiffs post and further requested
(along with COGAR) plaintiffs immediate removal from the DOC
contract. Spray Decl. ¶¶ 15-16; id. Ex. H.
April 5, 2016, Coastal suspended plaintiff indefinitely while
it investigated plaintiffs conduct and evaluated DOC and
COGAR's request to remove plaintiff from the contract.
See Spray Decl. ¶ 17; id. Ex. J. Spray
reviewed the surveillance video and a statement from COGAR
employee Mayfield, in which Mayfield catalogued plaintiffs
numerous violations and requested plaintiffs removal from the
contract. Spray Decl. ¶ 18; see generally
Mayfield Statement. Spray's review of those documents,
along with the fact that DOC had penalized Coastal for an
open post based on plaintiffs conduct, led Spray to conclude
that plaintiff should be terminated. See Spray Decl.
¶ 18; see also Id. Ex. K. At the time of that
conclusion, Spray states that he was "not aware that
Plaintiff had filed any Charge of Discrimination" with
the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
("EEOC"). Spray Decl.¶ 19.
submitted his termination recommendation to Coastal's
parent corporation, The Akal Group ("Akal"), which
had the ultimate responsibility for finalizing all
termination decisions. See Id. ¶ 18; Coker
Decl. ¶ 3. The matter was assigned to Josephine Coker,
an Akal human resources manager. Coker Decl. ¶¶ 1,
4. After reviewing Spray's report, Coker agreed that
plaintiff should be terminated and recommended that course of
action to Janet Gunn, Akal's Chief Administrative
Officer. Id. ¶¶ 3-5. On April 12, 2016,
Gunn approved plaintiffs termination pending Coker's
personal review of the surveillance video. Id.
¶ 5. One week later, after Coker's review of the
video, Gunn gave the final approval to terminate plaintiff.
Id. ¶ 6. Plaintiff was informed of that
decision by letter dated April 20, 2016. See Id. Ex.
to Coker, neither she nor Gunn had any knowledge of any DOC
EEOC charge filed by plaintiff at the time of the termination
decision. See Id. ¶ 12. Rather, Coker asserts
that the termination decision was based on "violations
of policies and procedures, including but not limited to:
Negligence; Neglect of duty; Inattention to duty; Failure to
follow security procedures; Personal cellular telephone on
post; Disregarding orders; Socializing/fraternizing on duty;
Food/drink on post; Failure to be alert to [the] environment
or surroundings. Loss of confidence." Id.
¶ 6; see also Id. Ex. B. Since January 2014,
Coker states that Coastal has terminated nine other
employees-four males and five females-for similar violations.
See Coker Decl. ¶ 16.
tells a different story-or stories, more accurately-regarding
her termination. At her deposition and in a charge she filed
with the National Labor Relations Board ("NLRB"),
plaintiff stated that her termination occurred because of her
union steward activities and, specifically, a confrontation
she had with Wallace on the morning of the intrusion test.
See Pl's Dep. 109:11-110:3, 110:14-21; see
also Id. Ex. 1 (NLRB charge alleging that termination
occurred because of plaintiff s "activities on behalf of
the union"). By contrast, plaintiffs amended complaint
alleges that her termination was based on retaliation for an
EEOC charge allegedly filed on April 15, 2016, but of which
there is no record. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 14, 25. Finally,
plaintiff asserts that her termination was an act of sex
discrimination, alleging that she was treated more harshly
than male Coastal employees who failed intrusion tests.
Id. ¶¶ 13, 19.
April 26, 2016, six days after her termination, plaintiff
filed a formal complaint with the EEOC. Id.
¶16. She received a right to sue letter that same day.
See Pl's Dep. 126:1-5. Plaintiff then filed her
complaint in this Court on July 26, 2016, receiving leave to
amend the complaint on January 19, 2018. See
1/19/2018 Mem. Order [Dkt. # 15]. In her amended complaint,
plaintiff alleges that Coastal violated Title VII and the
DCHRA by ...