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Carter-Frost v. District of Columbia

United States District Court, District of Columbia

April 9, 2018



          Emmet G. Sullivan United States District Judge

         I. Introduction

         Plaintiff Pamela Carter-Frost (“Ms. Carter-Frost”) brings three claims against Defendant District of Columbia (“District”) for events arising from her employment with the District of Columbia Metropolitan Police Department (“MPD”). Her complaint alleges (1) gender discrimination; (2) retaliation; and (3) a hostile work environment-all in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”), as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000(e), et seq.; the District of Columbia Human Rights Act (“DCHRA”), D.C. Code § 2-1401.01, et seq.; and the Civil Rights Act of 1991, 42 U.S.C. § 1981(a) (“Section 1981”). Ms. Carter-Frost requests compensatory damages and expenses, in addition to other equitable relief, including ordering the District to institute policies against discrimination and imposing supervisory training. Pending before the Court is the District's motion for summary judgment. See Def.'s Mot., ECF No. 19. The Court has carefully considered the motion, the response and reply thereto, the applicable law, and the entire record herein. For the reasons set forth below, the Court GRANTS IN PART and DENIES IN PART the defendant's motion for summary judgment. Ms. Carter-Frost's gender discrimination claim may proceed, but the District is entitled to summary judgment on her retaliation and hostile work environment claims.

         II. Background

         Except where indicated, the following facts are not in dispute. Ms. Carter-Frost was an officer employed with the MPD for over twenty-five years before she retired in 2015. Pl.'s Dep., ECF No. 24-2 at 9:24-25; Retirement Order, ECF No. 24-4. She started her MPD career in 1990 as a patrol officer in the Sixth District. Id. at 9:24-25. However, for the vast majority of her employment, from 1992 to 2012, Ms. Carter-Frost worked as a time and attendance (“T&A”) clerk within the Criminal Investigation Division (“CID”). Pl.'s Dep., ECF No. 24-2 at 11:6-20:3. As a T&A clerk, Ms. Carter-Frost was responsible for preparing the payroll by inputting time entries from the logbook, which documented each officer's shift. Id. at 16:3-17:1. She served as a T&A clerk in various MPD CID offices, but she last worked in CID Headquarters. Id. at 19:5-24. While Ms. Carter-Frost moved offices at least five times over those twenty years, each detail as a T&A clerk was voluntary upon application or request. Id. at 11:6-20:3.

         A. Investigation and “Involuntary” Lateral Details

         In 2013, while serving as a T&A clerk at CID Headquarters, the Investigative Services Bureau (“Bureau”) investigated Ms. Carter-Frost for misconduct. See Investigative Report, ECF No. 24-6. According to the Bureau's Report, Ms. Carter-Frost and another male officer referred to as “Officer J.Y., ” were found to have violated MPD T&A policy from November 2012 through January 2013. Id. Officer J.Y. also performed administrative work at CID Headquarters. Id. at 2. Unlike Ms. Carter-Frost, Officer J.Y. was not a T&A clerk by title, but he had T&A login credentials, and he periodically entered T&A information. Id. at 3, 6. According to the Bureau's findings, Officer J.Y. allowed Ms. Carter-Frost to enter her own time using his unique T&A login code. Id. at 7. This violated MPD policy and exposed both officers to criminal liability because T&A clerks were not allowed to enter their own hours “due to conflict of interest.” Id. at 6. While Ms. Carter-Frost admitted that she used Officer J.Y.'s code to enter her own time, she claims that she was unaware that doing so was prohibited by MPD rules. Id. at 3.

         This finding was referred to the Office of the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, which declined to prosecute the case, leaving the violation for administrative resolution. USAO-DC Letter, ECF No. 24-10. At that point, the MPD upheld the charge against both officers and recommended “adverse action” ranging from reprimand to removal for both. Recommendation Letter, ECF No. 24-8; Notice of Proposed Action, ECF No. 24-9. Officer J.Y. was originally suspended for five days, Final Notice, ECF No. 24-5, but the suspension was rescinded on appeal. Appeal, ECF No. 24-11. Neither party submitted formal proof of Ms. Carter-Frost's punishment. See generally Def.'s Mot., ECF No. 19; Pl.'s Opp'n, ECF No. 24. However, it is undisputed that Ms. Carter-Frost was “involuntarily” transferred twice from her T&A work. Def.'s Reply, ECF No. 28 at 8, ¶ 22; 11, ¶ 32.

         In November or December 2012, Ms. Carter-Frost was transferred to the Forensics Unit, where she “was assigned to sit in a workspace with no windows, no telephone, and no desk.” Pl.'s Opp'n, ECF No. 24 at 5, ¶ 4. There, she was tasked with filing the police reports from every district. Id. ¶ 5. In February 2013, she was “involuntarily detailed” a second time to a patrol position in the Fifth District. Id. ¶¶ 6, 7. This post became permanent in May 2013, as “corrective action” for her T&A policy violation. Pl.'s Dep., ECF No. 24-2 at 52:24-53:19. Ms. Carter-Frost alleges that she felt threatened when faced with this corrective action: her choices, as she saw them, were to accept this transfer or be terminated. Id. at 58:14-59:13. As a result of the transfer, Ms. Carter-Frost worked as a patrol officer for the first time in twenty-two years. Id. at 60:20-25. She remained on patrol until she retired in 2015.

         B. Denied Requests and Complaints

         Ms. Carter-Frost alleges that she submitted several personnel requests, which were all denied. These requests included a request for leave in June 2011, id. at 38:8-40:7; a request to have her schedule changed at some point in 2012, id. at 46:4-47:11; and “two or three” requests to be transferred back to T&A work at the CID, id. at 30:10-18. Ms. Carter-Frost also alleges that, beginning in November 2012, she was denied the opportunity to accrue overtime or compensatory time. Id. at 40:20-41:2. According to Ms. Carter-Frost, her male colleagues had their “basic work requests granted, ” such as leave requests and work preferences. Pl.'s Opp'n, ECF No. 24 at 23-24.

         Ms. Carter-Frost also alleges that she made several complaints regarding this perceived unfair treatment. She alleges that she first filed a complaint with MPD's Equal Employment Opportunity (“EEO”) Branch in 2002, alleging a hostile work environment. Pl.'s Dep., ECF No. 24-2 at 26:25-27:19. According to Ms. Carter-Frost, she next complained in the spring of 2012 to a Commander about her supervisor's preferential treatment of male officers. Id. at 34:11-15. She allegedly made this complaint by sticking a post-it note on the Commander's office door. Id. at 36:2-7. Next, Ms. Carter-Frost alleges that she filed a second EEO complaint on November 26, 2012, concerning the MPD's perceived “differential treatment, retaliation, and hostile work environment.” Pl.'s Stmt. of Disputed Facts (“Pl.'s Stmt.”), ECF No. 24-14 ¶ 19. However, according to a MPD Investigator who searched the MPD's EEO archives for 2002 and 2012, there is no record of either complaint. See Tapp Aff., ECF No. 19-2 ¶¶ 2-4.

         Ultimately, on August 12, 2013, Ms. Carter-Frost filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) and the District of Columbia Office of Human Rights (DCOHR) alleging retaliation, gender discrimination, and a hostile work environment. EEOC Charge, ECF No. 24-3 (amended). She received her right to sue notice on March 17, 2015, ECF No. 24-7, and timely filed this lawsuit on June 16, 2015.

         III. Standard of Review

         Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, summary judgment should be granted only “if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); Waterhouse v. District of Columbia, 298 F.3d 989, 991 (D.C. Cir. 2002). The moving party must identify “those portions of the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986) (internal quotation marks omitted). On the other hand, to defeat summary judgment, the nonmoving party must demonstrate that there is a genuine issue of material fact. Id. at 324. A material fact is one that is capable of affecting the outcome of the litigation. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986), while a genuine dispute is one in which “the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Id. Further, in the summary judgment analysis “[t]he evidence of the non-movant is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor.” Id. at 255.

         IV. Analysis

         A. Ms. Carter-Frost's DCHRA Claims Are Not Time-Barred

         As an initial matter, the District alleges that Ms. Carter-Frost's DCHRA claims for gender discrimination and retaliation are time-barred because: (1) the DCHRA statute of limitations is one year; (2) the last incident of discrimination/retaliation allegedly occurred in February 2013; and (3) Ms. Carter-Frost did not file her claim until June 16, 2015, over two years later. Def.'s Mot., ECF No. 19 at 7. The DCHRA requires that a “private cause of action . . . shall be filed . . . within one year of the unlawful discriminatory act, or the discovery thereof.” D.C. Code § 2-1403.16. But the statute of limitations is tolled upon filing a complaint with the EEOC, which also automatically cross-files a complaint with the DCOHR. See, e.g., Craig v. District of Columbia, 881 F.Supp.2d 26, 33 (D.D.C. 2012); Ibrahim v. Unisys Corp., 582 F.Supp.2d 41, 45-47 (D.D.C. 2008) (citing Esteños v. PAHO/WHO Federal Credit Union, 952 A.2d 878, 880-85 (D.C. 2008)). Ms. Carter-Frost filed her amended EEOC claim, which was cross-filed with the DCOHR, on August 12, 2013. EEOC Charge, ECF No. 24-3. On March 17, 2015, the EEOC denied her claim and Ms. Carter-Frost received her right-to-sue notice. Notice Right-to-Sue, ECF No. 24-7. She filed this lawsuit on June 16, 2015. Therefore, the statute of limitations was tolled from August 12, 2013-the date she filed the EEOC complaint-through March 17, 2015-the date she received the right-to-sue notice. Ms. Carter-Frost alleges discrimination, retaliation, and a hostile work environment through at least February 2013. See generally Compl., ECF No. 1. Thus, excluding the time that was tolled while the EEOC complaint was pending, only ...

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