United States District Court, District of Columbia
G. Sullivan United States District Judge.
Sheldon Battles (“Mr. Battles”), proceeding
pro se, brings this action against defendant
Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority
(“WMATA”), arising out of the termination of his
employment. In November 2015, WMATA terminated Mr. Battles
from his supervisory position as Assistant Superintendent of
Bus Service Operations at the West Ox Bus Division after
determining that he violated: (1) WMATA's
Nepotism/Favoritism Policy for engaging in a consensual
sexual relationship with a female subordinate; and (2)
WMATA's Sexual Harassment Policy for inappropriate
conduct with a female employee in 2009. An internal
investigation revealed that two other female subordinates
accused him of sexual harassment in 2015. While he denies
those allegations, Mr. Battles admits to engaging in a
consensual sexual relationship with a female subordinate. He
contends that his termination was both false and pretextual.
before the Court are the parties' cross-motions for
summary judgment. Upon careful consideration of the
parties' submissions, the applicable law, and the entire
record herein, the Court concludes that there are no material
facts in dispute, and WMATA lawfully terminated Mr. Battles
for cause. Therefore, the Court GRANTS
WMATA's motion for summary judgment and
DENIES Mr. Battles' cross-motion for
material facts in this case are undisputed. See,
e.g., Def.'s Statement of Material Facts
(“SOMF”), ECF No. 33-1 at 1-3; Pl.'s SOMF,
ECF No. 34 at 9-11; Def.'s Reply to Pl.'s SOMF, ECF
No. 38-1 at 1-4. The Court will only refer to those facts
as necessary to resolve the cross-motions because the Court
assumes the parties' familiarity with the factual
background and procedural history. The Court summarized the
factual allegations in this case in greater detail in its
prior opinion. See Battles v. Wash. Metro. Area Transit
Auth., 272 F.Supp.3d 5 (D.D.C. 2017).
2007 and 2015, Mr. Battles earned a series of promotions at
WMATA. Compl., ECF No. 1 ¶ 8. He became Assistant
Superintendent of Bus Services Operations in the West Ox Bus
Division on March 22, 2015. Def.'s SOMF, ECF No. 33-1 at
1 ¶ 1. He served in that supervisory position for more
than eight months. Id. In that role, Mr. Battles
supervised Rhonda Gaines-Kelsey, a female employee.
See Compl., ECF No. 1 ¶¶ 9, 16-17.
Beginning in May 2015 and ending in July 2015, Mr. Battles
and Ms. Gaines-Kelsey engaged in a consensual sexual
relationship. See Investigative Report, ECF No. 33-9
at 2, 6. During the two-month long relationship, they
exchanged nude pictures. Id. at 6.
point in September 2015 or October 2015, Mr. Battles imposed
a five-day suspension on Ms. Gaines-Kelsey because she
violated WMATA's Absenteeism Policy. Id. On
October 1, 2015, Ms. Gaines-Kelsey lodged an internal
complaint of sexual harassment against him in WMATA's
Office of Civil Rights, alleging that Mr. Battles retaliated
against her after she refused to welcome his advances.
Def.'s SOMF, ECF No. 33-1 ¶ 6; see also
Gaines-Kelsey's Formal Compl., ECF No. 33-8 at 2-3. Soon
thereafter, WMATA's Office of Equal Employment
Opportunity (“OEEO”) conducted an investigation
into Ms. Gaines-Kelsey's allegations, and the OEEO
investigator, Devin Walker, interviewed Mr. Battles, Ms.
Gaines-Kelsey, and seven other WMATA employees, including
Antoinette White and Renee Duren. Def.'s SOMF, ECF No.
33-1 ¶ 7.
November 9, 2015, the OEEO investigator issued a seven-page
investigative report, finding that “[t]here [was]
insufficient evidence to support a probable cause finding of
sexual harassment in [Ms. Gaines-Kelsey's]
complaint.” Investigative Report, ECF No. 33-9 at 6. In
fact, Ms. Gaines-Kelsey admitted that her sexual relationship
with Mr. Battles was consensual, and she “welcome[d]
the receipt of the nude, sexual picture from Mr.
Battles[.]” Id. The report also found that Ms.
Gaines-Kelsey's five-day suspension was warranted.
investigation, however, revealed that Ms. White and Ms. Duren
accused Mr. Battles of sexual harassment. Id. At
4-5, 7. The report stated that those “two female Bus
Operators . . . alleged that they were regularly subjected to
sexual propositions and personal compliments from Mr.
Battles.” Id. at 7. The investigation also
revealed another incident:
[T]he evidence shows that on February 23, 2009, OEEO found
that Mr. Battles, who was a Street Supervisor at that time,
violated WMATA's Sexual Harassment policy when he
asked a female employee what type of underwear she was
wearing. OEEO recommended that Mr. Battles be suspended
for two days for his actions and to register for WMATA's
Sexual Harassment Training course.
Id. (emphasis added). The OEEO investigator
forwarded the findings regarding the sexual relationship
between Mr. Battles and Ms. Gaines-Kelsey to Robert Potts,
Acting Assistant General Manager, with a recommendation that
“appropriate disciplinary action be taken against Mr.
Battles for engaging in an inappropriate, personal
relationship with [a female subordinate] of a sexual
Battles received a letter, dated November 10, 2015, from the
OEEO informing him that the investigation found that
“[t]here was insufficient evidence to support a
probable cause finding of sexual harassment in [Ms.
Gaines-Kelsey's] complaint.” Pl.'s Ex. 1, ECF
No. 34-1 at 1. As stated in the letter, the evidence showed
that his personal relationship with Ms. Gaines-Kelsey was
“inconsistent with WMATA's Policy/Instruction 7.8.2
‘Nepotism/Favoritism,' Section 5.01 and
5.02.” Id. The letter explained that Mr.
Battles, who was in a “supervisory position, ”
“demonstrated poor judgment by engaging in an
inappropriate, personal relationship of a sexual
nature[.]” Id. at 2-3. The letter informed him
of the sexual harassment allegations made by Ms. White and
Ms. Duren, and the OEEO's findings regarding his sexual
relationship with Ms. Gaines-Kelsey were being forwarded to
Mr. Potts. Id.
November 27, 2015, WMATA terminated Mr. Battles.
E.g., Def.'s SOMF, ECF No. 33-1 ¶ 11;
Pl.'s SOMF, ECF No. 34 ¶ 10. The termination letter
explicitly cited Mr. Battles' violation of WMATA's
Sexual Harassment Policy as to the sexual harassment of a
female employee in 2009, and his violation of WMATA's
Nepotism/Favoritism Policy as to his sexual relationship with
Ms. Gaines-Kelsey. Letter from Summon Cannon, Superintendent,
West Ox Division, to Mr. Battles (Nov. 27, 2015), ECF No.
33-3 at 1-2 (hereinafter “Term. Ltr.”).
December 16, 2015, Mr. Battles challenged his termination
through WMATA's grievance process by filing an Employee
Dispute Resolution Adverse Action Grievance to the Department
of Human Resources pursuant to WMATA's Policy/Instruction
7.3.4 (the “Employee Dispute Resolution Policy”)
and WMATA's Policy/Instruction 7.8.5 (the
“Disciplinary Actions Policy”). See,
e.g., Battles' Grievance, ECF No. 33-10 at 1-10;
Letter from Tawnya Moore-McGee, Chief Human Res. Officer, to
Battles (Jan. 21, 2016), ECF No. 33-11 at 1; Disciplinary
Actions Policy, ECF No. 33-6 at 4 (referencing the Employee
Dispute Resolution Policy); Employee Dispute Resolution
Policy, ECF No. 33-7 at 1-6.
review, investigate, and respond to Mr. Battles'
grievance, WMATA appointed a reviewing officer, Shiva K.
Pant, on January 21, 2016. Def.'s SOMF, ECF No. 33-1
¶ 13. The reviewing officer upheld WMATA's
termination decision because, inter alia: (1) Mr.
Battles' sexual relationship with Ms. Gaines-Kelsey was
“unacceptable for an individual in a supervisory
position”; (2) “[p]rior sexual harassment
allegations . . . were acknowledged by Mr. Battles”;
(3) “Mr. Battles was found to be in violation of
[WMATA's] Nepotism/Favoritism Policy”; and (4) he
“had earlier also been found to be in violation of
WMATA's Sexual Harassment Policy.” Mem. from Shiva
Pant to Tawnya Moore-McGee, Chief Human Res. Officer (Feb.
19, 2016), ECF No. 33-12 at 1.
August 16, 2016, Mr. Battles filed this action against WMATA
and two of its employees, Summon Cannon and Devin Walker (the
“Individual Defendants”), asserting claims for
wrongful termination (breach of contract), wrongful
termination in violation of public policy, defamation,
intentional infliction of emotional distress, and negligent
infliction of emotional distress. See generally
Compl., ECF No. 1. On September 28, 2017, this Court granted
the Individual Defendants' motion to dismiss.
Battles, 272 F.Supp.3d at 17. Id. The Court
granted in part and denied in part WMATA's motion to
dismiss the complaint. Id. In doing so, this action
proceeded against WMATA as the sole defendant. Id.
The remaining claim was Mr. Battles' wrongful-termination
(breach of contract) claim. Id. Thereafter, the
parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment. Those
motions are ripe and ready for the Court's adjudication.
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, “[t]he court shall
grant summary judgment 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); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S.
317, 325 (1986). In ruling on cross-motions for summary
judgment, the court shall grant summary judgment only if one
of the moving parties is entitled to judgment as a matter of
law upon material facts that are not genuinely disputed.
See Citizens for Responsibility & Ethics in Wash. v.
U.S. Dep't of Justice, 658 F.Supp.2d 217, 224
(D.D.C. 2009) (citation omitted). Summary judgment will be
granted, therefore, if the plaintiff fails to submit ...