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Fordyce v. Prince George's County Md.

United States District Court, D. Maryland

August 25, 2014

JILL FORDYCE
v.
PRINCE GEORGE'S COUNTY MARYLAND

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For Jill Fordyce, Plaintiff: Bryan A Chapman, LEAD ATTORNEY, Law Office of Bryan A Chapman, Washington, DC.

For Prince George's County Maryland, Defendant: Stephen Earl Whitted, Prince Georges County Office of Law, Upper Marlboro, MD.

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MEMORANDUM OPINION

DEBORAH K. CHASANOW, United States District Judge.

Presently pending and ready for resolution in this employment discrimination case is the motion for summary judgment filed by Defendant Prince George's County, Maryland (ECF No. 12). The issues have been fully briefed, and the court now rules, no hearing being deemed necessary. Local Rule 105.6. For the following reasons, Defendant's motion for summary judgment will be granted in part and denied in part.

I. Background[1]

This case involves a number of employment discrimination claims, including retaliation and hostile work environment, brought by Plaintiff Jill Fordyce (" Plaintiff" or " Ms. Fordyce" ) against her employer, the Prince George's County Police Department (" County Police Department" ). Ms. Fordyce is employed as an Administrative Assistant and has worked with the County Police Department since 2005.

A. Plaintiff's Previous Discrimination and Retaliation Claims

In 2007, Ms. Fordyce, an African-American woman, who at that time held the title of Administrative Assistant II, applied for and was denied a promotion to an Administrative Assistant III position. In October 2007, she complained to Police Chief Melvin High and the Police Department's EEO coordinator that she was experiencing discrimination based on race, sex, and national origin. On December 5, 2007, Ms. Fordyce filed a discrimination claim against the County Police Department through the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (" EEOC" ). On December 10, 2007, the County Police Department suspended Ms. Fordyce's supervisory duties. On February 6, 2008, Ms. Fordyce then filed a second EEOC complaint alleging retaliation. Two days later, she was informed by the County Police Department's Internal Affairs Division that she was under investigation for criminal misconduct and theft, allegations that

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the County Police Department received through an anonymous letter. (ECF No. 1-3 ¶ 23).

About one year later, on March 10, 2009, Ms. Fordyce and the County Police Department reached a settlement through the EEOC. As part of the settlement, Ms. Fordyce was promoted to the position of Administrative Assistant III, given the title of Uniform Crime Reporting Director, and received a fifteen percent pay increase.

B. Plaintiff's Current Retaliation and Hostile Work Environment Claims

In April 2010, Police Chief Roberto Hylton transferred Ms. Fordyce from the Records Management Division to the Police Department's Homeland Security Division Fusion Center. Ms. Fordyce was supposed to report to Lieutenant Devore, a member of Fusion Center management, and supervise Sergeant Hughes.

Ms. Fordyce alleges that prior to her arrival at the Fusion Center, management incited the staff against her by advising them that they should avoid her because she had filed prior EEOC complaints and was a " troublemaker." (ECF No. 13, at 3). She learned this from her coworker, Corporal Tanya Brooks (" Cpl. Brooks" ). (ECF No. 13-1, at 2). Ms. Fordyce alleges that upon her arrival at the Fusion Center the staff and Lieutenant Devore refused to speak to her. (ECF No. 13-5, at 3). She also contends that she was not given a job title or job description in her new role, staff meetings were scheduled for days when she was out of the office, the staff was not informed that she was in their chain of command, and Sergeant Hughes continued reporting to Lieutenant Devore rather than to her. ( Id. ).

On June 30, 2010, Ms. Fordyce was allegedly involved in an incident with Cpl. Brooks, a police officer whom Ms. Fordyce supervised. Cpl. Brooks emailed Chief Hylton on July 2, 2010, stating that while she was assisting another coworker, Ms. Quanetta West, Ms. Fordyce stepped in between her and Ms. West and advised her to return to her desk and finish her work. Cpl. Brooks noted that she ignored Ms. Fordyce and continued talking with Ms. West. Cpl. Brooks reported that " Ms. Fordyce then grabbed [her] by the arm and tried to force [her] to [her] desk." (ECF No. 13, at 3-4).

On July 1-2, 2010, Fusion Center management learned of the incident and began to investigate the matter. (ECF No. 13-7, at 6-7). At a meeting held on July 12, 2010, Lieutenant Devore informed Cpl. Brooks that the matter with Ms. Fordyce could be handled in several ways: an EEOC complaint, an internal investigation with possible criminal charges, or through mediation. (ECF No. 13-7, at 7). Cpl. Brooks chose to pursue an internal investigation with possible criminal charges. Chief Hylton interrupted this meeting, and after learning of Lieutenant Devore's plan to pursue an internal investigation against Ms. Fordyce, insisted that the matter be handled through mediation. Chief Hylton then conducted a mediation between Cpl. Brooks and Ms. Fordyce. Cpl. Brooks initially accused Ms. Fordyce of grabbing and pushing her, which Ms. Fordyce denied. By the end of the mediation, " [Cpl.] Brooks agreed that it was only a touch, however she [had] felt 'disrespected' by [Ms. Fordyce]." (ECF No. 13-7, at 6).

After hearing statements from Cpl. Brooks and Ms. Fordyce, Chief Hylton spoke privately with Cpl. Brooks. Cpl. Brooks informed him that she did not want to continue the mediation and instead wanted to continue the investigation. Chief Hylton told Cpl. Brooks to " let it go" and then told Cpl. Brooks, Ms. Fordyce,

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and Fusion Center management (including Lieutenant Devore) that the " matter was closed." (ECF No. 13-7, at 7-8).

On July 15, 2010, Plaintiff was subjected to a disciplinary action by Lieutenant Devore regarding her confrontation with Cpl. Brooks and received written counseling from him, instructing her " not to enter the Fusion Center or have any direct integration with any of its staff." (ECF No. 1-3 ¶ 43). In addition, on July 19, 2010, a formal investigation against Plaintiff was initiated and Lieutenant Meredith Bingley (" Lt. Bingley" ) was assigned as the investigator. (ECF No. 13-7, at 6).

On July 30, 2010, Plaintiff filed a complaint with the County Police Department's EEO coordinator alleging retaliation and hostile work environment. (ECF No. 13-5). She met with the EEO Coordinator on August 3, 2010,[2] to discuss her complaint. The next day, Deputy Chief Magaw, who oversaw the Homeland Security Division, transferred Plaintiff to the Telephone Reporting Unit (" TRU" ). Plaintiff alleges that at the time of her transfer the TRU had been non-operational since 2008. She also contends that her new office was in a " storage room containing broken furniture and equipment" and that she did not have a land-line telephone, desktop computer, or any staff to supervise. (ECF No. 13, at 4-5). The TRU became operational again in February 2011, but Plaintiff contends that from August 2010 until that time she had " nothing to do, no place to work, and no staff to supervise." ( Id. at 5). On October 1, 2010, Plaintiff filed another EEO complaint. ( Id. ).[3]

Lt. Bingley, who was assigned to investigate the incident between Cpl. Brooks and Ms. Fordyce, interviewed " all pertinent Witnesses" between July 20, 2010 and August 24, 2010. (ECF No. 13-7, at 8). Ms. Fordyce, however, was not interviewed until December 22, 2010. ( Id. at 8-9). Assistant State's Attorney, Joeday Newsom, screened the case on September 17, 2010. (ECF No. 13-7, at 8). On December 13, 2010, he issued a letter to Lt. Bingley, declining to prosecute Plaintiff for her actions involving Cpl. Brooks. (ECF No. 13-3). His letter states that there was not a reasonable chance of convicting Ms. Fordyce of second degree assault " due to the brevity of the contact, level of force used[,] and absence of injury." ( Id. ; ECF No. 13-7, at 10).

On December 14, 2010, Ms. Fordyce received initial notice from the County Police Department that it had pursued criminal prosecution against her for the June 30, 2010 incident involving Cpl. Brooks, but that the State's Attorney of Prince George's County had declined to pursue the charge. (ECF No. 13, at 5). That same day, Ms. Fordyce also received notice that she was under internal investigation by the County Police Department for her actions on June 30, 2010. (ECF No. 13-9, at 7). Ms. Fordyce was then interviewed by Lt. Bingley on December 22, 2010.

On March 25, 2011, Plaintiff received a Final Notice of Disciplinary Action from Interim Chief of Police, Mark Magaw, who formerly oversaw the Homeland Security Division and had ordered her transfer to the TRU. The notice informed Plaintiff that the County Police Department was taking disciplinary action against her for three charges: (1) Unbecoming Conduct based on second degree assault; (2) Making

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a False Statement to Major McManus; and (3) Making a False Statement to Lt. Bingley. (ECF No. 13-8, at 1-2). As part of the disciplinary action, the County Police Department fined Plaintiff $1,600, which was subsequently reduced to $1,100, and was deducted from her paychecks at a rate of $50 per pay period. ( Id. at 2).

C. Procedural History

On April 7, 2011, Plaintiff filed Discrimination Charge No. 846-2011-48369 with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (" EEOC" ) against the County Police Department. (ECF No. 1-3 ¶ 55). On February 6, 2013, the EEOC issued Plaintiff a Notice of Right to Sue letter. (ECF No. 13, at 8).

On March 11, 2013, Plaintiff filed a five count complaint against Defendant.[4] The first three counts of Plaintiff's complaint allege " Retaliatory Hostile Work Environment" in violation of Title IX, Title VI, and Title VII. Counts IV and V of the complaint allege " Retaliation" in violation of Title 20 of the State Government Articles of the Maryland Code and Prince George's County Code ยง 42(a) ...


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