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Ruffin v. Lockheed Martin Corporation

United States District Court, D. Maryland, Northern Division

January 7, 2015

LAKESHA RUFFIN, Plaintiff,
v.
LOCKHEED MARTIN CORPORATION, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

WILLIAM D. QUARLES, Jr., District Judge.

Lakesha Ruffin, pro se, sued Lockheed Martin Corporation ("Lockheed") for employment discrimination. ECF No. 2. Pending is Ruffin's motion for reconsideration. ECF No. 25. No hearing is necessary. Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2014). For the following reasons, Ruffin's motion will be granted.

I. Background

In April 2008, Ruffin, an African-American female, was hired by Lockheed as a Senior Systems Engineer. See ECF No. 2 ¶¶ 5, 41. During her tenure at Lockheed, Ruffin reported to Andrew Westdorp and Jill Andres, who are white. Id. ¶ 9.

In October 2008, Steve McMahon, "Ruffin's Teamlead, " complained to Andres about Ruffin's absences. Id. ¶ 15. As a result, on October 21, 2008, Ruffin was placed on a "Performance Improvement Plan (PIP)." Id. ¶¶ 10, 15. The attendance issues were caused by Ruffin's three hour commute (each way) from her home on the Eastern Shore. Id. ¶ 10. Ruffin was given 30 days to move closer to her work, after which she moved to Columbia, Maryland. Id. ¶ 11. The move "ultimately required [her] to pay rent and a mortgage on the home on the Eastern Shore, " which "eventually forced her into foreclosure." Id. After Ruffin moved, her attendance improved; in March 2009, she was taken off the PIP. Id. ¶ 12.

During her 2008 annual performance review, Andres told Ruffin that she "sometimes comes across harshly to others, " but did not substantiate this statement. Id. ¶ 19. Andres gave Ruffin an overall performance rating of "basic." Id. ¶ 18.[1]

After Ruffin was taken off the PIP, she complained that her co-workers were creating a "hostile work environment" and "sabotaging" her work. Id. ¶ 16. In April 2009, she reported that she was receiving "strange telephone calls" at her home. Id. ¶ 20. She believed that her co-workers were making the calls. Id. Ruffin's car was "keyed" in the Lockheed parking lot. Id. ¶ 17.

During her 2009 annual performance review, Andres "rated Ruffin a successful contributor, " but told her that she needed "to work on her people skills." Id. ¶ 22.

In February 2010, Ruffin told Andres that her "workspace was tampered with" while she was in the restroom. Id. ¶ 20. Ruffin also claimed that Michael Buadoo, an African-American employee, had tampered with her thumb drive. Id. ¶ 26. Ruffin also made other accusations against co-workers around this time, but Andres "told her to try to address work related conflicts directly." Id. ¶ 23.

On April 5, 2010, Ruffin initiated short-term disability leave until June 21, 2010. Id. ¶ 24. On July 13, 2010, Ruffin initiated a second short-term disability leave until September 27, 2010. Id. ¶ 27. When she was on leave, Andres "filed an internal complaint against Ruffin for disrupting the workplace with accusations against other co-workers." Id. ¶ 28.

In October 2010, Ruffin complained to the Ethics Department at Lockheed that Buadoo "exposed his chest and made inappropriate body movements towards her, " but the Department "found no harassment."[2] Id. ¶ 44. On October 4, 2010, Andres gave Ruffin an "Employee Performance Notification, " which "addressed" Ruffin's complaint about another co-worker attending a meeting that Ruffin believed she should not attend and "Ruffin hanging up on a telephone call with a program manager" when she was on leave. Id. ¶ 30. Ruffin "refused to acknowledge the EPN." Id. ¶ 31. On October 21, 2010, she requested "a reduced workload due to stress." Id. ¶ 34. On November, 2, 2010, she initiated another medical leave. Id. ¶ 35.

On November 12, 2010, Andres suspended Ruffin for two weeks "for unprofessional tone, tardiness, missed... deadlines[, ] and disruptions to the work environment." Id. ¶ 36. During Ruffin's suspension, a customer complained about her. Id. ¶ 37. On December 9, 2010, Andres terminated Ruffin's employment because of "on-going performance issues, customer concerns, and her accusations against other workers." Id. ¶ 38. When Ruffin was terminated, she was on long-term disability leave "approved by Cigna" until June 2011. Id. ¶¶ 39, 55.

On July 6, 2011, Ruffin filed a discrimination charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). ECF No. 8-2. On February 21, 2012 - while the EEOC investigation was pending - Ruffin filed a Chapter 7 bankruptcy petition in the Bankruptcy Court for the District of Maryland. See ECF No. 8-3. In her bankruptcy petition, Ruffin was directed to "[l]ist all suits and administrative proceedings to which the debtor is or was a party within one year immediately preceding the filing of this bankruptcy case." ECF No. 8-3 at 35. Although Ruffin listed three lawsuits to which she was a party, she did not list the EEOC charge. See id. On May 31, 2012, [3] the bankruptcy court granted Ruffin a discharge. ECF No. 8-4. In December 2012, the bankruptcy case closed. ECF Nos. 8-1 at 2, 17-1 at 3. In March 2013, Ruffin received a right to sue letter from the EEOC. ECF No. 17-1 at 3.

On June 14, 2013, Ruffin sued Lockheed in the Circuit Court for Howard County, asserting claims of: (1) racial discrimination; (2) sexual harassment; (3) hostile work environment; and (4) violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, as amended ("ADA").[4] ECF No. 2. On September 17, 2013, Lockheed removed the case to this Court. ECF No. 1. On ...


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