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Lewis v. Baltimore City Board of School Commissioners

United States District Court, D. Maryland

May 20, 2016



          Catherine C. Blake United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Jamie Lewis brings suit against the Baltimore City Board of School Commissioners (“the Board”), Jerome Jones, and others, alleging sex discrimination, retaliation, and disability discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”).[1] The Board and Jones have filed a motion for summary judgment. The issues have been fully briefed, and no hearing is necessary. See Local R. 105.6 (D. Md. 2014). For the reasons stated below, the court will grant the defendants’ motion for summary judgment.


         Lewis began working as a language arts teacher at Northeast Middle School in August 2006. (Lewis Dep. 25, Mot. Summ. J. Ex. A, ECF No. 18-2.) Wanda Young, the principal of the school at the time, promoted Lewis to the position of assistant principal in March 2007. (Id. at 25-27, 32.) By the 2011-2012 academic year, however, Lewis and Young’s relationship had become strained. Young sent Lewis an email expressing her dismay when Lewis attended a professional development seminar without Young’s permission. (Young June 22, 2011 Email, Mot. Summ. J. Ex. B, ECF No. 18-3.) Young also wrote to Lewis to explain that Lewis had failed to attend a meeting Young had scheduled, and that Lewis did not follow protocol when signing out. (Young October 21-28, 2011 Emails, Summ. J. Ex. F, ECF No. 18-7; Young October 26, 2011 Email, Summ. J. Ex. G, ECF No. 18-8.) Young notified Lewis when she had reached “3 occasions of lateness and 3 occasions of absences” and asked her to “adhere to the attendance policy.” (Young October 13, 2011 Email, Mot. Summ. J. Ex. C, ECF No. 18-4; Attendance Record, Mot. Summ. J. Ex. E, ECF No. 18-6.) On December 5, 2011, after Lewis had accumulated five periods of absence, the Baltimore City Public Schools Office of Human Capital (“Human Capital Office”) sent her a “formal written caution that failure to adhere to the Attendance Program may result in disciplinary action up to and including dismissal.” (Letter of Caution, Summ. J. Ex. D, ECF No. 18-5.) Additionally, Lewis did not properly fill out teacher evaluation forms in 2011. (Lewis Dep. 81-100; Young Memo, Summ. J. Ex. I, ECF No. 18-10.) In many evaluations, Lewis failed to complete the sections for the observer’s supporting statements and areas for improvement. (Young Memo; Formal Observation Reports, Mot Summ. J. Ex. K, ECF No. 18-12; Lewis Dep. 90-100.) Young ultimately issued Lewis a written reprimand. (Written Reprimand, Mot. Summ. J. Ex. J, ECF No. 18-11.)

         In December 2011, Lewis filed a sexual harassment complaint with the Baltimore City Public Schools Equal Employment Opportunity Office (“EEO Office”). (Lewis Dep. 151.)[2]Lewis claimed that Young had written and sent an anonymous letter to Lewis’s house on October 8, 2011. (Young Letter, Pl.’s Opp’n Ex. 40, ECF No. 24; Lewis Dep. 325-327.) The author of the letter claimed to be the mistress of Lewis’s husband and wrote that Lewis “look[s] like a he-man with that big, donkey ass.” (Young Letter.) Lewis also alleged that Young harassed her by verbally reprimanding her in front of her colleagues. (Lewis Dep. 135-142.) In one instance, Lewis was addressing a payroll issue with a substitute teacher before responding to a request from Young, and Young said, “See, that’s the problem I have with people. . . . I can’t tell my boss to wait a minute. It’s going to be some changes around here. People are not going to be asked to come back here. I’m getting rid of people.” (Lewis. Dep. 137-139.)

         Because the EEO Office determined that Lewis’s allegations amounted to “a generalized complaint of misconduct, ” and not sexual harassment under Title VII, the EEO Office transferred the complaint to the Board’s Office of Staff Investigations (“Staff Investigations”), which handles general complaints of staff misconduct. (Jones Response, Pl.’s Opp’n Ex. 37, ECF No. 24; Lewis Dep. 152-153.) On August 20, 2012, Staff Investigations sent Lewis a letter confirming that the department had completed its investigation of her complaint and determined that “the allegations are . . . substantiated.” (Staff Investigations Letter, Def.’s Mot. Summ. J. Ex. L, ECF No. 18-13.) As a result of the findings, Young was demoted from her principal position at Northeast Middle School. (Jones Response.)

         Lewis became ill from stress she suffered due to her work environment, and on February 7, 2012, the Board granted Lewis’s request for leave under the Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) to take care of her health condition from January 25, 2012 until May 26, 2012. (FMLA Letter, Def.’s Mot. Summ. J. Ex. M, ECF No. 18-14; Lewis Dep. 149-150.) On June 8, 2012, Lewis notified the Board that she would return to work on June 12, 2012 as an assistant principal at Coppin Academy High School, a charter school within the Baltimore City Public School System. (Lewis June 12, 2012 Letter, Def.’s Mot. Summ. J. Ex. N, ECF No. 18-15; Lewis Dep. 153-154.) Coppin Academy offered Lewis a position while she was on FMLA leave, and Lewis worked at the school for a period of time. (Lewis Dep. 154-55, 161, 167.) The Board contends that it removed Lewis from the assistant principal position at Coppin Academy because her hiring did not receive the required approval from either the Board of School Commissioners or the Human Capital Office. (Edwards July 17, 2012 Email, Pl.’s Opp’n Ex. 33, ECF No. 24.)

         On June 29, 2012, the Board sent Lewis a letter notifying her that she would be reassigned to a teacher level position for the 2012-2013 academic year pursuant to Md. Code Ann., Educ. § 6-201, which permits the chief executive officer to “transfer [personnel] as the needs of the schools require.” (First Reassignment Letter, Def.’s Mot. Summ. J. Ex. O, ECF No. 18-16.) Lewis received an unsatisfactory annual evaluation for the 2011-2012 academic year from Northeast Middle School’s executive director, Sean Conley, on July 26, 2012. (Annual Evaluation Report, Def.’s Mot. Summ. J. Ex. P, ECF No. 18-17; Lewis Dep. 32, 178-179.) Conley rated Lewis as unsatisfactory in four categories: improves instructional practices through purposeful observation and monitoring of teachers and other staff; ensures the regular integration of appropriate assessments into daily classroom instruction; uses multiple sources of data to improve classroom instruction; and maintains appropriate standards of professionalism, including completing and submitting all reports and requests for information in a timely manner. (Annual Evaluation Report.) Conley’s comments focused on the incompleteness of Lewis’s formal observations and her inconsistent attendance. (Id.) On August 16, 2012, the Board again notified Lewis that effective August 20, 2012, she would be reassigned as a teacher and that her compensation would be commensurate with that position. (Second Reassignment Letter, Def.’s Mot. Summ. J. Ex. Q, ECF No. 18-18; Lewis Dep. 162.) Lewis was assigned to Carter G. Woodson Elementary/Middle School as an English teacher. (Assignment Email, Def.’s Mot. Summ. J. Ex. R, ECF No. 18-19.) In September 2012, Lewis resigned her employment with the Board. (Lewis Dep. 166-169.)

         In addition to her sex discrimination and retaliation claims, Lewis also alleges that Young violated the confidentiality provisions of the ADA by sharing her medical records. On December 6, 2011, Lewis’s husband faxed Young a return to work slip from Lewis’s psychiatrist, and Lewis claims that Young shared the information in her doctor’s note with Victoria Parrish-James, a grade level administrator. (Return to Work Slip, Pl.’s Opp’n, ECF No. 24; Lewis Dep. 142-143.) The slip provides that Lewis “[w]ill be totally disabled” from December 6 until December 16, and she would be able to return to work on December 16. (Return to Work Slip.) Young told Parrish-James that Lewis’s doctor was a psychiatrist and that Lewis was crazy. (Lewis Dep. 143.)

         Lewis filed a charge of discrimination with the Baltimore Community Relations Commission on September 7, 2012. (Charge of Discrimination, Mot. Summ. J. Ex. S, ECF No. 18-20.) In her charge, Lewis claimed her employer discriminated against her due to her disability and in retaliation for participating in a protected activity. (Charge of Discrimination.) The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) did not find any violations. (EEOC Dismissal and Notice of Rights 3, Supp. Compl., ECF No. 2.)


         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) provides that summary judgment should be granted “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) (emphases added). “A dispute is genuine if ‘a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.’” Libertarian Party of Va. v. Judd, 718 F.3d 308, 313 (4th Cir. 2013) (quoting Dulaney v. Packaging Corp. of Am., 673 F.3d 323, 330 (4th Cir. 2012)). “A fact is material if it ‘might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law.’” Id. (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)). Accordingly, “the mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment[.]” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 247-48. The court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, Tolan v. Cotton, 134 S.Ct. 1861, 1866 (2014) (per curiam), and draw all reasonable inferences in that party’s favor, Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 378 (2007) (citations omitted); see also Jacobs v. N.C. Admin. Office of the Courts, 780 F.3d 562, 568-69 (4th Cir. 2015). At the same time, the court must “prevent factually unsupported claims and defenses from proceeding to trial.” Bouchat v. Balt. Ravens Football Club, Inc., 346 F.3d 514, 526 (4th Cir. 2003) (quoting Drewitt v. Pratt, 999 F.2d 774, 778-79 (4th Cir. 1993)).

         I. Individual Defendants

         Individuals cannot be held liable under Title VII or the ADA. Lissau v. S. Food Serv., Inc., 159 F.3d 177, 181 (4th Cir. 1998); Baird ex rel. Baird v. Rose, 192 F.3d 462, 472 (4th Cir. 1999). For this reason, the court will dismiss the plaintiff’s claims ...

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