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U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Dimensions Healthcare System

United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division

May 27, 2016

U.S. EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY COMMISSION, Plaintiff,
v.
DIMENSIONS HEALTHCARE SYSTEM, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          GEORGE J. HAZEL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (the "EEOC" or "Commission"), initiated this action on August 10, 2015, alleging that Defendant, Dimensions Healthcare System ("Dimensions Healthcare"), unlawfully discriminated against one of its former employees on the basis of sex. See ECF No. 1. The EEOC has filed two motions that are presently pending before the Court: (1) a Motion for Partial Summary Judgment on the issue of pre-suit conciliation, ECF No. 9, and (2) a Motion to Strike portions of Dimensions Healthcare's response in opposition to the EEOC's Summary Judgment Motion, ECF No. 11. No hearing is necessary to resolve these Motions. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md.). For the reasons that follow, the EEOC's Motions are granted.[1]

         I. BACKGROUND

         Although the pending Motions do not ask the Court to rule upon the merits of this case, it is useful to begin with a review of the relevant factual background that led to this action. According to the Complaint, Cassandra Crawford, the complainant, had been employed by Dimensions Healthcare as of May 2007. ECF No. 1 at ¶7. In April 2012, Crawford was promoted to a "Team Lead" position, in which she oversaw and managed several team members and performed various human resources tasks, including interviewing, monitoring time issues. executing performance reviews, and disciplining subordinates. Id. at ¶ 8.

         Crawford took maternity leave between January and April of 2014. Id. at ¶ 9. On or around October 14, 2014, Crawford learned that Dimensions Healthcare had selected Terraze Jones, who is characterized in the Complaint as a "less experienced male, " for a promotion to the manager position in the Patient Financial Services Department. Id. at ¶ 10. Previously, Jones had been Crawford's subordinate and had been disciplined by her and others. Id. at ¶ 11. Crawford complained to her supervisor upon learning of Jones's promotion but was told that the decision was final. Id. at ¶ 13. Crawford later met with Judy Selvage, Dimensions Healthcare's Associate Vice President and Director of the Patient Financial Services Department, to discuss Jones's promotion. Id., at ¶ 14. Selvage explained that, although Crawford was considered for the position, Jones was selected instead because Crawford had been "on maternity leave for a while." Id. at ¶15. Shortly thereafter, Crawford resigned and filed a charge of discrimination with the EEOC. Id. at ¶¶ 6, 16; see also ECF No. 9-3.

         On May 11, 2015, the EEOC issued its written determination finding that there was reasonable cause to believe that Dimensions Healthcare discriminated against Crawford on the basis of her sex in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e el seq. See ECF No. 9-4. In that notice, the EEOC informed Dimensions Healthcare that, upon such a finding, the EEOC "attempts to eliminate the alleged unlawful practices by informal methods of conciliation." Id. at 3.[2] The notice further stated:

[T]he Commission now invites the parties to join with it in reaching a just resolution of this matter. In this regard, conciliation of this matter has now begun. Please be advised that upon receipt of this finding, any reasonable offer to resolve this matter will be considered. ... A [Commission representative will prepare and monitor an actual dollar amount to include accruing wage losses and attendant benefits, with interest to date, any appropriate front pay; and, if appropriate, attorney fees and costs which have accrued to date. . . .
If [Dimensions Healthcare] declines to discuss settlement or when, for any other reason, a settlement acceptable to the [EEOC] office director is not obtained, the director will inform [Dimensions Healthcare] of the court enforcement alternatives available to the Commission.

Id.

         According to the EEOC, the EEOC and Dimensions Healthcare "engaged in communications" between May 11, 2015 and July 7, 2015 in an effort to "provide [Dimensions Healthcare] the opportunity to remedy the discrimination practices described" in the EEOC's determination notice, and that such communications included "sending [Dimensions Healthcare] a conciliation proposal." ECF No. 9-2 at ¶ 6. Subsequent to these "communications, " the EEOC issued a notice to Dimensions Healthcare on July 7, 2015, indicating that "efforts to conciliate this charge have been unsuccessful" and that "further conciliation efforts would be futile or nonproductive." ECF No. 9-5.

         The EEOC then filed the instant lawsuit on August 10, 2015. ECF No. 1. On October 9, 2015, Dimensions Healthcare filed an Answer to the Complaint, in which it raised multiple affirmative defenses, including that the EEOC's claims are "barred to the extent it failed to properly conciliate Crawford's charge of discrimination." ECF No. 4 at 4. Dimensions Healthcare then filed an Amended Answer on October 16, 2015, withdrawing its defense of failure-to-conciliate. See ECF No. 7.[3]

         While discovery was ongoing, the EEOC filed the instant Partial Motion for Summary Judgment indicating that Dimensions Healthcare has refused to stipulate that the EEOC has fulfilled all conditions precedent to the filing of this lawsuit. See ECF No. 9-1 at 3. Dimensions Healthcare argues, however, that there remains a genuine dispute of material fact as to whether the EEOC failed to properly negotiate prior to initiating this action. See ECF No. 10. The specifics of Dimensions Healthcare's arguments regarding the conciliation process are the subject of the EEOCs Motion to Strike. See ECF No. 11.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         "Under Rule 56(c), summary judgment is proper 'if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any. show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law."' Celotex Corp. v.Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548 (1986) (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)). The party moving for summary judgment bears the burden of demonstrating that no genuine dispute exists as to material facts. Pulliam Inv. Co. v.Cameo Props., 810 F.2d 1282, 1286 (4th Cir. 1987). If the moving party demonstrates that there is no evidence to support the non-moving party's case, the burden shifts to the non-moving party to identify specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. When ruling on a motion for summary judgment, "[t]he evidence of the non-movant is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor." Anderson v. ...


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