United States District Court, D. Maryland
L. Russell, III United States District Judge.
MATTER is before the Court on Defendant’s, Comcast
Cable Communications Management, LLC (“Comcast”),
Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 48) and Motion in Limine
to Exclude the Affidavits of Karen Davis and Kirby Duffy (ECF
No. 49). The Motions are ripe for disposition. Having
reviewed the Motions and supporting documents, the Court
finds no hearing necessary pursuant to Local Rule 105.6
(D.Md. 2014). For the reasons outlined below, the Court will
deny the Motion in Limine and deny in part and grant in part
the Motion for Summary Judgment.
employed Plaintiff Rylinda Rhodes, a female, from May 2007 to
August 1, 2012. At all times relevant to this matter, Rhodes
was employed as a dispatch representative (also referred to
as “dispatcher”). In 2009, Rhodes began working
in Comcast’s Network Operations Center
(“NOC”) in Silver Spring, Maryland. Upon her
arrival, she noticed that the male dispatchers on her team
used vulgar language, including profanity, and described
various sexual acts and women’s body parts. Some male
dispatchers took pictures of her and other female
employees’ breasts and used a smartphone application to
manipulate the size of the breasts in the photos. Rhodes
repeatedly complained to her supervisor, Tim Glass, about the
vulgar language, but he assured her that her male
coworkers’ unprofessional language would stop. Despite
Rhodes’s complaints, the behavior continued.
2010, Comcast consolidated its regional NOCs and created two
NOCs for its mid-Atlantic operations, one in Millersville,
Maryland and the other in Richmond, Virginia. Around April
2010, Comcast transferred Rhodes and the other dispatchers on
her team to the Millersville NOC. Rhodes noticed that the
male dispatchers’ behavior persisted and she continued
to complain to her supervisors about their vulgar language,
which included describing sexual acts and calling female
customers “bitches.” Despite her complaints, the
language continued. In May 2010, Rhodes began applying for
different jobs at Comcast.
June 18, 2010 to October 17, 2010, Rhodes left work on
short-term disability leave. On June 23, 2010, Rhodes was
admitted into Washington Adventist Hospital, diagnosed with
bipolar disorder, and began an intensive outpatient program
on June 24, 2010. On October 13, 2010, Rhodes’s
physician permitted her to return to work part-time with
possible discharge from the outpatient program.
March or April 2011, Rhodes complained to Glass about her
coworkers’ behavior, and Glass merely stated
“what do you want me to do? They are set in their
ways.” (Rhodes Dep. at 168, ECF No. 54-2). Rhodes
obtained intermittent FMLA leave from April 10, 2011 to April
9, 2012. On June 14, 2011, Rhodes applied for a supervisor
position in the Millersville NOC, but was rejected for the
position. Rick O’Leary, a supervisor in the
Millersville NOC, informed Rhodes that she would not be
considered for the position because she was on FMLA leave.
summer 2011, Rhodes informed her supervisor Laura Kelley that
she had bipolar disorder and had weekly meetings with Kelley
regarding her male coworkers’ use of vulgar language.
In August 2011, Rhodes emailed Quentin Sa’Lay in
Comcast’s human resources department, stating she made
several complaints about unprofessional behavior. Also, in or
around August 2011, one of Rhodes’s coworkers, Michael
Davis, grabbed her breasts. Rhodes did not immediately report
the stress and anxiety caused by her working environment,
Rhodes obtained short-term disability leave from September
21, 2011 to January 1, 2012. When she returned to work, she
confronted Davis and told him never to touch her again.
Rhodes was then absent from work on January 8, 9, 22, 23, 26,
29, and 31, 2012. In late January or early February 2012,
Davis stated to Rhodes, while looking at her breasts,
“I missed them girls.” (Rhodes Dep. at 212-13).
Rhodes was then absent from work on February 15, 16, 18, and
February 22, 2012, Kelley sent out an email to Rhodes and her
coworkers requesting that they refrain from using profanity
at work because the human resources department was alerted to
the subject matter of their conversations. Rhodes’s
last day of work was February 29, 2012, when she went on
short-term disability leave from March 1 to May 19, 2012.
22, 2012, Rhodes’s insurance company informed her that
her medical records confirmed that was no longer considered
unable to perform her job and she was released to return to
work effective May 20, 2012. On May 22, 2012, Rhodes
contacted Lori Llewellyn, a leave of absence consultant at
Comcast, stating she would submit a certification from her
healthcare provider substantiating her need for medical leave
from May 20, 2012.
22, 2012, Rhodes met with Sa’Lay and informed him that
she could not return to the Millersville NOC due to the
vulgar language and sexual conversations she repeatedly
overheard and the incident involving Davis. Sa’Lay put
Rhodes in contact with Tyra Franklin, the human resources
representative assigned to the Millersville NOC. On May 29,
2012, Rhodes met with Franklin to discuss the vulgar language
and incident with Davis. Franklin informed Rhodes that
Comcast would investigate her complaints and the workplace
environment would improve. Rhodes stated she would not return
to the Millersville NOC because the environment was
detrimental to her health. Franklin then instructed Rhodes to
apply for other positions within Comcast for which she
believed she was qualified. Rhodes requested that she be
reassigned to another location or placed in another position
comparable to her current position as a dispatcher.
30, 2012, Glass sent an email to various supervisors in the
Millersville NOC, including Kelley, stating they must ensure
that they maintain a professional environment and keep the
employees’ personal conversations minimal and
appropriate. He further stated that some of Rhodes’s
complaints to the human resources department were accurate.
Also, on May 30, 2012, Nanette Winder, an employee engagement
advisor at Comcast, instructed Franklin to have Rhodes
complete Comcast’s “Interactive ADA
process.” (ECF No. 54-24).
2012, Franklin offered Rhodes a dispatcher position in the
Richmond NOC, but Rhodes refused to accept the offer because
Comcast would not pay for Rhodes’s relocation expenses.
also refused to return to the Millersville NOC. On June I,
2012, Winder began an investigation into Rhodes’s
complaints. On June 4, 2012, Rhodes again complained to
Winder about the inappropriate language and touching that she
experienced in the Millersville NOC. On June 29, 2012,
Llewellyn mailed Rhodes a letter stating that if she did not
submit a certification form from her healthcare provider by
July 6, 2012, Comcast would assume that she was no longer
interested in remaining employed and terminate her.
3, 2012, Winder concluded that Rhodes’s complaints
about Davis could not be substantiated. Winder told Rhodes
the results of the investigation and that she was expected to
return to work at the Millersville NOC because Comcast was
taking steps to improve the office’s environment.
Rhodes then stated that she would never return to the
Millersville NOC because she did not feel safe there and she
would not accept the position in the Richmond NOC because
Comcast would not pay for her relocation expenses.
6, 2012, Rhodes again complained to Winder about the sexual
language and misconduct that occurred in the Millersville
NOC. On July 9, 2012, Winder again directed Rhodes to return
to work at the Millersville NOC immediately. On July, II,
2012, Toni Ekeh, a human resources representative, informed
Winder that a termination letter for Rhodes would be drafted.
13, 2012, the human resources department circulated an office
etiquette document in the Millersville NOC addressing its
expectations for appropriate office behavior. On August 1,
2012, Comcast terminated Rhodes’s employment because of
her health and because she refused to return to work.
following aforementioned facts are in dispute: 1) whether
Rhodes made any complaints regarding vulgar and sexual
language prior to May 2012; 2) whether Comcast terminated
Rhodes because of her health; and 3) whether any employees
used vulgar or sexual language in the NOCs.
25, 2012, Rhodes filed a charge of discrimination with the
United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
(“EEOC”). (ECF No. 1). On March 11, 2014, Rhodes
received a right to sue notice from the EEOC. (Id.).
On June 6, 2014, Rhodes initiated this action against
Comcast, alleging hostile work environment and retaliation in
violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
(“Title VII”), as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§
2000e et seq. (2012) (Counts I-II); discrimination, wrongful
discharge, and retaliation in violation of the Americans with
Disabilities Act of 1990 (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C.
§§ 12101 et seq. (Counts III-V); interference and
retaliation in violation of the Family and Medical Leave Act
of 1993 (“FMLA”), as amended, 29 U.S.C.
§§ 2601 et seq. (2012) (Counts VI-VII); and
discrimination, wrongful discharge, and retaliation under the
Maryland Human Relations Act, referred to as the Maryland
Fair Employment Practices Act (“FEPA”), Md.Code
Ann., State Gov’t §§ 20-601 et seq. (West
2016) (Counts VIII-XII). (Id.).
August 4, 2014, Comcast filed an Answer. (ECF No. 9). On
August 31, 2015, Comcast filed Motions for Summary Judgment
and in Limine. (ECF Nos. 48, 49). On September 17, 2015,
Rhodes filed Oppositions to the Motions. (ECF Nos. 54, 55).
On October 13, 2015, Comcast filed Replies to the
Oppositions.(ECF Nos. 62, 63).
Standard of Review
Rule 56(a), the Court must grant summary judgment if the
moving party demonstrates there is no genuine issue as to any
material fact, and the moving party is entitled to judgment
as a matter of law. In reviewing a motion for summary
judgment, the Court views the facts in a light most favorable
to the non-moving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby,
Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986) (citing Adickes v. S.
H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 157 (1970)). Once a
motion for summary judgment is properly made and supported,
the opposing party has the burden of showing that a genuine
dispute exists. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith
Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-87 (1986).
mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the
parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported
motion for summary judgment; the requirement is that there be
no genuine issue of material fact.” Anderson, 477 U.S.
at 247-48. A “material fact” is one that might
affect the outcome of a party’s case. Id. at
248; see also JKC Holding Co. v. Wash. Sports Ventures,
Inc., 264 F.3d 459, 465 (4th Cir. 2001) (citing
Hooven-Lewis v. Caldera, 249 F.3d 259, 265 (4th Cir.
2001)). Whether a fact is considered to be
“material” is determined by the substantive law,
and “[o]nly disputes over facts that might affect the
outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly
preclude the entry of summary judgment.” Anderson, 477
U.S. at 248; accord Hooven-Lewis, 249 F.3d at 265.