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

United States District Court, D. Maryland

September 2, 2016

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

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Paula Xinis United States District Judge.

         Pending in this employment discrimination case is Defendant's motion for summary judgment (ECF No. 29). The issues are fully briefed and the Court now rules pursuant to Local Rule 105.6 because no hearing is necessary. For the reasons stated below, Defendant's motion is DENIED.

         I.BACKGROUND[1]

         Dimensions Healthcare System (“DHS”) is an integrated, not-for-profit healthcare system serving residents of Prince George's County, Maryland and the surrounding area. In May 2007, Ms. Cassandra Crawford (“Crawford”) joined DHS as an appeals coordinator in the company's Patient Financial Services (“PFS”) Department. ECF No. 30-1. In 2012, Ms. Judith Selvage (“Selvage”) and the rest of the management team approached Crawford to see if she would be interested in a promotion to team leader. ECF No. 30-5 at 4-6. Selvage served as the assistant vice president of the PFS Department at the time. The management team hierarchy in the PFS Department consists of lower-level insurance team specialists who report to team leaders, who in turn report to managers. ECF No. 29-10.

         DHS's written hiring policy requires an employee to apply for vacant positions on the company's intranet website before DHS will consider the candidate. ECF No. 29-20. However, in practice DHS had offered promotions to current employees, including Crawford, and thereafter encouraged the employee to submit a formal application to finalize the promotion. ECF 30-3 at 15, 30-5 at 20. Crawford had already accepted the promotion to team leader prior to submitting a formal application and only after management approached her about taking the position. ECF No. 30-4; ECF No. 29-6 at 8-9. She held this position until her resignation in 2014. From January 2014 to April 2014, Crawford took an approved maternity leave. ECF No. 30-3 at 77-78.

         On October 1, 2014, DHS posted two management position vacancies on the company's intranet website.[2] ECF No. 29-1 at 12. The first, a PFS manager position, was responsible for handling accounts receivable in the billing department. The other, a DHA manager, was a new position involving oversight of DHA's professional billing.

         Terreze Jones (“Jones”) was hired in 2013 as an insurance team specialist in the PFS department. ECF No. 29-18. In the fall of 2014, PFS Manager Christine Lewis (“Lewis”) and Selvage approached Jones and told him that they were considering him for a promotion to team leader. ECF No. 29-1 at 13; ECF No. 29-7 at 10. They also told him that he would have to apply to the position online. But when Jones submitted his application, he discovered that no open team leader position existed. Instead, he noticed DHS's two manager vacancies-the PFS manager position and the DHS manager position. Both positions were one level higher on the corporate ladder than the position Crawford held at the time, and two levels higher than Jones's position as an insurance team specialist. ECF No. 30 at 8.

         While the exact timeline remains unclear, Jones applied to the PFS Manager position sometime in October or early November 2015. Compare ECF No. 29-21 (indicating that Jones applied for the PFS manager position on October 6, 2014), with ECF No. 30-40 (indicating that Jones applied for the PFS manager position on November 3, 2014). Around that time, Selvage interviewed Jones for the PFS manager position. During the interview, Selvage told Jones that he was qualified for both manager positions and arranged for Jones to meet with the DHA Practice Manager, Donna Wallington. On November 3, 2014, after Jones met with Wallington, Jones filed a formal application through DHA's intranet for the DHA manager position. ECF Nos. 29-21 & 29-22. Jones was informally offered both manager positions shortly after speaking with Wallington. ECF No. 30-13 at 16-18.

         According to Crawford, she first learned of the vacant PFS manager position on October 14, 2014 when Avril Musa, Jones's supervisor, told Crawford that DHS had selected Jones to fill the PFS manager position. ECF No. 30 at 8. Crawford was distraught because she believed DHS had passed over her for a less qualified candidate. Id. That same day, Crawford raised the issue with her direct supervisor, PFS Manager Christine Lewis. ECF No. 30-7 at 47. Lewis recognized that Crawford was upset and instructed her to take the rest of the week off. Crawford obliged. ECF No. 30-7 at 56.

         When Crawford returned to work on Monday, October 20, 2014, Selvage called Crawford into a meeting to discuss Jones's promotion. ECF No. 30-5 at 31-32. During this meeting, Crawford told Selvage that she believed she deserved the promotion to PFS manager over Jones because she was then serving as a team leader, a stepping-stone position to a PFS manager. ECF No. 30-5 at 41-42. Crawford also asked Selvage why Jones was promoted to PFS manager position over her, to which Selvage responded that Jones had a “management background.” ECF No. 30-3 at 69. Crawford challenged the veracity of Selvage's representation, noting that when Crawford interviewed Jones to be an insurance team specialist, it was clear that Jones did not have management experience. ECF No. 30-3 at 68-76. Selvage's replied, “Well, like I said, he has a management background. Plus, you were on maternity leave for a while.” ECF No. 30 at 11; ECF No. 30-31; ECF No. 30-3 at 74.

         After the meeting, Crawford discussed what Selvage said during the meeting with Lewis, and learned that Selvage had supposedly demoted other women who had been out on maternity leave. See, e.g., ECF No. 30-32; ECF No. 30-23 at 5-7; ECF No. 30-23 at 15-16. These conversations with Selvage and Lewis prompted Crawford to resign. After Crawford tendered her resignation, Jones ultimately declined the PFS manager position and instead accepted the DHA manager position. ECF No. 30-13 at 16-18. The PFS manager position remains open to this day.

         Crawford filed a complaint with the EEOC on November 18, 2014. ECF No. 9-3. On May 11, 2015, the EEOC issued to DHS a Determination finding reasonable cause to believe DHS discriminated against Crawford because she had availed herself of maternity leave. ECF No. 9-4. The EEOC filed its complaint in this Court on August 10, 2015 alleging that Defendant DHS unlawfully discriminated against Crawford on the basis of sex in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Title I of the Civil Rights Act of 1991. See ECF No. 1.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         A court may enter summary judgment only if there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986); Emmett v. Johnson, 532 F.3d 291, 297 (4th Cir. 2008). However, summary judgment is inappropriate if any material fact at issue “may reasonably be resolved in favor of either party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986); JKC Holding Co. LLC v. Washington Sports Ventures, Inc., 264 F.3d 459, 465 (4th Cir. 2001).

         “A party opposing a properly supported motion for summary judgment ‘may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials of [his] pleadings, ' but rather must ‘set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'” Bouchat v. Baltimore Ravens Football Club, Inc., 346 F.3d 514, 522 (4th Cir. 2003) (quoting former Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)). “A mere scintilla of proof . . . will not suffice to prevent summary judgment.” Peters v. Jenney, 327 F.3d 307, 314 (4th Cir. 2003). “If the evidence is merely colorable, or is not significantly probative, summary judgment may be granted.” Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. at 249-50 (citations omitted). At the same time, the court must construe the facts presented in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion. See Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 378 (2007); Emmett, 532 F.3d at 297.

         III. ANALYSIS

         Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, § 703(a), 42 U.S.C. 2000e et seq., prohibits various forms of employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (“PDA”), an amendment to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, states that “women affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions shall be treated the same for all employment-related purposes . . . as other persons not so affected but similar in their ability or inability to work.” 42 U.S.C. § 2000e(k). “A claim of discrimination on the basis of pregnancy must be analyzed in the same manner as any other sex discrimination claim brought pursuant to Title VII.” DeJarnette v. Corning Inc., 133 F.3d 293, 297 (4th Cir. 1998) (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting Boyd v. Harding Academy, 88 F.3d 410, 413 (6th Cir. 1996)). Plaintiff thus bears the burden of showing that she was a victim of intentional discrimination. Id. (quoting ...


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