United States District Court, D. Maryland
K. Bredar, United States District Judge.
Teresa Blubaugh brought suit against her former employer, the
Harford County Sheriff, seeking damages for gender
discrimination and retaliation for engaging in protected
activity, alleging violations of Title VII of the Civil
Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”) and the Maryland
Fair Employment Practices Act (“MFEPA”). (Am.
Compl. ¶¶ 33-39, ECF No. 12.) Pursuant to the
Fourteenth Amendment and 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Plaintiff
also sued L. Jesse Bane (“Bane”), who held the
office of Sheriff during the time at which the pertinent
events transpired. (Id. at ¶¶ 40-47.) This
Court previously ruled on Defendants' motion to dismiss,
finding Plaintiff had plausibly alleged discrimination and
retaliation by Defendants. (Mem. and Order on Defs.' Mot.
to Dismiss, ECF No. 11.) Pending before the Court now is
Defendants' joint motion for summary judgment (ECF No.
28, 29),  which has been fully briefed (ECF Nos. 34,
37, 46, 50), and no hearing is necessary, Local Rule 105.6
(D. Md. 2016). The motion will be granted.
Standard for Summary Judgment
court shall grant summary judgment 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); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477
U.S. 317, 322 (1986) (citing predecessor to current Rule
56(a)). The burden is on the moving party to demonstrate the
absence of any genuine dispute of material fact. Adickes
v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 157 (1970). If
sufficient evidence exists for a reasonable jury to render a
verdict in favor of the party opposing the motion, then a
genuine dispute of material fact is presented and summary
judgment should be denied. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby,
Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). However, the “mere
existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the
[opposing party's] position” is insufficient to
defeat a motion for summary judgment. Id. at 252.
The facts themselves, and the inferences to be drawn from the
underlying facts, must be viewed in the light most favorable
to the opposing party, Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S.
372, 378 (2007); Iko v. Shreve, 535 F.3d 225, 230
(4th Cir. 2008), who may not rest upon the mere allegations
or denials of his pleading but instead must, by affidavit or
other evidentiary showing, set out specific facts showing a
genuine dispute for trial, Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). Supporting and
opposing affidavits are to be made on personal knowledge,
contain such facts as would be admissible in evidence, and
show affirmatively the competence of the affiant to testify
to the matters stated in the affidavit. Id.
is a white female who was employed by the Harford County
Sheriff (“the Sheriff”) from 2003 until her
employment was terminated effective April 1, 2015, because
she was not medically able to continue in her position.
(Blubaugh Decl. ¶¶ 2-3, ECF No. 34-1.) Prior to her
employment with the Sheriff, Plaintiff served as a soldier in
the U.S. Army in the field of counterintelligence.
(Id. at ¶ 4.) She was honorably discharged,
moved to Maryland, and, in 2003, was employed by the Sheriff
as a correctional officer at the Harford County Detention
Center. (Id. at ¶¶ 4-5.) She then attended
the County's law enforcement academy, graduating in 2003
to become a deputy. (Id.)
February 2011, Plaintiff was promoted to the rank of corporal
and assigned to Shift Three in the County's Northern
Precinct, where she came under the supervision of Sergeant
Ian Loughran, a white male. (Id. at ¶¶
10-11.) Up until that new assignment, Blubaugh's
experience in the Sheriffs Office had been generally
positive. (Id. at 11.) From the beginning of this
new assignment, however, Plaintiff experienced a number of
conflicts with Loughran, which she attributes to her gender.
(Id. at ¶ 12.) On one occasion, Loughran
reportedly made an inappropriate statement to Plaintiff based
on her sex, advising her that “it looks bad for [her]
to be hanging out with the guys because [she is]
female”. (Id. at 13.) Plaintiff also provides
accounts of numerous incidents in which Loughran:
• Corrected Plaintiff (e.g., after Plaintiff advised a
deputy to take a suicidal person to the hospital for an
evaluation, Loughran criticized her for incurring medical
expenses on the individual and his family);
• Failed to support Plaintiff (e.g., after Plaintiff
cited department policy to explain why she decided not to
document a particular vehicle-related injury, Loughran told
her that her commanding officers were “pissed” at
her over the incident); and
• Undermined Plaintiffs authority with respect to her
subordinate deputies (e.g., at a meeting, Loughran recognized
every other deputy before asking whether Plaintiff, their
supervisor, had anything to add).
(Id.) Plaintiff alleges that she “never saw
Sgt. Loughran treat the male supervisors in this demeaning
and professionally limiting way.” (Id.)
Plaintiff complained of Loughran's conduct to Lieutenant
Joe Vanseeters on June 28 and August 1, 2011, and to Captain
Keith Warner on August 16 and August 30, 2011. (Id.
at ¶ 14.)
March 2012, Plaintiff learned that an internal affairs
investigation was being conducted concerning remarks she made
to her subordinates at a roll call meeting in which she
purportedly encouraged them to support litigation against the
Sheriff. (Id. at ¶ 15.) An anonymous complaint
precipitated this investigation, but Loughran subsequently
gave a statement to investigators implicating Plaintiff for
making her allegedly improper remarks. (Internal Affairs
Investigation IA 12-18-I at 36, 45, ECF No.
28-3.) On May 23, 2012, Plaintiff met with Bane
to complain about her working relationship with Loughran;
Bane responded by assigning Plaintiff to a new supervisor,
but keeping both Loughran and her on the same
shift.(Blubaugh Decl. ¶¶ 17-19.) On
June 4, 2012, Plaintiff was notified of a second internal
affairs investigation against her, this one delving into her
response to a domestic violence call on April 26, 2012.
(Id. at ¶ 20.) On July 6, 2012, she was
suspended based on the first internal affairs investigation.
(Id. at ¶ 22.)
August 2, 2012, Plaintiff was notified that the first
investigation had concluded that the statements she made at
the roll call meeting were protected speech, but that
investigators nonetheless recommended her termination based
on an alleged lack of integrity in her responses to questions
put to her during the investigation. (Id. at ¶
Plaintiff requested a trial board hearing to contest the
action to terminate her employment. (Id.) As far as can
be discerned from the record in this case, that trial board
hearing never took place.
first contacted the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
(“EEOC”) on August 8, 2012 (Id. at
¶ 51), but did not formally submit her charge of
discrimination through the EEOC until September 1, 2012.
(EEOC Charge, ECF No. 28-6.) Notice of that charge was
transmitted to the Sheriff's Department on October 11,
second internal affairs investigation grew out of
Plaintiff's response to a domestic disturbance call on
April 26, 2012. (Internal Affairs Investigation IA 12-20-I(a)
at 72, ECF No. 28-3.) On that occasion, Plaintiff arrived on
the scene shortly after two male deputies had already
responded to the call to find that a woman had locked herself
in a bedroom with a young child while her husband remained
outside the bedroom. (Id. at 86.) The
deputies learned that the husband had discovered his
wife's involvement in an extramarital affair
(id. at 84), but despite the husband being visibly
angry and the wife complaining of back pain, both spouses
denied that any physical violence had taken place
(id. at 87), and Plaintiff was unable to detect any
visible signs of injury on the wife aside from a small red
mark on her face (id.). Plaintiff concluded that
there were no indicators of violence and instructed the
deputies not to file a report. (Id. at 88.) In
explaining her conclusion, Plaintiff noted the husband's
military rank, saying, “you don't make Master
Sergeant by being stupid.” (Trial Board T. 298-99, ECF
No. 28-7.) Plaintiff would also later elaborate that she did
not want to harm the husband's career over an incident
for which she did not find him to be at fault. (Id.
at 299-300.) Later that day, the wife did disclose abuse by
her husband to a social worker who took the wife to the
hospital where several physical injuries were documented.
(Internal Affairs Investigation IA 12-20-I(a) at 83.) While
Plaintiff caused no report to be filed, she did update the
on-duty supervisor, Liutenant David Betz, about the incident.
(Blubaugh Decl. ¶ 28.) Sheriff Bane ordered an internal
affairs investigation after receiving complaints from staff
at Harford Memorial Hospital and the Harford County
State's Attorney's Office. (Bane Aff. ¶ 9, ECF
August 21, 2012, this second internal affairs investigation
reached its conclusion, finding that Plaintiff violated
department policy and neglected her duty in her failure to
report possible domestic violence. (Internal Affairs
Investigation IA 12-20-I(a) at 89.) On October 23, 2012,
Plaintiff was, through her counsel, offered summary
punishment of a demotion in rank, a written reprimand, and
reassignment to a position as a correctional officer, with
the additional understanding that she would dismiss her
pending complaint with the EEOC. (Blubaugh Decl. ¶ 30.)
In contrast, one of the deputies on the scene was only
provided verbal counseling, and no punishment at all was
imposed on the other deputy or on Betz. (Blubaugh Decl.
¶ 25; 2d Martinelli Aff. ¶¶ 3, 4, ECF No.
than accept the offered punishment, Plaintiff elected to
contest the investigation's findings before a trial
board. (Internal Affairs Investigation IA 12-20-I(a) at 81.)
On March 14-15, 2013, the trial board convened and found
Plaintiff guilty of neglect of duty, recommending she be
given a letter of reprimand, suffer two days' loss of
leave, and undergo retraining on domestic violence. (Trial
Board Decision 4-5, ECF No. 28-8.) However, Bane declined
this recommendation and instead terminated Plaintiff's
employment on April 25, 2013, citing his lack of confidence
in her ability to handle domestic violence matters as well as
her apparent bias in crediting a suspect's word and
character based on his military background. (Bane Letter, ECF
No. 28-9.) Pursuant to the Law Enforcement Officers' Bill
of Rights (LEOBR), Md. Code Ann. Pub. Safety § 3-101 et
seq. (LexisNexis 2011), Plaintiff challenged her termination
in the Circuit Court for Harford County, where, on June 2,
2014, the court found Bane's decision to have been
arbitrary and capricious. (In re Blubaugh Mem. Op.
4, 16, ECF No. 46-1.) Judge Dugan concluded, as a matter of
law, that Bane could not find Plaintiff ...