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Cobb v. Towson University

United States District Court, D. Maryland

March 2, 2017

DARCEL COBB Plaintiff.
v.
TOWSON UNIVERSITY Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          A. DAVID COPPERTHITE, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Introduction

         The Plaintiff has filed an Amended Complaint alleging that she suffered race discrimination, retaliation, and wrongful termination in her employment with Towson University. In her response to the Motion for Summary Judgment, Plaintiff abandoned her retaliation claim. Plaintiff who is African-American claims that she was treated differently than a non-minority co-worker who held the same position, a Library Tech II. Plaintiffs evidence consists of her opinions and her evaluation of both her performance and her opinions of the performance of the comparator she offers.

         Plaintiff administratively appealed her performance evaluations from 2007, 2009 and 2010. Subsequently she appealed her 2009 and 2010 evaluations to the Office of Administrative Hearings for the State of Maryland. After being denied relief during the Administrative proceedings. Plaintiff appealed the decisions to the Circuit Court for Baltimore County, who again denied Plaintiff relief, finding that the Administrative Hearing Officer applied the correct legal standard and her decision was not arbitrary or capricious. The Court of Special Appeals reviewed the administrative agency's decision dismissing the Plaintiffs grievance and affirmed the decision. Interestingly, Plaintiff did not assert discrimination as a basis for her grievances before the administrative agency.

         Plaintiff filed her first charge of discrimination on February 27, 2008 alleging that she was discriminated against because she was not selected for a promotion and a Caucasian woman who she believed lacked the job skills was selected. Plaintiff and Towson University resolved this dispute by a settlement agreement dated April 9. 2008. which provided Plaintiff back-pay as an acting ILL coordinator during the interim selection period and accorded some other concessions to Plaintiff. There was no admission of discriminatory conduct. Plaintiff then filed a complaint alleging retaliation and violation of her settlement agreement. The Maryland Commission on Human Relations dismissed the complaint finding no retaliation. Plaintiff did not complain of any discriminatory conduct related to her performance evaluations prior to this Complaint.

         Facts

         Plaintiff began her employment at Towson University on July 5. 1989. She transferred from the Registrar's Office to the Interlibrary Loan Department ("ILL") in June 1995. She was employed as a Library Technician II. Sharon Mollock was her supervisor until January 2006. In her deposition. Plaintiff stated that during that time, she had excellent evaluations and her supervisors commended her. Under a temporary supervisor until June 2007, Plaintiff was rated as "meets standards".

         Plaintiffs employment troubles began after Plaintiff applied for the ILL Coordinator position in April, 2007 and was not selected. Plaintiff testified that she had been serving as acting ILL Coordinator and was the best candidate for the position. She further alleged that a member of the hiring committee, Sylvia Kodis, agreed. The University selected another candidate. Linda Kleback, who was Caucasian. Ms. Kleback served in that position as Plaintiffs supervisor from January 2008 through February 2010. During that time, Mary Ranadive became Plaintiffs second line supervisor and Deborah Nolan the University Librarian, became Plaintiffs third line supervisor[1].

         Ms. Kleback provided Plaintiff with her 2008 and 2009 performance reviews. Plaintiff received a rating of 3 ("Meets Standards") for 2008 and a rating of 1.9 ("Below Standards") for 2009. In her response in opposition to summary judgment. Plaintiff stated "[t]he reviews lacked specific details and documentary proof to most of the alleged performance problems and Kleback and Nolan cannot recollect any specific details. PI. Response at 4. In actuality, the reviews included detailed descriptions of Plaintiff s performance and issues related to Plaintiffs performance. PI. Response, Exh, 9. 10. For example, "Darcel...can come across as hesitant. Training on multitasking should be helpful...needs to be more willing to share information and respond to supervisors... her attitude is perceived by library staff in other libraries as unhelpful and that causes hard feelings on both sides." Exh. 9. The 2008 evaluation also recognized the changes coming to the ILL department and stated that the Plaintiffs dedication should help her give any changes a fair trial. Id.

         Likewise, the 2009 evaluation specifically noted problems with Plaintiffs performance. Exh. 10. "Darcel has good customer service skills but needs to use them in dealing with all customers... In August, 2008 she was given a workflow plan that was not followed. She received a letter of counseling in October 2008... [n]othing has changed. Darcefs job performance in this area is unacceptable.... we have discussed job performance and improvements needed. 1 have given her written workflow plans that have not been followed. She has agreed to bring problems in ILL to me. she has not...she has agreed to click on emails I send her so I know she's read them, she has not. In a meeting on 19 February 2009 on important software upgrades, she refused to look at me. barely responded to the questions I asked and took no notes...she shares nothing with me. and it is damaging the department. Darcel works hard but accuracy is a problem. There have been documented instances of articles in PDF form being handled incorrectly. Requests sent linger for months...the Letter of Counseling ...required the use of the Notes field ...this has not been followed. She has agreed to share information with me...this has not happened. She has not brought any ILL problems to me as required in the October 2008 Letter of Counseling. She keeps these to herself to the detriment of the department.'" Exh. 10.

         Linda Kleback testified about being stalked by the Plaintiff. (ECF 78-9, pp. 12-14). "Every time that I can remember that I used the microfilm she would show up and walk around to see what I was doing." Id. Ms. Kleback testified that she used the word "stalking" to describe this conduct and understood what "stalking" meant. She also testified that she did not want to talk to Plaintiff any more than she had to. She did not counsel Plaintiff because she was too afraid. During that "stalking" period. Plaintiff was not fulfilling her job duties very well and was not meeting the standards that she was expected to fill. On one occasion. Plaintiff was seen hiding in the stacks and according to Ms. Kleback. took a flash picture of Ms. Kleback. Ms. Kleback saw the flash and thought she had been shot. She was too scared to confront Plaintiff. Id. at 13-16.

         Discussion

         Standard of Review

         Pursuant to Rule 56, a movant is entitled to summary judgment where 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. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); See Celolex Corp. v. Catrett,477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). The Supreme Court has clarified that not every factual dispute will defeat a motion for summary judgment but rather, there must be a genuine issue of material fact. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., Ml U.S. 242, 247-248 (1986) ("the 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.*'). An issue of fact is material if, under the substantive law of the case, resolution of the factual dispute could affect the outcome. Id. at 248. There is a genuine issue as to material fact "if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Id; see Dulaney v. Packaging Corp. of Am.,673 F.3d 323, 330 ...


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