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Dewitt v. Clean Harbors Environmental Services, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Maryland

July 21, 2017

JESSICA E. DEWITT, Plaintiff,
v.
CLEAN HARBORS ENVIRONMENTAL SERVICES, INC., Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Richard D. Bennett United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Jessica E. Dewitt (“Dewitt” or “Plaintiff”) has filed a one-count Complaint against defendant Clean Harbors Environmental Services, Inc. (“Clean Harbors” or “Defendant”) for “unlawful employment practices based on sex and retaliation” under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq. (Compl., ECF No. at ¶ 1.) Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that Clean Harbors terminated her employment because of her gender and maintained a discriminatory and hostile work environment.[1] (Id.)

         Now pending before this Court is Clean Harbors' Motion for Summary Judgment (“Defendant's Motion”). (ECF No. 16.) The parties' submissions have been reviewed, and no hearing is necessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2016). For the reasons stated below, Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 16) is GRANTED, and summary judgment will be ENTERED in favor of Defendant on the one-Count complaint.

         BACKGROUND

         In ruling on a Motion for Summary Judgment, this Court considers the facts and draws all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 378 (2007).

         On September 1, 2011, Clean Harbors hired Dewitt for a job removing hazardous materials from various government, business, and industrial sites where the company contracted to perform such work. (Compl., ECF No. 1 at ¶ 4, 7.) Dewitt's supervisor, Derrick Josey (“Josey”), informed Dewitt of her work obligations, which included reporting to work at 7:00 AM. (Def.'s Ex. B, ECF No. 16-3 at ¶ 3.) Several months after Dewitt began working at Clean Harbors, her husband moved to Honduras, leaving her to raise their two-year-old daughter on her own. (Compl., ECF No. 1 at ¶¶ 8, 12.) Dewitt continued to work at Clean Harbors, but frequently reported late or was absent. (Id. at ¶¶ 7); Def.'s Ex. A, ECF No. 16-2 at p. 19; Def.'s Ex. C, ECF No. 16-3 at p. 6.) The record reflects more than twenty (20) instances where Dewitt was either late to work or failed to appear at all. (Def.'s Ex. B, ECF No. 16-3 at ¶ 5.) Josey spoke with Dewitt on several occasions about her performance, and Clean Harbors recorded four formal disciplinary actions documenting Dewitt's tardiness and absences. (Id. at ¶¶ 5-6.)

         On October 10, 2012, Dewitt received a “Last Chance Notification” from Clean Harbors notifying her that she would be terminated if her attendance did not improve.[2] (Def.'s Ex. 5-F, ECF No. 16-3.) Nevertheless, on October 23, 2012, Dewitt again appeared late to work-failing to arrive fifty (50) minutes after her schedule start time. (Def.'s Ex. 5G, ECF No. 16-2.; Def.'s Ex. A, ECF No. 16-2 at p. 100.) Having already provided Dewitt with the Last Chance Notice, Clean Harbors terminated Dewitt on October 24, 2012. (Def.'s Ex. 5G, ECF No. 16-2; Def.'s Ex. A, ECF No. 16-2 at p. 19.)

         On April 25, 2013, Dewitt filed a Charge of Discrimination before the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) alleging employment discrimination based on sex. (Def.'s Ex. D, ECF No. 16-5 at p. 2.) On February 29, 2016, the EEOC issued a Notice of Right to Sue.[3] (Id.) Dewitt filed the instant case before this Court on May 27, 2016. (Compl., ECF No. 1 at ¶ 1.)

         In the Complaint, Dewitt alleges that she was terminated because of discrimination based on sex and that she was treated less favorably than the male employees at Clean Harbors. (Compl., ECF No. 1 at ¶¶ 1, 7-21.) Specifically, she asserts that she was reprimanded by her supervisors while her male co-workers with similar tardiness and attendance issues were not disciplined. (Id. at ¶ 14.) Dewitt points to a single event, where she was reprimanded for not attending a voluntary Hazardous Household Waste event, while her male co-workers were not similarly disciplined. (Id. at ¶ 16.) Additionally, Dewitt alleges that Clean Harbors arranged to provide her male co-workers Hepatitis B vaccinations, while they ignored her requests for such a vaccination. (Id. at 15.)

         Dewitt also alleges that Clean Harbors maintained a discriminatory and hostile work environment. (Id. at ¶ 1.) Specifically, she alleges that prior to the start of her employment, Dan Brooks (“Brooks”), a Clean Harbors employee, programmed the parking lot gate code as “24824*”, which she asserts is a coded way of expressing the degrading phrase “bitch*.” (Id. at 17; Def.'s Ex. C, ECF No. 16-4 at ¶ 9; Def.'s Ex. A, at p. 120-22, 125.) Plaintiff also alleges that her fellow employees treated her with indifference and hostility, never referring to her by her name. (Id. at 11.) Finally, she alleges that a Clean Harbors employee refused to drive a company vehicle with her as a passenger. (Id. at ¶ 18.)

         The parties completed discovery on January 6, 2017. Defendant filed its Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 16) consistent with this court's Scheduling Order, and the Motion is fully ripe for this court's resolution.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that a 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(c). A material fact is one that “might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law.” Libertarian Party of Va. v. Judd, 718 F.3d 308, 313 (4th Cir. 2013) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)). A genuine issue over a material fact exists “if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. When considering a motion for summary judgment, a judge's function is limited to determining whether sufficient evidence exists on a claimed factual dispute to warrant submission of the matter to a jury for resolution at trial. Id. at 249.

         In undertaking this inquiry, this Court must consider the facts and all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Libertarian Party of Va., 718 F.3d at 312; see also Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 378 (2007). This Court “must not weigh evidence or make credibility determinations.” Foster v. University of Md.-Eastern Shore, 787 F.3d 243, 248 (4th Cir. 2015) (citing Mercantile Peninsula Bank v. French, 499 F.3d 345, 352 (4th Cir. 2007)); see also Jacobs v. N.C. Administrative Office of the Courts, 780 F.3d 562, 569 (4th Cir. 2015) (explaining that the trial court may not make credibility determinations at the summary judgment stage). However, this Court must also abide by its affirmative obligation to prevent factually unsupported claims and defenses from going to trial. Drewitt v. Pratt, 999 F.2d 774, 778-79 (4th Cir. 1993). If the evidence presented by the nonmoving party is merely colorable, or is not significantly probative, summary judgment must be granted. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249-50. On the other hand, a party opposing summary judgment must “do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts.” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986); see also In re Apex Express Corp., 190 F.3d 624, 633 (4th Cir. 1999). This Court has previously explained that a “party cannot create a genuine dispute of material fact through mere speculation or compilation of inferences.” Shin v. Shalala, 166 F.Supp.2d 373, 375 (D. Md. 2001) (citations omitted).

         DISCUSSION

         Certain of Dewitt's claims are procedurally barred by the Statute of Limitations and her failure to exhaust her administrative remedies. Furthermore, she has not presented sufficient evidence to establish a prima facie case in support of her claims that she was terminated because of discrimination based on gender, and that Clean Harbors maintained a hostile work environment. (Mot. for Summ. J., ECF No. 16 at ¶¶ 2-6.) These issues are addressed in turn below.

         I. Several of Plaintiff's Allegations are Barred by the ...


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