United States District Court, D. Maryland
BELYNDA L. BOWMAN-COOK
WASHINGTON METROPOLITAN AREA TRANSIT AUTHORITY,
DEBORAH K. CHASANOW UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
pending and ready for resolution in this employment case is
the motion for summary judgment filed by Defendant the
Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority
(“WMATA”). (ECF No. 52). The issues have been
briefed, and the court now rules, no hearing being deemed
necessary. Local Rule 105.6. For the following reasons, the
motion for summary judgment will be granted.
Plaintiff Applies for a Promotion
Belynda L. Bowman-Cook (“Plaintiff”) was hired by
WMATA on January 20, 2000, as a traffic clerk. (ECF No. 66-2,
at 1). Shortly thereafter, Plaintiff was selected to
participate in a WMATA skills program, which consisted of
school and on-the-job training. (ECF No. 2, at 3). Plaintiff
completed the skills program in 2002 (ECF No. 66-3, at 1),
and began working as a D-level Electrical Mechanic.
2007, WMATA had one or more open positions for an AA-level
Electrical Mechanic (“Position 006517”). (ECF No.
66-2 ¶ 5). As a D-level Electrical Mechanic, Plaintiff
was required to pass tests on the C, B, A, and AA levels to
qualify for an AA-level job. (ECF No. 66-7, at 1). These
tests are administered in succession; a test-taker may only
take the next test after she passes the one below it. On
November 13, 2007, Plaintiff took and passed the C and B
tests, but failed the A test, and was not allowed to proceed
to the AA test. (ECF No. 66-2 ¶¶ 5, 7). On December
3, Plaintiff went to the testing site planning to retake the
A test and to take the AA test. The WMATA employee
administering the tests, Rail Car Maintenance Training
Instructor James Loos, told Plaintiff that she could not rely
on her previous C and B-level tests, and that she would have
to take all of the tests, the C, B, A, and AA tests, that day
in order to be eligible for the AA-level position. (ECF No.
66-7, at 1). Plaintiff told Mr. Loos that he was mistaken and
refused to retake the C and B tests. (Id.). Mr. Loos
agreed to let Plaintiff take the A and AA tests on the
condition that her results would be invalidated if he was
correct that all of the tests had to be taken in a single
session. (Id. at 2). Plaintiff passed both the A and
AA tests, but her supervisor E. Rod Spencer later confirmed
that Mr. Loos' understanding of the testing procedure was
correct, and Plaintiff's test results were invalidated.
(Id.). Thus, Plaintiff was not considered for
006517 was eventually awarded to Anthony Boykin. According to
Plaintiff, Mr. Boykin was a C-level Mechanic before he was
awarded Position 006517. (ECF Nos. 66-2 ¶¶ 5, 7;
66-17, at 1). Mr. Boykin passed the B test on April 11, 2007,
the A test on October 7, and the AA test on November 13. (ECF
No. 66-17, at 1). Mr. Boykin was awarded the position even
though he did not pass the B, A, and AA tests during one
testing period. (Id.). Plaintiff also affirmed that
three other men were selected on April 19, 2008, to fill
similar vacancies without having to pass the requisite tests
in a single testing period as Plaintiff was required to do.
(ECF Nos. 66-2 ¶ 6; 66-17, at 1-2). Plaintiff filed a
grievance related to the incident, which was denied in
January 2008. (ECF No. 66-6). She also engaged in WMATA's
internal processes for raising discrimination issues,
corresponding with various WMATA officials in May, June, and
July of 2008. (ECF Nos. 66-10; 66-11; 66-17). None of
Plaintiff's complaints resulted in any resolution in her
union contract between WMATA and the Amalgamated Transit
Union Local 689 (the “Union”), provides that
employees have the opportunity to apply for their preferred
shifts twice per year, in June and December. (ECF No. 66-13,
at 2). Shifts are then allocated to employees based on their
preference and status within the union. Plaintiff indicated
her preference for the day shift in December 2007, but the
results of the December “pick” placed her on the
evening shift. (ECF No. 66-18, at 1). Plaintiff requested an
exception be made to move her from the evening shift to the
day shift for child care reasons, and WMATA agreed to make
the exception and keep Plaintiff on the day shift for the
next six-month period. (ECF No. 66-16, at 2). In June 2008,
Plaintiff again indicated her preference to remain on the day
shift. (ECF No. 66-18, at 3). Again, the results of the
“pick” placed Plaintiff on the evening shift.
(ECF No. 52-1, at 2). Once again, Plaintiff requested to stay
on the day shift, but, this time, WMATA denied
Plaintiff's request. (Id.).
being told that she would have to work the evening shift,
Plaintiff wrote a letter to her supervisor Sam Prather, on
June 26, 2008, stating if WMATA would not move her to a day
shift, she would have “no alternative but to request a
leave of absence without pay.” (ECF No. 52-1, at 3).
WMATA responded by once again denying her request to change
shifts and notifying Plaintiff that it would not allow her to
take a leave of absence. (Id. at 4). When her new
shift schedule began on June 30, Plaintiff reported that she
was sick and stopped coming to work. (Id. at 4-5).
On July 10, Plaintiff's shift supervisor James Thompson
directed her to provide medical documentation to explain her
absence. (Id. at 5). Plaintiff did not provide him
with the medical documentation he requested. Instead, in late
July, Plaintiff's daughter attempted to submit a
“Return to Duty” form on Plaintiff's behalf.
(ECF No. 66-16, at 3). In the blank prompting Plaintiff to
“describe briefly” her illness, Plaintiff had
written, “I am tormented by the Management @ Greenbelt
Annex all the time it NEVER STOPS! It[']s one thing after
another with these managers.” (ECF No. 66-21). Mr.
Thompson refused to sign the form, which did not meet
WMATA's criteria for proper medical documentation under
its absence policies. (ECF Nos. 66-16, at 3; 66-25, at 2). On
August 29, Mr. Spencer sent a letter to Plaintiff, informing
her of the medical absentee reporting requirements, directing
her again to provide documentation, and warning her that
failure to comply would be grounds for dismissal. (ECF No.
52-1, at 6-7). On September 5, Mr. Spencer emailed Plaintiff
the same warning. (Id. at 8). Plaintiff received the
email, and she responded on September 8, telling Mr. Spencer
not to call or e-mail her again because she was in treatment
and was unaware of a return date. (Id. at 9). On
September 19, Mr. Spencer issued Plaintiff a final warning
giving her another opportunity to provide medical
documentation. (Id. at 10). Plaintiff failed to
respond and was fired on September 29. (Id. at
11-12). According to Mr. Spencer, Plaintiff was fired because
she “fail[ed] to comply with the established procedures
of [WMATA], the Collective [B]argaining Agreement between
[the Union] and [WMATA, ] and reasonable ongoing instructions
to support [her] continued absence from duty.”
filed a charge with the United States Equal Employment
Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) on October 6,
2008, for retaliation and discrimination on the basis of sex
and disability. (See ECF No. 52-1, at 13). In her
EEOC charge, Plaintiff stated that she had applied for a
promotion to the position of AA mechanic in December 2007,
and that, in January 2008, the candidates were posted.
Eventually, five of her male co-workers were selected ahead
of her despite her seniority over them. (Id.). She
further stated that she was denied her shift pick in June
2008. (Id.). Lastly, Plaintiff stated her belief
that WMATA fired her in retaliation for filing a union
grievance. (Id.). The EEOC concluded its
investigation on March 24, 2012, and Plaintiff was issued a
Notice of Right to Sue on December 20, 2013. Plaintiff filed
suit against the Union and WMATA in the Circuit Court for
Prince George's County on March 18, 2014, and WMATA
removed the case to this court on June 12, 2014. (ECF Nos. 1;
complaint asserts claims for: sex discrimination (Count I)
and race discrimination (Count II) under Title VII of the
Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”), 42 U.S.C.
§§ 2000e, et seq.; disability
discrimination (Count III) under the Rehabilitation Act, 29
U.S.C. § 710, et seq., as amended by the
Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), 29
U.S.C. § 791; age discrimination (Count IV) under the
Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”), 29
U.S.C. § 621; retaliation (Count V) under Title VII and
the ADEA; wrongful discharge (Count VI); hostile work
environment under Title VII, the ADEA, and the Rehabilitation
Act (Count VII); denial of promotion and employment
opportunities (Count VIII); denial of reasonable
accommodation (Count IX); violations of the Rehabilitation
Act of 1973, (Count X); and breach of contract (Count XI). On
March 12, 2015, Plaintiff and the Union stipulated to the
voluntary dismissal, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P.
41(a)(1)(A)(ii), of all claims against the Union. (ECF No.
moved for summary judgment on October 14, 2016. (ECF No. 52).
After the court granted Plaintiff three extensions of time to
file an opposition (ECF Nos. 55; 57; 59), Plaintiff's
counsel sought a sixty-day stay so that she could withdraw
from representing Plaintiff and allow Plaintiff to secure new
counsel. (ECF No. 60). WMATA consented to the stay and the
court stayed the case. (ECF Nos. 60; 61). On February 3,
Plaintiff's counsel filed a motion to withdraw, and
Plaintiff filed a motion for further extension of time either
to find counsel or to proceed pro se. (ECF Nos. 62;
63). The court granted the motions. (ECF No. 64). On May 8,
Plaintiff, proceeding pro se, filed her opposition
(ECF No. 66), and WMATA replied (ECF No. 67).
Standard of Review
moves for summary judgment pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56.
Summary judgment will be granted only if there exists no
genuine dispute 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); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby,
Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986); Emmett v.
Johnson, 532 F.3d 291, 297 (4th Cir. 2008). A
dispute about a material fact is genuine “if the
evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a
verdict for the nonmoving party.” Liberty
Lobby, 477 U.S. at 249. In undertaking this inquiry, a
court must view the facts and the reasonable inferences drawn
therefrom “in the light most favorable to the party
opposing the motion, ” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co.
v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986) (quoting
United States v. Diebold, Inc., 369 U.S. 654, 655
(1962)); see also EEOC v. Navy Fed. Credit ...