United States District Court, D. Maryland
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER RE: SUMMARY JUDGMENT
J. Garbis United States District Judge.
Court has before it Defendant Housing Authority of Baltimore
City's Motion for Summary Judgment [ECF No. 47] and the
materials submitted relating thereto. The Court finds that a
hearing is not necessary.
Inshallah Brown (“Brown” or
“Plaintiff”) filed a Complaint [ECF No. 1]
asserting federal and state law claimsagainst the Mayor
and City Council of Baltimore, the Housing Authority of
Baltimore City (“HABC”), and two individual
Defendants, Dwayne and Alicia Johnson (“the
against Defendants Mayor and City Council of Baltimore have
been dismissed, see ECF No. 15, and the majority of
Plaintiff's claims against HABC were also dismissed in
this Court's Memorandum and Order of July 26, 2017.
See Memorandum and Order at 24-25, ECF No. 29
(dismissing Counts I, II, IV, and VI).
there are only two remaining claims in this case: retaliation
(Count III) asserted against HABC, and tortious interference
(Count VI) asserted against the Landlords.
was employed by HABC for nine years until she was terminated
on April 15, 2015. Brown Aff. ¶¶ 2-3, ECF No. 48-3;
Def.'s Mot. Ex. 1A, ECF No. 47-4. At the time of
termination, she was working as a “Program Specialist
I” in the Housing Choice Voucher Program
(“HCVP”). Brown Aff. ¶ 2.
Job Performance Prior to 2014
performance evaluations for years 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009,
2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013 indicated that she “met
expectations” for her position. Pl.'s Opp. Ex. 3,
ECF No. 48-4.
in April 2014, her supervisor was David Harper
(“Harper”). Pl.'s Opp. Ex. 10, ECF No. 48-5. On
August 8, 2014, Mr. Harper purportedly wrote a letter of
recommendation to an unspecified “Hiring Manager”
stating his belief that
[Ms. Brown] has proven to be hard working, reliable and fully
committed to exceeding customer expectations. She has a team
player mindset, as well as the ability to work with minimal
supervision. Ms. Brown has consistently demonstrated all of
these qualities and more. I heartily endorse her for any
endeavor she pursues and she has my highest recommendation.
Pl.'s Opp. Ex. 1, ECF No. 48-4.
Harper denies ever having written this letter, although he
admits that the signature on the letter “looks
like” his signature. Pl.'s Opp. Ex. 8, ECF No.
48-5; Harper Dep. Tr. 115-116, ECF No. 47-8. He expressed
concerns about the authenticity of the letter because he
cannot recall ever writing a letter for Ms. Brown, because
there is no formal heading on the letter, and because he
usually writes reference letters that are specific to a
position or company, not one that is addressed generally to a
“Hiring Manager.” Harper Dep. Tr. 116-117, ECF
Charge of Race Discrimination
September 18, 2014, Ms. Brown filed a charge of race
discrimination with the Maryland Commission on Civil Rights
(“MCCR”) against HABC. Brown Aff. ¶ 4. The
charge related to certain disputes with the Defendant
Landlords, Dwayne London and Alicia London, which threatened
her employment position at HABC.
December 2, 2014, she was notified by letter that MCCR had
received her charge of discrimination (“MCCR Notice
Letter”). Brown Aff. ¶ 5. The MCCR Notice Letter
contained a Certificate of Service indicating that it had
also been served on HABC on December 2, 2014. Pl.'s Opp.
Ex. 2, ECF No. 48-4. There is little to no evidence in the
record indicating when Ms. Brown's supervisors learned of
her charge of racial discrimination. The deputy chief for the
Housing Choice Voucher Program, Corliss Alston
(“Alston”), cannot remember when she learned of
the charge by Ms. Brown. Ms. Brown admits she does not know when
(or if) any of her supervisors actually learned of her
charge. Brown Dep. Tr. 54-57, ECF No. 47-6.
2014 Evaluation and Subsequent Termination
weeks after the MCCR Notice Letter, on December 24, 2014, Ms.
Brown received an unfavorable performance evaluation
(“2014 Evaluation”). Brown Aff. ¶ 7. This
was the first evaluation she had received since 2006
indicating a score of “improvement needed.”
Pl.'s Opp. Ex. 3, ECF No. 48-4. The 2014 Evaluation,
signed by Ms. Peterson, indicated that Ms. Brown needed to
improve in several areas, including file review and
completing the quality control checklist, completing tasks in
a timely manner and meeting various deadlines, ensuring her
work is accurate and supported by tools provided to her,
managing files consistently, and communication with
colleagues by email. Pl.'s Opp. Ex. 7, ECF No. 48-5.
also placed on a Performance Improvement Plan
(“PIP”) that day, constituting a disciplinary
action. Brown Aff. ¶ 8; Pl.'s Opp. Ex. 7, ECF No.
48-5. She states she did not know about her placement on a
PIP until she was later refused educational assistance by Ms.
Alston for having been disciplined. Brown Aff. ¶ 8.
Brown states her belief that despite having been put on a
PIP, her immediate supervisor “sabotaged [her]
efforts” to improve her performance, including by
meeting with her only one time, requiring her to conduct her
own desk reviews, and removing client files from her desk
without notifying her. Id. ¶ 12. Other
colleagues and supervisors, including Dawnay Green-Chrisp
(“Green-Chrisp”),  would also remove files from her
desk without telling her. Id. ¶ 13. Ms. Brown
was assigned a larger work load, was refused assistance when
she requested it, was refused answers when she tried to find
out where the missing files had gone, and was given
inconsistent information about how many files she was
responsible for processing. Id. ¶¶ 13-19.
On March 16, 2015, Ms. Green-Chrisp wrote a memorandum to
staff entitled “NOTES NOTES NOTES, ” advising
that staff had to document “‘the
system'” with what they were doing with a
client's file. Pl.'s Opp. Ex. 14, ECF No. 48-6. Yet
according to Plaintiff, Ms. Green-Chrisp and Mr. Harper
failed to follow these instructions themselves. Brown Aff.
Brown states her belief that these actions amount to
retaliation against her for her racial discrimination charge,
but admits that aside from the MCCR Notice Letter, she does
not have evidence to support that any of her supervisors
actually knew of the charge:
Q. Okay. So you believe David Harper retaliated against you
for your complaint, correct?
A. I believe that the agency retaliated against me.
Q. Okay. So you believe somehow the agency gave direction to
its staff to retaliate against you?
A. That is my belief.
Q. Okay. Who at the agency conveyed that message? Because the
agency can't speak. The agency has employees that speak
for it. So who at the agency conveyed that message?
A. My belief is Nicholas Calace.
Q. Okay. What do you have to show that?
A. I don't have anything other than my complaint to show
Q. Okay. Do you have anything to show when Nicholas Calace
learned that you charged the Housing Authority with
A. I have my original complaint, and I have a copy of the
correspondence from the Maryland Commission on Human