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Harris v. Anne Arundel County Maryland

United States District Court, D. Maryland

August 24, 2018

JUNE F. HARRIS, Plaintiff,


          Richard D. Bennett United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff June F. Harris (“Plaintiff” or “Harris”), an African-American female, brings this action alleging race discrimination against Anne Arundel County, Maryland (“Defendant” or the “County”) in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e, et seq., stemming from her non-selection for the position of Assistant Correctional Facility Administrator at the Ordnance Road Correction Center. Currently pending before this Court is the Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment. (ECF No. 34.) 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. 34) is GRANTED and Judgment is ENTERED in favor of Anne Arundel County, Maryland.


         In November of 2016, this Court dismissed Harris' retaliation claim against the County, as well as any claims against William Martin. The Plaintiff was permitted a discovery period to proceed with a single claim against the County for racial discrimination. After a lengthy period of discovery, it is clear to this Court that there are no genuine issues of material fact such that a reasonable jury could award a verdict for Harris.

         This Court begins with an overview of the Anne Arundel County Detention Center (the “Detention Center”). The Detention Center consists of two facilities: the Jennifer Road Detention Center (“JRDC”), a maximum security facility that primarily houses individuals awaiting trial, and the Ordnance Road Correctional Center (“ORCC”), a minimum security facility that primarily houses individuals with prison sentences of less than eighteen months. Since 2009, the superintendent of both facilities has been Terry Kokolis. (Kokolis Tr., ECF No. 34-6 at 2.) At each detention center there is a Correctional Facility Administrator (“CFA”) who reports to the superintendent. (Martin Tr., ECF No. 34-5 at 40.) During the relevant time period, the CFA at JRDC was Brenda Shell-Eleazer, an African-American female, and the CFA at ORCC was William Martin, a Caucasian male. (Id.) Underneath the CFAs are Assistant Correctional Facility Administrators (“ACFAs”). (Id. at 41.) There are three ACFAs at the Detention Center: two at JRDC and one at ORCC. (Id.)

         There are two other pertinent categories of positions at the Detention Center. First, there are Detention Officers that maintain security at the facilities and who report to Detention Captains. The Detention Captains then report to the ACFAs at their facilities. If the CFAs and ACFAs are absent, for example they generally do not work over the weekends, the Detention Captains are responsible for the overall operations of the facility. (ECF No. 34-5 at 38-39.) Second, there are Correctional Program Specialists who determine to which programs inmates should be referred and who then act as liaisons between the Detention Center and individuals from those programs. (Id. at 17-19.) The Correctional Program Specialists are supervised by Criminal Justice Program Supervisors.

         In 1988, Plaintiff Harris began working as a Detention Officer at JRDC. (Harris Dep., ECF No. 34-4 at 8-9.) In 1993, she was promoted to Correctional Program Specialist. (Id. at 10.) Ten years later in November of 2004, she was promoted to her current position of Criminal Justice Program Supervisor at the other detention facility, ORCC. (Id. at 13; ECF No. 38-1 at 2.) As a Criminal Justice Program Supervisor, Plaintiff testified that she supervised staff, had various managerial duties, and orchestrated different programs or areas depending on which ORCC facility she was assigned.[1] (ECF No. 34-4 at 28-34.)

         On January 23, 2013, Anne Arundel County posted a job opening for an Assistant Correctional Facility Administrator (“ACFA”) position.[2] (Martin Aff., ECF No. 34-9 at ¶ 4; ECF No. 34-8 at 25.) The posting indicated that the position consisted of “highly responsible penological management work in assisting and directing the operations of the County's Correctional Facilities.” (Id.) The posting listed various examples of the positions' duties, relevant knowledge, skills, and abilities, and minimum qualifications for the position. (Id. at 25-27.) The posting also indicated that supplemental qualifications for the position were (i) “four or more years of administrative experience in correctional facility functions to include security, inmate services or community services” and (ii) “four or more years of Supervisory experience.” (Id.)

         Angela McLaughlin, the Personnel Analyst in the Office of Personnel for the County, received seventy eight applications for the position. (McLaughlin Aff., ECF No. 34-8 at ¶ 12.) She then chose eleven candidates, including Harris, who met the minimum and supplemental qualifications for the position. (Id.) Of those eleven individuals, nine were interviewed.[3] Two of the nine individuals were internal to the Detention Center: Plaintiff Harris and Michael Borgese. Harris' application detailed her experience described above, from a Detention Officer through her current role as Criminal Justice Program Supervisor. (ECF No. 34-9 at 16-18.) She stated that in her current position, she supervised twenty-five individuals. (Id. at 16.) On the other hand, Michael Borgese was a Detention Captain who began working for Anne Arundel County Detention Center in 1994. (ECF No. 36-1 at 29-32) (sealed). From 1994 through the date he applied for the ACFA position, he worked as a Correctional Officer, Detention Officer, Detention Sergeant, Detention Lieutenant, and finally a Detention Captain. (Id.) At the time he applied, he had been a Detention Captain for over four years at the time and stated that he supervised ninety-three individuals. (Id.)

         Martin testified that prior to the interviews, Borgese approached him and asked if he could give any insight into the content of the interviews for the ACFA position. (Martin Dep., ECF No. 34-5 at 71-72.) At that time, Martin did not know that he would ultimately be on the interview panel. (Id. at 74.) In response, Martin told Borgese that he “anticipated that the interview, itself, would be global in nature, and that the job had been advertised internal and external. If the interview was specific to just our department, that it may be viewed as being unfair to an external candidate, who might not know our department.” (Id. at 71-72.) A few days later, Borgese approached Martin again and said he would like to ask him questions about program classification files. (Id. at 73.) Martin then took Borgese to an administrative conference room to discuss his questions. (Id.) During this meeting with Borgese, which Martin testified lasted no longer than fifteen minutes, Harris walked by and saw “several program files” spread out on a table between Martin and Borgese. (Id. at 74; ECF No. 34-4 at 44, 50.)

         Given Harris' background at the Detention Center, she was already familiar with program classification files. (ECF No. 34-4 at 55.) Accordingly, she testified that she never asked Martin to discuss such files prior to her interview. (Id.) Rather, she asked Martin if there was anything she “could read up on or brush up on to prepare [her]self for [her] upcoming interview.” (ECF No. 34-4 at 45.) In response, Harris testified that Martin told her “no, the questions [are] not going to be tailored toward the position because we ha[ve] people coming from the outside, as well as the inside, and you either know it or you don't.” (Id. at 56.) Martin testified that he responded to Harris in the same way in which he responded to Borgese, indicating that the questions would be more global in nature and that Harris was free to contact him with any further questions. (ECF No. 34-5 at 78-79.)

         A few days before the interviews, Martin and Brenda Shell-Eleazer, the Assistant Correctional Facility Administrators for the Jennifer Road Detention Center and Ordnance Road Correctional Center, were chosen to be the interview panel. (Koklis Dep., ECF No. 34-6 at 15; Martin Dep., ECF No. 34-5 at 76.) The personnel liaison for the Department of Detention Facilities, Sarita Durant, prepared the interview questions. (ECF No. 34-8 at ¶¶ 13-14.) On the morning of the first interview, Martin and Shell-Eleazer received the individuals' applications, resumes, other materials they submitted, and an “Interview Report” that listed the interview questions and contained space for notation. (ECF No. 34-9 at ¶ 6.)

         The interviews took place on April 4 and 5, 2013. Plaintiff testified that during the interview, she was not asked questions “pertaining to the specifics of the job” including “the programs of the facility.” (ECF No. 34-4 at 37.) Rather, she only recalled describing herself and being asked to describe her leadership skills. (Id. at 38.) The Interview Reports for each applicant show that the applicants were asked eight questions including “briefly articulate your work history, ” “what do you consider to be the most important issue(s) facing corrections management today, ” “please describe your personal Philosophy of Management, ” and describe how you would learn the requisite skills to manage both security and civilian supervisors. (ECF No. 34-9 at 13-15.) For each question, Martin and Shell-Eleazer indicated whether the applicant's answer made the individual “Unqualified” for the position, worth zero points, “Qualified, ” worth one point, “Better Qualified, ” worth two points, or “Best Qualified, ” worth three points. (Id.) At the bottom of the Interview Report, Martin and Shell-Eleazer combined the applicant's score for each question to determine a Final Overall Rating. (Id.)

         According to the Interview Reports, Martin and Shell-Eleazer ranked Plaintiff Harris sixth out of the nine candidates.[4] (ECF No. 34-9 at ¶ 9; ECF No. 42-1 (sealed)). Three of the candidates had an average Final Overall Ranking[5] of 7 as Qualified. (ECF No. 42-1) (sealed). Harris then had the fourth lowest Final Overall Ranking of 8.5 as Qualified. (ECF No. 34-9 at 13-15, 21-23.) The next four candidates had average Final Overall Rankings between 9.5 and 11.5 as Qualified or Better Qualified. (ECF No. 42-1) (sealed). Finally, Borgese scored the highest with an average Final Overall ...

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