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Hood v. Montgomery County

United States District Court, D. Maryland

July 17, 2019

KATRINA E. HOOD, Plaintiff,



         Plaintiff Sergeant ("Sgt") Katrina Hood, a corrections officer with the Montgomery County Department of Correction and Rehabilitation ("DOCR") filed suit against Defendant Montgomery County, Maryland ("the County") alleging race discrimination and retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e-2000e-17 (2012), and a violation of the Family and Medical Leave Act ("FMLA"), 29 U.S.C. §§ 2601-2644 (2012). After the County moved to dismiss Sgt. Hood's claims, Sgt. Hood's race discrimination and FMLA claims were dismissed with prejudice. See Order, ECF No. 25. The parties proceeded to discovery on Sgt. Hood's retaliation claim. The County now moves for summary judgment on that remaining claim. Having reviewed the briefs and submitted materials, the Court finds no hearing necessary. See D. Md. Local R. 105.6. For the reasons set forth below, the Countyss Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED.


         In November 2015, Sgt. Hood sat for the DOCR promotional examination. At the time of the exam, she was a corporal and was seeking to qualify for promotion to sergeant. During the exam, Sgt. Hood's computer malfunctioned and she was unable to save a portion of the exam. In light of these technical difficulties, Sgt. Hood was given four to five additional minutes to complete the relevant exam portion and, with the assistance of an Information Technology specialist, was also able to save the exam. The relevant portion of Sgt. Hood's exam was also printed out for her to sign. Based on Sgt. Hood's score, she was not promoted to sergeant.

         In December 2015, Sgt. Hood sent an email to various DOCR officials complaining about her computer malfunction and stating that she "refuse(d] to believe the results" of the promotion-exam process. Joint Record ("J.R.") 84, ECF No. 59. In that email, Sgt. Hood did not make any allegations of impermissible discrimination but instead confined her complaints to perceived issues with the exam-scoring process.

         According to Sgt. Hood, in April 2016, she filed a complaint of race discrimination with the Montgomery County Office of Human Rights ("MOHR") based on the 2015 promotion exam. Sgt. Hood asserts that she was given a Right-to-Sue Letter that same month, after only a cursory investigation. No. documents from that process were attached to Sgt. Hoodss original or amended Complaint or included in the summary judgment Joint Record.

         In July 2016, Sgt. Hood, through her Union, filed a grievance with the Offices of the County Executive asserting that the examination process, specifically the computer malfunction, caused her undue hardship that placed her at an unfair disadvantage, in violation of various terms of the collective bargaining agreement. In October 2016, after a fact-finding and appeal process, that grievance was denied.

         In September 2016, Sgt. Hood filed a second complaint with MOHR, again asserting race discrimination and adding an allegation of retaliation. She received a Right-to-Sue Letter on September 29, 2016. In her Amended Complaint and again in her affidavit submitted with her Memorandum in Opposition to the Motion for Summary Judgment ("Opposition"), Sgt. Hood identifies what she believes to be the actionable retaliation as (1) the alteration of her time sheets; (2) citations for tardiness when the time clock was known to have malfunctioned; (3) being discouraged or hindered from taking sick leave and FMLA leave; and (4) efforts by Warden Susan Malagari to remove her from a prestigious Audit Team assignment.

         As to the alteration of her time sheets, Sgt. Hood testified in her deposition that at some unspecified time, she and another corrections officer helped with a special program at the prison at which she worked, and as a result Deputy Warden Starkey instructed Lieutenant ("Lt") Beam to give each of them an hour of overtime. Sgt. Hood asserts, however, that her time sheet was later altered by either Lt. Carroll or Lt. Beam to include eight hours of overtime. When Sgt. Hood asked Lt. Beam about the change, he told her that he was simply trying to "put more money in [her] pocket." J.R. 18. Sgt. Hood believes that this alteration was intended to cause her to approve a false time sheet.

         On the issue of citations for tardiness, in December 2016, Sgt. Hood received a Staff Improvement Form, known as a DCA 52, citing her for five instances of unexcused tardiness. Sgt. Hood challenged the DCA 52, asserting that many of her late arrivals were approved FMLA leave. In response to Sgt. Hoodss challenge, Warden Malagari reviewed the DCA 52 and determined that three of the instances either were or were possibly approved FMLA leave, and that one of them could not be properly substantiated by DOCR, leaving Sgt. Hood with only one instance of unexcused lateness. As a result, Warden Malagari rescinded the DCA 52. In her deposition, Sgt. Hood asserted that in 2018, she was again being improperly cited for tardiness but that the situation was later resolved.

         As to being removed from the Audit Team, in 2016, Sgt. Hood was selected for the Audit Team, the group responsible for preparing the prison for evaluation by the Maryland Commission on Correctional Standards. At her deposition, Sgt. Hood testified that when Warden Malagari learned that Sgt. Hood had been selected for the Audit Team, she stated that she wanted Sgt. Hood removed for unstated reasons. Nevertheless, Sgt. Hood remained on the Audit Team, and in September 2016, Warden Malagari gave her a Letter of Recognition for her work in that capacity.

         As for FMLA leave, Sgt. Hood asserted in her deposition that from September 2017 to January 2018, Steve Frachette, the FMLA Administrator, tried to justify not approving her FMLA requests to arrive late and to get her FMLA accommodations rescinded. Sgt. Hood has not demonstrated that these efforts were successfull.

         Although the allegations in Sgt. Hood's original and amended Complaints are confined to the above four issues, in her Opposition, Sgt. Hood presses a new theory of retaliation, that the DOCRss handling of her 2017 workers' compensation claims was retaliation for her 2016 complaints about the promotion exam. As to this new theory of liability, in her deposition, Sgt. Hood testified that in March and April 2017, she filed workers' compensation claims and that, at some point during the workers' compensation process, she was told by Lt. Robinson and Lt. Chisley that someone at DOCR was trying to sabotage her April claim. Sgt. Hood does not identify the DOCR employee or employees who allegedly attempted that sabotage, nor is there any other evidence in the record on this point. Sgt. Hood ultimately reached a settlement of the April 2017 workers' compensation claim. According to Sgt. Hood, during an investigation of the allegations of sabotage, she was pressured to reveal Lt. Chisleyss identity but did not do so because she feared that he would be subjected to retaliation. Sgt. Hood was not disciplined for that refusal.

         In 2017, Sgt. Hood again sat for the promotion exam. On that occasion, she qualified for promotion and received ...

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