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HILL v. THE CHILDREN'S VILLAGE

April 2, 2002

JAMILLAH HILL, PLAINTIFF
V.
THE CHILDREN'S VILLAGE, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: McMahon, United States District Judge:

   
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT IN PART AND DENYING IN PART

Plaintiff Jamillah Hill ("Hill") sues The Children's Village for violations of federal and state anti-discrimination laws. The Children's Village is a non-profit organization providing residential and other treatment facilities for emotionally disturbed boys. Hill worked as a sociotherapist there and was assigned to Brooks Cottage from approximately April 1998 through April 2000. Hill reported to Reverend Curtis Brown ("Brown") during the period that she was employed at Brooks Cottage.

The Children's Village now moves for summary judgment under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

Hill began her employment with The Children's Village in April 1998. (Compl. ¶ 11.) Brown became Hill's supervisor when she was assigned to Brooks Cottage. (Compl. ¶ 15.) Hill reported to Brown from approximately April 1998 to April 2000. (Brown tr. at 65.) Brown had control over Hill's schedule and her performance evaluations. Brown reported to Sylvie Jeanloz ("Jeanloz"), the Unit Director. (Jeanloz tr. at 29, 33)

During the time that she worked for The Children's Village, Hill was given overall employment reviews of very good (Pl's Opp'n to Def's Mot. for Summ. J., Exh. 13) and good (Id. at Exh. 14). Hill was given a written warning in August 1999 regarding her inability to work with other members of the Brooks team. (Hill tr. at 143, Ekelman Aff., Exhs. B and J.)

Plaintiff asserts that Brown sexually harassed her while he was her supervisor at The Children's Village. Plaintiff states that Brown told her that she had a "sexy" body and he "hoped" she was not going to "let that sexy body go to waste." (Hill tr. at 183.) Brown told Plaintiff he could fulfill her "sexual needs" because he was "an older man" (Hill tr. at 184-85; Earl tr. at 65, 135-38.) Plaintiff also alleges that Brown rubbed up against her inappropriately and rubbed and massaged her shoulders. (Hill tr. at 181, 189, 243-44.) Hill claims that she tried to show Brown that his advances were unwelcome by wearing big, baggy clothes to work. Brown responded to this by asking her "What are you doing in that? What are you covering up?" (Earl. tr. at 129; Brown tr. at 124, 127.) Hill's co-worker, Angela Earl ("Earl") testified in her deposition that Brown repeatedly told Hill that "she looked good" (Earl tr. at 73). Earl testified that she thought "he was sexually harassing [Hill] with words." (Id. at 73-75.)

When Plaintiff worked under Brown's supervision at Brooks Cottage, she had some morning shifts and the Thursday evening shift, and she had Fridays and Saturdays off. This was a very desirable schedule. (Id.. at 145.) Hill contends that because she rejected Brown's advances, he took away her shift and gave it to Earl. (Id. at 147.)

Plaintiff asserts that Brown was jealous of the attention she received from other males. Brown repeatedly questioned her about her relationship with Trae Cooper, for example. (Hill tr. at 192, 259-60.) Brown testified that he told Plaintiff Cooper was just a young, immature boy and asked her whether she was seeing or dating Cooper. (Brown tr. at 207.) Brown also asked her about other men. (Hill tr. at 120.)

In March 2000, Hill learned that Astra Rodriguez, a mother of one of the boys at the cottage told Michelle Reilly-MacKessy, a social worker at Brooks Cottage, that she had seen Hill kissing a male co-worker in Brooks Cottage. (Reilly-MacKessy tr. at 11-12, 20-27; Ekelman Aff., Exh. G.) Rodriguez prepared a written statement describing what she saw. (Reilly-MacKessy tr. at 23-24; Ekelman Aff., Exh. G.) Brown investigated the parent's complaint. During the investigation, Hill's schedule was changed to ensure that Hill and the man she was suspected of kissing (Trae Cooper) were not working together on parent visiting day. (Brown tr. at 180, 212-14; Ekelman Aff., Exh. C.) Trae Cooper was terminated following the investigation of the complaint. (Alford tr. at 128-29; Ekelman Aff., Exh. D.) Brown never reached a conclusion as to what happened in the conference room on the day of the alleged kissing incident. (Brown tr. at 184.)

On April 4, 2000 Hill was terminated from her employment with The Children's Village. On that day, Brown recommended to Jeanloz that Hill be fired. (Brown tr. at 236-37.) Jeanloz then told Lawrence Alford ("Alford"), Vice President of Human Resources that Hill should be terminated. (Alford tr. at 121.) Alford spoke with Brown and asked him if he supported the termination. (Id. Brown tr. at 24-242.) Brown said that he did support the termination, but did not explain his reasons. (Alford tr. at 121; Brown tr. at 242-42.) Alford accepted Brown's recommendation to terminate Hill. He then wrote a memorandum of termination. (Alford tr. at 119.) Brown signed this memorandum, and told Plaintiff that she was fired. (Brown tr. at 244- 45; Hill tr. at 227-28.) Plaintiff asserts that the decision to terminate her was not made until Brown approved the decision. Defendant responds that Plaintiff was terminated following the incident with Trae Cooper and because of her inability to work closely with co-workers. Plaintiff replies that these reasons are merely a pretext.

The Children's Village's written sexual harassment policy is set forth in the Children's Village's Employee Handbook and Policies and Procedures Manual for management personnel. (Alford tr. at 41-42, 47-48; Ekelman Aff., Exhs. D and H.) Shortly after Plaintiff began her employment with The Children's Village, she signed a form acknowledging that she had received an Employee Handbook. (Hill tr. at 53; Ekelman Aff., Exhs. B and I.) Hill asserts that she was told to sign the form acknowledging receipt of the handbook because personnel would be giving her one soon, but they never followed up on their promise. (Hill tr. at 65-66.) Plaintiff stated in her deposition that she did not receive a copy of the handbook after she was terminated (when she requested one). (Hill tr. at 51.)

Defendant claims that Hill never complained about the alleged sexual harassment by Brown until after she was terminated. (Hill tr. at 220.) Plaintiff, however, contends that she complained to Albert Lovelle ("Lovelle"), a supervisor in another cottage, about Brown's sexual harassment over a year before she was fired. (Hill tr. at 54-58.) Lovelle did not report what Plaintiff told him because he felt that the fact that she told him outside of work meant that he did not have an obligation to report it. (Alford tr. at 169.) Lovelle eventually told Hill that he should go to Alford, Vice President of Human Resources, to tell him about Brown's behavior. (Lovelle tr. at 65-67.) Plaintiff made appointments to speak with Alford, but Alford did not show up for the appointments; instead he rescheduled them. (Hill tr. at 220.) Alford then told Brown about Hill's appointment to see him and asked Brown if he knew why Plaintiff wanted to talk to him. (Alford tr. at 102-05; Brown tr. at 245.) Hill was terminated shortly after making these appointments to speak with Alford.

Alford investigated Hill's complaint by interviewing several employees including Hill, Brown, Sylvie Jeanloz, Trae Cooper, Albert Lovelle, and Angela Earl. (Hill tr. at 226; Alford tr. at 144-46, 148-49, 158-64, 167-68, 172-74; Brown tr. at 309.) At the end of the investigation, Alford determined that there was no evidence to substantiate Plaintiff's claims of sexual harassment. (Alford tr. at 160, Ekelman Aff., Exhs. N and O.) Alford determined that Brown and Hill engaged in inappropriate conduct because Brown had driven Hill to a family wake and to a court appearance during working hours. (Alford tr. at 161-64.)

On May 4, 2000, The Children's Village reinstated Plaintiff with full back pay, assigned her to a different cottage and supervisor and assigned her to the shift she requested. (Ekelman Aff., Exh. O.) Her reinstatement was accompanied by a written disciplinary warning. (Pl's Opp'n to Def's Mot. for Summ. J., Exh. 22.) Brown was issued a disciplinary ...


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