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Saonarah Jeudy v. Eric Holder

November 7, 2011

SAONARAH JEUDY, PLAINTIFF,
v.
ERIC HOLDER, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY GENERAL, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Paul C. Huck United States District Judge

ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

Saonarah Jeudy, an African-American female, brings this action against the Attorney General pursuant to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. § 791 et seq., and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. Ms. Jeudy asserts claims of unlawful race, sex, and disability discrimination based on the denial of her requests for a reasonable accommodation and subsequent termination of her employment from the Federal Bureau of Prisons. She also contends that her requests for an accommodation were denied and she was terminated in retaliation for complaining about sexual harassment by a supervisor. The case is presently before the Court on Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (D.E. #40). Defendant seeks summary judgment on all counts set forth in Ms. Jeudy's Third Amended Complaint (D.E. #35). For the reasons discussed below, Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment is granted in full.*fn1

I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

Ms. Jeudy began working for the Federal Bureau of Prisons on June 11, 2006, as a probationary correctional officer at the Federal Detention Center in Miami, Florida. Ms. Jeudy contends that, shortly after her employment commenced, she was subjected to sexual harassment by a supervisor, Lieutenant Kevin Burden. Specifically, Ms. Jeudy claims that Lieutenant Burden made several inappropriate comments regarding her physical appearance. See Jeudy Dep. at 52:11--22 (A70)*fn2 ("He just made a comment like, you have the most beautiful soft skin and whatever. . . . And he would come to my post and make comments all the time . . . ."). She also contends that he telephoned her while she was working and whispered into the phone without identifying himself. See Jeudy Sworn Statement at 9 (A24). Additionally, on one occasion, Lieutenant Burden called Ms. Jeudy into his office to put his shoe back on his foot. See Jeudy Dep. at 50:18--51:9 (A70). The alleged harassment continued until Ms. Jeudy complained in March 2007. See November 29, 2007 Letter from Teri Guttman Valdes to Roy E. Ferguson at 1 (A14). Ms. Jeudy spoke to Lieutenant Miller, various co-workers, and union officials about the Lieutenant Burden's harassment. Id.

In early 2007, Ms. Jeudy became pregnant. During her pregnancy, Ms. Jeudy experienced pelvic pain, which she attributed to fibroids in her uterus, and requested an accommodation due to her pregnancy. Specifically, Ms. Jeudy informed Lieutenant Hicks that she was pregnant and asked if she could be placed on the night shift. Jeudy Dep. at 69:10--14 (A74). According to Ms. Jeudy, she requested this shift because she "wanted to be on the shift with less activity." Id. at 64:21--22 (A72); see also id. at 71:22--72:1 (A74) (Q: And the only accommodation you asked for was to be changed to the midnight shift? A: Right, because inmates are sleeping. If I am throwing up, they wouldn't see it, and if I am in pain, I could deal with my pain.").*fn3 Lieutenant Hicks told her to speak with the other rookie officers to see if someone would switch with her. See id. at 69:14--16 (A74). Ms. Jeudy was unable to find an officer to switch shifts with her. See id. at 69:18--19 (A74).

Ms. Jeudy also testified that she spoke to Captain Edward Felz about her pregnancy approximately three times between February and May 2007. Id. at 79:9--12 (A76). In May 2007, after conferring with Eric Young, the president of the union responsible for representing correctional officers, Ms. Jeudy submitted a doctor's note in support of her requests for an accommodation. The note stated that Ms. Jeudy was under the care of Dr. Susan Davila for "a pregnancy complicated by hyperemesis & pelvic pain" and that Ms. Jeudy "should not repetitively climb stairs and should be accommodated." See Dr. Davila Note (A88). Ms. Jeudy's requests were denied.

On May 11, 2007, Ms. Jeudy attended Annual Refresher Training at the Federal Detention Center. See May 14, 2007 Felz Mem. (A4). Captain Felz and approximately thirty other staff members were present. Id. During training, Ms. Jeudy's cell phone rang, and, at Captain Felz's direction, Ms. Jeudy removed her phone from the institution. Id. She later apologized to Captain Felz for the incident. Id. At her deposition, Ms. Jeudy acknowledged that she should not have had her phone at work while she was in the building, but stated that during the training session everyone had their phones, including Captain Felz. Jeudy Dep. at 47:17--48:20 (A69).

Three days later, on May 14, 2007, while conducting rounds during the 4:00 p.m. count, Lieutenant Burden noticed that a cell door in Ms. Jeudy's unit was ajar and unlocked. See May 14, 2007 Burden Mem. (A5). According to Lieutenant Burden, Ms. Jeudy stated that "she could not secure the unit because she had been ill in the restroom, and could not secure her unit in time for the 4:00 p.m. count." Id. In her deposition, Ms. Jeudy confirmed that one of the doors in her unit was not properly secured and that she was vomiting and sick. See Jeudy Dep. at 60:4--23 (A71). She contends, however, that the door that was not properly secured was to a cell for inmates with disabilities and that no one was in that cell at that time. See id. at 60:6--25 (A71). This incident was documented in a memorandum from Lieutenant Burden to Captain Felz and on Ms. Jeudy's performance log. See May 14, 2007 Burden Mem. (A5); May 14, 2007 Performance Log (A53).

By letter dated June 6, 2007, the warden, Loren A. Grayer, advised Ms. Jeudy that she would be removed, during probation, from her position as a correctional officer effective June 8, 2007. See June 6, 2007 Letter from Loren A. Grayer, Warden, to Saonarah Jeudy (A1--3). Ms. Jeudy was terminated because of the May 11, 2007 and May 14, 2007 incidents described above. See id. At the time of her termination, Ms. Jeudy was not present at the Federal Detention Center. She was on leave because she fell at work on May 29, 2007. See Jeudy Sworn Statement at 27--28 (A42--43). Accordingly, the termination letter was mailed to her residence. See id. After Ms. Jeudy's termination, Charles Laugh, a union officer, informed the warden that, prior to Ms. Jeudy's termination, Officer Felz stated: "Can you believe that girl got pregnant during her probationary period." Aff. of Charles Laugh (D.E. #53-1) at 1.*fn4

Ms. Jeudy initiated the present suit on August 6, 2010. In her Third Amended Complaint, she alleges five distinct claims. In Count I, Ms. Jeudy contends that Defendant violated the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 by failing to accommodate her alleged disability-her pregnancy-and by terminating her as a result of that alleged disability. Count II provides that Defendant discriminated against Ms. Jeudy based on her race because white male officers received reasonable accommodations and were not terminated for committing violations similar to those committed by Ms. Jeudy. The allegations of Count III and Count IV mirror the allegations in Count II, except that the purported discrimination is based on gender (Count III) and pregnancy (Count IV) instead of race. Finally, in Count V, Ms. Jeudy asserts that her requests for a reasonable accommodation were denied and she was terminated in retaliation for reporting sexual harassment by Lieutenant Burden.*fn5 Defendant seeks summary judgment on all counts.

II. ANALYSIS

Summary judgment is appropriate where "the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). Here, Defendant "bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for [his] motion, and identifying those portions of [the record] which [he] believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986).

The burden then shifts to Ms. Jeudy to demonstrate that a genuine issue of material fact exists. See Fitzpatrick v. City of Atlanta, 2 F.3d 1112, 1116 (11th Cir. 1993). Ms. Jeudy may not simply rest upon the allegations of her Third Amended Complaint. Rather, she "has a duty to present affirmative evidence in order to defeat a properly supported motion for summary judgment." Anderson v. Napolitano, No. 09-60744-CIV-HUCK, 2010 WL 431898, at *4(S.D. Fla. Feb. 8, 2010) (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 252 (1986)). Additionally, a mere "scintilla" of evidence is not enough. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252. "A genuine issue for trial exists only if sufficient evidence is presented favoring the nonmoving party for a jury to return a verdict for that party." Stewart v. Happy Herman's Cheshire Bridge, Inc., 117 F.3d 1278, 1284--85. Furthermore, while this Court must construe the evidence and reasonable inferences drawn therefrom in Ms. Jeudy's favor, summary judgment may be granted where the evidence favoring Ms. Jeudy is "merely colorable or is not significantly probative." See id. at 1285.

As noted above, Ms. Jeudy's Third Amended Complaint contains several claims based on various types of discrimination. Ms. Jeudy's claim of disability discrimination under the Rehabilitation Act, her claims of race and sex discrimination under Title VII, and ...


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