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Williams v. Clark County School District

United States District Court, D. Nevada

April 4, 2018




         Plaintiff Shaquinta Williams worked on a probationary basis as a bus driver for defendant Clark County School District (CCSD). At the end of her probationary period, she was returned to her prior position as a bus aide. Williams sues, claiming she was subjected to sexual harassment and was retaliated against when she complained about it. She also claims white employees were treated more favorably. Williams asserts claims for sex harassment, retaliation, race discrimination, and interference with her rights under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). CCSD moves for summary judgment on all claims. I grant the motion.

         1. BACKGROUND

         Williams started working for CCSD in 2006 as a bus aide. ECF No. 27-1 at 6. She was promoted to bus driver for the 2015-16 school year. Id. CCSD policy requires a support staff employee who is promoted to serve a six-month probation in her new position. ECF No. 24-1 at 2. If the employee does not pass probation, she is returned to her prior position. Id.

         In September 2015, another bus driver complained about issues she was having with Williams. Id. at 2, 7-14. Williams denied she generally had issues with the other bus driver, but she admitted she made a comment about the other employee. Id. at 2, 16; ECF No. 24-2 at 3. Karen Johnson, an administrator in CCSD's transportation department, reminded Williams to be professional in her interactions with other employees. ECF No. 24-1 at 2, 16.

         On October 9, 2015, Williams submitted a written statement asserting that a fellow bus driver, Theo Manning, was gossiping about the sexual behavior of an unidentified female bus driver. Id. at 3, 18. Williams also complained that Manning made comments to her about wanting to be more than friends and showed her a pornographic video clip on his phone. Id. at 3, 18-19. Williams saw the video for about three seconds before she looked away. ECF No. 24-2 at 4. According to Williams, Manning would make comments about the way she looked and he would undress her with his eyes. ECF No. 27-1 at 17-18. Additionally, Williams contended Manning falsely accused her of being in an accident and then harassed her about it. ECF No. 24-1 at 19-23.

         After receiving Williams' complaint, CCSD employee Mark Johnson told Manning not to bother Williams and her sister, who also worked as a bus driver. ECF No. 27-1 at 19-20. Later that month, Jennifer Coleman, a transportation department administrator, issued a written directive to Manning ordering him to cease communicating with other employees about the recent allegations of harassment and advised him he was expected to behave professionally. Id. at 27. Coleman also told Williams and her sister to stay away from Manning. ECF Nos. 27-1 at 21; 27-3 at 61.

         In December 2015, Manning complained that Williams and her sister were harassing him. ECF No. 24-1 at 3. Another bus driver separately reported that he heard Williams ask if “ugly” (referring to Manning) had touched her bus. Id. at 4, 33. In January 2016, Manning complained that Williams and her sister were still harassing him. Id. 24-1 at 4, 30-31.

         In the meantime, Williams received her initial three-month performance evaluation, which she signed on January 11, 2016. ECF No. 27-6 at 26. Williams' overall performance was marked as meeting standards, although she was marked as needing improvement in the area of communications with co-workers. Id. In the comment sections, Williams was reminded to act professionally with fellow employees, students, and members of the community. Id.

         Based on the reports in December and January that Williams and her sister were harassing Manning, Karen Johnson spoke to Williams on January 25. ECF No. 24-1 at 4, 35. During that conversation, Johnson asked if Manning had continued to harass Williams. Id. at 4, 35. Williams responded that Manning had not done anything inappropriate since October. Id. at 4, 35; see also ECF No. 24-2 at 6 (Williams' deposition testimony that after showing her the video, Manning did not further sexually harass her). Johnson told Williams not to talk about Manning with anyone except her, and she reminded Williams that harassment was improper conduct and to act professionally. ECF No. 24-1 at 3, 35. Johnson also decided that because more than one employee had reported that Williams and her sister were engaging in harassing conduct, the sisters would be assigned to different work locations. Id. at 4, 35.

         On January 27, Williams was in a minor accident while driving her bus. Id. at 4, 37. In her statement to the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, Williams stated she was driving down Tropicana Avenue in the turn lane and was about to make a left turn when her “right bottom mirror hit the armoured [sic] truck.” Id. at 38. A CCSD transportation investigator reviewed the incident. Id. at 4, 37. She determined that Williams was traveling eastbound on Tropicana when the bus's mirror made contact with a second vehicle, which fled the scene. Id. at 37. The investigator concluded the accident was preventable. Id. Approximately six weeks after the accident, Williams' sister wrote a statement that the accident was caused by the armored truck driver, but she did not give the statement to CCSD as part of the accident investigation. ECF No. 27-3 at 41, 56.

         On February 16, Williams applied for intermittent FMLA leave based on stress and anxiety. ECF No. 27-5 at 13. That request was granted. Id. at 15.

         On February 22, Williams received her six-month evaluation. ECF No. 27-6 at 28. This time, her overall performance was rated as requiring improvement. Id. She was marked as needing improvement in the areas of safety practices and compliance with rules, and work judgments. Id. In the comments section, the evaluation stated Williams “failed to make progress with the previously set goal of conducting herself in a professional manner, ” and it was noted that Williams “was involved in a preventable accident on January 27, 2016.” Id.

         Johnson tried to schedule meetings with Williams to discuss work issues, but Williams would state she was feeling stressed and could not continue to work, so no meeting was held. ECF No. 24-1 at 4. Johnson decided that Williams had not passed probation, which meant Williams would be demoted from her position as a bus driver and returned to her prior position as a bus aide. Id. at 5, 40-41. According to Johnson, the decision was based on work performance issues and Williams' statements about her own stress level, given that bus driver is a safety sensitive position. Id. at 5, 40. On February 24, Johnson advised other members of the transportation department of this decision. Id. at 40. Williams was mailed a letter informing her of the decision on February 25, and she signed a form acknowledging the demotion on March 7. Id. at 41; ECF No. 27-1 at 134. The demotion resulted in a pay decrease. ECF No. 27-6 at 19.

         In April 2016, Williams filed a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). ECF No. 24-2 at 17. Williams marked the boxes for race and sex discrimination and retaliation. Id. She based her complaint on Manning's conduct, which she described as occurring from August 2015 through December 2015, and on the fact that she was not allowed to work with family members but white employees were allowed to work with family members. Id. The EEOC issued a notice of right to sue in June 2016. Id. at 18.

         In September 2016, a bus driver reported that Williams, who was the aide on her bus, was sleeping and using a cell phone while students were on the bus, in violation of CCSD policy. ECF No. 24-1 at 5, 43-47, 55. After the matter was investigated and video from the bus reviewed, Nathaniel Whitney, Bus Operations Coordinator, suspended Williams for ten days. ECF No. 24-1 at 5, 55. After an evidentiary hearing, the suspension decision was upheld. ECF No. 27-4 at 24.

         II. ANALYSIS

         Summary judgment is appropriate if the movant shows “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), (c). A fact is material if it “might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). An issue is genuine if “the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Id.

         The party seeking summary judgment bears the initial burden of informing the court of the basis for its motion and identifying those portions of the record that 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 the non-moving party to set forth specific facts demonstrating there is a genuine issue of material fact for trial. Fairbank v. Wunderman Cato Johnson, 212 F.3d 528, 531 (9th Cir. 2000). I view the evidence and reasonable ...

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