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Thomas-Bagrowski v. Mineta

September 19, 2008

BARBARA THOMAS-BAGROWSKI, PLAINTIFF,
v.
NORMAN MINETA, SECRETARY OF THE DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Wayne R. Andersen United States District Judge

District Judge Wayne Andersen

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

This case comes before the court on defendant Department of Transportation's motion for summary judgment [23]. Plaintiff Barbara Thomas-Bagrowski filed a complaint against her employer, the Federal Aviation Administration ("FAA"), alleging race discrimination, retaliation, and a hostile work environment. For the reasons set forth below, the motion is granted.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Barbara Thomas-Bagrowski, a former management employee of the Federal Aviation Administration ("FAA"), bases her claims in the present litigation on an EEO administrative complaint filed against her employer in October 1998. (Plaintiff's Statement of Facts ¶ 1.)

The events on which Thomas-Bagrowski bases the current litigation began in 1997 while she was under the supervision of Joseph Yokley, the FAA regional human resources division manager. In November 1997, Yokely announced the availability of a permanent team leader position in the human resources ("HR") division. (Id. at ¶ 2.) In response to Yokley's announcement, Thomas-Bagrowski and three other FAA employees applied for the position. Id. The four candidates were interviewed and ranked by a panel which did not include Yokley. (Id. at ¶ 3.) The panel placed Valerie Granahan, a white employee, at the top of the list and Thomas-Bagrowski third, behind another white candidate. (Id. at ¶¶ 3, 12.) However, the permanent position was later withdrawn when a hiring freeze was implemented and the FAA began to restructure. (Id. at ¶ 3.)

In June 1998, an HR team leader was chosen for a one year assignment outside of HR, creating a temporary position. (Id. at ¶ 5.) Instead of announcing the position, Yokely relied on the panel's previous evaluations for the permanent position to fill the temporary vacancy. (Id. at ¶ 6.) Based on these evaluations, Yokley assigned Valerie Granahan to the first six months of the year long vacancy and Thomas-Bagrowski to the second. (Id. at ¶ 63.) As the first six month term came to an end, Yokley chose to announce the position and solicit new applicants after being approached by employees regarding the temporary detail. Rather than allowing ThomasBagrowski to serve the full six months, Yokley divided the remaining time into six, thirty day assignments, one of which was given to Thomas-Bagrowski. (Id. at ¶ 7.) After being denied the full six month detail, Thomas-Bagrowski filed an EEO complaint against Yokley in October 1998 claiming race discrimination. (Id. at ¶ 69.) Thomas-Bagrowski alleges that after filing her EEO complaint, she became the subject of a hostile work environment and was retaliated against by her new team leader. (Id. at ¶¶ 72, 78.)

Thomas-Bagrowski points to events following the HR division's fall 1998 reorganization to support these allegations. As part of the reorganization, Thomas-Bagrowski's team was dissolved and she was reassigned to the Airway Facilities team, led by David Pinner. (Id. at ¶ 14.) Prior to joining her new team, Thomas-Bagrowski was part of the Aviation Career Education ("ACE") program which was convenient, as some of the team's activities were situated in Milwaukee which is where she resides. (Id. at ¶ 16.) As a member of the ACE team, Thomas-Bagrowski regularly telecommuted and was allowed to do so by Yokley until the reorganization. (Id. at ¶¶ 17-8.) Following the reorganization, her new team leader required her to submit her telecommuting proposal to her new team for approval. The reorganization placed a greater emphasis on teamwork and the quality of customer service, holding the team as a whole accountable for the impact of one's telecommuting on these goals. (Local Rule 56.1(a) Statement of Facts "SOF" ¶¶ 19-22.) While it is unclear whether the telecommuting policy changed as part of the reorganization, it is clear that Thomas-Bagrowski did not follow the procedures given to her by her supervisor. Although she submitted her telecommuting proposal to her teammates, she refused to furnish them with the additional information they requested and instead took her proposal directly to Pinner. (Resp. to SOF ¶ 24.)

Presenting Pinner with her proposal, Thomas-Bagrowski told him she did not want her team to review it, and asked him to approve it for medical reasons under the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"). Id. When asked about her condition, she told Pinner that her clinic had faxed over the information and that she was not in the mood to justify or explain her condition, nor did she feel that she should, or needed to provide more information. (Id. at ¶ 25.) The medical condition which Thomas-Bagrowski spoke of was intermittent lower back pain which she claims was the product of an October 1, 1998 injury. After acquiring this injury, she filed a claim with the Office of Workers' Compensation Programs ("OWCP") but her claim was denied on May 13, 1999 for failure to provide medial documentation explaining her pain and its cause. (SOF ¶¶ 26-7; 53.)

Thomas-Bagrowski also bases her claims on incidents related to her requests for time off and sick leave. While division policy requires that employees coordinate their leave with team members, Thomas-Bagrowski refused to do so, telling Pinner she had cleared her leave requests with her former team and would not change her plans now that she was a member of a new team. (Resp. to SOF ¶ 30.) Despite her refusal to follow procedure, Pinner approved her leave. (Id. at ¶ 31.) In February of 1999, another conflict arose, this time related to Thomas-Bagrowski's requests for advance sick leave. She told Pinner that she had previously been given approval to take advanced sick leave whenever she felt she needed it. (Id. at ¶ 32.) Thomas-Bagrowski had, in 1997, received permission to take advanced sick leave up to two hundred and forty hours. However, this was meant to cover a period of time in which she was receiving cancer treatment. (Id. at ¶ 34.) The advanced sick leave request made to Pinner in 1999 was for routine medical matters and sick days for herself or her child, not any serious disability or ailment as is required under the FAA's sick leave policy. (Id. at ¶ 33.) As a result, Pinner notified Thomas-Bagrowski that her requests required new medical documentation. Via email, Pinner notified her of the type of medical documentation required for advance sick leave requests. (SOF ¶¶ 35-6.) Thomas-Bagrowski refused to provide more information, claiming Pinner's requests were "overwhelmingly excessive and unnecessary" and in violation of the Privacy Act. (Id. at ¶ 37.)

On March 5, 1999, Thomas-Bagrowski filed another claim with the Office of Workers' Compensation Program ("OWCP"), claiming her work environment was hostile and as a result she had developed shingles, making it impossible for her to work. (Resp. to SOF ¶ 38.)

Following her claim, Thomas-Bagrowski rarely reported to work and was placed on AWOL status. Due to insufficient medical documentation, her claim was denied by the OWCP, and she was discharged from employment by Pinner in September 1999. (Id. at ¶ 45.) Thomas-Bagrowski appealed her discharge to the Merit Systems Protection Board; however, her claim was dismissed, and she chose not to appeal its decision. (SOF ¶ 46.)

The Department of Transportation now seeks summary judgment on all three of ...


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