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Dragon v. State

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

September 29, 2016

KAREN DRAGON, Plaintiff,
v.
STATE OF CONNECTICUT, JUDICIAL BRANCH, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OF DECISION

          Michael P. Shea, U.S.D.J.

         I. Introduction

         Plaintiff Karen Dragon ("Ms. Dragon"), a judicial marshal for the Judicial Branch of the State of Connecticut brings a hostile work environment claim under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et seq, against the State of Connecticut and the State of Connecticut Judicial Branch ("the defendants"). The Court earlier dismissed Ms. Dragon's discrimination and retaliation claims. (ECF No. 39.) Defendants now move for summary judgment on her remaining hostile work environment claim, arguing that Ms. Dragon has not provided enough evidence to warrant a trial. For the reasons stated below, I DENY the Motion for Summary Judgment.

         II. Factual Background

         Based on their Local Rule 56(a) statements, the parties agree on Ms. Dragon's work history, which I will summarize.[1]

         Ms. Dragon is an employee of the State of Connecticut Judicial Branch. (Defendant's Local Rule 56(a)l Statement, ECF No. 55-2 ("Def's L.R 56(a)l Stmt") ¶ 1; Plaintiffs Local Rule 56(a)2 Statement, ECF No. 61-2 ("Pl's L.R. 56(a)2 Stmt.") ¶ 1-2.) Ms. Dragon began working in the Windham County Judicial District in 2000, and was primarily assigned to the Windham County Judicial District until 2013. (Def.'s L.R. 56(a) 1 Stmt. ¶ 2; Pl's L.R. 56(a)2 Stmt. ¶ 1-2.) She was initially hired as a Special Deputy Sheriff with the Sheriff s Department in 1999, and was reclassified as a Judicial Marshal II with the State of Connecticut Judicial Branch on December 1, 2000, pursuant to Public Act 00-99. (Def.'s L.R. 56(a) 1 Stmt. ¶ 1; Pl's L.R. 56(a)2 Stmt. ¶ 1-2.) She was reclassified as a Judicial Marshal on June 24, 2005. (Id.) Ms. Dragon was promoted to Lead Judicial Marshal on May 7, 2010. (Id.) In July 2010, Ms. Dragon began rotating assignments between Windham County and the Judicial Marshal Academy (the "Academy"). (Id.) Ms. Dragon was promoted to a Supervising Judicial Marshal in November 2013, and at that time she was assigned to work primarily at the Academy. (Id.)

         The parties also agree that the Judicial Branch has well-published workplace anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies and complaint procedures. (Def.'s L.R. 56(a) 1 Stmt. ¶ 21; Pl's L.R. 56(a)2 Stmt. ¶ 21.) Ms. Dragon has read and signed these policies, and is aware of the complaint process. (Id.)

         The parties disagree about most of the facts that make up Ms. Dragon's hostile work environment claim. I will discuss the facts in chronological order, and note where the parties agree.[2]

         Ms. Dragon alleges that she and her mother, Carol Sandoval ("Ms. Sandoval"), were the first two Hispanic female judicial marshals hired by the Defendants in Windham County. (Amended Complaint, ECF No. 24 at ¶ 13.) Ms. Dragon states that after she was hired she was denied employment opportunities available to other non-Hispanic male marshals.[3] In particular, Ms. Dragon requested training to obtain her Commercial Driver's License ("CDL") so that she could be posted to transport duties and receive a raise. (Def's L.R. 56(a)l Stmt. ¶ 3; ECF No. 55-4 at 8.) Ms. Dragon began CDL training in May 2002, but in April 2003 formal CDL training ceased. (ECF No. 55-4 at 88.) In discontinuing the program, the Judicial Branch stated that "Judicial Marshals who are in the process of obtaining their CDL and need to use a vehicle will be allowed to do so on their own time. Such vehicle usage shall be coordinated through the Judicial Marshal Academy office." (Id.) Plaintiff alleges that while white, male marshals in the same district and position as she were allowed to use official vehicles to continue practicing, in particular Marshal Gaudette and Marshal Murphy, her requests to do so were denied. (Id. at 8-9.) Ms. Dragon did not take CDL training until 2006, when it was offered again to all marshals. (Id. at 10.) She did not file a grievance about not receiving the training earlier. (Id. at 9.)

         Ms. Dragon also claims that she was denied promotions in favor of non-Hispanic marshals with less seniority and education prior to 2009. (Pl's L.R. 56(a)(2) Stmt., ECF No. 61-2 at 6.) She alleges that she applied three times for a promotion and was not even provided an opportunity to interview. (Id.) She testified that openings were announced at roll call, that interested candidates were to submit a statement of interest to the Chief, and that she did so. (ECF No. 55-4 at 14-17.) She could not recall the exact dates she applied and did not have the letters of interest that she submitted. (Id.)

         The defendants argue that Ms. Dragon never applied for a promotion before 2009. In support of this, they have submitted a record showing applications received from Ms. Dragon, which shows applications on December 10, 2009, for Lead Judicial Marshal and two applications submitted for Supervising Judicial Marshal in April and September 2013. (Def's Ex. 4, ECF No. 55-4 at 90.) They have also submitted an affidavit from Linda Dow, the Human Resource Manager for the Judicial Branch since 2005, who states that the records show that Ms. Dragon applied only once for the position of Lead Judicial Marshal. (Def's Ex. 2, ECF No. 55-4 at 78.) The defendants have also submitted an affidavit from Chief Marshal Downer stating that he never received any letters of interest from Ms. Dragon concerning a promotion to Lead Judicial Marshal. (ECF No. 55-4 at 119.)

         In 2006, Ms. Dragon heard Lead Judicial Marshal Gaudette call an inmate a "spic" in her presence. (ECF No. 55-4 at 18.) She pulled him aside to tell him that the language offended her, though it was not directed towards her. (Id.) The defendants do not dispute this event occurred. (Def's L.R. 56(a)1 Stmt. ¶ 6.) In January 2012, Supervisor Gaudette called Ms. Dragon into his office and told her that she was not allowed to speak Spanish at work, claiming that two other marshals-both white, non-Hispanic males-had been offended when she spoke Spanish to her mother. (ECF No. 55-4 at 20; ECF No. 61-2 at 6.) Ms. Dragon was surprised as she had often been asked to translate at work by judges when official translators were not available and in lockup when Spanish speaking inmates needed to be directed. (ECF No. 55-4 at 20; ECF No. 61-2 at 6.) She complained to Chief Downer, telling him that she was offended. (ECF No. 55-4 at 21.) She testified at her deposition that the Chief told her not to worry about it and "brushed it off." (Id. at 24.) Defendants provide an affidavit from Chief Marshal Downer averring that it is the "practice" of the Judicial Branch that English be the primary language for safety and security reasons, and that "[j]udicial marshals are not to conduct private conversations in any languages other than English while conducting their official duties." (Def.'s L.R. 56(a) 1 Stmt. ¶ 10; Def.'s Ex. 3, ECF No. 55-4 at 120.) Ms. Dragon also agreed in her deposition that English is the primary language of the Judicial Branch, but stated that there is no documentation setting forth a formal policy. (ECF No. 61-3 at 38-39.)

         In 2010, when Ms. Dragon was promoted to Lead Judicial Marshal, she alleges that other non-Hispanic judicial marshals, including Judicial Marshal Robinson, who is a white male, were upset, gave her the "silent treatment, " and disregarded her orders. (ECF No. 55-4 at 25-28.) Robinson in particular "took the scheduling" that she had "handed out" and "crumbled it up and threw it in the garbage" "in front of everyone." (Id. at 26.) She complained about this to Supervisor Tercjak and Marshal Gaudette. (Id. at 27.)

         After Ms. Dragon was promoted, Judicial Marshal Brian Griffin told her it was only because she was Puerto Rican. (Id. at 18.) The judicial marshals believed that Marshal Jeffrey Thibault, who is a white male, was going to receive the promotion, and after he did not they were upset. (Id. at 19.) She complained about the behavior of the other marshals to Supervisor Tercjak and Supervising Marshal Gaudette. (Id. at 27.) She alleges that Supervisor Tercjak stated that they were acting that way because they believed Marshal Thibault was going to get the promotion. (Id. at 19.)

         In 2012, Ms. Dragon, working as a lead judicial marshal, wrote up Marshal Germaine Gilbert, a non-Hispanic female, for abandoning her station at work. (Id. at 72.) Marshal Gilbert became confrontational with Ms. Dragon, raised her voice, and waved her finger in Ms. Dragon's face. (ECF No. 61-2 at 8.) Supervisor Tercjak instructed Ms. Dragon to write up the incident and submit it to Chief Marshal Downer. She did so, but Chief Marshal Downer instructed her to discard it, as she did not need to put her complaint in writing. (Id.) The defendants submit that only supervising judicial marshals have the authority to write up another judicial marshal. (Def's Ex. 3, ECF No. 55-4 at 119.)

         On April 27, 2012, Marshal Gilbert filed a complaint with the Judicial Branch's Administrative Services Division Human Resource Management Unit. (ECF No. 55-4 at 94.) She alleged that Ms. Dragon, who had undergone cosmetic breast surgery, displayed before and after photos of her bare breasts to Gilbert and other court personnel. (Id.) Program Manager Mark Ciarciello investigated the complaint, interviewing Marshal Gilbert, the other court personnel that she identified, and Ms. Dragon. (Id.) After investigating, Ciarciello substantiated the complaint. (Id.) Marshal Gilbert, Marshal John Dempsey, Patricia Lajoie, and Jennifer Green all stated that Ms. Dragon had displayed the pictures. (Id.) Ms. Dragon told Ciarciello that a group of marshals were attempting to get her fired, and were filing this false complaint to do so. (Id. at 96 n. 1) She denied the allegations and told Ciarciello that "a lot of marshals . . . have a hard time with her, an Hispanic female" being promoted to Lead Judicial Marshal. (ECF No. 61-2 at 10.) Ms. Dragon continues to assert that the marshals were falsifying information. (Id. at 8-9.)

         As a result of the substantiation of the complaint, Ms. Dragon received a "written warning" on August 30, 2012. (ECF No. 55-4 at 51.) The written warning remained in her personnel file for one year. (ECF No. 61-3 at 45-46.) Defendants assert that under the Collective Bargaining Agreement, a written warning is not discipline. (ECF No. 55-4 at 99.) The Collective Bargaining Agreement states the following about "written reprimands:"

Article XII
Discipline
Section 1. Types of Discipline. Discipline includes discharge, demotion, suspension without pay, denial of a pay increase due to misconduct, or letter of reprimand, of an employee who has attained non-probationary status. No such discipline shall be imposed without just cause.
...
Section 3. Written reprimand. Written reprimands and performance appraisal references thereto, if any, shall be removed from the employee's personnel file one (1) year from the date of issuance provided that no other disciplinary incident occurs during that period of time.
Written reprimands shall not be grievable, unless and until used as grounds, in whole or in part, for other disciplinary action, or it constitutes the basis of a decision not to select an employee for a promotion as defined in this Agreement.

(Id.) The portion of the CBA in the record does not reference "written warnings." (Id.) Ms. Dragon did not lose any pay or benefits as a result of the warning. (ECF No. 61-3 at 46-47.) However, she interpreted the August 30, 2012 "written warning" as discipline, and was embarrassed that she had to have conversations about her surgery with her supervisors. (ECF No. 61-3 at 46.) She alleges that Marshal Gilbert and Marshal Dexter were telling courthouse personnel that Ms. Dragon was showing photos of her bare breasts. (Id. at 55-56.) She states ...


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