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Taylor-Bray v. Department of Services for Children, Youths and Their Families Delaware

United States District Court, D. Delaware

March 17, 2015

SONJA L. TAYLOR-BRAY, Plaintiff,
v.
DEPARTMENT OF SERVICES FOR CHILDREN, YOUTHS AND THEIR FAMILIES DELAWARE, Defendant.

Sonja L. Taylor-Bray, Harrington, Delaware, Delaware, Pro Se Plaintiff.

Janice R. Tigani, Kevin R. Slattery, and Oliver J. Cleary, Deputy Attorneys General, Delaware Department of Justice, Wilmington, Delaware. Counsel for Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

LEONARD P. STARK, District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff Sonja L. Taylor-Bray ("Taylor-Bray" or "Plaintiff") filed this action on January 10, 2012 alleging employment discrimination. She appears prose and has been granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis. The case proceeds on Taylor-Bray's Title VII employment discrimination claims against Defendant State of Delaware, Department of Services for Children, Youth, and their Families ("DSCYF" or "Defendant"), all other claims and Defendants having been dismissed or granted summary judgment.[1] ( See D.I. 9; Civ. No. 10-978-LPS at D.I. 53, 73) Presently before the Court are the parties' cross-motions for summary judgment. (D.I. 40, 42)

II. BACKGROUND

Taylor-Bray was employed by the DSCYF as a youth rehabilitation counselor at the Stevenson House in Milford, Delaware, a secure facility for incarcerated youth and pre-trial juvenile detainees run by Defendant. (D.I. 2) Taylor-Bray alleges gender discrimination and retaliation following her discharge from employment on July 22, 2009. (See D.I. 41 Ex. 1F Charge of Discrimination 17C-2010-00256) She filed a charge of discrimination with the EEOC on April 5, 2010, and a notice of right to sue was mailed to her on December 20, 2011.[2] (See D.I. 5)

Taylor-Bray sustained a workplace injury on June 9, 2008. (D.I. 41 Ex. 1F) Taylor-Bray's job duties included the ability to assist in the handling of serious disturbances or subsiding unruly residents, which could involve physically restraining youth by supporting the youth's body weight, and involved the ability to respond to physical confrontations. (D.I. 41 Ex. 1F; D.I. 42, Ex. Def.'s Answer to Sept. 23, 2013 Interog. No. 2; Def.'s Answer to Oct. 4, 2014 Interrog. No. 1) Taylor-Bray testified that physically restraining youths disproportionately affects females more than males "just by the mere design of the female physique and the upper body strength." (D.I. 41 Ex. 2 at 79) According to Taylor-Bray, the ratio of male to female employees on the day shift at the Stevenson House is "maybe half and half." (Id. at 80)

When Taylor-Bray returned to work following the injury, she was placed on light-duty pursuant to her physician's request and assigned to a control room post at the Stevenson House. (D.I. 41 Ex. 1F; D.I. 42 Dep. Ex. 12) On December 9, 2008, Taylor-Bray's physician placed her on permanent medium-duty restrictions. ( Id. ) Taylor-Bray requested an accommodation pursuant to the Americans with Disabilities Act on the basis that she could no longer restrain youth. ( Id. )

Taylor-Bray filed a grievance on December 23, 2008 seeking unlimited computer access and claiming she received differential treatment because her disability restricted her to control room duty. (D.I. 41 Ex. 1) Taylor-Bray filed grievances on February 11, 13, and 17, 2009 raising issues of violations of the overtime policy and bumping rights for shift work, asking to be made whole, and for clarification of restrictive duties with respect to seniority. (D.I. 41 Ex. 1; D.I. 42 Ex. 3)

A human resources specialist informed Taylor-Bray on February 25, 2009 that she could not keep her light-duty assignment indefinitely and because agency policy allowed for a light-duty assignment not to exceed thirty days. ( Id. ) Taylor-Bray was instructed to apply for short term disability insurance benefits. Taylor-Bray filed a claim for workers' compensation.[3] ( Id. ) Taylor-Bray later sought, and received, short term disability benefits. (D.I. 41 Ex. 1F, D; D.I. 42 Ex. 10) Taylor-Bray was instructed to transition to the long term disability benefits program, but she failed to do so. (D.I. 41 Ex. 1C, D; D.I. 42 Ex. DSCYF ROG Resp. 30, 31) The short term disability benefits ended on September 9, 2009. (D.I. 42 Ex. DSCYF ROG Resp. 30)

A May 5, 2009 report by Taylor-Bray's physician continued her on permanent, medium-duty restrictions. (D.I. 41 Ex. 1F) Taylor-Bray's physician had been provided a description of the job requirements of a youth rehabilitation counselor. ( Id. ) However, there were no medium-duty positions available as a youth rehabilitative counselor and, in June 2009, a recommendation was made to terminate Taylor-Bray's employment due to her inability to perform the essential functions of a youth rehabilitation counselor. (D.I. 41 Ex. 1F; D.I. 42 Ex. 9) Taylor-Bray requested a pre-termination hearing. ( Id. ) On July 7, 2009, Taylor-Bray's physician classified her to medium work until July 20, 2009 and then to regular duty. (D.I. 41 Ex.1F) A pre-decision meeting was held on July 8, 2009. Taylor-Bray did not attend but she was represented by her union representative. ( Id. ) The union representative requested additional time on Taylor-Bray's behalf to clarify her return to work with restrictions. ( Id. )On July 20, 2009, Taylor-Bray's physician provided a return to work slip that indicated Taylor-Bray was able to perform all essential aspects of a job with permanent medium-duty restrictions. (D.I. 41 Exs. 1F, 4) Taylor-Bray was advised that because her physician did not release her to full duty, the DSCYF invoked the recommendation to terminate her employment. (D.I. 41 Ex. 1F) Taylor-Bray was terminated from her position due to her inability to perform the essential functions of her position, effective July 22, 2009. ( Id. )

After she was terminated, Taylor-Bray filed a grievance claiming discrimination due to her disability and asking for a change in supervision structure should she return to work. (D.I. 41 Ex. 4) A hearing was held on September 23, 2009 and, on October 2, 2009, the hearing officer decision denied the grievance, finding that "termination has been proven for just cause." ( Id. ) A pre-arbitration meeting was conducted pursuant to the collective bargaining agreement with no resolution. ( Id. )

Taylor-Bray filed two unfair labor practices charges before the Public Employment Relations Board; one on November 4, 2009, and the other on January 26, 2010. (D.I. 41 Ex. 3) The first claimed her termination was retaliatory and designed to prevent her from exercising her right to participate in union activities, including the grievance procedure. The second claimed that the union was negligent and malicious in its failure to represent her and this denied her right to due process. Both charges were dismissed and both ...


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