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Watson v. Department of Services for Children

United States District Court, D. Delaware

March 18, 2015

JIMMY WATSON, Plaintiff,
v.
DEPARTMENT OF SERVICES FOR CHILDREN, YOUTHS AND THEIR FAMILIES DELAWARE, Defendant.

Jimmy Watson, Newark, 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

Plaintiffs Jimmy Watson (Watson" or "Plaintiff") and Sonja L. Taylor-Bray ("Taylor-Bray") (together "Plaintiffs"), filed Civ. No. 10-978-LPS on November 15, 2010, alleging discrimination pursuant to 42 U.S.C. ยง 1981.[1] The complaint was dismissed upon motion, and Plaintiffs were given leave to amend. (D.I. 42) An amended complaint was filed on April 12, 2012. (D.I. 44) Defendants again moved to dismiss and, on March 26, 2013, the Court ruled on the motions and dismissed the majority of the claims raised. The case as it now stands, proceeds on Watson's Title VII employment claim 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.[2] ( See D.I. 53, 73). Watson appears pro se and has been granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis. Presently before the Court is Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment. (D.I. 85) Watson did not file an opposition to the motion. For the reasons that follow, the Court will grant the motion.

II. BACKGROUND

Watson was formerly employed by the DSCYF as a youth rehabilitation counselor at the New Castle County Detention Center in Wilmington, Delaware. (D.I. 44) Watson, who is black, alleges in the Second Amended Complaint that he was subjected to race discrimination and retaliation in the forms of suspension, discharge, and harassment. His charge of discrimination states that he was accused by Superintendent Mitchell Rock ("Rock"), who is white, of sexually harassing female students.

Rock suspended Watson on May 29, 2009, pending an investigation. ( See D.I. 44 at Charge of Discrimination 17C-2020-00069) Following the investigation, Watson returned to work and Rock required Watson to undergo new employee training despite his twelve-year employment with DSCYF. Watson was discharged from his employment on September 29, 2009 after he witnessed an incident and failed to write an incident report. Watson reported Rock's harassment to his supervisor and the union. Watson alleges that Rock engaged in systemic racism in the workplace; that DSCYF failed to follow proper procedures or investigate his claims prior to his discharge; and that Rock failed to follow DSCYF's procedures or the collective bargaining agreement in his discharge. Watson filed a charge of discrimination on December 23, 2009, and a notice of right to sue was mailed to him on August 26, 2010.

The record reflects that an investigation ensued after a female resident accused Watson of touching her in appropriately on or about May 28, 2009. (D.I. 87 at A2) Watson was placed on paid leave pending the investigation of the alleged sexual misconduct. (Id.) The matter was investigated by Institutional Abuse Investigator Mike Zuka ("Zuka"). ( Id . at A14-18) No criminal charges were pursued against Watson, and the investigation was closed as "unsubstantiated with concerns." ( Id. at A2, A14-18) Watson was sent to retraining following his return to work. ( Id. at A19) Rock explains that he routinely sent staff members for retraining and that he sent Watson to retraining after consulting with DSCYF Human Resources and because of concerns uncovered during the investigation. ( Id. at A2, A7, A19)

The record reflects that Watson was terminated from his employment on October 18, 2009 for failing to report physical violence towards an incarcerated youth by another staff member. ( Id. at A21-43). The unreported incident occurred on September 5, 2009. ( Id. at A21) Zuka investigated this matter as well and found that Watson: (1) refused to provide a statement regarding what occurred; (2) failed to write an incident report, advise a supervisor of the incident, or take the injured youth to medical; and (3) threatened other youth with restraint while the incident was occurring. ( Id. at 50-51) Watson was notified via letter of his recommended termination on the grounds that he failed to: (1) verbally report the incident; (2) make a written incident report until directed to do so; (3) have the resident examined by the medical department; and (4) administer sanctions to the resident if his behavior warranted a physical restraint. ( Id. at 34) Watson's co-worker who was involved in the September 5, 2009 incident, and an employee, who assaulted a resident in a separate incident, were discharged during the same week. ( Id. at A3, A52-53)

Watson was provided with pre-termination procedural due process as required by the union Local 2004 collective bargaining agreement and the State of Delaware Merit Rules. ( Id. at A21-43) Watson filed a grievance and a two-day binding arbitration hearing was held in July and August 2010. ( Id. ) A written decision, dated October 5, 2010, upheld the denial of Watson's grievance, finding that he violated four DSCYF policies and that he had been discharged for just cause. ( Id. at 39-43)

The Second Amended Complaint refers to Gerald Tomczyk ("Tomczyk"), Kim Simpson ("Simpson"), Donald Mcllvain ("Mcllvain"), John Longo, Sr. ("Longo"), and Mike Mahon ("Mahon"). (D.I. 44 at 3) Tomczyk was employed at a different facility than Watson, had a different supervisor, and was disciplined for acts of a different nature (D.I. 87 at A93-94); Simpson was employed at a different facility than Watson, had a different supervisor, and was disciplined for acts of a different nature ( id. at A93); Mcllvain was employed at a different facility than Watson, held a different position, had a different supervisor, and was disciplined for acts of a different nature ( id. at A93); Longo was employed at a different facility than Watson, had a different supervisor, and was disciplined for acts of a different nature ( id. at A3-4); and Mahon held a different position than Watson, reported to a different supervisor, and - although alleged otherwise by Watson - there are no records that Mahon was involved in an incident of leaving residents unsupervised ( id. at A93).

III. LEGAL STANDARDS

"The court shall grant summary judgment if 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). The moving party bears the burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Coo., 475 U.S. 574, 586 n.10 (1986). An assertion that a fact cannot be - or, alternatively, is - genuinely disputed must be supported either by citing to "particular parts of materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations (including those made for the purposes of the motion only), admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials, " or by "showing that the materials cited do not establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute, or that an adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(A) & (B). If the moving party has carried its burden, the nonmovant must then "come forward with specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for ...


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