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Ahmad v. Connections CSP Inc.

United States District Court, D. Delaware

December 14, 2018

RABIA AHMAD, Plaintiff,

          Rabia Ahmad, Wilmington, Delaware. Pro Se Plaintiff.

          Geoffrey Graham Grivner, Esquire, Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney P.C., Wilmington, Delaware. Counsel for Defendant.



         Plaintiff Rabia Ahmad ("Plaintiff'), who appears pro se, filed this employment discrimination action on November 16, 2015 pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e, et. seq. (D.I. 1) Her former employer, Defendant Connections CSP, Inc., ("Connections") moves for summary judgment. (D.I. 33) In addition, Plaintiff has filed a second motion for permission to take oral depositions.[1] (D.I. 32) Briefing on the motion for summary judgment is complete.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Connections is a nonprofit organization operating in Delaware that provides a comprehensive array of health care, housing and employment opportunities. See visited Dec. 12, 2018). Plaintiff began working for Connections in August 2012 as a drug and alcohol counselor in the Connections Key Program at the Howard Young Correctional Institution in Wilmington, Delaware. (D.I. 33, Ex. C at 32)

         On July 16, 2014, Plaintiff filed a Charge of Discrimination (the "Charge") with the Delaware Department of Labor ("DDOL") alleging gender and religious discrimination by a Connections' employee in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. (D.I. 1 at 9) The Charge states that Plaintiff was subjected to harassment when inappropriate comments were made about her faith and inappropriate sexual comments were made in her presence. (Id.) The Charge states that Plaintiff complained, but the harassment continued, and Connections did not take prompt and corrective action to address several internal discrimination complaints even after Plaintiff offered reasonable options to remedy the situation. (Id.) On July 2, 2015, the DDOL issued its right to sue notice and on August 17, 2015, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issues its notice of suit rights. (Id. at 4, 11)

         Plaintiff commenced this action on November 16, 2015. The Complaint alleges discriminatory acts occurred on December 8, 2013, when Plaintiff was "refused entry to return to work. They purposely provided fraudulent information to the Department of Labor in retaliation to block me from receiving unemployment benefits." (Id. at 2) Plaintiff testified, however, that this statement is not the basis of her lawsuit. (D.I. 33, Ex. C at 25) The basis of her lawsuit is harassment and discrimination. (Id. at 26)

         Plaintiff did not report any workplace problems during the first year of her employment. (Id. at 34-35) She testified that Malcom Duff ("Duff'), a co-worker in the Key Program at the HYRCI, is the only individual who engaged in harassing behavior. (Id. at 29, 35) She started having problems with Duff beginning in the fall of 2013. (Id. at 35)

         Plaintiff practices Islam. (D.I. 1 at 9) She testified that in approximately September 2013, Duff made comments about the Muslim faith, associated it with terrorism, and made derogatory comments about Plaintiffs religious garments and prayer sessions held for Muslim inmates. The comments started out "every now and then" and increased to three to four times per month. (D.I. 33, Ex. C at 35-39) Plaintiff testified that towards the end of her employment with Connections, Duff made sporadic comments about his personal sex life. (Id. at 39, 45) Plaintiff also testified that Duff would repeatedly call out her name; asked her if she drank two sodas that were sitting in front of her; and stated she "looked tired." (Id. at 46-47, 51, 53)

         Plaintiff mentioned the comments to her co-workers but did not say anything to her supervisors. (Id. at 42) On December 8, 2013, Plaintiff wrote a letter to Duff regarding the uncomfortable work setting. (Id. at Ex. C at 43; Ex. D) Plaintiff carbon copied Director Pettiford ("Pettiford") and four supervisors. (Id. at Ex. D) In the letter Plaintiff told Duff that she sought to "resolve this issue and continue working in the manner of giving our best service to the inmates at this Institution." (Id. at Ex. D) The letter described Duffs conduct which included speaking of sexual conduct in Plaintiffs presence six times (mainly talking about things he had done to other women), calling out her name for no apparent reason 49 times, and speaking inappropriately about the Islamic faith three times (referring to terrorists being Muslim and Plaintiffs Muslim garment). (Id. at Ex. C at 45-47) Plaintiff testified that in response to the letter Pettiford indicated they were going to remove Duff and he "was going to stop." (Id. at 44) Duffs behavior did not stop, although there was an agreement that Duff would not address Plaintiff. (Id. at 48-51)

         Plaintiff testified that the next time she raised concerns regarding Duffs alleged behavior was May 27, 2014, when she complained that it continued. (Id. at Ex. C at 49; Ex. E). Plaintiff informed the supervisor and director hoping to resolve the issue. (Id. at Ex. C at 52) All parties met, and the issue was resolved. (Id. at Ex. C at 53; Ex. F) It was agreed that Duff was not to address Plaintiff in personal matters except issues related to treatment. (Id. at Ex. C at 54; Ex. F) Plaintiff was satisfied with the agreement on that day. (Id. at Ex. C at 55)

         On June 10, 2014, Plaintiff raised concerns because Duff was calling out her name, and it made her uncomfortable. (Id. at Ex. C at 57; Ex. G) She gave a written letter of complaint regarding Duff's behavior to supervisor Turner. (Id. at Ex. C at 58) Prior to writing the letter, at some point, Plaintiff had requested that Duffs cubicle be moved. (Id. at 58) Pettiford and Mr. Lanyon ("Lanyon"), the regional director, indicated that Duffs cubicle would be moved, but this never occurred. (Id. at 59)

         On June 11, 2014, Plaintiff spoke with a DOC lieutenant who took her to see the deputy warden. (Id. at Ex. C at 60; Ex. G) The deputy warden called Lanyon and explained to him what was going on and Lanyon told Plaintiff to go home. (Id.) When Plaintiff met with Lanyon on June 12, ...

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