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Carr v. McDonald

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

May 26, 2016

ROBERT A. McDONALD, Defendant.


          F. Dennis Saylor IV United States District Judge

         This is an action alleging unlawful employment discrimination, harassment, and retaliation on the basis of religion. Plaintiff Christine Carr, a former medical support assistant at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in West Roxbury, Massachusetts, has filed suit against her former employer, alleging various forms of religious harassment and discrimination, as well as retaliation for her complaints regarding that harassment. She is proceeding pro se.

         Defendant Robert McDonald, Secretary of Veterans Affairs, has moved for summary judgment as to all claims. For the reasons described below, that motion will be granted.

         I. Factual Background

         Christine Carr was hired in 2010 as a Medical Support Assistant at the VA Medical Center in West Roxbury, Massachusetts. (Wichers Decl. Ex. C). Prior to her hiring as a medical support assistant, Carr had been employed at the center as a food service worker from 2003-2010. (Wichers Decl. Ex. B). Carr is Catholic. (Wichers Decl. Ex. F).

         A. Carr’s Work History

         There is no dispute that Carr did not have a good working relationship with many of her coworkers or supervisors. Numerous colleagues and supervisors complained about her behavior. (See Def. SMF ¶¶ 8-15). Coworkers complained that Carr refused to do her work, refused to be trained, was rude and dismissive to patients, and sent lengthy and defensive emails that disparaged others. (Id.). The record reflects that during her employment as a medical support assistant, Carr had four different direct supervisors, a second-line supervisor, and three different third-line supervisors. (Wichers Decl. Exs. F-I). Of those supervisors, six were also Catholic, including three of her four direct supervisors. (Wichers Decl. Exs. F, J-M). One of Carr’s supervisors, Alex Paganucci, testified that Carr was “completely unmanageable.” (Wichers Decl. Ex. J). At least three other supervisors gave similarly negative testimony concerning Carr’s work performance. (See Wichers Decl. Ex. G, H, K).

         The record also contains evidence that Carr was on the receiving end of numerous disciplinary actions. In 2012, she received an admonishment in March; a letter of counseling in May; and a second admonishment in September. (Morall Decl. Exs. D, E; Wichers Decl. Ex. Q). The May 2012 incident led to a mediation between the VA and Carr’s union representatives from the National Association of Government Employees. (Wichers Decl. Ex. P). Following mediation, the VA agreed to remove the letter of counseling from Carr’s record and to provide her with additional job-related training. (Id.).[1]

         On December 19, 2012, five days after the shooting massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, Carr sent her supervisor an e-mail stating: “1ST MARINE CORP. GUADAL CANAL SNIPER SCOUT’S DAUGHTERS DON’T RUN . . . laugh together all you want . . . .” (Bediako Decl. Ex. A). She was placed on paid administrative leave while management and the VA police investigated the incident. (Wichers Decl. Exs. F, R).

         In February 2013, Carr received a three-day suspension for the e-mail incident, another letter of counseling in April, and a fourteen-day suspension in May. (Wichers Decl. Exs. T-V). In October 2013, supervisor Chris Powers recommended that she be terminated, but the human resources department downgraded the discipline to a second fourteen-day suspension. (Wichers Decl. Ex. H).

         In February 2014, Carr was placed on paid administrative absence pending an investigation into an allegation that she had e-mailed the VA’s Office of Resolution Management confidential personal and medical information for hundreds of veterans (purportedly in support of a 2013 administrative complaint of discrimination). (Ritter Decl. Exs. A, B). When management escorted Carr to her lockers for cleanout before the paid leave began, they discovered printouts of all the confidential records. (Wichers Decl. Ex. FF).

         In April 2014, the VA gave Carr a notice of proposed removal, which became final in June 2014. Def. SMF ¶¶ 38, 42. The four charges listed in the notice were (1) improper retention of veterans’ records; (2) failure to safeguard confidential matter or access to such; (3) failure to discharge duties conscientiously and effectively, based on (a) an incident when Carr went to lunch instead of assisting a disabled veteran, and (b) three incidents when Carr failed to process all of the Interfacility Consults (“IFCs”) assigned to her; and (4) unreasonable delay in carrying out instructions, based on a month-and-a-half delay in Carr’s compliance with repeated directives to submit official requests for prior absences. (Wichers Decl. Ex. HH).

         Carr’s employment was terminated effective June 18, 2014. (Wichers Decl. Ex. LL).

         B. Carr’s Equal Employment ...

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