United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER ON DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR
RICHARD G. STEARNS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Menezes brought this lawsuit against her former employer, the
United States Department of Transportation (DOT), claiming,
inter alia, a failure to accommodate her disabilities;
retaliation and discriminatory treatment based on her
disability, religious beliefs, race, gender, and age; and a
creation of a hostile work environment. After a parade of
dispositive motions and amended complaints, all that remains
is a Title VII-retaliation claim based on Menezes'
filings with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
(EEOC). The claim is targeted at several of Menezes'
Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) supervisors. Discovery in this
case ended on February 28, 2017. On May 12, 2017, the
government moved for summary judgment. Menezes filed her
Opposition on June 16, 2017.
recites five EEOC complaints that she filed between December
12, 2010, and March 22, 2013 (prior to her termination), that
she alleges incited her managers to retaliate against her.
The genesis and chronology of the relevant EEOC complaints
are as follows.
initiated an EEOC proceeding on December 6, 2010, complaining
that an FAA manager, Scott Brackett, had discriminated
against her. On January 10, 2011, Menezes filed a formal EEOC
complaint detailing a number of alleged acts of
discrimination. See Gov't Ex. 1 at 2.
January 13, 2012, Carlos Pestana, another of Menezes'
supervisors, issued her a Letter of Reprimand for
“Resisting Management Authority, ” after Menezes
refused Pestana's order that she move to another
workspace. Menezes told him that he was engaged in
“military style management again.” See
Gov't Ex. 2 at 1-2. The reprimand admonished her for
“Inappropriate Conduct, ” based on an email she
had sent to a co-worker complaining about her managers'
work performance and her job responsibilities. On January 20,
2012, Menezes filed a second formal EEOC Complaint (EEOC No.
520-2012-00432), regarding Pestana's Letter of Reprimand,
and seven claims of discrimination allegedly based on her
Asian and White race, her brown skin color, her sex, her
English birth, her age (51), her physical disabilities
(cancer, sleep disorder, allergies), and a mental disability
(anxiety), all occurring in the Fall of 2011, allegedly in
reprisal for her first EEOC complaint.
16, 2012, Pestana issued a Letter of Decision to Menezes
imposing a three-day suspension (May 21-24, 2012) for
Inappropriate Conduct after Menezes sent an email to Pestana
and co-workers complaining that she was “feeling the
same battered wife syndrome as your wife [Pestana's]
mentioned in her divorce filing, ” and that Pestana was
“an abusive man.” Gov't Ex. 3 at 2. On June
3, 2012, the FAA assigned Menezes to a new supervisor, Angela
Olson. On June 19, 2012, Menezes amended her pending EEOC
Complaint to allege that the three-day suspension was the
result of discrimination.
August 23, 2012, Olson issued Menezes a “Notice of
Proposed Suspension for Fourteen Days for Inappropriate
Conduct.” On September 24, 2012, she sent a Letter of
Decision to Menezes imposing the suspension. This new charge
of inappropriate conduct was based on an email Menezes sent
to two FAA managers, Colleen D'Alessandro and Diane
Romanosky, accusing Pestana of falsifying a travel voucher.
See Gov't Ex. 5. Olson noted that Menezes'
recent 3-day suspension and prior reprimand “have done
little to deter this latest instance of inappropriate
conduct, ” and that her lack of remorse and failure to
acknowledge any responsibility for her actions warranted
progressive discipline. Id. at 2, 5. Menezes
contacted an EEO counselor on October 12, 2012, to complain
about the suspension, and filed a third formal EEOC complaint
on January 28, 2013. See Gov't Ex. 6.
February 12, 2013, Olson issued Menezes a “Notice of
Proposed Removal for Inappropriate Conduct, Failure or Delay
to Follow Instructions, and Defying Managerial
Authority” based on Menezes' actions on December 3
and 4, 2012. Olson cited an email that Menezes had sent to
her and fourteen other FAA employees stating that Olson had
condoned “malicious gossip and speculations that
management should not make to subordinates. . .” and
had failed to investigate “false accusations made by an
employee on alleged workplace violence.” With regard to
Menezes' “Failure or Delay to Follow Instructions,
” Olson cited: (1) Menezes' failure to respond to
five requests to correct a discrepancy in her time and
attendance report; (2) failing to prioritize work assignments
as directed; (3) failing to comply with four instructions not
to place a telephone call while Olson was questioning her
about a work assignment; (4) failing to give Olson the
telephone before terminating the call so that Olson could
speak to the other party; (5) failing to answer an incoming
telephone call after three directives to do so; and (6)
failing to notify Olson when she arrived at work at other
than the scheduled start time. Olson also cited the following
instances of Menezes “Defying Managerial
Authority”: (1) her refusal to tell Olson when she had
arrived for work and stating that the question was an abuse
of Olson's authority; (2) refusing to meet with Olson to
discuss the appropriate use of emails and other
communications and, again telling Olson that her request was
an abuse of authority; (3) her refusal to apprise Olson of
the current status of Menezes' work and again iterating
the accusation of abuse of authority; and (4) Menezes'
refusal to perform a particular work assignment and again
telling Olson that the assignment was an abuse of her
authority. See Gov't Ex. 7. Olson provided
Menezes with 16 hours of excused absence to review the
materials attached to the “proposed removal”
memorandum and to file a reply. After receiving two
extensions to prepare a response, on March 20, 2013, Menezes
filed her rebuttal.
six years of government service, Menezes was terminated from
her position as an Administrative Officer at the FAA
effective May 3, 2013. See Gov't Ex. 8. Menezes
filed her next EEOC Complaint on July 3, 2013, challenging
her dismissal. Ultimately, Menezes withdrew her EEOC
Complaint of January 28, 2013, and on May 19, 2015, filed a
60-page Complaint initiating this action.
Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c) “mandates the entry of
summary judgment . . . upon motion against a party who fails
to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an
element essential to that party's case, and on which that
party will bear the burden of proof at trial.”
Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317,
For purposes of summary judgment we are required to draw
every reasonable inference in favor of the nonmoving party.
However, at this stage we need not credit inferences that
“rely on tenuous insinuation.” Nat'l
Amusements, Inc. v. Town of Dedham, 43 F.3d 731, 743
(1st Cir. 1995) (internal quotations omitted). Moreover, the
nonmovant still has “the burden of producing specific
facts sufficient to deflect . . . summary judgment. . . .
” Mulvihill v. Top-Flite Golf Co., 335 F.3d
15, 19 (1st Cir. 2003).
Dennis v. Osram Sylvania, Inc.,
549 F.3d 851, 858
(1st Cir. 2008). A trial judge acts well within his authority
on a summary judgment motion in assessing the reasonableness
of the inferences that might be drawn from the circumstantial
evidence. Ricci v. Alternative Energy, Inc., 211
F.3d 157, 161-162 (1st Cir. 2000). “[A] mere challenge
to the credibility of a movant's witnesses without any
supporting evidence does not raise a trialworthy issue of
fact.” Moreau v. Local Union No. 247, 851 F.2d
516, 519 (1st Cir. 1998); see also Favorito v.
Pannell, 27 F.3d 716, 721 (1st Cir. 1994); LaFrenier
v. Kinirey,550 F.3d 166, 167-168 (1st Cir. 2008).
“[O]n summary judgment, absent specific facts
discrediting testimony from a witness associated with the
movant, and absent a direct conflict in the testimony, the