United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
MEMORANDUM OF DECISION AND ORDER REGARDING DEFENDANT
BEHAVIORAL HEALTH NETWORK'S MOTION TO DISMISS FOR FAILURE
TO STATE A CLAIM (DKT. NO. 10)
KATHERINE A. ROBERTSON, U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Tammy Cagle ("Plaintiff") alleges that Thomas Estes
("Estes") and Behavioral Health Network
("BHN") created a hostile work environment in
violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42
U.S.C. §§ 2000e et seq. ("Title VII") and
Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 151B ("Chapter 151B"). BHN has
moved to dismiss the claims against it pursuant to
Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), arguing that Plaintiff has failed to
state a claim upon which relief can be granted. The parties
have consented to this court's jurisdiction. See
28 U.S.C. § 636(c) and Fed.R.Civ.P. 73. For the reasons
that follow, BHN's motion to dismiss is DENIED.
evaluate a motion to dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), the
court must "accept as true all well-pleaded facts
alleged in the complaint and draw all reasonable inferences
therefrom in the pleader's favor." A.G. ex rel.
Maddox v. v. Elsevier, Inc., 732 F.3d 77, 80 (1st Cir.
2013) (quoting Santiago v. Puerto Rico, 655 F.3d 61,
72 (1st Cir. 2011)). The complaint's factual allegations
are recited according to this standard.
complaint is based on the alleged conditions of her
employment as a specialty court clinician assigned to the
drug court session that was established in the Pittsfield
Division of the District Court Department of the
Massachusetts Trial Court ("drug court") (Dkt. No.
1 ¶¶ 22, 28, 32). Drug courts are
"diversionary courts" that were established to
reduce recidivism by defendants with substance abuse
challenges by providing them "with increased access and
linkage to treatment and community resources"
(id. ¶ 8). Drug courts employ a team approach
to accomplish their goals (id. ¶ 9). The
presiding judge leads the team, which normally includes a
specialty court clinician in addition to a probation officer,
drug court coordinator, clerk, prosecutor, defense attorney,
treatment provider, and law enforcement representative
(id. ¶¶ 9, 10, 14). The judge assembles
regular staff meetings during which the team reviews drug
court participants' progress and needs (id.
¶ 13). The drug court judge, in collaboration with the
team members, "decides whether a particular criminal
defendant is eligible to participate in drug court, crafts
treatment plans for drug court defendants, and makes the
ultimate decisions in drug court cases, including the
imposition of incentives or sanctions" (id.
staff meetings, the specialty court clinician recommends
"appropriate treatment options to the judge" and
"inform[s] the drug court team on clinical
perspectives" (id. ¶ 21). The Trial Court
Department had an interagency service agreement with the
Department of Mental Health ("DMH") to place
clinical professionals in the specialty courts (id.
¶ 16). The specialty court clinicians worked through the
DMH Court Clinic system and were paid through a grant funded
by DMH and the Trial Court Department (id.
¶¶ 15, 20).
Pittsfield District Court received funding to establish a
drug court in 2016 (id. ¶ 22). Estes, who was
the First Justice of the Eastern Hampshire Division of the
District Court Department of the Trial Court in Belchertown,
was appointed as the presiding justice of the Pittsfield drug
court (id. ¶ 23, 24). As the presiding justice
and the Pittsfield drug court team's leader, Estes
oversaw the drug court's development, presided over the
sessions when the court opened, established work schedules,
and set the dates, times, places, and agendas for the drug
court team's meetings (id. ¶¶ 24, 33,
34). He worked one day a week in Pittsfield, where he shared
a lobby with another judge who was assigned to Pittsfield,
and retained his position as the First Justice of the Eastern
Hampshire District Court along with his chambers in
Belchertown (id. ¶¶ 24, 25, 26).
subcontracted with BHN to provide a specialty court clinician
to the Pittsfield drug court (id. ¶¶ 17,
18). Plaintiff, who was a licensed social worker, applied to
BHN for the position of specialty court clinician for the
court (id. ¶ 27). On June 24, 2016, Dr. Welli
Yeh, the program director of BHN's adult court clinics,
notified Plaintiff that she was authorized to hire Plaintiff
as a specialty court clinician subject to Estes' approval
(id. ¶¶ 19, 28). In July 2016, Estes
approved Plaintiff's hire after he met her and Dr. Yeh in
his Belchertown chambers (id. ¶ 29, 30).
Plaintiff began working as a member of the drug court team on
July 18, 2016 (id. ¶¶ 31, 32). Her office
was in the Pittsfield District Court (id. ¶
35). Estes was Plaintiff's sole supervisor in the drug
court from July 2016 through November 2016 (id.
¶ 42). From December 2016 through March 2017, he was her
only "consistent" supervisor (id.).
approximately August 2016, Estes told Plaintiff that if she
"'needed anything'" or wished to
"'vent, '" she could speak to him in his
Belchertown chambers (id. ¶ 36). Thereafter, he
directed her to meet with him alone at that location
(id. ¶ 37). Plaintiff alleges, upon information
and belief, that she was the only drug court team member who
met privately with Estes in his Belchertown chambers
(id. ¶ 38). During these meetings, Estes
"offered [Plaintiff] a sympathetic ear" regarding
her attempts to get the probation department to accept best
practices for the drug court and he expressed his
satisfaction with their meetings (id. ¶¶
39, 40). He voiced disappointment when they missed a meeting
(id. ¶ 40).
Pittsfield drug court opened in October 2016 (id.
¶ 41). The weekly court sessions were usually held on
Thursday mornings (id.).
about November 16, 2016, Plaintiff, Estes, and other members
of the Pittsfield drug court team attended a two-day
conference (id. ¶ 46). Estes, Plaintiff, and
other team members drank alcohol during the cocktail hour
after the first day of the conference (id. ¶
47). They continued drinking during dinner at the hotel
restaurant (id. ¶ 48). After dinner, Estes and
Plaintiff remained at the table while other members of the
team retired to the hotel bar (id. ¶ 49).
Before Estes and Plaintiff joined the other team members at
the bar, Estes "began looking at Plaintiff suggestively
and suddenly reached out and began rubbing her arm. He told
her that she was 'adorable' and
'attractive'" (id. ¶¶ 51,
52). Plaintiff dismissed his overtures (id. ¶
Estes and Plaintiff retired to their respective hotel rooms,
Plaintiff sent Estes a text message asking for his assistance
with her television remote control (id. ¶¶
53-59). Estes came to her room and fixed the television
(id. ¶ 60). He then "sat on the bed,
crossed his legs, closed his eyes, and appeared to be falling
asleep" (id. ¶ 61). Plaintiff, who was
wearing a t-shirt and sweatpants, lay on the bed and watched
television (id. ¶ 62). Estes suddenly stood up,
began undressing, reclined next to Plaintiff on the bed,
kissed her, pulled down his boxer shorts, and forced
Plaintiff to fellate him (id. ¶¶ 63-66).
After he was satisfied, he dressed and told Plaintiff that he
had to go to his room (id. ¶ 68).
left the conference early the next day "because she felt
uncomfortable, ashamed, and confused" about the events
that had transpired with Estes in her hotel room on the
previous night (id. ¶ 69). Estes called her on
November 18 to discuss what had occurred (id. ¶
70). Both parties acknowledged that alcohol had fueled their
sexual encounter (id. ¶ 71). They agreed not to
engage in sexual acts again (id.). Plaintiff
expressed her desire to maintain a professional working
relationship (id. ¶ 72). Estes allegedly
responded that their working relationship had changed, and,
if anyone found out about their sexual encounter,
"'it would be worse for . . . Plaintiff' in drug
court" (id. ¶¶ 73, 74). He told
Plaintiff that she would "'lose
credibility'" with the probation officers if they
learned of their tryst (id. ¶ 74).
a week later, Estes invited Plaintiff to Belchertown to
discuss the drug court (id. ¶ 75). Plaintiff
traveled from her office in Pittsfield to Belchertown and met
with Estes in his chambers during court hours (id.
¶ 76). After discussing the drug court, Estes
"suddenly" closed the window blinds, shut and
locked the door, and told Plaintiff that "he wanted to
continue what they had started" at the conference
(id. ¶¶ 78, 79). Plaintiff alleges that
Estes initiated frequent sexual encounters with her,