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Bonilla-Ramirez v. MVM, Inc.

United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit

September 14, 2018

MARTHA ISABELLE BONILLA-RAMIREZ, Plaintiff, Appellant,
v.
MVM, INC., d/b/a MVM Security, Inc., a/k/a MVM International Security, Inc.; CHRISTOPHER MARTIN MCHALE, Defendants, Appellees, JEH CHARLES JOHNSON, acting in his individual capacity; LORETTA E. LYNCH, acting in her individual capacity; KIRSTJEN NIELSEN, acting in her official capacity; ELPIDIO NUNEZ; JEFFERSON B. SESSIONS, III, acting in his official capacity; UNITED STATES DEPTARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY; UNITED STATES IMMIGRATION AND CUSTOMS ENFORCEMENT; UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Defendants.

          APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF PUERTO RICO [Hon. Pedro A. Delgado-Hernández, U.S. District Judge].

          Humberto Cobo-Estrella, with whom Cobo Estrella Law Office was on brief, for appellant.

          Ana B. Rosado-Frontanés, with whom Schuster Aguiló LLC was on brief, for appellees.

          Before Howard, Chief Judge, Selya and Barron, Circuit Judges.

          BARRON, CIRCUIT JUDGE.

         Martha Bonilla-Ramirez ("Bonilla") is a former employee of MVM, Inc. ("MVM"), which is a private security company that is based in Puerto Rico and provides security services to the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement ("ICE"). Following Bonilla's termination from MVM in 2014, she brought a variety of federal and Puerto Rico law claims against her former employer and other defendants in the United States District Court for the District of Puerto Rico. The District Court dismissed all but her claims against MVM under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000, et seq., and related Puerto Rico laws, and then granted summary judgment to MVM as to those claims. Bonilla now appeals that summary judgment ruling, which we affirm.

         I.

         While working for MVM, Bonilla was assigned to the Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport in San Juan, Puerto Rico (the "airport"). Her responsibilities included providing security for detainees in ICE custody at ICE's detention facility in the airport.

         On June 14, 2014, Bonilla reported to her supervisor an incident at the airport that occurred that same day and that involved a dispute between her and another MVM employee, Abraham Ortiz ("Ortiz"). Bonilla's supervisor asked her to produce a written account of what had occurred. In her written statement to her supervisor, which she submitted on June 20, Bonilla complained that Ortiz was ordering her around, requesting that she do all of their work, "calling [her] out for using her [personal] cellphone," and generally acting like her supervisor. Ortiz, for his part, sent a letter on June 18 to a supervisor at MVM in which he complained, among other things, about Bonilla having directed foul language toward him during the June 14 incident.

         On June 24, three supervisors met with Bonilla and Ortiz about the incident. One of the supervisors wrote a report following that meeting, and MVM then looked further into the complaints that Bonilla and Ortiz had lodged against each other. MVM asserts that it determined from its inquiry that immediately prior to the June 14 incident between Bonilla and Ortiz, Bonilla had "[abandoned her post] for approximately two hours" with another MVM employee, Alexandra Rodriguez ("Rodriguez"), who was off duty. MVM also asserts that through this inquiry it determined, based on its analysis of an airport security video, that while away from her post with Rodriguez, Bonilla had engaged in conduct known as "piggybacking," which involves following another person through a secured door without both swiping one's airport badge and entering one's personal code on a keypad. Finally, MVM asserts that its inquiry showed that Bonilla had used her personal cellphone during work hours.

         On June 24, 2014, MVM reported these findings to ICE. On July 10, 2014, MVM cited Bonilla for committing multiple "security violations," which included abandoning her post, using her personal cell phone, and engaging in piggybacking. That same day, MVM gave her a verbal warning, took away her airport badge, and notified her that she was being reassigned to another post, not at the airport.

         On August 12, 2014, Bonilla filed a charge of gender discrimination and retaliation against MVM with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). Bonilla's EEOC charge was faxed to MVM that same day. That evening, ICE sent an email to Jay Vergel ("Vergel"), MVM's Operations Manager, requesting that Bonilla be immediately removed from providing services for ICE under its contract with MVM. Minutes after Vergel received that email, he instructed his team to make sure that she was "removed" that day. That same evening, MVM called Bonilla and asked her to report to work the next day, August 13, 2014. Bonilla did not do so, but she did report to work on August 14, when she was informed that she was terminated, effective August 13.

         On May 14, 2015, Bonilla filed suit against MVM and other defendants in the District of Puerto Rico in which she brought a variety of claims under federal and Puerto Rico law. The District Court dismissed most of those claims, such that her only remaining claims were her Title VII claims against MVM and her discrimination and tort claims against that same defendant.[1] The District Court then granted MVM's motion for summary judgment on these remaining claims.

         Bonilla now appeals the District Court's ruling granting summary judgment to MVM as to each of Bonilla's three distinct Title VII claims, which are for, respectively, creating a hostile work environment, gender-based disparate treatment, and retaliation, and as to each of her related Puerto Rico law claims. We review a grant of summary judgment de novo, affirming the grant of summary judgment where, drawing all inferences in favor of the nonmoving party, the record discloses no genuine issues of material fact and ...


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