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James v. Boston Police Department

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

January 9, 2020

BRENDA JAMES, Plaintiff,
v.
BOSTON POLICE DEPARTMENT, CAPTAIN PAUL RUSSELL, DETECTIVE DANIEL HUMPHRIES, CAPTAIN MARK HAYES, ZELMA GREENSTEIN, and CITY OF BOSTON, Defendants.

          CORRECTED MEMORANDUM AND ORDER ON MOTION TO DISMISS

          F. Dennis Saylor IV Chief United States District Judge.

         This is a case of alleged employment discrimination. Plaintiff Brenda James is an African-American woman and a former Boston police officer. She has filed suit against the Boston Police Department, the City of Boston, Captain Paul Russell, Captain Mark Hayes, Detective Daniel Humphries, and Zelma Greenstein for discrimination on the basis of race and gender. The complaint alleges that defendants violated her rights under Title VII, the Massachusetts Equal Rights Act, the Massachusetts Civil Rights Act, and Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 151B.

         Although James initially brought this claim with the assistance of counsel, she is now proceeding pro se. Defendants have moved to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.

         For the following reasons, the motion to dismiss will be granted in part and denied in part.

         I. Background

         Unless otherwise noted, the following facts are as alleged in the complaint.

         A. Factual Background

         Brenda James is a resident of Boston, Massachusetts. (Compl. ¶ 1). From 1994 until March 2015, she worked in various capacities as a police officer with the Boston Police Department. (Id. ¶ 5-6). Before the events at issue, she had no disciplinary history with her employer. (Id.).

         At some point in 2010, James was required to submit to an annual drug test. (Id. ¶ 8-11). She attempted to reschedule the test on the ground that she had braided her hair and it required special attention to unbraid. (Id.). The Department allegedly refused to reschedule the test, and she was detained for more than two hours by the Boston Police medical unit while she tried to have it rescheduled. (Id. ¶ 9, 10).

         That same year, James was injured while on duty and placed on leave. (Id. ¶ 13-17). According to the complaint, at some point afterward, she was “falsely cleared” for duty without notice. (Id. ¶ 13-14). Only after contesting the clearance was she again placed on “injured on duty” leave. (Id. ¶ 16).

         The complaint alleges that James was mistreated by Zelma Greenstein, a nurse practitioner with the medical unit. (Id. ¶ 13, 17). She alleges that Greenstein was the source of her false clearance for duty and that, even once the mistake was rectified, Greenstein wrote a letter stating that she was not complying with her physical-therapy requirement. (Id.).

         In 2011, James returned to full duty. When she did so, her time records allegedly indicated that she had been docked leave to which she was entitled. (Id. ¶ 18). Somewhat confusingly, she also alleges that she was falsely cleared for work in 2011, once again without notice. (Id. ¶ 19). That clearance allegedly occurred in contravention to department policies. (Id. ¶ 24-25). She further alleges that the clearance occurred when Director Mullan-whose exact role in these events is not otherwise clear-informed Captain Paul Russell that she was cleared to work on November 21, 2011. (Id. ¶ 20).

         On November 21, 2011, Russell directed the department to treat her as absent without leave (AWOL), including the termination of her pay and benefits. (Id. ¶ 22). Shortly thereafter she returned to full duty. (Id. ¶ 26). Around that time, Captain Mark Hayes, who had never worked with her, allegedly called Russell to identify her as a “problem” and that she was “disrespectful” and “not cooperative.” (Id. ¶ 26-27). According to the complaint, Hayes “never worked with or met” James and “has long harbored a dislike for [her] based on her race and gender.” (Id. ¶ 27-28).

         On December 14, 2011, James reported for a scheduled appointment with Greenstein and the department physician, who cleared her to return to duty on January 2, 2012. (Id. ¶ 30). Upon her return, according to the complaint, Russell filed charges against her with the internal affairs division for her AWOL status. (Id. ΒΆ 31). Furthermore, the clerk delayed scheduling time for her on the shooting range to have her service weapon ...


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