Atlantic Richfield v. D. Columbia Com'n, No. 84-1350.

Docket NºNo. 84-1350.
Citation515 A.2d 1095
Case DateSeptember 26, 1986
CourtCourt of Appeals of Columbia District
515 A.2d 1095
ATLANTIC RICHFIELD COMPANY, Petitioner,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS, Respondent, and
Elisa S. Janetis, Intervenor.
No. 84-1350.
District of Columbia Court of Appeals.
Argued August 7, 1985.
Decided September 26, 1986.

Page 1096

David A. Copus, Washington, D.C., with whom Lloyd C. Loomis and Randall B. Hamud were on briefs, for petitioner.

William J. Earl, Asst. Corp. Counsel, with whom Inez Smith Reid, Corp. Counsel, John H. Suda, Principal Deputy Corp. Counsel at the time the brief was filed, and Charles L. Reischel, Deputy Corp. Counsel, Washington, D.C., were on brief, for respondent.

Page 1097

John M. Joyce, Washington, D.C., for intervenor.

Before NEWMAN and TERRY, Associate Judges, and REILLY, Senior Judge.

NEWMAN, Associate Judge:


Atlantic Richfield (ARCO) petitions for review of the District of Columbia Commission on Human Rights' (Commission) decision that ARCO discriminated against Elisa S. Janetis, a former employee, on the basis of her personal appearance in violation of the D.C. Human Rights Act. D.C.Code § 1-2501 et seq. (1981). The Commission also found that ARCO constructively discharged Janetis and awarded her $22,200 for backpay, compensatory damages and costs. ARCO argues that: (1) the amendment of Janetis' complaint to include constructive discharge was untimely; (2) the Commission's decision was not supported by substantial evidence; (3) the Commission misapplied the disparate treatment and constructive discharge doctrines; and (4) Janetis was not entitled to backpay or compensatory damages. We affirm.

I

Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to Janetis, as we must, the record shows that during June of 1979, the Ingrid Sanders Employment Agency sent Elisa Janetis to the District of Columbia office of Atlantic Richfield. The office was a base for ARCO executives and lobbyists dealing with federal agencies and Congress. Janetis was interviewed by Rachel Morgret, the supervisor of Office Administration. Morgret hired Janetis on June 24, 1979 at a salary of $12,000 per year with benefits.

After Janetis' second or third week on the job, Morgret began to make comments to Janetis about the way she wore her clothes and their fit. Morgret criticized Janetis for her blouses being too tight, causing buttons to pop open and show cleavage. Morgret made many comments about Janetis' breasts. Morgret also criticized the cost of Janetis' clothes and questioned Janetis about her source of money to purchase them.

In addition to her comments about Janetis' appearance, Morgret criticized different aspects of her behavior. Janetis was reproved for sitting with her legs open, her enthusiastic friendliness towards office visitors, calling out to a secretary to cover her phones and mentioning ARCO's name during an alleged scene at a local restaurant. Morgret frequently questioned Janetis about her after-work activities and asked her if she got phone numbers from men visiting the office. Janetis believed that Morgret regarded her friendliness as a form of sexual solicitation.

During Janetis' three-month evaluation, Morgret praised her phone skills and treatment of visitors. But Morgret criticized Janetis for her low cut and tight blouses, disheveled hair, rudeness to coworkers and the messenger service, boisterous behavior and the unfavorable impression she created. When Janetis asked what Morgret meant by an unfavorable impression, Morgret told her that an ARCO official, Mr. MacKethan, stated that Janetis' behavior at a recent party resembled that of a prostitute.

The next day Janetis filed a complaint with the District of Columbia Office of Human Rights (OHR) claiming that she was constantly harrassed by Morgret because of her personal appearance, sex and race. Thereafter, Janetis met with Edgar H. Twine, the head of ARCO's D.C. office and the Manager of Federal Government Relations. Twine told Janetis that she would never find work in Washington again if she pressed her discrimination complaint. At a later meeting with Janetis' attorney, Gary E. Klein, Twine again threatened Janetis and added that it would be a good idea for Janetis to resign. On October 3, 1979, Janetis did resign and sent a letter to Morgret that said:

It is necessary that I take this action because of the physical and emotional stress precipitated by your allegations

Page 1098

about my personal appearance and conduct.

Janetis did not alter the allegations in her complaint after her resignation, but she informed OHR of her resignation during its investigation of her complaint.

After her resignation, Janetis looked for office work through newspaper advertisements and the Ingrid Sanders Employment Agency. The agency did not produce any placements for her from October 1979 to January 1981. When Janetis asked why, Linda Horst, an employment counselor, told her that it was probably because of her experience at ARCO, one of the agency's largest accounts. Janetis did not work in 1980. Finally, in January 1981, Janetis was hired by a law firm after the employment agency referred her to them. The law firm lobbied on Capitol Hill, and Janetis was afraid that the firm's lawyer would meet with ARCO lobbyists and learn about her experience at ARCO. Her anxiety increased when Janetis found out that her supervisor was a friend of an Ingrid Sanders employee who could have known about her problem at ARCO. Janetis resigned from her job in early July of 1981. Janetis believed that her supervisor was dissatisfied with her job performance as a result of knowing about her problems with ARCO. Janetis did not look for other office jobs because of her anxiety about Twine's threat and her belief that the threat was realized at the law firm. At the time of the hearing, Janetis was working as a salesperson at Nieman-Marcus earning $4.00 per hour without benefits except two weeks of vacation after one year. Her biweekly take-home pay was $231.86.

Meanwhile, OHR investigated Janetis' complaint. On August 8, 1980, OHR certified Janetis' complaint for public hearing, having found probable cause to believe that Janetis was discriminated against on the basis of her personal appearance. In a prehearing conference on October 28, 1981, OHR asked that the hearing also address a claim of constructive discharge against ARCO. After considering ARCO's and OHR's written arguments on this issue, the Commission ordered OHR to amend the complaint. The order explained that "[t]o charge the complainant, a lay person, with the technical understanding of constructive termination and other possible ramifications of her resignation would be unduly onerous." After a delay, OHR amended the complaint to include the constructive discharge claim on July 20, 1982.

The public hearing on Janetis' claims was held on August 3, 4 and 26, 1982. On August 3, 1982, OHR issued a probable cause determination on the constructive discharge claim and evidence on this issue was heard on the 26th. On September 14, 1984, the Commission issued its Final Decision and Order. This appeal by ARCO followed.

II

This court must accept the decision of the Commission if it is supported by substantial evidence and is in accordance with relevant law. D.C.Code § 1-1510(a)(3)(E); First Baptist Church v. District of Columbia Board of Zoning Adjustment, 432 A.2d 695, 698 (D.C.1981). "Substantial evidence is `more than a mere scintilla.' It means such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Consolidated Edison Co. v. NLRB, 305 U.S. 197, 59 S.Ct. 206, 83 L.Ed. 126 (1938) (citations omitted). If the Commission's decision is supported by substantial evidence and is in accordance with applicable law, the decision must be affirmed, even if this court would have reached a different decision on the same record. Stewart v. District of Columbia Board of Zoning Adjustment, 305 A.2d 516, 518 (D.C.1973) (citations omitted).

Although ARCO raises a number of challenges to the Commission's decision, only a few merit full discussion.1

Page 1099

1. Personal Appearance Discrimination

The D.C. Human Rights Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of personal appearance. D.C.Code §§ 1-2501 et seq. (1981). Personal appearance is defined as:

the outward appearance of any person, irrespective of sex, with regard to bodily condition or characteristics, manner of style of dress, and manner or style of personal grooming, including, but not limited to, hair style and beards. It shall not relate, however, to the requirement of . . . prescribed standards . . . when uniformly applied to a class of employees for a reasonable business purpose. . . . (Emphasis added.)

D.C.Code § 1-2502(22). In the present case, Janetis claims that she was treated differently than other employees because of her personal appearance.

In an employment discrimination case where disparate treatment is alleged, this court has adopted the Supreme Court's approach with respect to the allocation of the burdens of proof under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. (1982). Miller v. American Coalition of Citizens with Disabilities, 485 A.2d 186, 189 (D.C.1984); RAP, Inc. v. District of Columbia Commission on Human Rights, 485 A.2d 173, 176 (D.C.1984). "The ultimate burden of persuading the trier of fact that the defendant intentionally discriminated against the plaintiff remains at all times with the plaintiff." Texas Department of Community Affairs v. Burdine, 450 U.S. 248, 253, 101 S.Ct. 1089, 1093, 67 L.Ed.2d 207 (1981) (citations omitted). The proof proceeds by alternate shiftings of intermediate evidentiary burdens.2

The employee bears the initial burden of establishing by a preponderance of the evidence a prima facie case of discrimination. Burdine, supra, 450 U.S. at 252-53, 101 S.Ct. at 1093. Furnco, supra note 2, 438 U.S. at 576, 98 S.Ct. at 2949; McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 802, 93 S.Ct. 1817,...

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    ...McFarland v. George Wash. Univ., 935 A.2d 337, 346 (D.C.2007) ; Atlantic Richfield Co. v. District of Columbia Comm'n on Human Rights, 515 A.2d 1095, 1099 (D.C.1986).Thus, because Sgt. Craig alleges the same facts and violations under both Title VII and the DCHRA, and because both statutes ......
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    ...Boulder Valley Sch. Dist. R-2 v. Price, 805 P.2d 1085 (Colo.1991); Atlantic Richfield Co. v. District of Columbia Comm'n on Human Rights, 515 A.2d 1095 (D.C.App.1986); Brewington v. Department of Corrections, 161 Ill.App.3d 54, 112 Ill.Dec. 447, 513 N.E.2d 1056 (1987),appeal denied, 118 Ill......
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60 cases
  • Craig v. Dist. of Columbia, Civil Action No.: 11–1200 RC
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • November 24, 2014
    ...McFarland v. George Wash. Univ., 935 A.2d 337, 346 (D.C.2007) ; Atlantic Richfield Co. v. District of Columbia Comm'n on Human Rights, 515 A.2d 1095, 1099 (D.C.1986).Thus, because Sgt. Craig alleges the same facts and violations under both Title VII and the DCHRA, and because both statutes ......
  • ARTHUR YOUNG & CO. v. SUTHERLAND, No. 89-CV-777
    • United States
    • District of Columbia Court of Appeals of Columbia District
    • August 26, 1993
    ...Commission on Human Rights, 530 A.2d 674, 676-677 (D.C. 1987); Atlantic Richfield Co. v. District of Columbia Commission on Human Rights, 515 A.2d 1095, 1099 (D.C. 1986); RAP, Inc. v. District of Columbia Commission on Human Rights, supra, 485 A.2d at 176-177. Once that has been done, a reb......
  • Deloatch v. Harris Teeter, Inc., Civil Action No. 10–205 (RMU).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • July 13, 2011
    ...[797 F.Supp.2d 60] Carter v. Duncan–Huggins, Ltd., 727 F.2d 1225 (D.C.Cir.1984))); Atl. Richfield Co. v. D.C. Comm'n on Human Rights, 515 A.2d 1095, 1099 (D.C.1986) (noting that “[i]n an employment discrimination case where disparate treatment is alleged, this court has adopted the ... allo......
  • Slack v. Kanawha County Housing and Redevelopment Authority, No. 20725
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • July 9, 1992
    ...Boulder Valley Sch. Dist. R-2 v. Price, 805 P.2d 1085 (Colo.1991); Atlantic Richfield Co. v. District of Columbia Comm'n on Human Rights, 515 A.2d 1095 (D.C.App.1986); Brewington v. Department of Corrections, 161 Ill.App.3d 54, 112 Ill.Dec. 447, 513 N.E.2d 1056 (1987),appeal denied, 118 Ill......
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