Gaines v. Balt. Police Dep't

Decision Date22 February 2023
Docket NumberCivil Action ELH-21-1211
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Maryland

Ellen L. Hollander United States District Judge.

In this employment discrimination case, plaintiff Tashawna Gaines has sued her former employer, the Baltimore Police Department (the BPD). In an Amended Complaint (ECF 16) Gaines alleges discrimination in violation of three statutes Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. (Title VII); the Civil Rights Act of 1866, as amended by the Civil Rights Act of 1991, 42 U.S.C. § 1981; and the Maryland Fair Employment Practices Act (“FEPA”), Md. Code (2021 Repl. Vol.), § 20-601 et seq. of the State Government Article (“S.G.”).[1] In particular, the Amended Complaint contains five counts: discrimination on the basis of race, in violation of Title VII (Count I); discrimination on the basis of sex, in violation of Title VII (Count II); retaliation, in violation of Title VII (Count III); discrimination on the basis of race, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981 (Count IV); and discrimination on the basis of race and sex, in violation of FEPA (Count V). ECF 16

Defendant has moved to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). ECF 19.[2] The motion is supported by a memorandum. ECF 19-1 (collectively, the “Motion”). Plaintiff opposes the Motion (ECF 20), supported by a memorandum (ECF 20-1) (collectively, the “Opposition”) and several exhibits. ECF 20-3 to ECF 20-9. Defendant has replied. ECF 21 (the “Reply”).

No hearing is necessary to resolve the Motion. See Local Rule 105.6. For the reasons that follow, I shall grant the Motion.

I. Factual and Procedural Background[3]

Plaintiff, an “African American female” (ECF 16, ¶ 14), was an employee of the BPD for sixteen years. Id. ¶¶ 17-19. She attained the rank of Sergeant in 2011, and voluntarily left the BPD in 2015. Id. ¶ 19.

On or about November 25, 2016, Gaines wrote a letter to Major James Handley at the BPD, in which she requested rehire” with the BPD. Id. ¶ 20. Gaines explained that she had left the BPD to pursue a career interest in news media and had been working as a journalist at a local news television station in Salisbury, Maryland. Id. She did not provide the reason for which she sought to return to the BPD.

Plaintiff was told by then BPD Commissioner Kevin Davis, a Caucasian male, that she would not be reinstated to the rank of sergeant. ECF 16, ¶ 21.[4] Yet, plaintiff claims that several other officers who had left the BPD had been allowed to return to the BPD at their prior rank. Id. These individuals include Keith Gladstone, Cutis Dixon, Juan Oliver, and Dameon Carter, three of whom are Black. Id. Plaintiff asserts that the only difference between these individuals and herself is her status as an African American woman. Id. ¶ 22. Further, Gaines alleges that there was no policy before, during, or after her tenure that would have resulted in her inability to return at her prior rank. Id.

Plaintiff opted to return to work for the BPD. Id. ¶ 23. Although plaintiff does not state the actual date when she returned to work at the BPD, the BPD's “Position Statement” of November 19, 2018, states that plaintiff “began her employment with the BPD on March 13, 2017 as a Police Officer.” ECF 10-5 at 1.

Gaines claims that, due to her demoted rank, she “began to seek secondary employment.” ECF 16, ¶ 23. On September 18, 2017, approximately six months after rejoining the BPD, plaintiff “sought secondary employment outside of the BPD at WBAL News Radio as a news anchor/reporter, scheduled for Saturdays and Sundays from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m.” Id. ¶ 24; see ECF 10-4. Gaines claims that the BPD had been “well aware” of her “involvement in news broadcasting and journalism as she had previously mentioned it in her letter to Major James Handley upon her rehiring.” ECF 16, ¶ 24.

Plaintiff's request for secondary employment was promptly approved by Lieutenant Donald Gerkin, Shift Commander, as well as Major Rich Gibson, the District Commander, on or about September 18 and 19, 2017, respectively. Id. ¶ 25; see ECF 10-4. Gaines asserts that both “possessed the authority to grant approval of the secondary employment.” ECF 16, ¶ 25. Gaines began her secondary employment on September 28, 2017. Id. ¶ 26. However, as discussed, infra, plaintiff claims that Commissioner Davis subsequently denied the request for secondary employment. Id. ¶ 27. But, after Gaines complained, the secondary employment was again approved. Id. ¶ 36.

With the BPD's earlier motion to dismiss, it submitted a copy of plaintiff's “Request for Secondary Employment Form.” ECF 10-4. On the form, plaintiff indicated that she was seeking employment as a “Radio News Anchor/Reporter.” Id.[5] She signed the form on September 18, 2017. Id. She also provided her “Reason for Desiring Secondary Employment,” stating: “Career enhancement and career development in radio communications.” Id. Below plaintiff's signature is a “Reviewed By” box, with space for a signature and “Recommendation” from each reviewer. Id. The “Reviewed By” box contains two signatures. Id. One appears to be that of a sergeant, and one appears to be that of a lieutenant, but the handwriting is not clear enough to identify the name of either individual. Id. Next to each signature, in boxes located under the word “Recommendation,” each reviewer wrote “Approved.” Id. One signature is dated September 18, 2017, and the other is dated September 19, 2017. Id.

Under the “Reviewed By” box is another box, labelled “Comments About Recommendation.” Id. The word “Approved” is written in this box. Id. Below this box is a section that contains space for the name and signature of the “Commanding Officer,” as well as a date. Id. A name and signature appear in this space, with a date of September 18, 2017. Id. However, the handwriting is not clear enough to determine the name of the individual. Below this area is a space marked “Action of the Overtime Unit Commanding Officer,” with a space for a signature and the date. Id. The word “Approved” appears above “Action of the Overtime Unit Commanding Officer,” with another unclear signature, and a date of October 2, 2017. Id.[6]

Plaintiff alleges that “Commissioner Davis denied the secondary employment approval claiming that the approval was null and void without his signature.” ECF 16, ¶ 27. According to Gaines, the “rescinding of Plaintiff's secondary employment approval was further discrimination based on Plaintiff's race and sex as there was no reason as to why Commissioner Davis was denying Plaintiff's approval against BPD practice when secondary employment for non-black and/or male employees only needed approval at the shift commander level.” Id. ¶ 28.

According to Gaines, the BPD claimed that plaintiff had submitted the wrong form, and that the correct form would have required Davis's approval. Id. ¶ 29. However, plaintiff alleges that, at the time she submitted her request in September 2017, the form she completed was the only one that was available; the form the BPD labels as the correct one was not created until March 2018. Id. In addition, when plaintiff completed her request form in September 2017, she “was not informed that there were issues with the form she submitted prior to the initial approval signed by two of her superiors.” Id. (emphasis in original). And, plaintiff asserts that there “was no reason why Commissioner Davis' signature was needed contrary to practiced policy at the time other than to discriminate against Plaintiff for her race and sex.” Id. ¶ 32.

Further, Gaines claims that she was not informed “that the secondary employment she sought did not meet the requirements under the provisions of the BPD.” ECF 16, ¶ 30. But, plaintiff claims that the BPD then said “that her employment as a journalist would result in an inevitable conflict of interest that BPD could not approve of due to her work as a police officer which made her privy to internal details.” Id.[7]

The Amended Complaint references “Police Officer Sergeant Zimmerman (Caucasian male),” who sought and obtained approval for secondary employment from his shift commander, without needing to receive approval from Davis. Id. ¶ 31.[8] Zimmerman allegedly sought secondary employment as a lawyer, which plaintiff states “would undoubtedly have caused a conflict of interest equal to, if not more, than Plaintiff's requested employment as a journalist.” Id. Yet, according to plaintiff, Zimmerman was approved for secondary employment providing legal work without the need for approval from Commissioner Davis. Id.

According to the Amended Complaint, “instead of allowing Plaintiff to rectify any administrative issues, Commissioner Davis threatened Plaintiff by telling her that Plaintiff could either terminate her secondary employment or resign from the BPD or be charged with insubordination and failure to obey command.” Id. ¶ 33. In addition, Davis “advised” Gibson, Gerkin, and a third BPD officer, Sergeant Tanesha Todd, to inform plaintiff that she “was not allowed to work at her secondary employment or be subjected to the above-mentioned disciplinary actions.” Id. ¶ 34.

Plaintiff requested an explanation as to why “similarly situated Caucasian male workers” could obtain secondary employment after receiving approval from their shift commanders whereas she was “mandated” either to terminate her secondary employment, resign from the BPD, or be charged with insubordination and failure to obey command. ECF 16, ¶ 35. After plaintiff raised this issue, the “BPD approved the secondary employment request again on October 2, 2017.” Id. ¶ 36. Specifically, this approval refers to the ...

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT