Murphy-Taylor v. Hofmann

Decision Date11 September 2013
Docket NumberCivil Action No. ELH-12-2521
PartiesKRISTY LYNN MURPHY-TAYLOR, et vir, Plaintiffs, & UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Intervenor-Plaintiff v. JOHN DENNIS HOFMANN, et al., Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Maryland

Kristy Lynn Murphy-Taylor and her husband, Donald Taylor, plaintiffs, have sued five defendants, alleging employment discrimination on the basis of sex, under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, codified as amended at 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et seq., as well as violations of the federal and Maryland state constitutions and tort claims under Maryland common law.1 In particular, plaintiffs sued R. Gery "Gary" Hofmann, who is the Sheriff of Queen Anne's County, Maryland ("Sheriff Hofmann"); his brother, John Dennis Hofmann ("Hofmann"); Major James L. Williams of the Queen Anne County Sheriff's Office; Queen Anne's County; and the State of Maryland.2 In brief, plaintiffs claim that, while Ms. Murphy-Taylor was employed in the QueenAnne's County Sheriff's Office, she was subjected to sexual harassment by several fellow employees, and was repeatedly sexually assaulted by Hofmann, a co-worker. Further, plaintiffs claim that Sheriff Hofmann and Major Williams failed to address the sexual harassment and the assaults, and subsequently retaliated against Ms. Murphy-Taylor for pressing charges against Hofmann for his sexual assault of plaintiff on or about August 25, 2009. Hofmann was convicted of second-degree assault of plaintiff following his guilty plea in May 2011. One day after Hofmann's conviction, Sheriff Hofmann terminated Ms. Murphy-Taylor's employment.

On the basis of these allegations, plaintiffs assert nine counts: a claim of violation of the federal constitutional right to due process, along with claims of failure to train and supervise, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Count I); deprivation of constitutional rights and privileges, also under § 1983 (Count II); conspiracy to deprive Ms. Murphy-Taylor of the equal protection of the law, again under § 1983 (Count III); violation of Title VII (Count IV); civil conspiracy under Maryland law (Count V); abusive discharge under Maryland law (Count VI); violation of Article 24 of the Maryland Declaration of Rights (Count VII); negligence (Count VIII); and loss of consortium (Count IX).

After plaintiffs filed suit, the United States moved to intervene as a plaintiff, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(f)(1), in order to assert Title VII claims against the State, the County, and Sheriff Hofmann in his official capacity. See ECF 36.3 That motion was granted, without opposition, see ECF 40, resulting in the docketing of the United States' Plaintiff-Intervenor's the Sheriff." As discussed, infra, claims against that defendant have been dismissed.Complaint ("US Complaint") (ECF 41). The United States' complaint contains four counts, all under Title VII. Count I alleges hostile work environment sexual harassment, and the other three counts assert retaliation for engaging in protected activity, by three different modalities: creation of a retaliatory hostile work environment (Count II); retaliatory constructive discharge (Count III); and retaliatory termination (Count IV).

Three motions to dismiss are now pending. Specifically, before the United States intervened, the County had filed a motion to dismiss plaintiffs' claims against it ("County Motion") (ECF 24). In conjunction with the intervention of the United States, I advised the parties that I would consider the County Motion as directed to the United States' complaint as well as plaintiffs' complaint, and permitted further briefing of the motion. See ECF 38. Sheriff Hofmann, Major Williams, and the State (collectively, the "State Defendants") have filed two motions: one to dismiss plaintiffs' complaint ("State-Plaintiffs Motion") (ECF 43), and the other to dismiss the United States' complaint ("State-US Motion") (ECF 59).4 Hofmann has filed an answer denying liability, see ECF 44, and did not join in any of the pending motions.

In the course of the briefing of the pending motions, plaintiffs conceded that "all claims against the Office of the Sheriff of Queen Anne's County should be dismissed because this entity is not legally distinct from the State of Maryland itself." ECF 48 at 1. Therefore, they voluntarily dismissed their claims against the Sheriff's Office. See ECF 53 & 54. And, plaintiffs did not oppose dismissal of their State law claims against the County. See ECF 28 at 1 n.1.5They also voluntarily dismissed their claims against the State under § 1983 and State law (i.e., all claims against the State except their Title VII claims), and dismissed their State law civil conspiracy claim (Count V) against all defendants. See ECF 56 & 57.6 Thus, as to the individual defendants (Hofmann, Sheriff Hofmann, and Major Williams),7 all claims remain pending, except the civil conspiracy count. As to the County, only the Title VII and § 1983 claims are pending. And, as to the State, only the Title VII claims are pending.

The motions have been fully briefed,8 and no hearing is necessary to resolve them. For the reasons that follow, the County's motion will be granted in part and denied in part; the StateDefendants' motion will be granted in part and denied in part; and the State Defendants' motion to dismiss the United States' complaint will be denied.

Factual Background9

Ms. Murphy-Taylor was hired as a deputy sheriff by the Queen Anne's County Sheriff's Office in 1999.10 US Complaint ¶ 13. From June 2005 until July 2010, she served as a detective in the Criminal Investigation Division ("CID") of the Sheriff's Office. Id. At various times during her assignment with the CID, four other employees had supervisory responsibility over Ms. Murphy-Taylor: Dennis Hofmann, the Sheriff's brother, who was promoted from the rank of corporal to sergeant and later to first sergeant during Ms. Murphy-Taylor's employment; Captain Curtis Benton; Lieutenant Dale Patrick; and Stephen Stouffer, who was promoted from the rank of detective to corporal during Ms. Murphy-Taylor's employment. Id. ¶¶ 13, 29.

Shortly after Ms. Murphy-Taylor's initial assignment to the CID in June 2005, Captain Benton made several remarks to her that were derogatory to women. For example, on one occasion, in regard to the first search warrant that Ms. Murphy-Taylor had served, Captain Benton remarked to her that it was "'the first search warrant a female has ever written and probably will be the last.'" Id. ¶ 17. In or around September 2005, Ms. Murphy-Taylorcomplained to the Queen Anne's County Human Resources Department ("HRD") about Captain Benton's remarks. Representatives of the HRD told her that nothing could be done about the comments because Captain Benton served in an appointed position. See id. ¶ 18.

Beginning in November 2006, Hofmann repeatedly attempted to touch Ms. Murphy-Taylor's breasts, either in the CID offices or in Sheriff's Office vehicles. Id. ¶ 19. In or around June 2007, Hofmann sexually assaulted Ms. Murphy-Taylor in a hotel room while they were attending an off-site training course as part of their job duties. Id. ¶ 20. In or around August 2007, Ms. Murphy-Taylor complained to the Sheriff about the sexual assault at the training course as well as numerous other sexual assaults committed by Hofmann. Id. ¶ 21. However, the Sheriff did not investigate Ms. Murphy-Taylor's complaint or take any corrective action to prevent further assaults, and Hofmann continued to work closely with Ms. Murphy-Taylor and to sexually harass her. Id. ¶¶ 22-23. Hofmann was subsequently promoted by the Sheriff. Id. ¶ 22.

On or about August 25, 2009, Ms. Murphy-Taylor and Hofmann were riding together in the same Sheriff's Office vehicle, on official business, returning from a court hearing in Cecil County, Maryland. See id. ¶ 23; Amended Complaint ¶ 16. Hofmann was driving the vehicle and Ms. Murphy-Taylor was in the front passenger seat. Amended Complaint ¶ 17. While Hofmann was operating the vehicle, he reached over with his right hand and forcefully put it down the front of Ms. Murphy-Taylor's pants, touching her vaginal area. Id. He also put his right hand inside Ms. Murphy-Taylor's blouse and touched her right breast. Id. ¶ 18. Ms. Murphy-Taylor told Hofmann to stop and tried to push his hand away, but he overpowered her, continued to touch her right breast, and attempted to touch her left breast. Id. ¶¶ 19, 20. Ms. Murphy-Taylor again told Hofmann to stop and that she was not feeling well. Id. ¶ 21.

On several occasions in November 2009, Lieutenant Patrick and Detective Stouffer made derogatory and sexually explicit comments about Ms. Murphy-Taylor and another female detective, insinuating that Ms. Murphy-Taylor and the other detective had sex at an off-site training that they both attended. See US Complaint ¶¶ 24-26. On or about November 18, 2009, Ms. Murphy-Taylor met with then-Captain Williams11 and the Queen Anne's County Administrator to complain that she had been sexually harassed numerous times on the job. Id. ¶ 27. On or about November 20, 2009, and February 2, 2010, Ms. Murphy-Taylor filed written complaints with Captain Williams concerning the sexual harassment. Id. ¶¶ 28, 30.

While Ms. Murphy-Taylor's complaints were investigated, she continued to work closely with and was supervised by Hofmann, Lieutenant Patrick, and Detective Stouffer. Id. ¶ 31. On April 8, 2010, Ms. Murphy-Taylor complained to Major Williams about continued contact with Hofmann during the investigation, despite her request not to have contact with him. Id. ¶ 33. No action was taken in response to this complaint. Id. Then, in December 2009, Detective Stouffer was promoted to corporal. Id. ¶ 29.

The Sheriff and Sheriff's Office management substantiated Ms. Murphy-Taylor's complaints against Hofmann, Lieutenant Patrick, and Corporal Stouffer. Id. ¶ 32, 33. Nevertheless, the Sheriff's Office retained them in their...

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