United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Brunswick Division
J. RANDAL HALL, District Judge.
This is a pregnancy discrimination and retaliation case. Presently pending before the Court is Tommy J. Gregory's ("Sheriff Gregory" or "Defendant") Motion for Summary Judgment. (Doc. no. 37.) As explained below, Plaintiff has not presented sufficient circumstantial evidence for a trier of fact to infer that she was terminated because of her pregnancy and has failed to establish any causal connection between the revocation of her law enforcement officer certification and statutorily protected activity. Accordingly, the pending motion is GRANTED.
A. Plaintiff's Employment History
This action arises from Plaintiff's employment at the Camden County Sheriff's Office ("Sheriff's Office"). In March 1998, Plaintiff was hired by former Sheriff Bill Smith as office personnel. (Crosby Dep. at 8.) In June 1998, she was assigned to the jail as a corrections officer. (Id.) She remained in that position until May 2004, when she was reassigned as a deputy handling courthouse security. (Id. at 8, 10; Crosby Decl. ¶ 2.) In February or March 2005, Plaintiff was promoted from deputy to sergeant and assumed a supervisory role. (Crosby Dep. at 10.) In August 2006, Plaintiff left the Sheriff's Office to work at the Camden County Road Department. (Id. at 10-11; Crosby Decl. ¶¶ 2, 4.)
Shortly after Defendant became Sheriff of Camden County, in January 2009, he recruited Plaintiff to return to the Sheriff's Office as the sergeant supervising courthouse security. (Crosby Decl. ¶ 4.) In this capacity, Plaintiff supervised nine courthouse deputies, including Jim Proctor, Lee Dyals, Roger Dyals, Paul Tasciotti, Deborah Young, William Argo, Thomas Flanders, and Frank Thomas. (Id.; Crosby Dep. at 12, 87.) Plaintiff remained in her role as sergeant and supervisor of courthouse security until her termination. Aside from the audio recording that allegedly led to her termination, Plaintiff was never counseled about any job performance issues during her employment at the Sheriff's Office. (Crosby Decl. ¶ 14.) She received no reprimands or complaints during her service. (Crosby Dep. at 41.)
B. Plaintiff's Pregnancy
In April 2010, Plaintiff learned that she was pregnant. (Crosby Dep. at 17-19.) During her second trimester, Plaintiff informed one of her supervisors, Captain Christoforo, and some of her deputies about her pregnancy. (Id. at 17-18.) Around September or October 2010, Plaintiff submitted a request for leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act ("FMLA") to her other supervisor, Lori Whitlow. (Id. at 19.) Plaintiff was granted twelve weeks of maternity leave, which was scheduled from November 18, 2010 through February 14, 2011. (Id. at 16.) Plaintiff's due date was November 29, 2010. (Id. at 17.) Her son, however, was born premature and treated in a neonatal intensive care unit by multiple specialists for three weeks. (Crosby Decl. at 3.)
According to Plaintiff, her son had a doctor's appointment on February 14, 2011, and Plaintiff received permission from Lori Whitlow to extend her return date to February 17, 2011. (Crosby Dep. at 16, 21-22.) The payroll and leave documents indicate that Plaintiff returned to work on Monday, February 14, but took sick leave for her son's doctor appointment on Tuesday, February 15. ( Id., Ex. 2 at 85, 87-89.) Further, she took sick leave on Wednesday February 16 because she had a stomach bug; worked Thursday, February 17; and took sick leave on Friday, February 18 because she scheduled a doctor's appointment for herself. (Id.) She worked most of the following two weeks, except that she took off Monday, February 28, 2011 because her son had a doctor's appointment in Jacksonville, Florida. ( Id., Ex. 2 at 90-91.)
Plaintiff never spoke with Sheriff Gregory about her pregnancy and was never told by anyone that he made negative comments about her pregnancy. (Id. at 19.) Plaintiff was never directly discouraged from taking FMLA leave for her pregnancy. (Id. at 35-36.)
C. Audio Recording and Plaintiff's Termination
On March 4, 2011, Deputy Paul Tasciotti brought a digital voice recorder to Sheriff Gregory and said, "You need to listen to that." (Gregory Dep. at 26-27; Pl.'s Ex. 3.) According to Sheriff Gregory, he listened to the recording and decided to terminate Plaintiff based on what he heard. (Gregory Dep. at 7, 9.) On March 10, 2011, Sheriff Gregory terminated Plaintiff. (Id. at 26.) He was the sole decision-maker. (Id. at 42.)
The primary contents of the recording were an August 17, 2010 conversation made in the jury deliberation room, which was being used as a lunch room at the time. (Gregory Dep. at 52, 89.) Paul Tasciotti accidentally recorded the conversation. (Tasciotti Dep. at 25, 29.) He did not give the recording to Sheriff Gregory until he was accused of "bad-mouthing" Sheriff Gregory, which was in early March 2011. (Id. at 32-33, 51-52, 57.) He believed that Plaintiff was responsible for this accusation. (Id. at 59-60.)
The conversation, which has been transcribed, was between Plaintiff and two of her subordinate deputies: Jim Proctor William Argo. (See generally Crosby Dep., Ex. 3 "Transcript".) Jack Hodge, Deborah Young, Paul Tasciotti, and Roger Dyals were also present but made relatively few comments. (See id.; Tasciotti Dep. at 55.) Trevaughn Myers and Ann Dubose, who were facilities personnel not employed by the Sheriff's Office, were also present. (Crosby Dep. at 44-45.)
In the conversation, Plaintiff and the deputies used profane language. (See, e.g., Transcript at 2-5, 11-16.) Plaintiff admittedly cursed and criticized Sherriff Gregory and openly questioned his competence in front of her subordinates. (Crosby Dep. at 74-45.) For example, she stated: "I don't speak to him [Sheriff Gregory] no more.... I don't give a damn. F___ him. I'm tired of his sh___.... I ain't going to waste my damn breath." (Transcript at 5; Crosby Dep. at 61-62.) In discussing whether Sheriff Gregory ever attended the FBI Academy, she said: "No. His fat a__, he ain't went to no academy, no FBI Academy. Please." (Transcript at 33.) She told Jim Proctor to tell Sheriff Gregory how to build a new jail "so that way in 2012 you have it the way you want it. Don't build no f___ed-up looking jail that we don't want. Need to go over there and tell him what you want built." (Id. at 32.) Plaintiff also stated that Sheriff Gregory was "good at telling everybody's business." (Id. at 10.)
Plaintiff also allowed the following derogatory comments to be made regarding another deputy:
Deputy Roger Dyals: Did you say Fontanez is fixing to get his master's degree or something?
Deputy Jim Proctor: Yeah, he's working on his masters.
Sergeant Amanda Crosby: For what?
Deputy Jim Proctor: Criminal Justice.
Sergeant Amanda Crosby: Really? Never seen that one.
Deputy Jim Proctor: Hell, I didn't even know the son-of-a-bi___ could read and write.
Mr. Trevaughn Myers: In Spanish.
Sergeant Amanda Crosby: Cubirican.
Deputy Jim Proctor: Cubirican and sh__.
(Id. at 34.) Likewise, Crosby participated in and did not reprimand her subordinates for making the following comments about a fellow deputy's sexuality and private life:
Deputy Jim Proctor: I thought Kizzy was a carpet muncher.
Sergeant Amanda Crosby: She got a son that's like 17 or so.
Mr. Trevaughn Myers: Mmmmm, man.
Deputy Jim Proctor: She ain't no carpet muncher?
Sergeant Amanda Crosby: She's bisexual.
Deputy Jack Hodge: Her partner is the other way. ...