United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Norfolk Division
OPINION AND ORDER
J. Krask United States Magistrate Judge
matter comes before the Court on plaintiff Catherine
Arbas's ("Arbas") unopposed motion for summary
judgment regarding her claim of retaliation in violation of
Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-3, along with a supporting
memorandum and a declaration signed by Arbas under penalty of
perjury ("Dec"). ECF Nos. 25, 26, 26-1. Defendant
PhyAmerica Government Services, Inc.
("PhyAmerica"), filed a response "confirm[ing]
that it will not be filing any opposition to or otherwise
opposing" Arbas's motion for summary judgment. ECF
No. 27. The parties have consented to the jurisdiction of the
undersigned. ECF No. 15. For the reasons stated below, the
Court GRANTS IN PART and DENIES IN
PART the motion for summary judgment.
was an art therapist employed by PhyAmerica and contracted to
work at the Womak Army Medical Center for the United States
Department of the Army ("Army"). ECF No. 26-1, Dec.
¶ 3. On October 30, 2016, Arbas reported to her direct
superior, LCDR Joseph Newcomb ("Newcomb"), that she
was sexually harassed the previous day by Dr. Zambrano, an
Army doctor in a superior position relative to Arbas.
Id. at ¶¶ 4-6. After that report, Arbas
was subject to "constant hostility" from Army
superiors and supervisors, including: reduced hours;
interference with her art therapy services; ignoring her
presence and attempts to converse with supervisors;
condescending comments from supervisors; and unmanageable
schedule demands. Id. at ¶ 7.
early August 2017, Arbas informed Newcomb, Commander Klimp,
and another supervisor that she was working in a hostile work
environment as a result of reporting Dr. Zambrano.
Id. at ¶ 8. On August 9, 2017, PhyAmerica
reduced Arbas's work from 40 to 25 hours per week.
Id. at ¶ 9. On August 17 and 28, 2017, Newcomb
refused to sign time sheets for Arbas; she could not be paid
by Phy America unless her timesheets were signed by the Army.
Id. at ¶¶ 10, 13. Commander Klimp also
failed to respond to her requests for a copy of her
"sexual harassment paperwork" and to move forward
with any investigation of that matter. Id. at ¶
September 6, 2017, Arbas reported these issues with the Army
to Valerie Pichardo and Brandon Ross, supervisors at Phy
America. Id. at ¶ 14. She also contacted Tausha
Carter, another Phy America supervisor, on September 8, 2017,
regarding the sexual harassment report and Arbas's
request for help with the investigation, but Carter
"strongly recommended that [Arbas] not make any trouble
for [the] Army if [she] wanted to keep [her] job."
Id. at ¶ 15. Arbas responded that she would
file an EEOC complaint as a result of the actions taken
against her since her sexual harassment report. Id.
Phy America terminated Arbas on September 29, 2017, claiming
that she committed a HIPAA violation, which Arbas denies.
Id. at ¶¶ 16-19.
being subject to the hostile work environment," Arbas
experienced a variety of physical and emotional changes,
including almost daily nightmares, depression, paranoia, an
"anxiety level. . . near panic most days," and a
need to wear a jaw protector to prevent anxiety-related
teeth-grinding. Id. at ¶ 28. She sees a doctor
for her stress and emotional issues, and experienced a
decreased appetite that led to a weight loss often pounds.
to Rule 56(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the
court "shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows
that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and
the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law."
"The movant has the burden of showing that there is no
genuine issue of fact," and "a party opposing a
properly supported motion for summary judgment may not rest
upon mere allegation or denials of his pleading, but must set
forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue
for trial." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc.,
477 U.S. 242, 256 (1986). "[I]n ruling on a motion
for summary judgment, the judge must view the evidence
presented through the prism of the substantive evidentiary
burden." Id. at 254.
There is no genuine dispute of material fact regarding
PhyAmerica's liability for violation of Title
Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, it
shall be an unlawful employment practice for an employer to
discriminate against any of his employees . . . because he
has opposed any practice made an unlawful employment practice
by this subchapter, or because he has made a charge,
testified, assisted, or participated in any manner in an
investigation, proceeding, or hearing under this subchapter.
42 U.S.C. § 2OOOe-3(a).
order to establish a prima facie case of retaliation [in
violation of 42 U.S.C. § 2OOOe-3(a)], a plaintiff must
prove three elements: (1) that she engaged in a protected
activity; (2) that her employer took an adverse employment
action against her; and (3) that there was a causal link
between the two events." E.E.O.C. v. Navy Fed.
Credit Union,424 F.3d 397, 405-06 (4th Cir. 2005). Once
the plaintiff carries her initial burden of establishing a
prima facie case of retaliation, the burden shifts
to the defendant, who is obliged to articulate a legitimate,
non-retaliatory justification for the adverse employment
action." Id. at 405. "If the ...