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Stout v. Haight

United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division

September 24, 2019


          Deborah Stout, Pro Se Plaintiff

          Stacie A. Sessoms, Assistant Attorney General, Office of the Attorney General, Richmond, Virginia, for Defendant.


          James P. Jones United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Deborah Stout is a Virginia Department of Corrections (“VDOC”) inmate housed at Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women (“Fluvanna”) in Troy, Virginia. Stout initiated this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against VDOC employee Lt. Raelyn Haight, alleging that Haight had harassed her and retaliated against her and had allowed a fellow offender, T. Brown, to harass her. The case is before the court on the defendant Haight's Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim.

         I. Facts.

         In her Complaint, Stout alleged that Haight called her into the Unit Manager's Office on January 3, 2018, and was “forceful and aggressive” when she accused Stout of telling another offender, Lana Slaughter, that she was going to write up Haight if Haight did not raise her pay for her prison job from 35 cents an hour to 45 cents an hour. Stout alleged that, when she told Haight that this conversation never took place, Haight became “frustrated” and accused Stout of lying. She alleged that Haight told her, “I hate a liar. . . . I'm sick of you.” Stout also alleged that Haight threatened to remove her from her prison job as a vestibule worker by saying, “One thing I am going to do, is get you out of my vestibule area.” Stout said that she asked Haight if Haight was looking for a reason to fire her, and Haight responded, “I don't need a reason, I'm not scared of you. I'll just say that the staff and inmates are complaining about your job performance, and you need to remember that I am your supervisor.”

         Stout further alleged that she began to remind Haight “about . . . bullying in the past from her coworker Tawana Brown within the work place.” Stout said that Brown had falsely accused her and sabotaged her work. In particular, Stout alleged that Brown falsely told Haight that Stout planned to pay an offender $500 to find “dirt” on Haight to get her removed from her job and that Stout had paid $500 each to two other offenders to have Brown and Brown's cellmate removed from the honor wing. She also said that Haight had assigned “her undesirable work as punishment.” Stout further alleged that Brown would water down the cleaning chemicals prior to Stout's shift and then tell Haight that Stout had done it. Stout also alleged that Brown would sell sanitary napkins and chemicals to offenders and then tell Haight that Stout was giving out too many supplies. Stout said that Brown would steal juice from the prison kitchen during breakfast and hide it on the supply cart under gloves for Stout's work shift. Stout said that, when she reported this to Officer Johnson-Ross, who told Brown, she was removed from her prison job the following week.

         Stout said that fellow offender Brown would curse her out and use sarcasm when answering work-related questions. When Stout asked Haight to not make her work with Brown, Haight made Stout “do supplies on Mondays” with Brown and allowed Brown to order Stout around. Stout alleged that Brown told other offenders not to talk to Stout because Stout was a “snitch.” She also said that Brown approached Stout in an aggressive manner, in the presence of Correctional Officer Fisher and pushed and “chest bumped” Stout. She said that Brown was not disciplined for this action. Stout also alleged that offender C. Crawford, a friend of Brown, hit her in the back, and Haight and Unit Manager Thomas “did nothing.” Stout also alleged that offender Princes Brownfield threw chemicals at her and got the chemicals all over the vestibule floor, but nothing was ever done to her.

         Stout said that offender Ester Gorden approached her in an aggressive manner from behind and held her tightly and whispered in her ear how much she missed her girlfriend, and she ordered Stout to go tell the officer to allow her to go to Building #3 for trip passes so she could see her girlfriend. When Stout reported this to Mr. Thomas on December 25, 2016, he said this was a violation of the Prison Rape Elimination Act (“PREA”), and he would handle it, but he did nothing. Stout said that Brown lied to Thomas and told him that Stout had placed a blue blanket on his desk, which resulted in Stout no longer being allowed to clean Thomas's office. Stout said that Brown also lied about how she distributed supplies, causing her to no longer be allowed to hand out supplies.

         Stout alleged that Haight allowed this bullying, harassment and aggressive behavior from Brown and other offenders toward Stout. Stout said that she was not included in painting for inspection or handing out food packages because Brown was allowed to pick the work crew from offenders who were not vestibule workers or workers at all. Stout said that she was “very uncomfortable” whenever Brown came into her work area because Brown would stand on the side of the room and laugh, whisper and stare at Stout. Stout said that Officer Crawford witnessed this on one occasion and sent Brown and others inside the building. Stout said that Haight and Thomas did nothing about this harassment. Stout said that Brown was never disciplined for her bullying, harassment and aggressive behavior and actions toward Stout. Stout said that she reported all of this to Fluvanna Investigator Jamerson, but Jamerson refused her request for copies of her reports.

         Stout alleged that, after the 5:45 p.m. count on January 3, 2018, offender Lana Slaughter approached her and said that Haight had just told her that Stout had “wrote her out of the building.” Stout said that she told Slaughter that this was not true. She said that she told Slaughter about Haight saying that Slaughter told her that Stout was going to write up Haight. Slaughter told Stout that was not true. On January 3, 2018, Brown told offender Etta Scott that Stout had been terminated from her prison job.

         Stout said that she spoke with Counselor Lawrence on January 5, 2018, between 1:00 to 1:30 p.m. in the Unit Manager's Office about Stout's name being removed from the worker's board. Lawrence said that Haight had said on January 3, 2018, that Stout could continue to work, and she did not know why Stout's name was removed from the board. Lawrence told Stout to do as Haight instructed her. Stout said, on January 5, 2018, at 9:10 p.m., she went out to the vestibule to get a supply cart to fill it up with supplies for work the next morning, and Officer Taylor unlocked the door to the 1-A storage closet for her. In a minute or so, Taylor's voice came over the intercom and asked Stout if she still worked in the vestibule area. Stout responded that she did. She said that Taylor then told her, “Well, your name has been taken off the workers board, so come on out until I find something out.” Stout said she went out to the vestibule area to talk to Officer Taylor. She also said that she requested to speak to Sgt. Jenkins. Stout said that she asked Taylor if Brown was the one who told her she was terminated. She said that Taylor did not deny it.

         Stout said that she asked Officer Taylor on January 6, 2018, at 3:00 a.m. if she had received any further information about Stout's job status. Officer Taylor said that she would let the Control Booth Officer, Rutledge, know what she found out and to not let Brown interfere with Stout working. She said that Taylor said she would pass the information to the next shift. She said that she asked Officer Rutledge at 5:12 a.m. that day if he had heard anything about her job status, and he said, “Ma'am, I don't know the answer to your question.” At 6:20 a.m., Stout said that she asked the next shift officer, Officer Barry, if she had any information on Stout's work status. She said that Barry told her, “You're not working.” When Stout asked who said this, Officer Barry said that Sgt. Henderson had said it. At about 6:24 a.m., Stout said that offender Felisha Charon told her that she had heard that Stout had been terminated.

         Stout said that at about 6:40 p.m., she requested to speak to Sgt. Henderson. She said that Officer Barry replied, “You're not working and she doesn't want to talk to you.” Stout said Sgt. Henderson heard Barry make this statement and asked to whom she was speaking. When Barry told Henderson that she was talking to Stout, Henderson said, “let her come.” Stout explained what had occurred to Henderson, and Henderson looked Stout's status up in the CORIS system and told her that she ...

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