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Gethers v. Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison

United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Western Division

June 12, 2014

MONIFA A. GETHERS, Plaintiff,
v.
WAKE COUNTY SHERIFF DONNIE HARRISON and JOHN DOE, SURETY BOND for WAKE COUNTY SHERIFF DONNIE HARRISON, Defendants

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For Monifa A. Gethers, Plaintiff: Anthony James Cuticchia , Jr., LEAD ATTORNEY, AJC Legal Services, Raleigh, NC.

For Sheriff Donnie Harrison, Wake County Sherff Surety, Defendants: Jennifer M. Jones, Roger A. Askew, LEAD ATTORNEYS, Wake County Attorney's Office, Raleigh, NC.

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ORDER

JAMES C. FOX, Senior United States District Judge.

This matter is before the court on the Defendants' (collectively, " Harrison" ) motion for summary judgment [DE-44]. For the reasons that follow, the motion is ALLOWED and this case is DISMISSED.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Monifa A. Gethers (" Gethers" ) was formerly employed as a detention officer with the Wake County Sheriff's Office. Prior to her termination, the Sheriff's Office had promoted her to the rank of sergeant. Upon her arrival at work on January 5, 2010, Gethers's supervising officer, Captain Brown, informed her that a prisoner was in the " rubber room" on suicide watch and that he had spread feces on his body and on the walls and windows of his cell. While other officers donned protective gear and prepared to extract the prisoner, Gethers walked to the prisoner's cell by herself, removed him, and placed him in a holding cell. Gethers reports that Captain Brown praised her for " handling [the situation] so diligently." [1]

Later that evening, the prisoner once again smeared himself and the new cell with feces and Gethers determined that the prisoner should be escorted to the shower. Gethers requested assistance from Officers Jones and Parent (both males) to take the naked prisoner to the shower. Although there is contradictory evidence in the record on this point, Gethers maintains that this time she proceeded to the cell with Officers Jones and Parent and extracted the prisoner with their assistance. During this removal, the prisoner had wrapped a blanket around himself but he was otherwise naked. When the officers

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arrived at the shower area with the prisoner, Officers Jones and Parent informed Gethers that they could assist the prisoner with taking a shower. However, Gethers remained in the shower area during the prisoner's shower.

Detention center policy is that employees should not be present when an opposite-sex inmate showers or is otherwise naked. Although it does not appear that the policy is in writing or has otherwise been formally distributed to staff, all parties apparently agree that if an officer observes a member of the opposite sex showering, the officer is subject to disciplinary action, to include demotion. See Gethers Dep. [DE-44-2] at 23-24. In an effort to comply with this policy, Officers Jones and Parent state that they asked Gethers to leave the shower area twice while they assisted the prisoner, but she refused. Gethers maintains that she does not remember Officers Jones or Parent informing her that she could leave.

When Sheriff Harrison learned about the incident, he initiated an investigation. Multiple witnesses indicated that Gethers remained in the shower area in direct view of the naked prisoner despite the fact the prisoner was under control. Gethers denies all of this; she maintains that Officers Jones and Parent never told her she could leave and denies that she ever saw the inmate naked while he was in the shower. The official investigation report recommended that Gethers be demoted for two reasons: (1) remaining present while a male inmate showered in the nude without justification; and (2) being untruthful when questioned as part of the investigation. Sheriff Harrison demoted Gethers on February 19, 2010. Her demotion letter indicated that future misconduct may result in termination.

In response, Gethers obtained counsel and scheduled a meeting with Sheriff Harrison. During that meeting, Gethers denied that she could see the prisoner naked while he showered. Sheriff Harrison ultimately determined that Gethers was untruthful during this meeting and he terminated her employment. This gender discrimination and retaliation lawsuit followed.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

At summary judgment, the court must examine the evidence presented by both parties and determine if there is a need for trial. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986); Greater Balt. Ctr. for Pregnancy Concerns, Inc. v. Mayor & City Council of Balt., 721 F.3d 264, 283 (4th Cir. 2013). The court examines " whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 251-53, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). Where the moving party shows that the evidence is so one-sided that it should prevail as a matter of law, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party to come forward with affidavits, depositions, answers to interrogatories, or other evidence demonstrating that there is a genuine issue of material fact that requires trial. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324-25, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986); Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587; Pension Benefit Guar. Corp. v. Beverley, 404 F.3d 243, 246-47 (4th Cir. 2005). An issue of fact is genuine if a reasonable jury could find for the nonmoving party. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. at 248. A fact is material if proof of the fact might affect the outcome of the case under the substantive law. Id. The facts should be viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and all

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reasonable inferences should be made in favor of the nonmoving party. Id. at 255; Smith v. Va. Commonwealth Univ., 84 ...


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