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Allison v. City of Farmington

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

August 14, 2019

THE CITY OF FARMINGTON, FARMINGTON POLICE DEPARTMENT, STEVEN HEBBE, in his individual capacity, AND BRIAN JOHNSTON, in his individual capacity, Defendants.


         This matter comes before the Court upon Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment as to All 42 U.S.C. § 1983 Counts of Plaintiff's Complaint (Motion for Summary Judgment), filed March 4, 2019. (Doc. 51). Plaintiff filed a response on April 15, 2019, and Defendants filed a reply on May 13, 2019. (Docs. 55 and 62). Having reviewed and considered the Motion for Summary Judgment, the accompanying briefing, and exhibits, the Court grants the Motion for Summary Judgment.

         A. Background

         1. Plaintiff's Complaint (Doc. 1)

         Plaintiff, a former police officer with the Farmington Police Department (FPD), brings this employment lawsuit against the FPD, the City of Farmington, FPD Chief of Police Steven Hebbe (in his individual capacity), and FPD Corporal Brian Johnston (in his individual capacity). Plaintiff's claims arise from alleged issues she had beginning in January 2017 and ending in July 2017 related to her ability to express breast milk while employed by the FPD. Johnston was Plaintiff's direct supervisor during the times relevant to this lawsuit.

         The Motion for Summary Judgment only pertains to Counts IV and V of the Complaint, Plaintiff's Section 1983 claims. Plaintiff brings Counts IV and V against, presumably, all Defendants for violations of her Fourteenth Amendment right to equal protection. In Count IV, Plaintiff specifically alleges that Defendants subjected her “to an intentional hostile work environment and unlawful harassment because of her status as a nursing mother with protected federal rights.” (Doc. 1) at ¶ 83. In Count V, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants subjected her to gender discrimination by their deliberate indifference to her “rights and privileges as a nursing mother.” Id. at ¶ 94. The Court notes that Plaintiff also brought a Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) claim in Count I in which she claims Johnston failed to accommodate her need to express breast milk at work.[1] Id. at ¶¶ 52-62.

         2. Factual Summary[2]

         In November 2016, Plaintiff returned from maternity leave to work in her FPD patrol position during the swing shift. (Doc. 1) at ¶ 14. Plaintiff's supervisor on the swing shift, Tamara Smith, complied with Plaintiff's request for breaks to express breast milk. Id. at ¶ 15.

         On January 8, 2017, the FPD moved Plaintiff to a day shift. Id. at ¶ 16. Johnston supervised Plaintiff beginning in mid-January 2017. (Doc. 55-1) at 21, depo. at 164. Johnston told Plaintiff to express breast milk during her lunch break. Id. at 1. Plaintiff, however, often could not do so due to the call load. Id. Because Plaintiff was not able to express enough breast milk at work, her milk supply dwindled causing health problems for her child. Id.

         According to Plaintiff, Johnston would “shut her down” when she tried to speak to him about breaks to express breast milk. Id. at 20, depo. at 113. Johnston would also “ignore” Plaintiff, glare at her, give her “dirty looks, ” and wrote her “up for everything that in the past happened….” Id. at 21, depo. at 164-65; (Doc. 51-1) at 3, depo. at 207.

         On April 17, 2017, Johnston contacted Lt. Casey Malone about Plaintiff's work performance. (Doc. 55-1) at 1. Malone advised Johnston to speak with Plaintiff. Id. Johnston spoke with Plaintiff later that day and reported to Malone that Plaintiff mentioned she had post-partum depression. Id. Malone then met with both Johnston and Plaintiff noting that he sensed Plaintiff was uncomfortable in Johnston's presence. Id. Malone, therefore, asked Johnston to step out of the room. Id. Plaintiff opened up to Malone, stating she was feeling overwhelmed. Id. Plaintiff also stated was unable to express breast milk at work often enough, which caused her milk to dwindle and issues with her baby. Id. Plaintiff told Malone that Johnston asked her to express breast milk at lunch but because of the call load she was unable to do so. Id. Moreover, because Plaintiff moved outside of the city limits, Plaintiff could no longer go home to express breast milk and had to use the women's locker room and the “ICC sub station.” Id. Plaintiff did not feel comfortable expressing breast milk at those locations because people walked in. Id. Malone told Plaintiff that whenever she needed to express breast milk she would be permitted to do so. Id.

         Malone spoke with Johnston shortly thereafter about the situation.[3] Id. Malone then spoke with Hebbe and they came up with a better place for Plaintiff to express breast milk. Id. Hebbe further stated that, if necessary, Plaintiff could be temporarily reassigned to a “light-duty schedule.” Id.

         The next day, April 18, 2017, Malone again met with Plaintiff. Id. at 2. He told Plaintiff she could use a vacant office with a couch and other furniture, and locks, to express breast milk. Id. Malone also offered the option of a four to six-week temporary reassignment. Id. Plaintiff told Malone she would think about the temporary reassignment and get back to him in a few days. Id.

         On April 19, 2017, Malone spoke with Sgt. Brandon Lane who previously met with Plaintiff and discussed with Plaintiff the time she needed for expressing breast milk. Id. Lane indicated that Plaintiff “was free to do so whenever she needed to.” Id. Plaintiff also told Lane that she could use her mother-in-law's residence for expressing breast milk. Id.

         On April 21, 2017, Plaintiff contacted Malone and advised him that she wanted to be temporarily assigned to a modified duty status for about a week and possibly longer. Id. Plaintiff indicated that the modified duty status assignment might help her regain her milk supply. Id.

         Plaintiff began the temporary assignment, an administrative position, on April 24, 2017. Id. The administrative position provided Plaintiff with a predicable schedule and access to a private room. Id. at 4, depo. at 39-40. Plaintiff spent five weeks working in the administrative position. Id. at 21, depo. at 164. Johnston resumed his supervision of Plaintiff after she returned to her regular patrol position and supervised Plaintiff until mid-July 2017. ...

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