EVANGELINE J. PARKER, Plaintiff - Appellant,
REEMA CONSULTING SERVICES, INC., Defendant-Appellee. EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY COMMISSION; NATIONAL WOMEN'S LAW CENTER; A BETTER BALANCE; AMERICAN FEDERATION OF STATE, COUNTY & MUNICIPAL EMPLOYEES, AFL-CIO; AMERICAN ASSOCIATION OF UNIVERSITY WOMEN; AMERICAN SEXUAL HEALTH ASSOCIATION; BLACK WOMEN'S ROUNDTABLE; NATIONAL COALITION ON BLACK CIVIC PARTICIPATION; CALIFORNIA WOMEN LAWYERS; CHAMPION WOMEN; DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA COALITION AGAINST DOMESTIC VIOLENCE; END RAPE ON CAMPUS; EQUAL RIGHTS ADVOCATES; FAMILY VALUES @ WORK; FEMINIST MAJORITY FOUNDATION; GENDER JUSTICE; GIRLS FOR GENDER EQUITY; HADASSAH, THE WOMEN'S ZIONIST ORGANIZATION OF AMERICA, INC.; HARVARD LAW SCHOOL GENDER VIOLENCE PROGRAM; LAWYERS CLUB OF SAN DIEGO; LEAGUE OF WOMEN VOTERS OF THE UNITED STATES; LEGAL AID AT WORK; LEGAL MOMENTUM, THE WOMEN'S LEGAL DEFENSE AND EDUCATION FUND; LEGAL VOICE; MAINE WOMEN'S LOBBY; MEDICAL STUDENTS FOR CHOICE; NATIONAL ASIAN PACIFIC AMERICAN WOMEN'S FORUM; NATIONAL ALLIANCE TO END SEXUAL VIOLENCE; THE NATIONAL CRITTENTON FOUNDATION; NATIONAL EMPLOYMENT LAW PROJECT; NATIONAL EMPLOYMENT LAWYERS ASSOCIATION; NATIONAL ORGANIZATION FOR WOMEN (NOW) FOUNDATION; NATIONAL PARTNERSHIP FOR WOMEN AND FAMILIES; NATIONAL WOMEN'S POLITICAL CAUCUS; OKLAHOMA COALITION FOR REPRODUCTIVE JUSTICE; PEOPLE FOR AMERICAN WAY FOUNDATION; SERVICE EMPLOYEES INTERNATIONAL UNION; SISTERREACH; SOUTHWEST WOMEN'S LAW CENTER; STOP SEXUAL ASSAULT IN SCHOOLS; THE NATIONAL URBAN LEAGUE; WOMEN'S LAW CENTER OF MARYLAND, INCORPORATED; WOMEN EMPLOYED; WOMEN'S BAR ASSOCIATION OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA; WOMEN'S BAR ASSOCIATION OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK; WOMEN'S LAW PROJECT, Amici Supporting Appellant.
Argued: October 31, 2018
from the United States District Court for the District of
Maryland, at Greenbelt. Roger W. Titus, Senior District
A. Corkery, WASHINGTON LAWYERS' COMMITTEE FOR CIVIL
RIGHTS AND URBAN AFFAIRS, Washington, D.C., for Appellant.
James Walsh, WRIGHT, CONSTABLE & SKEEN, LLP, Baltimore,
Maryland, for Appellee.
Loraine Gantz, UNITED STATES EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY
COMMISSION, Washington, D.C., for Amicus United States Equal
Employment Opportunity Commission.
R. Kopsidas, Daniel Tishman, Min Suk Huh, FISH &
RICHARDSON, P.C., Washington, D.C.; Tiffany Yang, WASHINGTON
LAWYERS' COMMITTEE FOR CIVIL RIGHTS & URBAN AFFAIRS,
Washington, D.C., for Appellant.
Gregory P. Currey, WRIGHT, CONSTABLE & SKEEN, LLP,
Baltimore, Maryland, for Appellee.
L. Lee, Deputy General Counsel, Jennifer S. Goldstein,
Associate General Counsel, Anne Noel Occhialino, Acting
Assistant General Counsel, Office of General Counsel, UNITED
STATES EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY COMMISSION, Washington,
D.C., for Amicus United States Equal Opportunity Commission.
Kathleen R. Hartnett, Ann O'Leary, Palo Alto, California,
Melissa Shube, Brent Nakamura, BOIES, SCHILLER, FLEXNER, LLP,
Washington, D.C.; Fatima Goss Graves, Emily Martin, Sunu
Chandy, Sarah David Heydemann, NATIONAL WOMEN'S LAW
CENTER, Washington, D.C., for Amici National Women's Law
Center, et al.
NIEMEYER, AGEE, and DIAZ, Circuit Judges.
NIEMEYER, CIRCUIT JUDGE.
appeal, the central question presented is whether a false
rumor that a female employee slept with her male boss to
obtain promotion can ever give rise to her employer's
liability under Title VII for discrimination "because of
sex." We conclude that the allegations of the
employee's complaint in this case, where the employer is
charged with participating in the circulation of the rumor
and acting on it by sanctioning the employee, do implicate
such liability. Therefore, we reverse the district
court's order dismissing Count I of the complaint, which
makes a claim on that basis, as well as Count II, which
alleges retaliation for complaining about such a workplace
condition. We affirm, however, the court's dismissal of
Count III because the employee failed to exhaust that claim
before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
facts before us are those alleged in the complaint. And, in
the present procedural posture where the district court
granted the defendant's motion to dismiss under Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), we accept those facts as
true. See E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co. v. Kolon
Indus., Inc., 637 F.3d 435, 440 (4th Cir. 2011). They
show the following.
December 2014 until May 2016, Evangeline Parker worked for
Reema Consulting Services, Inc., ("RCSI") at its
warehouse facility in Sterling, Virginia. While she began as
a low-level clerk, she was promoted six times, ultimately
rising to Assistant Operations Manager of the Sterling
facility in March 2016.
two weeks after Parker assumed that position, she learned
that "certain male employees were circulating within
RCSI" "an unfounded, sexually-explicit rumor about
her" that "falsely and maliciously portrayed her as
having [had] a sexual relationship" with a
higher-ranking manager, Demarcus Pickett, in order to obtain
her management position. The rumor originated with Donte
Jennings, another RCSI employee, who began working at RCSI at
the same time as Parker and in the same position. Because of
her promotions, however, Parker soon became Jennings'
superior, making him jealous of and ultimately hostile to her
highest-ranking manager at the warehouse facility, Larry
Moppins, participated in spreading the rumor. In a
conversation with Pickett, Moppins asked, "hey, you sure
your wife ain't divorcing you because you're f--king
[Parker]?" As the rumor spread, Parker "was treated
with open resentment and disrespect" from many
coworkers, including employees she was responsible for
supervising. As she alleged, her "work environment
became increasingly hostile."
April 2016, Moppins called a mandatory all-staff meeting.
When Parker and Pickett arrived a few minutes late, Moppins
let Pickett enter the room but "slammed the door in Ms.
Parker's face and locked her out." This humiliated
Parker in front of all her coworkers. Parker learned the next
day that the false rumor was discussed at the meeting.
following day, Parker arranged a meeting with Moppins to
discuss the rumor, and at that meeting Moppins blamed Parker
for "bringing the situation to the workplace." He
stated that he had "great things" planned for
Parker at RCSI but that "he could no longer recommend
her for promotions or higher-level tasks because of the
rumor." He added that he "would not allow her to
advance any further within the company."
days later, Parker and Moppins met again to discuss the
rumor. Moppins again blamed Parker and said that he should
have terminated her when she began "huffing and puffing
about this BS rumor." During the meeting, Moppins
"lost his temper and began screaming" at Parker.
that same day, Parker filed a sexual harassment complaint
against Moppins and Jennings with ...