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Crampton v. Weizenbaum

United States District Court, W.D. Texas, Austin Division

November 14, 2017

JENNIFER CRAMPTON, Plaintiff,
v.
JON WEIZENBAUM, IN HIS INDIVIDUAL CAPACITY AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS ADMINISTRATIVE HEAD OF THE TEXAS DEPARTMENT OF AGING AND DISABILITY SERVICES; SYLVIA RODRIGUEZ, IN HER INDIVIDUAL AND OFFICIAL CAPACITY; AND TEXAS DEPARTMENT OF AGING AND DISABILITY SERVICES, Defendants.

          ORDER

          SAM SPARKS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         BE IT REMEMBERED on this day the Court reviewed the file in the above-styled cause, and specifically Defendants Jon Weizenbaum, Sylvia Rodriguez, and Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services (collectively, Defendants)' Motion for Summary Judgment [#17], Plaintiff Jennifer Crampton's Response [#26] in opposition, and Defendants' Reply [#27] in support; as well as Crampton's Motion for Leave to File Supplement Summary Judgment Response with Newly Obtained Evidence [#28], and Defendants' Response [#29] in opposition. Having considered the case file and the applicable law, the Court enters the following opinion and orders.

         Background

         This case relates to Plaintiff Jennifer Crampton's employment termination from the Defendant Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services (DADS). Crampton was hired by the Home and Community Support Service Agencies (HCSSA) Licensing and Certification Unit of DADS on January 5, 2015, where she worked as a Licensing and Permit Specialist II. Mot. Summ. J. [#17-6] Ex. E (Rodriguez Decl.) at APPX-0122.

         On April 16, 2015, Crampton was counseled by her then manager, Mary Jo Grassmuck, regarding interactions with her co-worker, Olivia Williams, who had complained of disrespectful and unprofessional conduct by Crampton. See Mot. Summ. J. [#17-8] Ex. G (Bourland Decl.) at APPX-0218-19; Mot. Summ. J. [#17-2] Ex. A [#17-2] (Crampton Dep. Tr.) at APPX-0020.

         Sylvia Rodriguez became manager of the HCSSA group on June 1, 2015, after Grassmuck retired. See Rodriguez Decl. at APPX-0122. Shortly thereafter, on July 22, 2015, Crampton was again counseled by Rodriguez and Director Cindy Bourland regarding her interactions Williams along with other work-related issues. Bourland Decl. at APPX-0220.

         On September 14, 2015, Rodriguez informed Crampton she had not been selected to interview for the position of Licensing and Permit Specialist IV. Rodriguez Decl. at APPX-0131. That same day, Rodriguez sent an email instructing her team that Management Change Requests would no longer require resumes. See Mot. Summ. J. [#17-3] Ex. B (Crampton Report) at APPX-0048. Crampton considered this policy change to be unlawful, and subsequently in September or October 2015 began reporting the change to 40 or 50 different officials, including the Governor, the Office of Attorney General (OAG), and several congressmen. See Resp. [#26] at 2. On October 12, 2015 Crampton also filed an employment discrimination complaint with the Civil Rights Office in which she alleged Rodriquez unlawfully denied her an interview for the Licensing and Permit Specialist IV job because of her race, sex, and disability. See Resp. [#26-2] Exs. at 52.

         Crampton was issued a Second Level Reminder on November 9, 2015. Rodriguez Decl. at APPX-0131-34. This reminder documented Crampton's disciplinary history, including complaints from other DADS employees and management. See Id. Rodriguez and Bourland met with Crampton in person to discuss the Second Level Reminder, and both found Crampton's behavior in the meeting to be inappropriate and consistent with that for which she was being disciplined. See Id. at APPX-0124; Bourland Decl. at APPX-0220-21.

         The Office of Inspector General (OIG) initiated an investigation on December 31, 2015 based on a complaint submitted by Crampton. See Mot. Summ. J. [#17-5] Ex. D (OIG Records) at APPX-0118. The OIG originally referred Crampton's complaint to the Civil Rights Office and closed the investigation on January 28, 2106. See Id. at APPX-0120; see also [#17-13] Ex. L (OIG Report) at 3. Crampton continued reporting alleged unlawful conduct to the OIG and others. Resp. [#26] at 3-6. On March 29, 2016, the OIG reopened its investigation based on new information submitted by Crampton. See OIG Report at 3. After performing a full investigation, the OIG again closed the investigation finding Crampton's allegations to be unsubstantiated. See Id. at 1-25.

         On March 28, 2016, Rodriguez issued Crampton a Decision-Making Leave (DML) letter documenting Crampton's continued behavior problems at work. See Rodriguez Decl. at APPX-0137-39. The DML letter required Crampton take paid time off to make a decision on her job performance and continued employment. Rodriguez Decl. at APPX-0137-39. Rodriguez and Robbi Craig met with Crampton on April 1, 2016 to discuss the DML letter. See Id. at APPX-0124; see also Mot. Summ. J. [#17-7] Ex. F (Craig Decl.) at 154. Audio of the meeting was recorded, and both Rodriguez and Craig documented Crampton's behavior as inappropriate and disrespectful. Id; see also Mot. Summ. J. [#17-4] Ex. C (Meeting Tr.). Later that day, DADS management decided Crampton should be issued a Notice of Possible Disciplinary Action (NOPDA). Rodriguez Decl. at APPX-0124. Notes from the meeting indicate Crampton's report the OIG was discussed. See Resp. [#26-2] Exs. at 94 (listing "OIG, Civil Rights, Fraud" in meeting notes).

         The NOPDA letter was sent to Crampton on April 7, 2016, and she responded to Rodriguez by email on April 15, 2016. See Id. at APPX-0142-49. After reviewing Crampton's response, Rodriguez issued a Notice of Final Disciplinary Action to Crampton on April 15, 2016, effectively terminating Crampton's employment with DADS. See Id. at APPX-0150-51.

         On July 8, 2016, Crampton filed this lawsuit against Defendants in the 200th Judicial District Court of Travis County, Texas. See Notice Removal [#1-4] (Pet.). Defendants removed the case to this Court on August 10, 2016, invoking the Court's jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1441(b). See Notice Removal [#1]. Crampton contends Defendants violated the Texas Whistleblower Act, the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, and Article 1, Section 8 of the Texas Constitution in terminating her employment. Pet. at ¶¶ 68-85.

         Defendants filed the instant motion for summary judgment on July 7, 2017, and Crampton responded on July 25, 2017. After summary judgment briefing was completed, Crampton filed a motion for leave to amend her summary judgment response and to supplement the record with a declaration from ...


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