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Week 27 (2018)

Week of July 2, 2018 through July 6, 2018

U.S. v. Jesus Alejandro Chavez, et al. (Wilkinson 7/2/2018): The Fourth Circuit affirmed the conviction of multiple gang members for murder, holding that no Brady or Napue violation occurred with regards to the testimony of a government informant who received deferred immigration proceedings to testify, a letter from the FBI for support in his immigration file, and ultimately, a green card. The defendants claimed that the government had a duty to disclose such information and did not. The Court disagreed, relying on the extensive discussion of the informant’s immigration proceedings at trial and the defense’s opportunity to and failure to impeach the informant’s testimony.   Full Opinion

Highlight Case

Felicia Strothers v. City of Laurel, M.D., No. 17-1237

Decided July 6, 2018

The Fourth Circuit held that a city employee properly filed a Title VII claim under the 1964 Civil Rights Act and established a prima facie case for discrimination. She engaged in the protected activity of writing an informal memo disclosing the discrimination she faced to which the City fired her for.

Strothers, a black female, worked as an administrative assistant in the communications office for the City of Laurel before her termination. From day one, her direct supervisor discriminated against her and kept a log of her arrival time and every departure from her desk, including those to use the restroom. Strothers had many conversations with various city employees and directors about the harassment she faced. In those conversations, it was disclosed that her supervisor wanted to hire a candidate of a different race than Strothers.  Even when Strothers complied with the ever-changing demands and requests from her supervisor, she received a negative three-month performance review. Strothers reported the conduct to the director of the and claims that she was retaliatorily fired for the memo.

The Fourth Circuit reversed and remanded the summary judgment dismissal of the retaliation claim, holding that Strothers presented a prima facie case for discrimination. Under Title VII, there is a three-step process for burden-shifting – the first of which is to show a prima facie case for retaliation. A prima facie case of retaliation is established by a showing that the plaintiff engaged in a protected activity, that the employer active adversely against her, and a causal connection between the activity and materially adverse action.

The materially adverse action was clearly established by her firing. As to the protected activity, the court reasoned that the perceived violation must be objectively reasonable under the circumstances known to the employee. A reasonable jury could find that Strothers had reason to believe she was subjected to a hostile environment, and the hostile environment was on the bases of her race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.

Therefore, the Fourth Circuit reversed and remanded the circuit court’s granting of the City of Laurel, Maryland’s Motion for Summary Judgment.

Full Opinion

Maura Ashton