FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF
PUERTO RICO [Hon. Bruce J. McGiverin, Magistrate Judge]
A. Rodríguez Muñoz, with whom Landrón
Vera, LLC, Eduardo A. Vera Ramírez, and Eileen
Landrón Guardiola were on brief, for appellant.
A. De Luna-Colon, with whom Gonzalez-Mendez Law Office and
Vivian Ivette Gonzalez Mendez were on brief, for appellee
Municipality of Naranjito and individual appellees in their
R. Román-Negrón, Solicitor General, with whom
Susana I. Peñagarícano-Brown, Assistant
Solicitor General, was on brief, for individual appellees in
their individual capacity.
Howard, Chief Judge, Lipez and Thompson, Circuit Judges.
Maribel Maldonado-Cátala ("Maldonado")
claims that, over a period of years, she faced abusive
treatment from colleagues and superiors in the Emergency
Management Office ("EMO") of the Municipality of
Naranjito. She brought this suit alleging violations of
federal and Commonwealth anti-discrimination laws, asserting
that the defendants' actions were based on gender, and
were in retaliation for her complaint about a superior's
sexual harassment. The district court granted summary
judgment for the defendants. On appeal, Maldonado challenges
only the dismissal of her claims premised on a hostile work
environment. Having carefully reviewed the record, we take a
different path but ultimately agree with the district
court's conclusion that these claims are not viable.
Hence, we affirm its judgment.
present the facts in the light most favorable to appellant,
consistent with record support. See Alfano v. Lynch,
847 F.3d 71, 74 (1st Cir. 2017).
Maldonado's Employment and First Leave
began working in the EMO as an emergency medical technician
in 2008, responding via ambulance when medical or other
emergency assistance was needed. After suffering a
work-related accident, Maldonado took leave from July 8, 2010
until April 3, 2012. In September 2010, while on leave, she
accompanied a co-worker to meet with the Municipality's
Director of Human Resources, Marialis Figueroa-Negrón
("Figueroa-Negrón" or the "HR
director"), to discuss sexual harassment by the EMO
director, Hiram Bristol-Colón ("Bristol"),
against several female employees. During that meeting,
Maldonado reported comments made to her not only by Bristol,
but also by another EMO employee, José Amuary
Figueroa-Nieves ("Figueroa-Nieves"), who made crude
jokes about Maldonado's sexual orientation.
Maldonado's co-worker, Jose Luis Hernandez Rivera
("Hernandez"), testified in his deposition that
Figueroa-Nieves and at least one other EMO employee
repeatedly used slurs, such as "machito" (roughly
translated as "manly") to refer to Maldonado, and
he described the situation as "like a battle"
because she was being attacked "all the time."
after the September 2010 meeting, the Municipality hired an
attorney to investigate the complaint against Bristol, and
Maldonado was one of the employees interviewed. By the end of
October 2010, the attorney had issued a report finding that
Bristol had engaged in misconduct and sexual harassment, and
recommending his removal from his position. At the request of
the mayor, Orlando Ortiz-Chévres, Bristol resigned
from his trust position as EMO director. For the next several
months, Ramón Vázquez Baez
("Vázquez"), the Municipal Police
Commissioner, also served as interim EMO director.
the Bristol investigation, Maldonado was the subject several
times of derogatory comments posted on Facebook by one or
more individuals, using pseudonyms, referring to her
involvement in the matter. She highlights a Facebook message
sent to her personally at 10:46 PM on November 1, 2010, in
which she was called a "nasty lesbian, "
"whore, " "snake, " and "dike."
The message further stated: "I will see you fall you
dirty lesbian and every one of you one by one what you did to
that man the one from emergency management . . . remember
that you have children that by the way the boy is gay and the
girl is a lesbo . . . ."
alarmed by this message, Maldonado filed a police report the
next morning that prompted an investigation. Although the law
enforcement inquiry indicated that the message was sent from
within the Municipality, and possibly from the EMO or
municipal police department, the police were unable to
identify the sender within the applicable one-year
limitations period for the misdemeanor that could have been
charged based on the message. Hence, in late 2011, the
department terminated its investigation. The primary police
investigator, Officer Jackeline Candelaria Curbelo
("Candelaria"), turned over her file to Maldonado,
reporting that "things had gotten complicated" and
that "[t]hey used the municipality's computers and
the internet to send you this message."
Maldonado also had reported the messages shortly after she
received them to Figueroa-Negrón, the HR director, who
told her that she would pursue the matter within the
department after the police investigation and said "when
the time come[s] we will punish them." When Maldonado
obtained the police file in late 2011, she offered the
documents to the mayor, who initially expressed skepticism
about investigating "a fake page, " but then
instructed Maldonado to deliver the materials personally to
Figueroa-Negrón when she returned from maternity leave
in early 2012. In February 2012, Maldonado sent a letter to
the mayor requesting an administrative investigation.
Maldonado suspected Figueroa-Nieves, whom Vázquez, the
Municipal Police Commissioner and EMO interim director in
late 2010 and early 2011, had put in charge of the
office's day-to-day operation while he handled police
work. In that role, Figueroa-Nieves would have had access to
the EMO computer identified as a possible source of the
message. To Maldonado's knowledge, no internal
investigation took place.
Maldonado's Work Experience Post-Leave
returned to work in April 2012. Although the doctor for the
State Insurance Fund told her that her back sprain was not
fully healed at that point, and she should not yet return to
work, he nonetheless gave her the required form when
Maldonado explained that she had been denied an additional
six-month leave and could not afford to lose her
The form reported that she would continue receiving treatment
before resuming her position, Maldonado met with
Figueroa-Negrón and the EMO director appointed in
February 2011, José Tomás Rodríguez
Vélez ("Rodríguez"), to inform
Rodríguez about the Facebook-related investigation
involving EMO employees "so that he knew and understood
and [could] try not to make us work the same schedules and so
that he [could] be [on the] look out." They also
discussed Maldonado's need to reactivate her professional
licenses, which had lapsed while she was out, so she could be
assigned paramedic duties. According to Maldonado,
Rodríguez told her "that since my licenses were
past due, that he needed a janitor for the office."
and Figueroa-Negrón initially gave Maldonado two
months to renew her licenses, but Maldonado testified that
they "understood that it wasn't humanly possible to
comply with all those requirements in two months." They
told her there would be no problem if she "kept bringing
them certifications" showing that she was moving toward
fulfilling the licensing requirements.For the first
couple of months after her return, Maldonado was assigned
exclusively to the EMO office answering phones. She attributed
that placement to "my condition and they saw that my
licen[s]es were not up to date."
testified that, at the time she was assigned to phone duty,
she was the only paramedic who lacked full licensing who was
not allowed to work in the field. Although it had been common
in the past for EMO employees to perform paramedic work
without full licensing, an ongoing office restructuring
process sought to bring all employees into compliance with
the licensing requirements. Nonetheless, the other employees
who had not yet fulfilled the requirements continued to go
out on emergency calls. Maldonado further testified that male
employees had received reimbursement for their licensing
costs before her accident and leave, but she had been denied
financial assistance when she requested it upon her return to
work in 2012. She acknowledged that the reimbursement rules
had changed in the interim, but she followed the new
procedure and first sought approval from the EMO director,
who denied her request.
her first few months back on the job, Maldonado received
favorable reviews from her supervisor. On a day in mid-June,
Maldonado was assigned to an ambulance for field duty because
the paramedic originally designated for that assignment was
absent. In her brief, she notes that "[t]his was done
despite her physical limitations and previous injuries."
Thereafter, Maldonado was assigned shifts both at the call
center and driving ambulances. She testified that it was
difficult for her to be "out on the street, . . . with
the gurney and the things you have to do, so my back would
get injured." In November 2012, she had another
work-related accident that resulted in an ...