FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF
COLORADO (D.C. No. 1:15-CV-00192-RBJ)
Charlotte N. Sweeney (Ariel B. DeFazio, with her on the
briefs), Sweeney & Bechtold, LLC, Denver, Colorado,
appearing for Appellant.
Goh (Heidi K. Wilbur, with him on the brief), Constangy,
Brooks, Smith & Prophete, LLP, Denver, Colorado,
appearing for Appellees.
HARTZ, MATHESON, and PHILLIPS, Circuit Judges.
MATHESON, Circuit Judge.
Tawny Hiatt appeals from the district court's grant of
summary judgment to her former employer, Colorado Seminary,
and her former supervisors, Dr. Alan Kent and Dr. Jacaranda
Palmateer, on her Title VII and Title IX discrimination and
retaliation claims. Exercising jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C.
§ 1291, we affirm.
following facts are presented in the light most favorable to
Dr. Hiatt, the non-moving party on summary judgment. See
Twigg v. Hawker Beechcraft Corp., 659 F.3d 987, 997
(10th Cir. 2011).
Seminary owns and operates the University of Denver
("DU"), including DU's Health and Counseling
Center ("HCC"), which provides wellness services
such as counseling to DU's student body. In November
2011, DU hired Dr. Hiatt to be a Staff Psychologist and the
Training Director at the HCC.
following recounts Dr. Hiatt's employment at DU from
November 2011 until her resignation in June
Hiatt's Position as Training Director and Her Supervisory
Training Director, Dr. Hiatt was responsible for supervising
psychology students seeking their professional licensure.
Supervisees included both pre-doctoral interns and
post-doctoral fellows. Dr. Hiatt was, in turn, supervised by Dr.
Kent, the Executive Director of the HCC, and Dr. Palmateer,
the HHC's Director of Counseling Services. Apart from her
work at DU, Dr. Hiatt also maintained a private practice,
which DU permitted so long as her job at DU remained her
November 2011 to August 2012, Dr. Hiatt supervised four
interns, including Dr. Emily Fogle, from DU's Graduate
School of Professional Psychology ("GSPP")
Internship Consortium. After the academic term, the interns
provided positive reviews of Dr. Hiatt's supervision.
Dr. Fogle returned to the HCC as a post-doctoral fellow, she
requested that Dr. Hiatt supervise her during the 2012-2013
academic year. They started their supervisory relationship in
the fall of 2012. Soon thereafter, Dr. Fogle suggested to Dr.
Abby Coven, her former GSPP classmate, that she hire Dr.
Hiatt to supervise her work in a private practice
unaffiliated with DU. Dr. Coven did so.
December 2012, Dr. Hiatt and Dr. Coven developed romantic
feelings for one another. On January 3, 2013, Dr. Hiatt ended
her supervision of Dr. Coven's work in private practice.
They continued their personal relationship.
January 1, 2013-before anyone at DU knew about Dr.
Hiatt's relationship with Dr. Coven-Dr. Hiatt was
promoted to Assistant Director of Counseling
Services/Training Director. In this role, Dr. Hiatt continued
to supervise students, including Dr. Fogle as a post-doctoral
fellow and a group of HCC interns-Dave Shanley, Kim
Mathewson, Alexis Wilbert, and Christine DeVore.
Revelation of the Relationship
January 28, 2013, Dr. Coven told Dr. Fogle about her romantic
relationship with Dr. Hiatt. Dr. Fogle told Dr. Palmateer
about the relationship and that she had seen text messages
showing it had started before Dr. Hiatt ended her supervision
of Dr. Coven. Dr. Hiatt disputes that any such messages
Fogle also told Dr. Hiatt's four intern supervisees about
the relationship. Dr. Fogle then expressed her concerns about
the relationship to Dr. Hiatt. Dr. Hiatt offered to stop
supervising Dr. Fogle, but Dr. Fogle declined.
Kent and Dr. Palmateer decided to hold an "open
meeting" on February 19, 2013, with Dr. Hiatt and her
supervisees so the supervisees could air any concerns. During
the meeting, Dr. Hiatt apologized for disappointing the
supervisees and explained how her supervision of Dr. Coven
was different from that of an intern.
the meeting, four relevant events happened.
Dr. Fogle, Dr. Mathewson, and Dr. Shanley elected to end
supervision with Dr. Hiatt. Dr. Wilbert and Dr. DeVore, along
with Dr. Hiatt's four graduate student supervisees,
continued their supervision with Dr. Hiatt.
Dr. Kent met with Dr. Fogle after the meeting. Dr. Fogle
reported that supervision with Dr. Hiatt was like therapy.
Dr. Fogle explained that Dr. Hiatt "had [her] sobbing in
her office, " and that Dr. Hiatt "made [her] feel
vulnerable." Id. According to Dr. Hiatt's own
deposition testimony, supervisees called the experience of
crying or breaking down during supervision with her as
"being Tawny-ed." Id. at 166.
Dr. Kent sought ethics guidance from DU administrators,
psychologists unaffiliated with DU, and the American
Psychological Association ("APA") about Dr.
Hiatt's relationship relative to her work. Based on those
conversations, Dr. Kent determined Dr. Hiatt was in an
"ethical grey area." Id. at 66 ¶ 13.
The asserted grey area arose from two rules in the APA's
Code of Conduct: one prohibiting a psychologist from having
sexual relationships with supervisees,  and another
prohibiting a psychologist from having a personal
relationship with someone closely connected to someone with
whom the psychologist has a professional
Dr. Kent talked frequently with Dr. Hiatt about these
matters. According to Dr. Kent, Dr. Hiatt failed to
acknowledge that the way she handled her relationship at work
had detrimental effects on her supervisees. Further, rather
than take personal responsibility for the supervisees'
reactions, Dr. Hiatt blamed the supervisees' pathologies
as causing their strong reactions, including their decisions
to stop supervision with her. Dr. Kent also said Dr. Hiatt
showed no awareness of how her supervisory style affected
them. Apart from ethical concerns, Dr. Kent determined that
Dr. Hiatt's conduct showed "a serious lack of
judgment given her position as a role model for the
trainees." Id. at 66 ¶ 13.
February 22, 2013, Dr. Hiatt met with Dr. Kent and Dr.
Palmateer. Dr. Kent presented Dr. Hiatt with three options:
(1) resign; (2) be demoted and undergo six months of outside
counseling about her supervisory style; or (3) remain in her
position and allow Human Resources ("HR") to handle
Kent and Dr. Palmateer explained they were presenting these
options because: (1) a "majority" of trainees
refused to be supervised by Dr. Hiatt and she had lost
"credibility and authority in their view"; (2) her
conduct posed a "grey ethical issue, " and a
Training Director needed to display "exemplary ethics,
boundaries, and professionalism"; and (3) her
"approach to therapy and supervision requires a strict
adherence to boundaries which weren't demonstrated in
this situation" and her response to the students'
reactions showed a "lack of personal
responsibility." Id. at 450.
February 27, 2013, before Dr. Hiatt chose an option, her
attorney sent DU a letter claiming DU's request for Dr.
Hiatt to leave her position as Training Director amounted to
March 4, 2013, Dr. Hiatt accepted the second option-demotion.
In her new position as Staff Psychologist/Outreach
Coordinator, Dr. Hiatt was paid $58, 000-a $2, 000 reduction
in pay from her previous position.
Period of Demotion
condition of her demotion, Dr. Hiatt met with Dr. Shirley
Asher, an outside consultant. Based on her sessions with Dr.
Hiatt, Dr. Asher opined that Dr. Hiatt "likely could
return" to a supervisory role, but also noted that she
was not likely to change her supervisory style. Id.
this time, Dr. Palmateer gave Dr. Hiatt a performance review
that criticized her for taking paid time off in a manner that
made her unavailable to her clients. Dr. Hiatt nonetheless
received a raise of $500, which Dr. Hiatt calls
"negligible." Aplt. Br. at 16.
August 2013, Dr. Kent and Dr. Palmateer reassessed whether
Dr. Hiatt should return to supervision. Based on Dr.
Asher's input, some supervisees' negative feedback in
their exit interviews about Dr. Hiatt's supervision
style, and Dr. Kent's and Dr. Palmateer's own
observations, they determined that Dr. Hiatt should not
return to supervision at that time. They shared with Dr.
Hiatt the supervisees' "perception that she
intentionally breaks them down to the point of tears, is
intrusive in their personal issues, blurs the boundaries of
supervision and therapy, and then holds herself up as the
rescuer." App. at 109. They also shared their own
concerns that she had behaved unprofessionally in staff
interviews, had unclear boundaries when supervising, and
continued to focus on the supervisees' psychopathologies
as explaining why they were upset about the way she handled
the relationship at work, rather than acknowledging her
contribution to their concerns.
September 2013, Dr. Hiatt filed an internal grievance with
DU's HR department requesting, among other things, that
DU restore Dr. Hiatt to her position as Training Director. In
the same month, she filed an internal Equal Employment
Opportunity ("EEO") complaint with DU alleging sex
discrimination, as well as retaliation.
September 26, 2013 response to her internal EEO complaint,
Dr. Kent and Dr. Palmateer further detailed their reasons for
demoting Dr. Hiatt and not returning her to a supervisory
position. They explained that, because Dr. Asher stated Dr.
Hiatt would not likely change her supervisory style, they did
not reinstate Dr. Hiatt's supervisory duties.
response also reported that "several" supervisees
in their exit interviews described "troubling
interactions" with Dr. Hiatt-such as denigrating other
HCC staff members, "sham[ing]" the supervisees and
then trying to "rescue" them, and insisting that a
supervisee give her a hug during a supervisory session. App.
at 526-27. Those examples led Dr. Kent and Dr. Palmateer to
believe Dr. Hiatt had "very poor boundaries which
create[d] a hostile training environment." Id.
at 527. The response also highlighted that Dr. Hiatt
continued to blame the supervisees and their associated
"pathologies" for the upheaval at the HCC, and that
she failed to demonstrate awareness of how she contributed to
the situation or how her supervisory style negatively
affected the supervisees.
Kent and Dr. Palmateer explained in summary:
While Dr. Hiatt's romantic relationship with her
supervisee was not the reason for her removal from
supervisory duties, it was the catalyst for a series of
complaints which le[d] to a comprehensive review of her
supervisory approach and her performance as Training
Director. After the majority of trainees refused to be
supervised by Dr. Hiatt, we had no option but to reevaluate
her role. After several meetings with Dr. Hiatt and extensive
conversations with the trainees, many concerning and
disturbing behaviors about Dr. Hiatt's supervisory style
were revealed. We determined that it was in the best interest
of the trainees, the University, and the [HCC] to find a more
suitable Training Director.
Id. at 528.
October 2013 email to Dr. Hiatt, DU set forth criteria for
Dr. Hiatt to eventually resume supervision, including having
"better awareness about the power she holds" and
"demonstrating appropriate professional boundaries in
all contexts." App. at 546.
October 30, 2013, following an investigation, DU denied Dr.
Hiatt's internal EEO complaint.
Medical Leave and EEOC Charge
November 15, 2013, to February 2, 2014, Dr. Hiatt took a
medical leave of absence because the work environment at DU
was causing her problems such as panic attacks.
December 23, 2013, while on medical leave from DU, Dr. Hiatt
filed a charge with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity
Commission ("EEOC") alleging ...