Ennis v. Tyson Foods, Inc.
MEMORANDUM OPINION. Signed by Judge James H Hancock on 3/31/2014. (JLC)
2014 Mar-31 AM 09:45
U.S. DISTRICT COURT
N.D. OF ALABAMA
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
TYSON FOODS, INC.,
The court has before it the Motion (Doc. #29) for Summary Judgment filed by
Defendant Tyson Foods, Inc. (“Tyson”) on July 5, 2013. Pursuant to the court’s
orders of July 9, 2013 (Doc. #33), July 15, 2013 (Doc. #35), and September 6, 2013
(Doc. #40), the motion for summary judgment is now under submission and is
considered herein without oral argument.
Having considered the briefs and evidentiary submissions, the court finds that
Tyson’s motion for summary judgment is due to be granted for the reasons outlined
Plaintiff Wonda Ennis commenced this action on September 28, 2011 by filing
a two count complaint in this court alleging: (1) violation of the Americans with
Disabilities Act, as amended, and the Americans with Disabilities Amendments Act
(“ADAAA”) (Count One) and (2) violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment
Act (“ADEA”) (Count Two). Specifically, Plaintiff asserts in her complaint that she
was subjected to discrimination and that her employment was terminated because of
her age and/or disability.
Defendant’s July 5, 2013 Motion (Doc. #29) for Summary Judgment asserts
that no genuine issue of material fact exists and that Tyson is entitled to judgment as
a matter of law as to all claims asserted against it.
The parties have each filed briefs and submitted evidence in support of their
respective positions concerning the pending motion for summary judgment. On July
5, 2013, Tyson submitted evidence1 (Doc. #30, Exhs. 1-11; Doc. #31, Exhs. 12-22)
in support of the motion and also filed a supporting memorandum brief (Doc. #32).
Plaintiff submitted evidence2 (Doc. #36, Exhs. 1-28) in opposition to the motion for
Defendant Tyson submitted: the sworn deposition of Wonda Ennis, with exhibits (Exhibit
1); the sworn deposition of Jan Casey, with partial exhibits (Exhibit 2); the sworn deposition of
Vivian Chang (Exhibit 3); the sworn deposition of Brenda Trujillo, with partial exhibits (Exhibit 4);
the sworn deposition of Jason White, with exhibits (Exhibit 5); the sworn deposition of Brandy
Woods (Exhibit 6); the sworn declaration of Jan Casey, with exhibits (Exhibit 7); and the sworn
declaration of Vivian Chang, with exhibits (Exhibit 8).
Plaintiff submitted in support of her opposition to summary judgment: Vicky Craig
deposition (Exhibit 1); disciplinary action form 9/28/09 (Exhibit 2); disciplinary action form
12/11/09 (Exhibit 3); disciplinary action form 1/7/10 (Exhibit 4); disciplinary action form 1/28/10
(Exhibit 5); disciplinary memo 1/28/10 (Exhibit 6); Ennis email to White 12/28/09 (Exhibit 7);
White memo to Ennis 1/15/10 (Exhibit 8); Ennis evaluation 2007-2008 (Exhibit 9); Ennis evaluation
2008-2009 (Exhibit 10); White disciplinary form 11/12/10 (Exhibit 11); White disciplinary form
summary judgment on August 20, 2013 and on the same date filed an opposing brief
(Doc. #37). On August 28, 2013, Tyson filed a reply (Doc. #38) to Plaintiff’s
response in opposition to Defendant’s motion for summary judgment.
On September 6, 2013, the court granted Plaintiff’s motion for leave to file a
sur-reply brief. (Doc. #40). That sur-reply brief (Doc. #41) was filed on September
11, 2013 and Tyson’s response (Doc. #42) to the sur-reply was filed on September
Legal Standards for Evaluating a Summary Judgment Motion4
Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c), summary judgment is proper "if
the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together
(Exhibit 12); Brandy Woods disciplinary form 4/4/11 (Exhibit 13); Woods’ signed rules of conduct
4/24/06 (Exhibit 14); Tyson timeline for Woods 3/28/11 (Exhibit 15); Chang email to White 4/1/11
(Exhibit 16); summary exhibit of Woods documentation (Exhibit 17); summary exhibit of emails
re: woods (Exhibit 18); White salary increase request 10/27/11 (Exhibit 19); Kirk email to Casey
3/17/11 (Exhibit 20); Phillips email to Casey 3/28/11 (Exhibit 21); Ennis EEOC charge 4/20/10
(Exhibit 23 * Exhibit 22 was skipped in the original filing*); Tyson Response to EEOC charge
1/5/11 (Exhibit 24); DIR Decision 4/9/10 (Exhibit 25); White email to Chang 1/7/10 (Exhibit 26);
White email to Casey 12/21/10 (Exhibit 27); and Tyson Rules of Conduct (Exhibit 28).
The sur-reply in further opposition to the motion for summary judgment primarily asserts
these arguments: (1) that Facebook messages cited by Tyson in its reply brief are not admissible; (2)
that the replacement argument made by Tyson should not be considered; (3) that Tyson accuses
Plaintiff of misstating the progressive discipline policy; (4) that the reasons for Ennis’s termination
are suspect; and (5) that White had some limited involvement in the discipline of Brandy Woods.
(See generally Doc. #41). To the extent that it is relevant to the analysis herein, the sur-reply is
considered along with Tyson’s response to the sur-reply. (Doc. #42).
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 was amended on December 1, 2010. However, even
with the 2010 amendments, “the standard for granting summary judgment remains unchanged.”
FED. R. CIV. P. 56 Advisory Committee’s Note (2010 Amendments).
with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact
and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Celotex Corp.
v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). The party asking for summary judgment always
bears the initial responsibility of informing the court of the basis for its motion and
identifying those portions of the pleadings or filings which it believes demonstrate
the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. See id. at 323. Once the moving party
has met her burden, Rule 56(e) requires the non-moving party to go beyond the
pleadings and by her own affidavits, or by the depositions, answers to interrogatories,
and admissions on file, designate specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue
for trial. See id. at 324.
The substantive law will identify which facts are material and which are
irrelevant. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). All
reasonable doubts about the facts and all justifiable inferences are resolved in favor
of the non-movant. See Fitzpatrick v. City of Atlanta, 2 F.3d 1112, 1115 (11th Cir.
1993). A dispute is genuine "if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could
return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. If the evidence
is merely colorable, or is not significantly probative, summary judgment may be
granted. See id. at 249.
The method used by the party moving for summary judgment to discharge her
initial burden depends on whether that party bears the burden of proof on the issue
at trial. See Fitzpatrick, 2 F.3d at 1115-17 (citing United States v. Four Parcels of
Real Property, 941 F.2d 1428 (11th Cir. 1991)(en banc)). If the moving party bears
the burden of proof at trial, then it can only meet its initial burden on summary
judgment by coming forward with positive evidence demonstrating the absence of a
genuine issue of material fact; i.e. facts that would entitle it to a directed verdict if not
controverted at trial. See Fitzpatrick, 2 F.3d at 1115. Once the moving party makes
such a showing, the burden shifts to the non-moving party to produce significant,
probative evidence demonstrating a genuine issue for trial.
If the moving party does not bear the burden of proof at trial, she can satisfy
her initial burden on summary judgment in either of two ways. First, the moving
party may produce affirmative evidence negating a material fact, thus demonstrating
that the non-moving party will be unable to prove its case at trial. Once the moving
party satisfies its burden using this method, the non-moving party must respond with
positive evidence sufficient to resist a motion for directed verdict at trial. The second
method by which the moving party who does not bear the burden of proof at trial can
satisfy its initial burden on summary judgment is to affirmatively show the absence
of evidence in the record to support a judgment for the non-moving party on the issue
in question. This method requires more than a simple statement that the non-moving
party cannot meet its burden at trial but does not require evidence negating the nonmovant’s claim; it simply requires that the movant point out to the district court that
there is an absence of evidence to support the non-moving party’s case. See
Fitzpatrick, 2 F.3d at 1115-16. If the movant meets her initial burden by using this
second method, the non-moving party may either point out to the court record
evidence, overlooked or ignored by the movant, sufficient to withstand a directed
verdict, or the non-moving party may come forward with additional evidence
sufficient to withstand a directed verdict motion at trial based on the alleged
evidentiary deficiency. However, when responding, the non-movant can no longer
rest on mere allegations, but must set forth evidence of specific facts. See Lewis v.
Casey, 518 U.S. 343, 358 (1996) (citing Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555,
561 (1992)). The court is aware that the summary judgment rule applies in job
discrimination cases just as in other cases. Chapman v. AI Transport, 229 F.3d 1012,
1025 (11th Cir. 2000) (rejecting an earlier, contrary general rule and emphasizing that
no thumb is to be placed on either side of the scale).
Relevant Undisputed Facts5
Background of Plaintiff’s Employment at Tyson
If the facts are in dispute, they are stated in the manner most favorable to the Plaintiff.
Fitzpatrick, 2 F.3d at 1115.
Plaintiff Wonda Ennis started working for Tyson at its Blountsville plant, a
chicken processing facility, as a production worker in the Evisceration Department
in 1992. (Pl. Dep. at 57-58). Ennis worked in various production jobs until she was
promoted to Management Support QA Technical (“QA Tech”). (Pl. Dep. at 58). In
July of 2006, Ennis was promoted to the position of QA supervisor. (Pl. Dep. at 60).
While Plaintiff was a QA Tech and when promoted to QA supervisor, she reported
to Brenda Trujillo. (Pl. Dep. at 61, 63).
The QA Department is tasked with managing a program of product checks and
analyses in order to meet the quality and safety standards of Tyson’s customers. QA
Techs collect data and perform checks on product specifications such as marination,
net weights, piece counts, etc. (Pl. Dep. at 59). QA Clerks write reports, file
documents, perform quality checks, and work in the QA lab. (Pl. Dep. at 59). QA
Supervisors are tasked with monitoring and maintaining QA programs that verify that
product specifications are met and with ensuring compliance with applicable
regulatory requirements. (Pl. Dep. at 77).
QA Supervisors report directly to the Plant QA Manager, who reports up
through a corporate QA chain of command. (Pl. Dep. at 82). The QA Department
reports up through corporate QA instead of plant management to reduce any possible
conflict of interest between production at the plant and Quality Assurance. (Pl. Dep.
Plaintiff’s Employment in QA
When Ennis began working in QA Tech, she had to learn to perform various
QA functions on the computer. (Pl. Dep. at 78). As a QA Clerk, Ennis taught herself
how to use the forms and reports, and experienced no problems with her ability to
learn those functions on the computer. (Pl. Dep. at 79). Ennis felt confident in her
abilities as a QA Clerk on the computer. (Pl. Dep. at 89).
When Ennis was promoted to QA Supervisor in July 2006, she was 55 years
old. (Pl. Dep. at 100). She went from working the first shift to working the second
shift, and managed employees that she had not been working with as a co-employee
prior to the promotion. (Pl. Dep. at 101-102). In addition, Ennis was tasked with
monitoring and maintaining all aspects of the entire QA program on her shift, which
called for a new level of responsibility. In this regard, Ennis understood that she was
going to learn a lot of new skills, and that the QA Supervisor position had a
significantly increased level of responsibility than her prior QA Tech and Clerk
positions. (Pl. Dep. at 103). Ennis admits that she had some challenges transitioning
and learning her new QA Supervisor duties. (Pl. Dep. at 105).
During Plaintiff’s employment as a QA clerk and for three years of her position
as a QA Supervisor, supervisor Brenda Trujillo evaluated her performance five times.
(Trujillo Dep. at 264). In all of those evaluations, Ennis was rated as meeting
expectations, including those evaluations while Plaintiff was in the role of QA
Supervisor. (Trujillo Dep. at 264). With the September 2008 evaluation, however,
Trujillo set new goals for Ennis to accomplish in 2009 – specifically, for Ennis to
become “proficient in the Plant View system.” (Exh. 18 to Pl. Dep.). To become
proficient, Trujillo wrote: “This will be accomplished by practicing in the system and
using knowledge obtained in the Plant View Administration class. This will be
verified by tests entered, QA data verification, and timely responses to requests for
items added.” (Exh. 18 to Pl. Dep.). In March 2009, Tyson sent Ennis to Arkansas
for the Plant View Administration Class, the same two days of training that Trujillo
attended. (Pl. Dep. at 163).
The Working Relationship of Trujillo and Ennis
In or around October 2008 (almost immediately after the September 2008
evaluation), the QA Department in Blountsville started having problems performing
QA functions satisfactorily. (Pl. Dep. at 115). During this time, Trujillo took issue
with Ennis’s work performance. (Pl. Dep. at 135). In addition, Trujillo was not
getting along with many employees in the QA Department. (Pl. Dep. at 115-116).
Ennis complained to Human Resources about Trujillo, specifically stating that
“Brenda [Trujillo] . . . talks down to me and really all of us.” (Pl. Dep. at 136). Ennis
understood that Trujillo was issued a written warning as a result of the investigation
conducted by HR after Ennis’s complaint. (Pl. Dep. at 142). Ennis was satisfied with
the outcome of the investigation and never reported back to HR of any continuing
problems with Trujillo. (Pl. Dep. at 143).
In November 2008, Trujillo documented a counseling session with Ennis
regarding her failure to sign off on Hazardous Analysis Critical Control Points
(“HACCP”) paperwork as required. (Exh. 19 to Pl. Dep.). The required daily
paperwork had not been done for two days. (Exh. 19 to Pl. Dep.). This QA check
was critical to avoiding any problems with product that had already shipped from the
plant. (Exh. 19 to Pl. Dep.).
Trujillo continued to document performance issues with Ennis. In March 2009,
Trujillo met with Ennis and counseled her on not answering emails; not following up
on customer requirements (instances where data was not recorded by Ennis’s QA
Techs, instances where Ennis had given QA Techs permission to skip checks required
by customers, and an occasion where Ennis waited two weeks to respond to a request
from a customer for data and did not send the data until a second request was received
from the customer); not responding to requests for information/data needed for audits
(having to be asked three times for chiller dwells and temperatures before sending
them, not completing the Foreign Material summary until Trujillo asked for it twice);
and not organizing and informing QA Techs about their schedules. (Exh. 20 to Pl.
Dep.). Trujillo reminded Ennis that the Blountsville plant was “becoming a plant in
the spotlight due to the new customer base we have attained. We, as a department,
need to make sure all details of our duties are carried out. Attention to details and
communication is of the utmost importance.” (Exh. 20 to Pl. Dep.). Ennis signed the
memo to file and described the documents as “just a reminder from [her] boss that
[her] department was a mess.” (Exh. 20 to Pl. Dep.; Pl. Dep. at 454-455).
Trujillo’s employment at Tyson was terminated in June 2009 when she
received four written warnings in a 12 month time period, including write-ups for job
performance. (Pl. Dep. at 173). One incident requiring Trujillo’s write-up related to
a racist symbol in the workplace that Trujillo failed to report. (Trujillo Dep. at 100104; Casey Dep. at 239).
Interim Manager Tammy Cannon
During the interim time between Trujillo’s departure and the hiring of a new
QA Manager, a QA Manager from the Albertville plant, Tammy Cannon, filled in at
the Blountsville plant. (Pl. Dep. at 52). Ennis had some performance issues under
Cannon’s supervision. On July 16, 2009, Cannon issued Plaintiff a counseling
statement for not putting product on hold after being instructed to do so by USDA.
(Exh. 21 to Pl. Dep.).
In July 2009, Ennis had an anxiety attack at work and had to leave early. On
July 14, 2009, Ennis was returned to work by her doctor, Dr. Lennie Gibson. (Casey
Decl., ¶ 11). Dr. Gibson stated on the Return to Work Certification that Ennis
suffered from “anxiety nervosis longstanding use of Ativan. Had depression,
excessive perspiration, chronic fatigue, no energy.” (Casey Decl., ¶ 11). He further
stated there was “no reason [Ennis] can’t continue her job.” (Casey Decl., ¶ 11). Dr.
Gibson returned Plaintiff to work full duty with no request for accommodation.
(Casey Decl., ¶ 11).
On July 17, 2009, Jan Casey, then Blountsville Plant HR Manager, requested
permission to “double slot” the second shift QA Supervisor position (Ennis’s
position). (PX 26). Casey requested authority to hire a second QA Supervisor,
Matthew Crowe, to work temporarily on the second shift with Ennis to help get things
caught up in the QA Department after Trujillo’s departure. (PX 26). Casey explained
to Ennis that Crowe was hired temporarily to help get the QA Department in order
and to assist Ennis in completing the second shift QA work. (PX 26). However,
Ennis testified that Crowe never helped her perform her job functions and that Crowe
was hired only because the department in general was so far behind. (Pl. Dep. at
White is Hired as Manager
Jason White was hired as QA Manager and began working at the plant on
August 2, 2009. (PX 26). Prior to White accepting the job as QA Manager in
Blountsville, he visited the plant and conducted an internal audit in order to assess the
status of the QA Department. (Pl. Dep. at 219). The audit was White’s first
impression of the QA Department. Ennis testified that the documents and data
needed for the audit “wasn’t really good at all” and that the department failed the
audit. (Pl. Dep. at 219). Plaintiff described the QA Department and the audit as “a
mess.” (Pl. Dep. at 223). Ennis expected that her new manager would implement
new ways of doing things in the QA Department, especially since there were many
things that needed to be improved. (Pl. Dep. at 223-224).
On August 13, 2009, Ennis was unable to respond to a request for data on a
customer complaint, because the QA Techs on her shift were performing “cook offs”
and she had told them not to worry about performing checks. (PX 26). As such, there
was no QA data for a response to the customer. (PX 26). White did not issue any
written discipline to Ennis for this performance issue.
On the same day, August 13, 2009, Vivian Chang, Food Safety QA Division
Manager for Tyson Foods (and White’s direct supervisor), emailed White regarding
a customer issue from Wendy’s. (PX 26). White forwarded the inquiry to Ennis who
responded to Chang’s questions. (PX 26). Chang emailed Ennis almost immediately,
with questions regarding an attached report. (PX 26). After receiving no response,
Chang emailed Ennis again three hours later seeking the response and finally emailed
White to get the answer needed. (PX 26). White did not issue any written discipline
to Ennis for this performance issue. (PX 26).
On August 18, 2009, White met with Ennis about an issue with an hourly
worker in QA who complained about Ennis to HR. (PX 26). The worker had
complained that Ennis was unprofessional and accusatory. (PX 26). The HR
investigation revealed that the hourly worker had indeed been late for work many
times, but that Ennis had failed to take the proper disciplinary action. (PX 26). In
fact, based on time records, had Ennis been following policy with regard to issuing
attendance points, the employee would have no longer been eligible to work in the
QA Department. (PX 26). White spoke to Ennis about being professional and
issuing attendance points as required when her employees were late to work, but
again did not issue any written discipline to Ennis.
On August 31, 2009, White memorialized several issues he had with Ennis’s
performance in an email to Chang, seeking guidance on addressing the issues with
I asked Wonda to go ahead and issue a written warning to the QA team
member that failed to catch the use of an incorrect ingredient on 8-7.
This mistake caused a product to be downgraded. The write up was not
issued. I had to do it myself on 8-24.
During an investigation we found out that metal detection records were
not being documented properly in PlantView. While discussing the
issue with Jan and Wonda, I asked Wonda to have the techs stop
recording metal detection checks in PlantView and to record them on
paper only. A week later there was another issue with a QA member
and metal detection and during that investigation we discovered the
same documentation issue with metal detection checks in PlantView.
When I asked Wonda why they were still entering them in PlantView,
she stated that she thought I intended to only stop recording one specific
metal detection check in PlantView. I asked her again to make sure that
no metal detection checks were entered into PlantView and that all of
them were paper only.
During both conversations, I explained the reason. Metal
detection checks are time sensitive and require for the actual time
of the check to be recorded. This is not currently possible in
Blountsville due to lack of equipment. In order to have
PlantView record the start and end time of the checks we will
need to have several handheld/portable PlantView units.
Wonda had failed to issue a single attendance notification to one of her
2nd shift techs. This tech had acquired 2 unexcused and several excused
points. Management support attendance policy defines termination at
2 unexcused points. I issued this tech a final attendance notification on
On 8-14, Wonda left the facility to travel to Cullman to have her annual
hearing exam. She did not notify me that she was leaving the grounds.
(PX 26). Ennis did not receive a written warning for these issues; White addressed
these issues with her informally.
On September 9, 2009, White communicated with Ennis that she needed to call
each location listed on an email, request that the location release product to a new
hold status, and save the release in a folder on her computer. (PX 26). Ennis
improperly sent the release notice not to the locations where the product was located,
but back to the individual who had requested the release of the product. (PX 26).
When White addressed this issue with Ennis, she informed him that she
misunderstood his instruction. (PX 26). Ennis testified that she understood what
White wanted, she just “didn’t know how to go about it.” (Pl. Dep. at 245). Ennis
was not issued a written warning; White addressed this issue with Ennis informally.
During this time period, there were several job openings in QA on Ennis’s shift
that needed to be filled, which was making it challenging for Ennis’s shift to
complete all required QA functions. (Pl. Dep. at 229). On September 4, 2009, White
emailed Ennis and instructed her to give the individuals bidding on the QA jobs on
her shift the practice test that night. (PX 26). White followed up with Ennis each
week thereafter and, as of September 28, 2009, Ennis still had not distributed the
practice tests or scheduled the interviews. (Exh. 24 to Pl. Dep.). Ennis received her
first written warning on September 28, 2009 for this infraction. (Exh. 24 to Pl. Dep.).
Although White had discretion to either issue Ennis the written warning or a lesser
discipline, he chose the written warning, fully aware of Tyson’s policy that four
written warnings would result in a termination. (White Dep. at 319).
On September 30, 2009, White conducted Ennis’s performance review for the
period covering October 2008 through September 2009. (Exh. 29 to Pl. Dep.).
Because White had only been Ennis’s supervisor for a little over a month, and Ennis’s
former supervisor no longer worked at Tyson, White sought input from Chang and
Cannon (who had previously filled in as interim QA Manager). (Pl. Dep. at 252-253).
Jan Casey, the HR Manager, had expected White to look at the previous manager’s
evaluations to complete his evaluation. (Casey Dep. at 133; Casey Decl., ¶ 2).
As part of the review, White evaluated Ennis on the goals that Trujillo had set
for her the year before, including the goal set in September 2008 that Ennis become
proficient in PlantView. (Pl. Dep. at 268). Ennis admits that at the time she received
the “Does Not Meet Expectations” rating, she was not proficient in PlantView, even
though she had worked with the program for over a year and had been sent to a two
day training class. (Pl. Dep. at 261). In the review, White set goals for Ennis which
Ennis admits were appropriate, measurable, objective, and achievable. (Pl. Dep. at
On November 4, 2009, the Plant Manager emailed Ennis regarding issues with
QA carts not being cleaned and put up each night after the second shift. (PX 26).
The Plant Manager informed Ennis that the plant had received a negative rating
because of this issue and reminded Ennis that “the issue has been communicated to
you I know.” (PX 26). The Plant Manager also informed Ennis that the Assistant
Plant Manager had spoken with her QA Techs directly about the issue. (PX 26). The
Plant Manager told Ennis, “I am expecting you to make sure this situation is corrected
immediately and I do not want to cover this issue again, it is very simple to solve. If
there is an issue I am unaware of please let me know. Otherwise please get this task
accomplished.” (PX 26). Ennis did not receive any written discipline on this issue.
But on November 29, 2009, White emailed Ennis informing her that her oil cups and
supplies were dirty when he arrived at the plant that morning. (PX 26). Ennis did not
receive any written warning for this issue.
In November 2009, when Ennis was out due to illness, another employee
found a foreign material investigation report from October 2009 in her desk. (Pl.
Dep. at 290).
A foreign material investigation report is usually filled out by
production supervisors when there is an issue regarding possible foreign material
contamination of a product. (Pl. Dep. at 293). The report is given to the QA
Supervisor who should then conduct an investigation and turn the report in to upper
level plant management. (Pl. Dep. at 293). Plaintiff testified about the report
discovered in her office:
But am I right that you did not turn in the incident report from October
They said it was in a personal drawer in a file. I did not know it was in
there; and while I was gone, they got into my personal drawer and they
said they found it there.
Was it something that you should have turned in?
(Pl. Dep. at 290-291). Ennis testified that she understood that it was a serious issue
and why she was held responsible:
Can you recognize that if a supervisor finds a foreign material
investigation report in somebody’s desk drawer that should have been
turned in, that that’s a serious problem?
And can you recognize why they would think that you knew about it?
It was in my drawer.
(Pl. Dep. at 296).
When Ennis and White returned from holiday vacation, White issued Ennis her
second written warning for this incident despite the fact that White was not present
when the document was found. (Exh. 23 to Pl. Dep.; see also White Dep. at 323,
On December 8, 2009, White was informed that there was an issue with
product that had been released from hold by a production worker (second shift lead)
on Ennis’s shift. (Exh. 26 to Pl. Dep.). White also learned that the second shift had
written documentation on the back of hold tags and that Ennis did not know anything
about the hold being released, when this is a function that Ennis should be managing.
(Exh. 26 to Pl. Dep.). White emailed Ennis instructing her to make sure QA Techs
know that they are responsible for the tags and all of the information that is to be
recorded on the tags. (Exh. 26 to Pl. Dep.). White also instructed Ennis that “QA
needs to verify what is being done, it’s effectiveness and document it. Explain [to the
QA Techs] what is expected, how to do it and hold folks accountable.” (Exh. 26 to
Pl. Dep.). Ennis did not receive any written discipline for this issue.
On December 28, 2009 Ennis wrote an email to White seeking guidance
“moving from technician to supervisor.” (Def. Exh. 30 to Pl. Dep.; Pl. Dep. at 300302). Ennis asked White to “help me make a list of what you want me to do each
night or what you expect of me, just something.” (Def. Exh. 30 to Pl. Dep.). Ennis
told White that she was “not going to make any excuses” and “should have known by
now not to let my personal judgment get in the way of my professional ones. I am
just being myself and I have realized that I must be more professional.” (Def. Exh.
30 to Pl. Dep.). Ennis further stated: “I am willing to do whatever it takes. I take my
job very seriously. I am not a lazy person, I have always tried to do my job right.”
White did not respond in writing to the email, but told Ennis that he thought it was
in her best interest to step down from the supervisor position. (Pl. Dep. at 313).
Ennis was insulted by that response and rejected the offer of stepping down. (Pl.
Dep. at 314).
On January 6, 2010, White learned that Ennis had failed to send a required
feather summary report that was due on a weekly basis. (PX 26). Ennis responded:
“I just forgot no other excuse. Matt [Crowe] and I got working on the [PlantView]
Query and just forgot.” (PX 26). White did not issue any written discipline to Ennis
for forgetting to send the required report.
However, on January 7, 2010, White issued Ennis her third disciplinary
warning. (PX 4; Pl. Dep. at 298). This warning stated: “On 1-6-10 you QA data
verified several checks in PlantView as correct. These checks contained data errors
that should have been corrected prior to completing the verification.” (PX 4). Ennis
testified that this error did not have the usual alarm to alert her to the fact that there
was an error, so she skimmed through it instead of checking for all data errors. (Pl.
Dep. at 298). Both Ennis and the QA Tech who actually committed the error were
written up for the error.6 (White Dep. at 308).
Brandy Woods, the employee who built the report and also did not catch the error, was not
written up for this incident. Brandy Woods is thirty years old. (White Dep. at 308).
On the day of the incident, White sent his supervisor, Vivian Chang, an email which clearly
stated that all three employees were involved in the report and none of them caught the error. (White
Dep. at 313). White provided no rationale for his failure to discipline Woods other than it was his
“discretion” to do so. (White Dep. at 313).
On or about January 10, 2010, Ennis spoke with White about stepping back
down to the QA Tech job, a job in which she had performed well. (Pl. Dep. at 313314). Ennis told White that she would think about it, but then decided against it. (Pl.
Dep. at 313-314). Eight days later, on January 15, 2010, White responded to Ennis’s
email of December 28, 2009 with a formal Memorandum. “Over the next 60 days
you are expected to improve on several aspects of your department, and develop an
action plan to continue to improve on all aspects of your responsibility.” (Def. Exh.
31 to Pl. Dep.). White met with Ennis and instructed her that she was “expected to
review all PlantView data for 2nd shift before leaving for the night so that reports can
be pulled the next morning. This data must be error free and any errors corrected
prior to leaving for the day. This information is provided to our customer.” (Exh. 31
to Pl. Dep.). Finally, White directs Ennis that “[a]s the QA Supervisor you will be
held responsible for your actions and the performance of your team.” (Exh. 31 to Pl.
Dep.). Although Ennis described the January 15 meeting as positive, she did not feel
as if White gave her enough guidance on how to achieve her goals. (Pl. Dep. at 316).
Just a few days into the 60 day developmental plan, on January 26, 2010, Ennis
received a call from White who was in Atlanta in a meeting with Wendy’s upper-level
management and Tyson QA executives. (Pl. Dep. at 322). While at the meeting,
Wendy’s requested some QA data so that a decision could be made regarding the
product at the meeting. (Pl. Dep. at 322). Ennis was unable to provide the
information as needed and testified about the incident as follows:
Was it wrong for Jason to call and ask his QA supervisor to provide the
data that he needed at the meeting?
No. But what was wrong was him not trying to explain it where I could
get it to him. He could have stayed calm and – I’m not dumb. I could
have went through it.
Why do you think he was not calm?
Because he wanted it right then.
Why do you think he wanted it right then?
Because he needed it right then.
Yes. Because he was sitting there with his bosses and all the Wendy’s
upper management, and they wanted it then, right?
(Pl. Dep. at 329-330).
Ennis testified that at first she had a computer issue, but then she was able to
access the data but still did not cut and paste the data correctly into the report as
But then you got [the computer] to work and you were able to highlight,
cut and paste?
What I found, yes.
But it wasn’t right, was it?
And that was your inability to do it, right?
For untrained, yes.
Your testimony is you were never trained how to highlight, cut, and
paste out of PlantView into a spreadsheet; is that your testimony?
What I’m saying is, you had to go to another area, get it out of the data,
then you had to look up the dates and all that, which I was not trained
for, because that’s what he told me Matthew and Brandy would do, was
put that in there so you could bring it over to the report. And I asked for
training. I asked Brandy to help me more than once.
(Pl. Dep. at 331). In the end, White had to stall with the Wendy’s executives, borrow
a computer from someone else who was at the meeting, and cut and paste the needed
Vivian Chang, White’s boss who was also present at the meeting, testified that Wendy’s
does not like the PlantView system and has suggested that Tyson should use a better computerized
system, so when the system did not work correctly in the meeting, it caused embarrassment for
White. (Chang Dep. at 167). According to Chang, this was a “bad meeting” generally, not solely
because of Ennis’s failure to retrieve the requested data. (Chang Dep. at 143).
And then did he have to find another way to get the data that Wendy’s
upper management and Tyson upper management needed right then?
He could not rely on you to get it for him; is that right?
(Pl. Dep. at 331-332; White Dep. at 364).
Ennis was issued her final Disciplinary Action Form by White on January 28,
2010 as a result of this incident. (White Dep. at 408). Attached to the Disciplinary
Form was a memo written by White stating: “In 2009 you received training in
PlantView administration and thus should have had no issues with pulling data.”8
(PX 6). White testified that he understood that Ennis had asked him for help with the
PlantView system prior to this incident, and acknowledged that he knew Ennis was
struggling with the program when he called her from the meeting and asked her to
pull the information.9 (White Dep. at 358).
Despite White’s allegation in the memo that he walked her through the steps, Ennis disputes
this account and testified that White did not walk her through the steps. (Pl. Dep. at 327).
According to Jan Casey of Human Resources, it took some employees longer than others
to understand the PlantView system. (Casey Dep. at 65). Casey testified that she instructed
managers to never write someone up the first time on PlantView because of the problems employees
were having. (Casey Dep. at 58). Casey acknowledged that it is common to retrain employees on
various topics and that she is “not going to give up on anybody” and if someone is asking for training
they ought to be given the training. (Casey Dep. at 67-68). Casey expected management to consider
whether an employee had been given additional training after a request before writing the employee
up. (Casey Dep. at 68-69).
After Ennis received this fourth warning, her employment was terminated by
White. Vicky Craig, Human Resources Clerk, testified that White notified her that
he had given Ennis her fourth write-up and that her employment needed to be
terminated. (Craig Dep. at 92-93). White has never terminated anyone else in his
tenure had Blountsville and Ennis was the oldest member of management. (Casey
Dep. at 110). Ennis was replaced by Sherry Bell, a younger employee that White
hired. (Casey Dep. at 301-302).
Ennis filed for unemployment compensation benefits with the Alabama
Department of Industrial Relations and was awarded benefits. (PX 25).
Count One – Disability Discrimination
Count One of the Complaint alleges disability discrimination under the
Americans with Disabilities Act. However, in footnote 1 of her Brief (Doc. #37) in
Opposition to Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment, Plaintiff notes that she
has “determined she cannot meet the burdens established by the ADA and concedes
this claim.” (Doc. #37 at 1, n.1). Therefore, Count One of the Complaint is due to
be dismissed in its entirety.
Count Two – Discrimination Because of Age
Overview of the ADEA and Burden Shifting Analysis
Count Two of the Complaint alleges that Plaintiff Ennis has been discriminated
against on the basis of her age. (See generally Doc. #1, Count Two). The Age
Discrimination in Employment Act provides that “[i]t shall be unlawful for an
employer . . . to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual or otherwise
discriminate against any individual with respect to his [or her] compensation, terms,
conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual’s age.” 29
U.S.C. § 623(a)(1). To fall under the protections of the ADEA, an employee must be
“at least 40 years of age.” 29 U.S.C. § 631(a). The Eleventh Circuit uses the
framework established in McDonnell Douglas and Burdine to evaluate ADEA claims
that are based upon circumstantial evidence of discrimination.10 See Thomas v.
Humana Health Plan, Inc., 457 Fed. Appx. 819 (11th Cir. 2012); see also Cofield v.
Goldkist, Inc., 267 F.3d 1264, 1268 n. 6 (11th Cir. 2001) (“Although the McDonnell
Douglas framework originally applied in Title VII cases, it is now widely accepted
that the framework applies to claims of discrimination under the ADEA as well.”).
Under the McDonnell Douglas framework, the plaintiff first has the burden of
Plaintiff concedes that she has no direct evidence of age discrimination and agrees that the
McDonnell Douglas framework applies to her claim. (See Doc. #37 at 18).
establishing a prima facie case of age discrimination by showing that she is: (1) a
member of a protected class; (2) qualified for her current position; (3) subject to an
adverse employment action; and (4) treated less favorably than a similarly-situated
employee outside her protected group. See Maynard v. Bd. of Regents of the Div. of
Univs. of the Fla. Dept. of Educ., 342 F.3d 1281, 1289 (11th Cir. 2003). Once the
plaintiff has shown a prima facie case and, thereby, has raised the presumption of
discrimination, the burden of production shifts to the employer to articulate a
legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for its actions.11 See Wascura v. City of S.
Miami, 257 F.3d 1238, 1242 (11th Cir. 2001). The employer “need not persuade the
court that it was actually motivated by the proffered reasons.” Burdine, 450 U.S. at
254-55; see Chapman, 229 F.3d at 1024. If the employer satisfies that burden by
articulating one or more such reasons, then the presumption of discrimination fails
and the burden of production again shifts to the plaintiff to offer evidence sufficient
for a reasonable jury to conclude that the employer’s supposedly legitimate reason is
merely a pretext for illegal discrimination.12
Where the defendant articulates
See Chapman, 229 F.3d at 1032 (A subjective reason is a legally sufficient, legitimate,
nondiscriminatory reason if the defendant articulates a clear and reasonably specific factual basis
upon which the employer based its subjective opinion.).
If the proffered reason is one that might motivate a reasonable employer, a plaintiff cannot
recast the reason but must meet it head on and rebut it. Simply quarreling with that reason is not
sufficient. Chapman, 229 F.3d at 1030.
multiple, reasonable, legitimate and nondiscriminatory reasons, plaintiff must rebut
each of defendant’s proffered reasons. See Chapman, 229 F.3d at 1024-25.
At all times during this analysis, when a plaintiff alleges disparate treatment
such as termination of employment, liability depends on whether the plaintiff’s age
actually motivated the employer’s decision. See Hazen Paper Co. v. Biggins, 507
U.S. 604, 610 (1993). Accordingly, the age of the plaintiff must have actually played
a role in the employer’s decision making process and had a determinative influence
on the outcome. See Bray v. Paetec Communications, Slip Copy, (Jan. 9, 2014)
(citing Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 141 (2000)).
Legitimate Non-Discriminatory Reasons and Pretext
Defendant Tyson has conceded, for purposes of summary judgment, that
Plaintiff can establish the prima facie case of age discrimination. (See Doc. #32 at
26) (“Defendants will assume arguendo, and for purposes of summary judgment only,
that Plaintiff has established a prima facie case.”). Tyson has articulated a legitimate,
non-discriminatory reason for the termination of Ennis’s employment – “her poor job
performance that resulted in four written warnings in a 12 month time period.” (Doc.
#32 at 26). Therefore, to avoid summary judgment, the burden shifts back to Plaintiff
to “present evidence that [the employer’s] legitimate reasons were not what actually
motivated its conduct.” Combs v. Plantation Patterns, 106 F.3d 1519, 1531 (11th
Cir. 1997) (citations omitted). That is, Plaintiff must demonstrate “such weaknesses,
implausibilities, inconsistencies, incoherences, or contradictions in the employer’s
legitimate reasons that a reasonable factfinder could find unworthy of credence.”
Combs, 106 F.3d at 1538.
Ennis focuses her pretext argument in relation to each of the four specific
warnings issued in a twelve-month time period because “if any one of these
disciplinary actions was invalid, Plaintiff would not have been terminated.” (Doc.
#37 at 20, 24) (“For each of the warnings issued to Plaintiff, there is substantial
evidence of pretext. A genuine issue of material fact exists as to the pretextual nature
of each proffered reason for Plaintiff’s discipline.”). She asserts that Jason White, her
immediate supervisor who issued the disciplines, “was on a mission” to fire her
because of her age. (See Doc. #37 at 20).
Each of the pretext arguments for each of the warnings is considered in turn.
September 28, 2009 Warning
On September 28, 2009, White gave Plaintiff a written warning for failing to
distribute practice tests and schedule testing interviews for two open shift positions.
(PX 2; see also discussion supra Section III.E). Ennis believes that this written
warning was a pretext for discrimination because: (1) at the time White told Plaintiff
to schedule practice tests and interviews, an audit was occurring in the QA
Department, which was stressful for QA employees; and (2) White did not issue
Ennis a counseling for this error, as required by Tyson policy, but instead wrote Ennis
up formally. (See Doc. #37 at 21). Tyson counters that Ennis does not dispute that
she failed to perform this duty as instructed, nor does she dispute White’s testimony
that he repeatedly instructed her to accomplish this task. (See Doc. #38 at 7). White
testified that Plaintiff’s failure to schedule the tests “warranted a written warning [as
opposed to a counseling] due to the number of times that I had asked Wonda to
complete this task.” (White Dep. at 317).
Plaintiff’s belief that she should not have been issued a formal written warning
for this infraction because it occurred during a stressful time in the QA Department
does not establish pretext. It is well settled that a plaintiff cannot establish pretext by
substituting her business judgment for that of the employer. See Chapman v. AI
Transport, 229 F.3d 1012, 1030 (11th Cir. 2000). “Provided that the proffered reason
is one that might motivate a reasonable employer, an employee must meet that reason
head on and rebut it, and the employee cannot succeed by simply quarreling with the
wisdom of that reason.” Chapman, 229 F.3d at 1030. That is, whether or not Ennis
actually “deserved,” in her opinion, this written warning, “is irrelevant to the pretext
question.” Frazier v. Doosan Infracore Intern., Inc., 479 Fed. Appx. 925, 934 (11th
Cir. June 26, 2012). The court is not to analyze “whether employment decisions are
prudent or fair.” Damon v. Fleming Supermarkets of Fla., Inc., 196 F.3d 1354, 1361
(11th Cir. 1999). The relevant question is whether White’s dissatisfaction with
[Ennis’s] performance was actually a cover for discrimination. See id. at 934; see
also Bray v. Paetec Communications, Inc., Slip Copy, at *5 (Jan. 9, 2014)
(“[Plaintiff’s] failure to comply with job expectations gave [the supervisor] a
reasonable basis [for disciplining Plaintiff]. . . . [disciplining Plaintiff] was not an
antagonistic or unreasonable action . . .”).
The alleged failure of Tyson to follow policy on issuing a counseling before
a written warning does not help Ennis leap that hurdle. As supervisor, White made
clear during the course of his deposition that Tyson management had discretion
whether to follow the policy on issuing a counseling before issuing a written warning.
(White Dep. at ). Jan Casey, a Tyson Complex Human Resources Manager, testified
that there are categories of discipline and that the Blountsville policy is not read as
if requiring certain steps such as verbal counseling prior to a written warning. (Casey
Dep. at 231-233; see also Craig Dep. at 109-110 (“[S]ometimes they don’t do a
counseling . . .”). And “if management has discretion as to whether to follow the
discipline policy, then a failure to follow the policy does not show pretext.” Parrott
v. PNC Bank, Nat. Ass’n, – F. Supp.2d – (N.D. Ala. 2013) (quoting Ritchie v. Indus.
Steel, Inc., 426 Fed. Appx. 867, 873 (11th Cir. 2011).
For the foregoing reasons, Plaintiff has not shown pretext for the written
warning that was issued to her on September 28, 2009.
December 11, 2009 Warning
On December 11, 2009, White again issued Ennis a written warning. (PX 3;
see also discussion supra Section III.E). This warning states that Ennis “failed to
turn in a foreign material investigation in a timely manner. The report was for an
incident on October 12 and was found in her desk drawer in the middle of
November.” (PX 3). Ennis believes that this written warning was a pretext for
discrimination because: (1) White did not document the incident, did not investigate
the incident, and could provide no information or documentation as to who found this
alleged report or when or where it was found; (2) Plaintiff was not at work on the day
the report was found in her desk and Tyson can provide no documentation as to any
basis for the discipline. (See Doc. #37 at 21-22).
But Plaintiff’s belief that someone “planted” the report in her desk is an
unsupported, speculative belief. White testified that he investigated the facts
primarily by questioning Ennis about the report. (See White Dep. at 325, 330, 337).
He decided to discipline Ennis for the incident by issuing her the written warning,
even though he could have done less than write her up. (See White Dep. at 326).
Once again, White decided to exercise his discretion by issuing the written warning.
This business judgment may not have been wise considering the sparse information
gleaned during the investigation, but as a business decision it is outside the purview
of the court. See Parrott v. PNC Bank, Nat. Ass’n, – F. Supp.2d – (N.D. Ala. 2013)
(quoting Ritchie v. Indus. Steel, Inc., 426 Fed. Appx. 867, 873 (11th Cir. 2011); see
also Damon v. Fleming Supermarkets of Fla., Inc., 196 F.3d 1354, 1361 (11th Cir.
1999). White was clearly displeased with Ennis’s performance and Ennis herself
testified that the report should have been turned in, that failing to do so was a serious
problem, and that she understood why White reached the conclusion that Ennis was
at fault. (Pl. Dep. at 296). Despite the fact that Ennis maintains her innocence, “it is
irrelevant. [She] must, instead, produce evidence demonstrating that [White] did not
in good faith believe that allegations, but relied on them in bad faith pretext to
discriminate against [her] because of [her] age.” Waggoner v. City of Garland, Tex.,
987 F.2d 1160, 1166 (5th Cir. 1993). There is no evidence that White did not actually
believe that the failure to turn in the report was Ennis’s deficiency, nor that he wrote
her up for this infraction because of her age. See Holifield v. Reno, 115 F.3d 1555,
1565 (11th Cir. 1997).
For the foregoing reasons, Plaintiff has not shown pretext for the written
warning that was issued to her on December 11, 2009.
January 7, 2010 Warning
On January 7, 2010, White issued a third formal discipline to Ennis. Ennis had
verified certain data entered into the PlantView data system without actually checking
that data. (PX 4). “These checks contained data errors that should have been
corrected prior to completing the verification.” (PX 4). Jeff Nichols, who was in his
forties but thirteen years younger than Ennis, was also disciplined for this error13 but
Brandy Woods, age thirty and a production supervisor, was not disciplined. (See
Doc. #37 at 22). Plaintiff argues that “[t]he difference in treatment Plaintiff received
from that of [younger] Woods is compelling evidence of age discrimination.” (Doc.
#37 at 23).
The problem with Plaintiff’s pretext argument is that she was the QA
Supervisor ultimately responsible for this data being accurate. As such, she was
required to perform data checks and verify that certain data entered into the
PlantView system was accurate – no one else held that responsibility.14 To that end,
Ennis certified that data was accurate, but admittedly just “skimmed” through it and
automatically verified it as correct. (Pl. Dep. at 298). The clearly inaccurate report
caused upper management to question “[h]ow in the world does a check get
Jeff Nichols was the QA Tech that first entered the data incorrectly.
At the time of this error, Ennis had been performing PlantView verifications for at least
six months. (Pl. Dep. at 524).
completed like this and no one notice, much less send it to the customer?” (PX 26).
Ennis’s error cannot properly be compared to the error made by Brandy Woods.
Woods merely “built the report and sent it without catching it.”15 (White Dep. at
310). See Holifield v. Reno, 115 F.3d 1555, 1562 (11th Cir. 1997) (“To make a
comparison of the plaintiff’s treatment to that of non-minority employees, the plaintiff
Ennis makes much of the fact that Brandy Woods was not terminated for what Plaintiff
believes to be a more serious infraction than Plaintiff’s. (see Doc. #37 at 15-17). The infraction,
while not to be undermined as to its importance, was wholly different than the infractions which
caused Ennis to be written up and ultimately terminated.
In March 2011, White sent Woods to Arkansas for Tyson training. (White Dep. at 225). For
her business trip, Woods rented a car with a drivers’ license that had been suspended. (PX 18; Casey
Dep., Exh. Bates labeled 01860). Although Plaintiff contends that Woods “should have known” that
her license was suspended (see Doc. #37 at 15, n.7), Woods wrote a statement that she did not know
that her license remained suspended because “I had paid everything they told me to pay so I thought
I was ok and had my license back.” (Casey Dep., Exh. Bates labeled 01860).
Driving on the suspended license on her work trip, Woods was pulled over for reckless
driving and the rental vehicle was impounded. (Casey Dep., Exh. Bates labeled 01868). Woods
contacted White after the vehicle was impounded and told him that everything would be taken care
of with the Tyson Travel Department and the rental company. (Casey Dep., Exh. Bates labeled
01868; White Dep. at 250). Woods subsequently turned in a mileage voucher to Tyson for
reimbursement (since she resumed the trip using her personal car), but also submitted paperwork for
Tyson to pay for the rental car that had been impounded. (White Dep. at 255, 257). Woods also
requested expense money for her trip in addition to having Tyson billed directly for her hotel
expenses. (See Woods Dep. at 36-38; see also Casey Dep. at 329, 331).
In response to this incident, Woods was suspended for five days and given a final written
warning for the misconduct. Woods understood that any additional misconduct would result in her
termination. (Woods Dep. at 97). White had no involvement in the decision on the discipline that
Woods received for this incident. (White Dep. at 517).
Although Woods’ level of discipline may not have been sufficient in Ennis’s mind, there is
no dispute that White was not involved in determining the level of discipline to be issued to Woods
for this incident. In fact, White was disciplined for not inquiring more into the situation when it
occurred. (Casey Dep. at 342-343). Therefore, no inference can be drawn in an attempt to compare
White’s disciplines of Ennis compared to that of Woods. See Silvera v. Orange Cnty. Sch. Bd., 244
F.3d 1253, 1262 (11th Cir. 2001) (“[D]ifferences in treatment by different supervisors or decision
makers can seldom be a basis for a viable claim of discrimination.”).
must show that he and the employees are similarly situated in all relevant respects.”).
She did not verify, with her signature, the data in the PlantView system as accurate.
For the foregoing reasons, Plaintiff has not shown pretext for the written
warning that was issued to her on January 7, 2010.
January 28, 2010 Warning
Ennis received a fourth and final written warning when she was unable to
respond to a query for customer data from White. (Pl. Dep. at 507; see also PX 5, 6).
Plaintiff believes that this write-up was a pretext for age discrimination because: (1)
White knew that Ennis was struggling with PlantView when he called her and asked
her to pull up the information; (2) White had provided Ennis with no additional
training on PlantView, despite her request for it and management’s willingness to
give additional training on the system; and (3) many employees had a hard time with
PlantView and even certain customers wanted Tyson to use a better system. (See
Doc. #37 at 23-24).
The fact that the system was difficult, not entirely user-friendly, and that many
struggled with it does not negate the fact that Ennis can point to no other QA
Supervisor who was unable to perform the function in PlantView that was required.
(Pl. Dep. at 507, 509). White was embarrassed and frustrated by Ennis’s inability to
retrieve the data (White Dep. at 475), and was within his purview to discipline Ennis
for failing to perform up to her job expectations. Bray v. Paetec Communications,
Inc., Slip Copy, at *5 (Jan. 9, 2014) (“[Plaintiff’s] failure to comply with job
expectations gave [the supervisor] a reasonable basis [for disciplining Plaintiff]. . .
[disciplining Plaintiff] was not an antagonistic or unreasonable action . . .”). Ennis
readily admits that she was unable to glean the information as requested by White,
despite the fact that she had two days of formal training on the system and had access
to the administrative manual, on-line training, and technical support. (Pl. Dep. at 46;
White Dep. at 368-369). Whether it was wise or prudent for White to issue Ennis this
final discipline without first allowing her additional training on PlantView is not for
this court to decide. Ennis could not perform her job in accordance with the
company’s expectations, and that is why she was issued the final written warning that
led to her termination with the company.
For the foregoing reasons, Plaintiff has not shown pretext for the written
warning that was issued to her on January 28, 2010.
Jason White may have been “on a mission” to terminate Ennis’s employment
with Tyson, but there is no evidence that such purported mission was due to anything
other that Ennis’s performance issues. Therefore, Defendant’s Motion (Doc. #29) for
Summary Judgment is GRANTED. A separate order will be entered dismissing all
claims against defendant Tyson Foods, Inc.
DONE this the
day of March, 2014.
SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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