Jackson v. Federal Express
RULING AND ORDER granting 35 Motion for Summary Judgment. Signed by Judge Robert N. Chatigny on 3/31/12. (Glynn, T.)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF CONNECTICUT
CASE NO. 3:10-CV-389(RNC)
RULING AND ORDER
Plaintiff Monique Jackson brought this action against her
former employer, Federal Express, alleging violations of various
After discovery closed, the defendant moved
for summary judgment on all the claims.
In response to the
motion, plaintiff’s counsel of record at the time submitted a
memorandum opposing summary judgment with regard to only one of
the claims, specifically, plaintiff’s claim that her employment
was terminated in violation of the antiretaliation provision of
Plaintiff, who is now proceeding pro se, has moved to
reopen discovery (doc. 55).
That motion is denied for
substantially the reasons stated by the defendant in its
memorandum in opposition to the motion (doc. 56).
With regard to
the pending motion for summary judgment, defendant urges that all
claims in the complaint besides the retaliation claim should be
dismissed in the absence of opposition and that no reasonable
jury could find for the plaintiff on the retaliation claim.
agree with the defendant and therefore grant the motion for
Summary judgment may be granted when there is no genuine
issue of material fact and the moving party is entitled to
judgment as a matter of law.
Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a);
Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986).
To avoid summary
judgment, the plaintiff must point to admissible evidence that
would permit a reasonable juror to return a verdict in her favor.
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 252 (1986).
determining whether this standard is met, the evidence must be
viewed in a manner most favorable to the plaintiff.
Id. at 255;
Sheppard v. Beerman, 317 F.3d 351, 354 (2d Cir. 2003).
The summary judgment record, viewed in a manner most
favorable to the plaintiff, would permit a reasonable jury to
find the following.
In 1996, Federal Express hired the plaintiff as a service
For the next nine years, she worked at the defendant’s
facilities in Stamford and Elmsford, Connecticut.
In 2005, she
was transferred to the defendant’s facility in Norwalk,
By that time, she had been promoted to the position
of senior service agent.
On January 23, 2006, while working in Norwalk, plaintiff
filed an internal complaint stating that she had been subjected
to racial and sexual discrimination and harassment.
complaint focused on the behavior of Franklin Benjamin, who was
employed by the defendant as a manager.
In her complaint,
plaintiff stated that she had brought the relevant incidents
involving Benjamin to the attention of Billy Lipscomb, another
manager in Norwalk.
According to the complaint, Lipscomb denied
the existence of the incidents involving Benjamin and did nothing
to improve plaintiff’s situation.
In response to the complaint,
the defendant sent the plaintiff a letter dated February 23,
The letter stated that a human resources advisor had
reviewed the complaint and was unable to identify any basis for
Benjamin was transferred to the Stamford facility effective
January 1, 2006, before plaintiff’s internal complaint was filed.
For most of 2006, plaintiff was supervised by Catherine Peterson
and Sheryl Johnson.1
Ralph Sylvester, the individual who made
the decision to terminate the plaintiff’s employment, began
working as plaintiff’s supervisor on November 1, 2006.
that time, Sylvester had not met or dealt with the plaintiff.
The defendant’s employment policy provides that if an
employee receives three warning letters or performance counseling
letters within a twelve-month period, the employee may be
Peterson became an operations manager in Norwalk starting
February 16, 2006, and Johnson became an operations manager on
April 1, 2006. It appears that plaintiff reported to Peterson as
soon as Peterson became an operations manager then reported to
Johnson as soon as Johnson became an operations manager.
On November 30, 2006, plaintiff received a
counseling letter from Sylvester for refusing to assist two
On January 29, 2007, Sylvester issued a
performance reminder letter to the plaintiff for failing to
assist a courier with a package delivery.
On March 28, 2007,
Sylvester issued plaintiff another performance reminder letter
for leaving work without completing her job duties.
admits that due to these three disciplinary write-ups within a
twelve-month period, she was subject to termination.
On May 16, 2007, plaintiff “zeroed out” an employee’s
timecard, which was regarded as a significant matter.
suspended the next day pending an investigation.
claimed that in “zeroing out” the employee’s timecard she was
following Sylvester’s instructions concerning the way to handle
On May 21, 2007, Sylvester terminated the plaintiff’s
employment on the ground that she had at least three written
disciplinary notices within a twelve-month period.
Plaintiff’s response to the motion for summary judgment,
filed after the close of discovery, offers no opposition to any
of the claims in the complaint except the Title VII retaliation
Plaintiff’s memorandum in opposition states: “Discovery
has yielded the existence of issues of fact with respect to one
of [plaintiff’s] claims: Title VII retaliation.”
(Pl.’s Mem. P.
This statement tacitly admits that there are no issues of
fact with regard to the other claims.
Review of the parties’
Local Rule 56 statements confirms that the other claims do not
raise disputed issues of material fact.
In these circumstances,
I agree with the defendant that plaintiff’s other claims should
be dismissed in the absence of opposition, leaving only the
retaliation claim for analysis here.
Title VII retaliation claims are analyzed using a three-step
burden shifting framework.
See Tepperwein v. Entergy Nuclear
Operations, Inc., 663 F.3d 556, 568 n.6 (2d Cir. 2011); Kaytor v.
Elec. Boat Corp., 609 F.3d 537, 552 (2d Cir. 2010).
the plaintiff must establish a prima facie case.
At step one,
This requires a
plaintiff to show that (1) she participated in protected
activity; (2) the employer knew about the protected activity; (3)
the employer took adverse action against her; (4) and a causal
connection existed between the protected activity and the adverse
If this showing is made, the employer must then provide
a legitimate, nonretaliatory reason for the adverse action.
such a reason is proffered, the burden then shifts to the
plaintiff to prove that the defendant’s explanation is merely a
pretext and the adverse action was actually motivated by
Plaintiff contends that she has presented a prima facie case
of retaliation as follows: (1) she filed an internal complaint
alleging discrimination and harassment by her manager, which
constitutes protected activity under Title VII ; (2) the
defendant had knowledge of the complaint; (3) her employment was
terminated; and (4) a causal connection existed between the
plaintiff’s internal complaint and the termination of her
In moving for summary judgment, defendant focuses on
the fourth element of plaintiff’s prima facie case.
argues that plaintiff has not produced sufficient evidence to
show a causal connection between her internal complaint filed on
January 23, 2006, and her termination on May 21, 2007.
that such evidence is lacking.
A plaintiff can show a causal link between protected
activity and adverse employment action through direct or
See Dixon v. Int’l Fed’n of
Accountants, 416 Fed.App’x. 107, 110 (2d Cir. 2011).
has no direct evidence that her complaint caused the termination.
She has no evidence that Sylvester knew about the complaint when
he made the termination decision.
Nor does she have evidence
that in deciding to terminate her employment he was influenced by
someone with knowledge of her complaint.
Retaliation claims can be based on a temporal nexus between
the protected activity and the adverse action.
When a plaintiff
relies on temporal proximity, however, the two events must have
occurred “very close” to each other in time.
See id. (citing
Clark County Sch. Dist. v. Breeden, 532 U.S. 268, 273 (2001)).
three or four month gap may be insufficient by itself to show the
required causal link.
See Breeden, 532 U.S. at 273-74 (citing
A longer gap, such as the twenty month gap between the
complaint and the adverse employment action in Breeden,
“suggests, by itself, no causality at all.”
Id. at 274.
Breeden, the 16-month gap between plaintiff’s protected activity
and her termination is too large to support a reasonable
inference of a causal connection between the two.
Plaintiff urges that two pieces of circumstantial evidence
in the record are sufficient to show a causal connection between
her complaint and the termination of her employment.
points to the fact that she received performance scores of “above
satisfactory” or better every time she was reviewed.
Viewed in a
light most favorable to her, the scores she received permit an
inference that she generally performed her job duties
satisfactorily until at least June 2006.
However, this fact does
nothing to suggest a causal nexus between plaintiff’s January 23,
2006 complaint and her May 17, 2007 termination.
terminated by Sylvester, who did not become her supervisor until
Second, plaintiff contends that her performance review
scores dropped precipitously after she filed the internal
This argument is not supported by the record.
defendant evaluates its employees on a seven-point scale.
June 2004, plaintiff received a score of 6.9, her highest score
In June 2005, her score dropped to 5.4, which is still in
the “above satisfactory” range.
complaint in January 2006.
Plaintiff filed her internal
In June 2006, she received a
performance review score of 5.3, which is also in the “above
Plaintiff’s performance review scores
before and after the internal complaint are nearly identical;
they vary only by 0.1, and the record does not show that this is
a variance of any consequence.
In fact, the only sharp drop in
plaintiff’s scores happened several months before she filed her
complaint in January 2006.
Even if plaintiff has established a prima facie case, her
retaliation claim is unavailing because she does not have
sufficient evidence to sustain her ultimate burden of proving
that the defendant’s proffered reason for the termination was a
pretext for retaliation.
The record supports the defendant’s
explanation that it terminated plaintiff’s employment after she
received three disciplinary write-ups in a twelve month period.
Plaintiff emphasizes that when she “zeroed out” employee
timecards, she was following Sylvester’s express instructions
with regard to timecard practices.
statement, it does not follow that she was a victim of
Even assuming Sylvester was responsible for the way
plaintiff “zeroed out” the employee’s timecard on May 16, 2007,
the evidence does not support a finding that in subsequently
terminating her employment he engaged in retaliation prohibited
by Title VII.
The governing standard is whether the evidence,
taken as a whole, is sufficient to support a reasonable inference
that retaliation occurred.
Looking at the record in a light most
favorable to plaintiff, there is insufficient evidence to support
a reasonable finding that she was fired in retaliation for
activity protected by Title VII.
Because the evidence is
insufficient in this regard, summary judgment is proper.
Accordingly, the motion for summary judgment (doc. 35) is
The Clerk may close the file.
So ordered this 31st day of March 2012.
Robert N. Chatigny
United States District Judge
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