Crumpler v. Verizon Wireless

Filing 33

ORDER granting 25 Motion for Summary Judgment. Signed by Judge J. Randal Hall on 02/28/2017. (maa)

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IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF GEORGIA AUGUSTA DIVISION CAROL CRUMPLER, Plaintiff, * * v. * CV 115-160 VERIZON WIRELESS, Defendant. * ORDER Presently before the Court is Defendant's motion for Summary Judgment. (Doc. under Title VII 25.) Plaintiff suit alleging race discrimination, and a hostile work environment. on the grounds filed that evidence to support Plaintiff against Defendant sex discrimination, Defendant seeks summary judgment has failed any of her claims. to provide The Court sufficient agrees with Defendant. I. Background The present litigation stems Plaintiff's employment by Defendant. from the In 2012, Plaintiff ("ASM") Augusta, Assistant Georgia. Then, Store Manager in 2013, of Plaintiff began working for Verizon in January 2006 in Illinois. to termination Verizon promoted and moved her to Verizon promoted Plaintiff to ASM of a superior retail location in the Augusta Exchange shopping center. In February 2014, Verizon received a complaint from Michelle Cisco, one of Plaintiff's subordinates. Ms. Cisco alleged that Plaintiff took no corrective action after Plaintiff heard another subordinate make all use the African term "cracker" American sales reps African American heritage month." of Material Facts, told Plaintiff, the comments offensive, response investigation Ms. state that number she one wanted since it "to was (Doc. 25, Defendant's Statement Cisco also alleged that after she the declarant and another employee that she found hate that bitch." In p.5.) and (Id.) to and she overhead Plaintiff tell the group "I Ms. Cisco's concluded complaint, that Verizon Plaintiff conducted committed code-of-conduct violations during the incident. First, an multiple Plaintiff failed to take corrective action when one of her subordinates used a racial epithet in her presence. Investigation, p. 1.) (Doc. 27-1, Verizon Internal Second, Plaintiff made severely disparaging remarks about an employee in the presence of other employees. Third, when confronted by another manager about the Id. situation, Plaintiff admitted that her conversation was "not HR appropriate." (Doc. also 25-6, HR Consultant concluded question, that, Plaintiff subordinates. (Id.) Declaration, f 8.) separate and apart used strong The investigation from profanity the when incident coaching in her Based on these findings, Verizon discharged Plaintiff in early March 2014. (Id^ at If 10.) II. Summary genuine judgment dispute entitled 56(a). to as is to judgment Standard of Review appropriate any as a material matter only fact of if and law." "there Fed. no movant the is is R. Civ. P. Facts are "material" if they could affect the outcome of the suit under the governing substantive law, and a dispute is genuine "if the evidence is such that a reasonable return a verdict for the non-moving party." Lobby, Inc., factual party, U.S. in U.S. disputes in Matsushita 574, [the Parcels banc) 477 587 not Anderson, Court, motion. Because moving by party's] the Celotex party favorable Co. v. favor." and to view non-moving Radio United 1437 or the must Corp., 475 justifiable inferences citations evidence Court Zenith draw "all F.2d 1428, has to Corp. standard directed verdict, The States v. (11th Cir. omitted). Four 1991) The (en Court determine credibility. burden showing at 255. reference the 941 punctuation 477 U.S. The Indus. Anderson v. Liberty (1986). most and must Prop., weigh 248 light Elec. non-moving (internal should the (1986), of Real 242, jury could the initial materials v. for on Catrett, summary file, 477 the U.S. judgment of basis 317, mirrors 323 the for the (1986). that of the initial burden of proof required by either party depends on who carries the burden of proof at trial. at 323. a Id. When the movant does not carry the burden of proof at trial, it may satisfy its initial burden in one of two ways — by negating an essential element of the non-movantfs case or by showing that there is no evidence to prove a fact necessary to the non-movant's F.2d 604, Kress 477 by 606-08 & Co., U.S. 317 merely 398 the issue of must (1970) that the its its affirmatively and Celotex Corp. the movant its party v. v. 929 S.H. Catrett, initial burden cannot of to burden. a carries that there its meet its is initial burden, indeed summary judgment." burden negating Inc., 929 F.2d at 608. response initial & Clark, (explaining Adickes non-moving "demonstrate the Coats The movant cannot meet Clark, bears tailor carried 144 1991) fact that precludes non-movant must U.S. and only if — non-movant Clark v. (11th Cir. declaring — See (1986)). burden at trial. If case. proof the If at trial, method the material by movant fact, a Id. When the the non-movant which the presented the material movant evidence non-movant "must respond with evidence sufficient to withstand a directed verdict motion at trial on the material Fitzpatrick, 2 F.3d at 1116. evidence a that the on material record sought to be negated." If the movant shows an absence of fact, contains fact the non-movant evidence that must was either "overlooked show or ignored" by the movant or "come forward with additional evidence sufficient to withstand a directed verdict motion at trial based on the alleged evidentiary deficiency." Id. at 1117. The non- movant cannot carry its burden by relying on the pleadings or by repeating conclusory allegations contained in the complaint. See Morris v. Rather, the Ross, 663 F.2d 1032, non-movant must 1033-34 respond (11th Cir. affidavits with 1981). or as otherwise provided by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. In notice the this action, of the motion summary 26.) satisfied. expired, the in opposition, the 772 F.2d 822, The time of the Court gave Plaintiff summary judgment and informed her rules, Therefore, Wainwright, Clerk for judgment other materials (Doc. the to file affidavits or and the consequences of default. notice 825 for right of requirements (11th Cir. filing 1985) materials of Griffith (per curiam), in opposition v. are has and the motion is now ripe for consideration. III. Discussion Plaintiff's complaint alleges that: (1) Verizon discriminated against her because of her race; (2) her because Verizon tolerated a of her environment. abandoned her In sex; her and (3) response hostile work to Verizon discriminated against Defendant's environment hostile work motion, claim. Thus, Plaintiff this court will only address her race- and sex-discrimination claims. Plaintiff claims female by hopes alleging employees the to that prove Verizon differently code of her race- treated when conduct. As and sex-discrimination other they non-black, committed evidence of her non- similar violations of different treatment, she cites the disciplinary cases of several employees who she claims Verizon treated less harshly than herself. Thus, Plaintiff hopes circumstantial When to prove her disparate-treatment 1319, a plaintiff sift Douglas 1323 uses through that: circumstantial class a qualified is a an member adverse do case, the the discriminatory prima of was Id. If defendant for "must its case facie the disparate and Plaintiff employment her a show she her of treated; show (2) (3) outside to for disparate class; action; a steps First, of case F.3d the plaintiff must protected she job." reason a prove 447 three claim. facie employees than uses plaintiff's employment situated favorably to a race discrimination case, similarly more facie of to Orange Cty, analysis "To establish a prima she to This establish in a subjected 2006). evidence courts must apply the Burke-Fowler v. validity Id. (1) treated the must treatment. treatment analysis. (11th Cir. Plaintiff through evidence. disparate treatment based upon race or sex, McDonnel claim employer protected (4) proves she was a prima legitimate, action." was Id. non If the defendant makes such a showing, the plaintiff must then prove that the reason offered discrimination." In its motion First, the element Second, the "merely pretext for unlawful Id. arguments. third is for summary judgment, Defendant makes three it asserts that Plaintiff has failed to satisfy of a prima facie case of discrimination. Defendant argues that Plaintiff might not have satisfied second element either - that she might not have suffered an adverse employment action. if Plaintiff failed to did prove Finally, establish that a Defendant argues that, even prima Defendant's facie valid case, Plaintiff reasons for has terminating Plaintiff were really pretext for unlawful discrimination. The Court showed examines Verizon that first whether treated Plaintiff similarly sufficiently situated employees differently based upon race or sex. To determine if an employer treated differently, similarly situated employees the Court must determine if the comparators offered by Plaintiff truly qualify as "similarly situated." discipline, we the Brown, similar conduct Burke-Fowler, 171 situated, quality prevent F.3d the of plaintiff alleges 1364, Eleventh the 447 and F.3d 1368 (11th Circuit comparator's courts from are at disciplined 1323 Cir. 1999)). requires misconduct second-guessing be Plaintiff has failed to provide which a reasonable jury could find that element of her prima facie of differently similarly than herself. nearly v. similarly quantity and identical employer's to reasonable Id. sufficient evidence from she satisfied the third employees Plaintiff be the case because she has situated different Maniccia To "*that accused of in (quoting decisions and confusing apples with oranges.'" examples discriminatory ^whether the employees are involved in or or ways.'" a to determine whether employees are similarly situated, evaluate same "When who offers failed to offer were five treated potential comparators who she claims also violated the code-of-conduct but were not fired. None of Plaintiff's potential comparators, however, qualify as a similarly situated employee. Plaintiff's accused them of first two comparators committing different fail because misconduct than Defendant it accused Plaintiff of committing and Defendant disciplined them in the same manner Hiral it disciplined Patel, comments, employee making an asian male, in the presence code-of-conduct fired both that men, a customer. remarks. a unrelated despite Thus, first accused of making Sanders, violations despite being white. demonstrate of Nathan Plaintiff's comparator, inappropriate and character attacks against another discriminatory second comparator, to was false allegations, racially Verizon Plaintiff. He was Similarly, white male, to being not racial male, accused of Plaintiff's was accused of discrimination. and Mr. Sanders, Plaintiff's first two comparators fail Verizon treated similarly situated employees differently or that it discriminated against her on the basis of race or sex. Plaintiff's dissimilar. remaining comparators Plaintiff's remaining comparators: Leffew and Amanda Holland, race three discrimination. are likewise Jaton Turner, Roby were accused of violations other than Verizon determined that none of them committed the violations of which they were accused and it imposed no discipline. Plaintiff's response to Defendant's motion for summary judgment contains no effort to establish that these three comparators committed offenses similar to the offenses Defendant alleges Plaintiff committed or that Defendant somehow treated them differently than it treated Plaintiff. In fact, she admits that they were accused of altogether different violations of the code of conduct. American Moreover, and Ms. Mr. Turner, Holland, like like Plaintiff, Plaintiff, is a is an African female. Thus, Plaintiff's three remaining comparators are not similarly situated employees and do not provide evidence that Verizon participated in race- or sex-discrimination. The Court demonstrate The two the three notes that, anything, Plaintiff's comparators an absence of bias toward female or black employees. comparators who comparators were fired were who were and one was a white female. of if not Thus, non-black males, fired, one was a and black male, even if the law allowed the use comparators who engaged in different employee misconduct the have alleged failed misconduct to of the demonstrate plaintiff, a of bias Plaintiff toward black would or than still female employees. Plaintiff failed to establish valid comparators and presented no other circumstantial discrimination. Thus, evidence suggesting racial or sexual Plaintiff did not establish a prima facie case of disparate treatment and her claim fails. Even if Plaintiff did provide valid comparators, however, her claim still fails because Defendant has shown that its reasons for firing Plaintiff were not pretext. If a plaintiff proves a prima facie case, then "the burden shifts to the defendant to rebut this inference in presenting legitimate, non-discriminatory reasons for its employment action." Holifield v. Reno, 115 F.3d 1555, (11th Cir. 1997). This burden is "exceedingly light." 1565 Id. Defendants have met this burden by providing evidence of the conclusions it investigation Resource of came to the witnesses who as aided well multiple allegations against testimony against and detailed Plaintiff. The interviewed Plaintiff. They Human seventeen substantiated Plaintiff with corroborating witness that violations. They African American female. comprehensive Verizon as and determined of-conduct a allegations Consultants different after Thus, Plaintiff also committed multiple replaced Plaintiff code- with an Defendants have demonstrated that its reasons for firing Plaintiff were not mere pretext. But, Plaintiff does not lose just because the Defendant meets its burden of showing that the action lacked pretext. still has "the articulated pretext reason for Plaintiff, opportunity for the to demonstrate adverse discrimination." however, offers no that employment Holifield, such the defendant's action 115 reason. Plaintiff is F.3d Her at a mere 1565. response to Defendant's motion for summary judgment is devoid of any factual or inferential allegations which might support an assertion that the reasons put forth by Defendant were mere pretext. Thus, Plaintiff has failed to prove any ulterior motive by Defendant and cannot succeed on her race- or sex-discrimination claims. 10 IV. Because Conclusion Plaintiff failed to establish valid comparators and could not rebut Defendant's proof that it had non-discriminatory reasons for discrimination firing Plaintiff, claims Defendant's motion fail. Plaintiff's Therefore, for summary judgment. race- the (Doc. and Court 25.) sex- GRANTS The Clerk shall ENTER JUDGMENT in favor of Defendant and against Plaintiff and CLOSE this case. ORDER ENTERED February, at Augusta, Georgia, this ^7$*^ day of 2017. HALL IITED/STATES DISTRICT JUDGE iRN DISTRICT OF GEORGIA 11

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