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Crumpler v. Verizon Wireless

United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Augusta Division

February 28, 2017



          J. Randal Hall, united states district judge

         Presently before the Court is Defendant's motion for Summary Judgment. (Doc. 25.) Plaintiff filed suit against Defendant under Title VII alleging race discrimination, sex discrimination, and a hostile work environment. Defendant seeks summary judgment on the grounds that Plaintiff has failed to provide sufficient evidence to support any of her claims. The Court agrees with Defendant.

         I. Background

         The present litigation stems from the termination of Plaintiff's employment by Defendant. Plaintiff began working for Verizon in January 2006 in Illinois. In 2012, Verizon promoted Plaintiff to Assistant Store Manager ("ASM") and moved her to Augusta, Georgia. Then, in 2013, 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 use the term "cracker" and state that she wanted "to make all African American sales reps number one since it was African American heritage month." (Doc. 25, Defendant's Statement of Material Facts, p.5.) Ms. Cisco also alleged that after she told Plaintiff, the declarant and another employee that she found the comments offensive, she overhead Plaintiff tell the group "I hate that bitch." (Id.)

         In response to Ms. Cisco's complaint, Verizon conducted an investigation and concluded that Plaintiff committed multiple code-of-conduct violations during the incident. First, Plaintiff failed to take corrective action when one of her subordinates used a racial epithet in her presence. (Doc. 27-1, Verizon Internal Investigation, p. 1.) Second, Plaintiff made severely disparaging remarks about an employee in the presence of other employees. Id. Third, when confronted by another manager about the situation, Plaintiff admitted that her conversation was "not HR appropriate." (Doc. 25-6, HR Consultant Declaration, ¶ 8.) The investigation also concluded that, separate and apart from the incident in question, Plaintiff used strong profanity when coaching her subordinates. (Id.) Based on these findings, Verizon discharged Plaintiff in early March 2014. (Id. at ¶ 10.)

         II. Standard of Review

          Summary judgment is appropriate only if "there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). 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 jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). The Court must view factual disputes in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986), and must draw "all justifiable inferences in [the non-moving party's] favor." United States v. Four Parcels of Real Prop., 941 F.2d 1428, 1437 (11th Cir. 1991) (en banc) (internal punctuation and citations omitted). The Court should not weigh the evidence or determine credibility. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255.

         The moving party has the initial burden of showing the Court, by reference to materials on file, the basis for the motion. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). Because the standard for summary judgment mirrors that of a directed verdict, the initial burden of proof required by either party depends on who carries the burden of proof at trial. Id. at 323. 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-movant's case or by showing that there is no evidence to prove a fact necessary to the non-movant's case. See Clark v. Coats & Clark, Inc., 929 F.2d 604, 606-08 (11th Cir. 1991) (explaining Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144 (1970) and Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317 (1986)). The movant cannot meet its initial burden by merely declaring that the non-moving party cannot meet its burden at trial. Clark, 929 F.2d at 608.

         If - and only if - the movant carries its initial burden, the non-movant must "demonstrate that there is indeed a material issue of fact that precludes summary judgment." Id. When the non-movant bears the burden of proof at trial, the non-movant must tailor its response to the method by which the movant carried its initial burden. If the movant presented evidence affirmatively negating a material fact, the non-movant "must respond with evidence sufficient to withstand a directed verdict motion at trial on the material fact sought to be negated." Fitzpatrick, 2 F.3d at 1116. If the movant shows an absence of evidence on a material fact, the non-movant must either show that the record contains evidence that was "overlooked 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. Ross, 663 F.2d 1032, 1033-34 (11th Cir. 1981). Rather, the non-movant must respond with affidavits or as otherwise provided by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56.

         In this action, the Clerk of the Court gave Plaintiff notice of the motion for summary judgment and informed her of the summary judgment rules, the right to file affidavits or other materials in opposition, and the consequences of default. (Doc. 26.) Therefore, the notice requirements of Griffith v. Wainwright, 772 F.2d 822, 825 (11th Cir. 1985) (per curiam), are satisfied. The time for filing materials in opposition has expired, 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) Verizon discriminated against her because of her sex; and (3) Verizon tolerated a hostile work environment. In her response to Defendant's motion, Plaintiff abandoned her hostile work environment ...

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