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Farrow v. King & Prince Seafood Corp.

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

February 12, 2019

LATISHA DENISE FARROW, Plaintiff,
v.
KING & PRINCE SEAFOOD CORPORATION, Defendant.

          ORDER

          HON. LISA GODBBY WOOD, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Before the Court is Defendant King & Prince Seafood Corporation's (the "Company") Motion for Summary Judgment, dkt. no. 24, and Revised Motion for Summary Judgment, dkt. no. 39. In accordance with the Court's Order granting in part and denying in part Defendant's motion for judgment on the pleadings, Plaintiff's remaining claims are for discrimination based on race and gender in violation of Title VII; retaliation in violation of Title VII; and hostile work environment in violation of Title VII. See Dkt. No. 37 at 15. Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment and Revised Motion for Summary Judgment have been fully briefed and are ripe for review. For the reasons set forth below, Defendant's Motions are GRANTED.

         BACKGROUND

         During discovery, Defendant served on Plaintiff written requests for admission. Dkt. No. 39-1 at 119-32. Plaintiff failed to respond within 30 days of being served these requests. Thus, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 36(a) (3), the requests are deemed admitted for purposes of this case. Further, pursuant to Southern District of Georgia Local Rule 56.1, "All material facts set forth in the statement required to be served by the moving party will be deemed to be admitted unless controverted by a statement served by the opposing party." Plaintiff has not responded to either of Defendant's Statements of Undisputed Facts, dkt. no. 24-1 at 1-8; dkt. no. 39-1 at 1-8. Thus, these facts are deemed admitted for the purposes of Defendant's motions.

         Will Frazier, a human resources employee for Defendant, hired Plaintiff, a black female, on August 14, 2015. Dkt. No. 39-1 at 1; id. at 106-07. Plaintiff was fired on March 1, 2017, also by Will Frazier, because she violated the Company Standards of Conduct; specifically, she was reported as having threatened violence against a co-worker, dkt. no. 39-1 at 2; id. at 5. When Plaintiff was hired, she was provided with and signed an acknowledgement of the Company's Employee Handbook, which included the policy against Workplace Violence. Id. at 2. Plaintiff also was provided with and signed the Company's Standards of Conduct, which stated that certain violations of Company policy could result in termination. Id. In addition to signing the Handbook and Standards of Conduct, Plaintiff testified that she knew of the rules, the standards, and the consequences for violating them. Id.

         The day after Plaintiff was hired, she had an incident with one of her supervisors, Brittany Leduc. Dkt. No. 28 at 134. Plaintiff testified that Leduc told her "You got fake eyelashes on. You got to take them off." Id. at 135. In response, Plaintiff reported Leduc to human resources. Id. After that incident, Leduc gave Plaintiff a nickname, Lashes, which caught on and others began calling Plaintiff that. Id. at 137. Also in August 2015, Leduc bumped into Plaintiff and tried to take her fake eyelashes off. Id. at 143-44. After Plaintiff was bumped by Leduc, the human resources department "tried to get [Plaintiff] to write a statement to say that we bumped into each other," but Plaintiff refused because she knew that Leduc bumped into her. Id. at 137.

         On October 2, 2015, Plaintiff received a written warning for a violation of the Company's policy of following supervisors' directions. Id. Plaintiff also repeatedly violated the Company's attendance rules and received written warnings on February 17 and June 15, 2016. Id. at 3. On June 6, 2016, Plaintiff received a written warning and a one-day suspension for horseplay, calling out a coworker, mounting the coworker, and pulling him to the ground. Id. Less than a year into her employment, Plaintiff had been written up five times. Id.

         In November 2016, it became evident that Plaintiff had a personality conflict with a coworker, Tawana Hardee, who is also a black female. Id. Plaintiff testified that "everybody knew" that she and Hardee did not get along. Id. Plaintiff believed that Hardee was "talking about her to other people, trying to get them not to like her." Id.

         On March 1, 2017, Plaintiff's coworkers reported that Plaintiff was making threats against Hardee. Id. at 4. One coworker, Michael Arrington, told Human Resources that he "heard Latisha say that if she sees [Hardee] outside of the job she would jump on her, beat her, and drag her all over the place." Id. Hardee also reported to Human Resources that Plaintiff told a coworker "if I see her outside the job I'll drag her." Id. On March 2, 2017, Plaintiff was terminated, the "Reason for Termination" was "Violation of Company Standards of Conduct." Id. at 125. In the Georgia Department of Labor Separation Notice, the Reason for Separation states "Violation of Company Standards of Conduct." Id. Frazier terminated Plaintiff "based solely on the reports of her threats of violence against a coworker," and "did not consider Plaintiff's race, gender, or any alleged complaints from her." Id.

         Plaintiff, in written statements made on request of the Company about the incidents leading to her termination, did not make any statement about race, gender, discrimination, or retaliation. Id. at 5. However, she later filed an EEOC charge. On the first page of Plaintiff's EEOC charge, Plaintiff stated that she "was terminated . . . because another co-worker . . . told Human Resources . . . that I was harassing her . . . [and that] I said I was going to beat her up after work." Id. In her written statement to the EEOC, Plaintiff fails to mention race, gender, or discrimination. Id. Further, Plaintiff has admitted that as a result of her disciplinary records, the Company's policies against violence, horseplay, and threatening communications, and the reported threats by her against a coworker, she was not qualified for continued employment with the Company. Id. at 125.

         The Company has fired two white males for engaging in similar misconduct as Plaintiff, but neither of them had a prior record of progressive discipline. Id. at 7. The first was fired for using racial slurs which could easily lead to violence. Id. The second was fired for verbally challenging another working and then approaching him with his fists up. Id.

         Plaintiff filed this action to recover damages and other compensation, which Plaintiff claims is owed to her under Title VII.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         Summary judgment is required where "the movant shows that 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). A fact is "material" if it "might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law." FindWhat Inv'r Grp. v. FindWhat. com, 658 F.3d 1282, 1307 (11th Cir. 2011) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)). A dispute is "genuine" if the "evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Id. In making this determination, the court is to view all of the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and draw ...


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