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Trawick v. Carmike Cinemas, Inc.

United States District Court, M.D. Georgia, Columbus Division

February 14, 2019



         Crystal Trawick, a former employee of Carmike Cinemas, Inc. (“Carmike”), claims that Carmike discriminated against her because of her gender by failing to promote her and paying her less than a comparable male employee. She also alleges that when she complained to her superiors about these disparities, Carmike retaliated against her and terminated her employment. Carmike moved for summary judgment as to all of Trawick's claims (ECF No. 39). Because genuine factual disputes exist as to Trawick's wage discrimination claims, summary judgment is denied as to those claims. Trawick, however, has failed to point to sufficient evidence in support of her failure to promote, retaliation, Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”), and negligent retention claims; and Carmike's motion is granted as to those claims.


         Summary judgment may be granted only “if 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). In determining whether a genuine dispute of material fact exists to defeat a motion for summary judgment, the evidence is viewed in the light most favorable to the party opposing summary judgment, drawing all justifiable inferences in the opposing party's favor. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986). A fact is material if it is relevant or necessary to the outcome of the suit. Id. at 248. A factual dispute is genuine if the evidence would allow a reasonable jury to return a verdict for the nonmoving party. Id.


         Viewed in the light most favorable to Trawick, the record establishes the following facts:

         Carmike hired Trawick in 1998 as a part-time theater employee. In October 2012, Carmike transferred Trawick to the marketing department but did not give her an official job title, job description, or pay raise. After six months, Carmike designated Trawick the “Marketing Projects Manager.” She and Shannon Sailors, the director of advertising, reported to Terrell Mayton, the director of marketing. Her duties included administering Carmike's social media accounts, managing website updates, developing and maintaining loyalty programs, and marketing special events.

         Several months after Trawick received her new title, Carmike fired Mayton. With the exception of approving corporate expenses and sponsorships, Carmike assigned Mayton's former responsibilities to Trawick. Trawick Aff. ¶ 5, ECF No. 60-2; Sailors Dep. 334:8-19, ECF No. 48. After Mayton's termination, Trawick and Sailors reported directly to Fred Van Noy, the chief operating officer. Trawick reported to Van Noy until her termination.

         I. Trawick's Educational Background and Maternity Leave

         Trawick completed her associate's degree at Chattahoochee Valley Community College (“CVCC”) in 2012. In 2013, after Carmike terminated Mayton, Trawick enrolled in calculus and marketing courses at Troy State University to complete her bachelor's degree. Carmike paid for the courses. Trawick Dep. 193:25-194:9, ECF No. 46; Van Noy Decl. ¶¶ 9-10, ECF No. 39-3. Because her responsibilities and hours had increased after Mayton's termination, Trawick could not complete those courses. Trawick Dep. 188:20-189:1. And Trawick did not earn a bachelor's degree while employed at Carmike.

         Trawick took paid maternity leave to deliver a child in April 2014. After the birth, however, Van Noy continued to contact her and pressured her to work from home. Consequently, Trawick participated in conference calls, sent emails, and worked from her laptop while on maternity leave. Trawick Aff. ¶ 13. Van Noy also sent her calendar invites for meetings during her leave. See Pl.'s Supplemental Resp. in Opp. to Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. Ex. E, Calendar Invites, ECF No. 116-6 (showing six calendar invites sent by Van Noy to Trawick while she was on maternity leave). She returned to work six weeks after the birth and did not use her full twelve weeks of FMLA leave. Trawick Aff. ¶ 13. Trawick, however, does not dispute that Carmike paid her during her leave, did not deduct any of her sick time or vacation days from her leave, did not alter her bonus structure because of her leave, and returned her to the same position after her leave. See Pl.'s Resp. to Def.'s Statement of Material Facts ¶¶ 35-37, ECF No. 60-5. She also pointed to no evidence that she attended any of the meetings during her leave.

         II. Trawick's Tenure at Carmike

         Trawick satisfactorily performed her duties as marketing projects manager both before and after Carmike terminated Mayton. See Trawick Aff. ¶¶ 11-12 (noting accolades Trawick received for her work). Carmike CEO David Passman praised Trawick after she appeared on television to announce theater renovations. See Passman Dep. Ex. 52, Email from D. Passman to C. Trawick et al. (Feb. 6, 2015), ECF No. 49-9. Carmike executives and other employees commonly referred to Trawick as the director of marketing. Trawick Aff. ¶ 14. Van Noy even introduced Trawick as director of marketing at a theater grand opening. Id.

         A. Promotion Discussions with Van Noy

         At some point in early 2015, Trawick spoke with Van Noy about a promotion to director of marketing and a salary increase. Trawick Dep. 253:12-15; Van Noy Dep. 120:10-18, ECF No. 31. Van Noy asked Trawick to provide him a list of her accomplishments, something Trawick had already produced for him at the end of the previous year. Trawick Dep. 254:17-255:13. After Trawick directly asked Van Noy for a promotion and more pay, she felt that his management style towards her was more aggressive and his communications to her became more pointed, direct, and harassing. Id. at 215:5-17.

         Other employees also discussed Trawick's performance with Van Noy and suggested she be promoted to a director-level position. Several months after Carmike terminated Mayton, Sailors asked Van Noy whether Trawick would be promoted to director. See Sailors Dep. 49:13-50:13. Later, after “initiation” by Trawick, Sailors again broached the topic with Van Noy. See id. at 51:2-12. Van Noy told Sailors both times that the promotion decision would be made by the executive team based on a number of factors. Id. at 50:20-23; 51:9-15. At some point in 2014, Jim Lucas, a division director at Carmike, also asked Van Noy why Carmike would not promote Trawick to director since Carmike was paying for her education for that position. Lucas Dep. 95:1-5, ECF No. 53. Van Noy responded that he would not promote Trawick unless Passman insisted. Id. at 95:9-10; 96:4-16.

         B. Promotion Discussions with Passman

         In March 2015, CVCC invited Trawick to participate on a panel to discuss women in corporate leadership. Trawick discussed an outline of her presentation with Passman before the event. Trawick Dep. 244:3-6. Trawick explained to Passman that she would tell the audience about the “glass ceiling” in corporate America and the challenges women face in the workplace. Passman Dep. 93:9-13, ECF No. 49. Passman responded to Trawick that “[i]t's unfortunate for [women], but [the glass ceiling] does exist.” Trawick Dep. 246:5-8. Although Trawick had previously complained to Passman that she was underpaid, Passman Dep. 96:7-8, Trawick did not discuss her pay or position at Carmike during this conversation in March 2015, Trawick Dep. 246:16-25.

         Several months later, after a recruiter contacted Trawick about a higher-paying position at a different company, Trawick again discussed her performance, salary, and title with Passman. Id. at 255:22-24; 259:5-260:9. Trawick complained directly to Passman that she was being treated unfairly compared to Sailors. And she told Passman that she had previously mentioned these grievances to Van Noy. Id. at 260:5-19. Passman told Trawick, “You're right. You should be compensated.” Id. at 260:8-9. Passman also told her she had not hit her glass ceiling and that he still saw her as a potential candidate for upper management. Id. at 260:25-261:2. Passman did tell Trawick, however, that she “needed to finish [her] education” because that is “something that men are going to require of [her] as [she] move[s] up in the industry.” Id. at 261:2-5.[1]

         III. Sponsorship Investigation and Termination

          In June 2015, Trawick served as president of the Quadrille social club. One of her responsibilities was to raise money for parties hosted by the club. To that end, Trawick drafted a letter seeking corporate sponsorships for a Quadrille party. Trawick worked with the prior Quadrille president, Jenny McMillen, to draft the letter, and McMillen's name appeared on the bottom of the letter. See Trawick Dep. Ex. 1, Quadrille Fundraising Letter (June 7, 2015), ECF No. 46-1. Trawick approached Carmike and obtained a $2, ...

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