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Gallaher v. Southern Tube Form

September 14, 2007

LAKAISHA R. GALLAHER, PLAINTIFF,
v.
SOUTHERN TUBE FORM, LLC, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Shirley, Jr. United States Magistrate Judge

(Shirley)

MEMORANDUM OPINION

This civil action is before the Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), Rule 73(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and the consent of the parties, for all further proceedings, including entry of judgment [Doc. 12], for the consideration of the defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment. [Doc. 17.] The pro se plaintiff has failed to respond to the defendants' motion and the time for doing so has passed.*fn1 See L.R. 7.1(a), 7.2. The Court has carefully considered the pending motion along with the defendants' supporting briefs, affidavits, and the relevant pleadings. For the reasons set forth herein, the defendants' motion for summary judgment [Doc. 17] will be granted.

I. Relevant Facts

As the Court is required to do in reviewing a motion for summary judgment, all facts will be viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986).

The plaintiff, Lakaisha R. Gallaher ("Plaintiff"), submitted an application for employment with defendant Southern Tube Form, LLC ("STF") on August 29, 2005. [Doc. 17, Exhibit F.] Plaintiff did not indicate any limitations regarding work schedule in the application, nor did she indicate any specific position that she was applying for. [Id.] Defendant hired Plaintiff on or around September 2, 2005. [Doc. 17, Exhibit D at 10.] On that same day, Plaintiff signed a form acknowledging that she had received a copy of STF's Employee Handbook. [Doc. 17, Exhibit C.] The form also established that Plaintiff was being employed in an at-will capacity. [Id.] The Employee Handbook spells out STF's equal opportunity policy, as well as its anti-harassment and zero tolerance policies. [Id. at 3-5.]

Upon being hired, Plaintiff was assigned to work first shift during her sixty day probationary period. [Doc. 17, Exhibit B at ¶¶ 10-11.] It is STF's standard practice to assign new employees to first shift, because first shift contains the company's most experienced employees and the greatest number of supervisors, allowing a better training environment for new employees. [Id. at ¶¶ 12-13.] At the completion of the probationary period, a new employee would be subject to reassignment to a different shift, depending upon the needs of the company. [Id. at ¶ 10.] Plaintiff completed her probationary period on or around November 2, 2005. [Doc. 17, Exhibit D at 11.]

Soon after Plaintiff began her employment with the company, STF implemented a third shift on a temporary basis to meet increased customer demand. [Doc. 17, Exhibit A at ¶ 24.] The third shift was staffed on a voluntary basis, and all volunteers were guaranteed to be reinstated to their former shift once the third shift was discontinued. [Id. at ¶ 25.] By early November 2005, the increased customer demand had been met, eliminating the need for the third shift. [Id. at ¶ 27.] Thus, the third shift was discontinued and the third shift employees returned to their previous shifts and positions. [Id. at ¶¶ 27-28.] After the dissolution of the third shift and the return of the third shift employees to their previous shifts, the first shift contained too many employees trained for "End-Fab" work, while the second shift contained two unfilled "End-Fab" positions. [Id. at ¶¶ 28-29.] In order to resolve this disparity, it was decided that two less senior but fully trained "End-Fab" employees from first shift should be moved to second shift. [Id. at ¶¶ 29-30.]

After a performance review by management, it was determined that Thomas Evans ("Evans"), a white male, and Plaintiff, an African-American female, should be transferred to second shift. [Doc. 17, Exhibit B at ¶¶ 17-22.] On Friday, November 11, 2005, members of STF management met separately with Evans and Plaintiff to discuss the transfer to second shift. [Id.] Evans refused to transfer to the second shift, at which point his employment was terminated. [Id. at ¶ 19.] Plaintiff met with her supervisor, Tommy McCool ("McCool"), and STF's Human Resources Manager, Jerry Riley ("Riley"). [Doc. 17, Exhibit D at 12.] When Plaintiff was informed that she had been selected to transfer to second shift, she advised McCool and Riley that she would have to arrange for child care before she could move. [Id. at 13.] Plaintiff was then asked to clock out and was escorted from the building. [Id. at 14.]

Plaintiff returned to work Monday, November 14, 2005, at approximately 7:00 a.m. [Id. at 15-17.] At approximately 9:00 a.m. that same day, Plaintiff was called into a meeting with Riley. [Id. at 17.] Plaintiff was asked if she had found childcare and if she would move to second shift. [Id. at 18.] Plaintiff indicated that she had not been able to find childcare so she could not move to second shift. [Id.] At that point Plaintiff's employment was involuntarily terminated and, after gathering her belongings, she was escorted out of the building. [Id. at 18-19.]

After Plaintiff's termination, two white females, Sheila Weaver ("Weaver") and Kathy Hyder ("Hyder"), were selected to move from first to second shift. [Doc. 17, Exhibit B at ¶ 32.] Both Hyder and Weaver agreed to the transfer to second shift and began their new shift assignments the next working day. [Id. at ¶ 33.]

On December 20, 2005, Riley mailed Plaintiff a letter indicating that a position was open that Plaintiff was qualified for and asking Plaintiff if she would like to return to work at STF. [Doc. 17, Exhibit L.] The letter was mailed to Plaintiff's last known address, but Plaintiff had subsequently moved and never received the letter. [Doc. 17, Exhibit D at 21-22.]

On November 14, 2005, Plaintiff filed a claim for unemployment benefits with the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development ("TDOL"). [Doc. 19.] On November 28, 2005, TDOL determined that Plaintiff had voluntarily terminated her employment with STF without good cause and her claim was denied. [Id.] Plaintiff filed an appeal of TDOL's decision on December 14, 2005. [Id.] On January 13, 2006, the Appeals Tribunal conducted a hearing on Plaintiff's appeal. [Id.] On January 17, 2006, the Appeals Tribunal ruled that Plaintiff was eligible for unemployment benefits because her employment with STF was involuntarily terminated and Plaintiff had not committed any form of misconduct, but rather was "discharged because she could not work second shift due to a lack of child care." [Id.]

On November 25, 2005, Plaintiff filed a charge of discrimination with the Tennessee Human Rights Commission ("THRC") and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). [Doc. 8, Exhibit A.] There is no further evidence before the Court of any additional action taken by Plaintiff in conjunction with her charge of discrimination, nor on the part of the ...


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