United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division
FREDDIE J. BROWN, Plaintiff,
TIGER MANAGEMENT GROUP, LLC, Defendant.
KEVIN H. SHARP, District Judge.
Plaintiff's complaint before this Court alleges unlawful discrimination on the basis of gender and age in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. § 2000(e) et seq., and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"), 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq. (Docket No. 1). Defendant Tiger Management Group, LLC ("TMG") has filed a Motion for Summary Judgment (Docket No. 22) on all claims in the complaint. This motion, for the reasons that follow, will be granted.
I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND
Defendant TMG is a Tennessee corporation that purchased twenty-six retail convenience stores in the Nashville area from ExxonMobile in 2010. (Docket No. 27 ¶¶ 3-4). The original members of TMG were Lyle Finley, Greg Merriman, Mike Campbell, Arnold Tackett, and Marlin Larson. (Docket No. 27 ¶ 5).
Plaintiff Freddie J. Brown is a female former employee of ExxonMobile and Defendant. She was born on May 5, 1954 and began working for ExxonMobile in 1982. By the time Defendant acquired the ExxonMobile stores in July 2010, Plaintiff was working as a territory manager. (Docket No. 27 ¶¶ 1-2).
Defendant's purchase agreement with ExxonMobile required it to employ certain ExxonMobile employees, including Plaintiff and four other women-Pat Slapak, Sara Burrows, Toyia Bernales and Kathy Jennings-for the one year period following the sale. (Docket No. 41 ¶ 5). As a result, Defendant offered Plaintiff employment as a district manager and Plaintiff accepted. (Docket No. 27 ¶¶9-10).
Plaintiff's direct supervisor was TMG owner Mike Campbell, who ran operations, staffing, and overall execution of the operating plan. He also directly supervised store managers and routinely visited stores in order to provide management oversight. (Docket No. 27 ¶ 15) (Docket No. 41 ¶ 25).
In November 2010, Defendant began negotiations with ExxonMobile to purchase an additional thirty-three convenience stores in Louisiana ("Louisiana Acquisition"). (Docket No. 27 ¶¶ 16-17). Through the Louisiana Acquisition, TMG owners planned to expand operations, scale fixed overhead costs, and generate additional opportunities for employees, including Plaintiff. (Docket No. 27 ¶ 19).
In April 2011, Defendant brought in Tristan Anowar to replace Larson, who had retired, as co-owner of TMG. (Docket No. 27 ¶¶ 20-21). Anowar was given the title "Vice President of Operations, " and was slated to run the company's operations in the Louisiana market if the Louisiana Acquisition was successful. (Docket No. 27 ¶¶22-23).
In May or June 2011 Defendant learned that it was unsuccessful in its bid for the Louisiana stores. (Docket No. 27 ¶ 24). At approximately the same time, Merriman reviewed the company's financial performance in anticipation of a financial report due Defendant's lender in September 2011. (Docket No. 27 ¶ 25). Upon review of the reports, Merriman determined that the stores were underperforming and, as a result, Defendant was in danger of defaulting on its loan. (Docket No. 27 ¶¶ 27-28). The owners discussed possible solutions to these financial issues, and ultimately decided that since the transition period from ExxonMobile ownership to TMG ownership was essentially complete, the owners were in a position to eliminate middle-management employees. (Docket No. 27 ¶¶ 29-31). Campbell testified in his deposition that terminating middle management resulted in both a reduction in salary expenditures and an opportunity for the owners to directly oversee and initiate changes in business operations. (Docket No. 26-11 p. 55-57).
In July 2011, after the expiration of the one-year employee retention period required by the ExxonMobile purchase agreement, Defendant informed its three mid-level managers-Burrows, Slapak and Plaintiff- that their positions were being eliminated. (Docket No. 27 ¶ 35). Plaintiff was told she was being discharged due to restructuring. All three terminated employees were female. Anowar took over the duties previously performed by Slapak and Campbell took over the duties previously performed by Plaintiff and Burrows. (Docket No. 27 ¶¶ 33-34, 39).
A party may obtain summary judgment if the evidence establishes there are no genuine issues of material fact for trial and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); Covington v. Knox County School Sys., 205 F.3d 912, 914 (6th Cir. 2000). A genuine issue exists "if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the Court must construe the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, drawing all justifiable inferences in his or her favor. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587, (1986). However, the nonmoving party must rely on more than "[c]onclusory assertions, supported only by Plaintiff's own opinions." ...