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Free v. Federal Express Corp.

United States District Court, W.D. Tennessee, Western Division

March 7, 2018

CHRISTI C. FREE, Plaintiff,
v.
FEDERAL EXPRESS CORPORATION, Defendant.

          ORDER

          SAMUEL H. MAYS, JR., UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Christi C. Free brings this action against Defendant Federal Express Corporation for sex discrimination and retaliation in violation of 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e, et seq. (“Title VII”). Before the Court is Defendant's May 31, 2017 Motion for Summary Judgment. (ECF No. 54; ECF No. 54-1.) Plaintiff responded on July 7, 2017. (ECF No. 61.) Defendant replied on August 4, 2017. (ECF No. 64.)

         For the following reasons, Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.

         I. Background

         Plaintiff has worked for Defendant since February 1988. (ECF No. 64-1 at 1161.)[1] For the past 19 years, Plaintiff has been a Senior Manager of Hub Operations (“Senior Manager”). (Id.)

         Plaintiff has unsuccessfully applied for a position as Global Operations Control Manager (“GOC Manager”) several times. GOC Managers receive the same salary as Senior Managers. (ECF No. 61-2 at 921.) However, GOC Managers receive several benefits not available to Senior Managers. GOC Managers receive a “sick bank, ” which allows them to earn paid time off that can be used after sick leave days have been exhausted. (ECF No. 64-1 at 1183.) GOC Managers can receive jump seat privileges, which allow them to use Defendant's planes for personal travel at no cost. (Id. at 1185.) GOC Managers also have the opportunity to work four days a week, perform office work rather than outside work, and supervise salaried employees rather than hourly employees. (Id. at 1185-86.)

         Plaintiff applied for GOC Manager in September 2010. (Id. at 1162; ECF No. 61-5 at 969.) She did not receive an interview. (Id. at 1162.) Plaintiff applied for GOC Manager again in February 2012. (ECF No. 64-1 at 1165.) She was interviewed but not hired. (ECF No. 61-5 at 969-70.)

         On March 8, 2013, Defendant posted another opening for a GOC Manager position. (ECF No. 61-2 at 914.) Plaintiff applied. (ECF No. 64-1 at 1167.) On April 5, 2013, Plaintiff was interviewed for the position. (ECF No. 61-2 at 926.) On April 8, 2013, Plaintiff learned that she had not been chosen for the position. (Id. at 931.) Rudy Cruz, a male, was hired instead. (ECF No. 64-1 at 1168) On April 10, 2013, Plaintiff filed an internal complaint of sex discrimination, alleging that she had not been selected for the March 2013 GOC Manager opening because of her gender. (Id. at 1171.)

         On July 5, 2013, Defendant posted another GOC Manager position. (ECF No. 61-2 at 914.) Plaintiff applied. (Id. at 935.) On September 17, 2013, Plaintiff was interviewed for GOC Manager. (Id. at 935.) On September 26, 2013, Plaintiff learned that she had not been selected. (Id. at 938.) Debi Minnick, a female, was hired instead. (Id. at 923.)

         On June 15, 2015, Plaintiff filed a pro se Complaint in this action. (ECF No. 1.) Plaintiff subsequently retained counsel and, on January 4, 2016, filed an Amended Complaint. (ECF No. 28.) The Amended Complaint alleges that Defendant discriminated against Plaintiff on the basis of sex and retaliated against Plaintiff for her internal discrimination complaint, in violation of Title VII. (Id. at 79-80.)

         On May 31, 2017, Defendant filed its Motion for Summary Judgment. (ECF No. 54; cf ECF No. 54-1.) Plaintiff responded on July 7, 2017. (ECF No. 61.) Defendant replied on August 4, 2017. (ECF No. 64.)

         II. Jurisdiction

         This Court has jurisdiction over Plaintiff's federal-law claims. Under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331, U.S. district courts have original jurisdiction “of all civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States.” The Amended Complaint alleges that Defendant discriminated and retaliated against Plaintiff in violation of Title VII. (ECF No. 28 at 79-80.) Those claims arise under the laws of the United States.[2]

         III. Standard of Review

         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, a court shall grant a party's motion for summary judgment “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). The moving party can meet this burden by pointing out to the court that the nonmoving party, having had sufficient opportunity for discovery, has no evidence to support an essential element of her case. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1); Asbury v. Teodosio, 412 F. App'x 786, 791 (6th Cir. 2011) (citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986)).

         When confronted with a properly-supported motion for summary judgment, the nonmoving party must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine dispute for trial. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). “A genuine dispute exists when the plaintiff presents significant probative evidence on which a reasonable jury could return a verdict for her.” EEOC v. Ford Motor Co., 782 F.3d 753, 760 (6th Cir. 2015) (quotation marks omitted). The nonmoving party must do more than simply “‘show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts.'” Adcor Indus., Inc. v. Bevcorp, LLC, 252 F. App'x 55, 61 (6th Cir. 2007) (quoting Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986)).

         A party may not oppose a properly supported summary judgment motion by mere reliance on the pleadings. See Beckett v. Ford, 384 F. App'x 435, 443 (6th Cir. 2010) (citing Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 324). Instead, the nonmoving party must adduce concrete evidence on which a reasonable juror could return a verdict in her favor. Stalbosky v. Belew, 205 F.3d 890, 895 (6th Cir. 2000); see Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1). The court does not have the duty to search the record for such evidence. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(3); InterRoyal Corp. v. Sponseller, 889 F.2d 108, 111 (6th Cir. 1989).

         Although summary judgment must be used carefully, it “is an integral part of the Federal Rules as a whole, which are designed to secure the just, speedy, and inexpensive determination of every action[, ] rather than a disfavored procedural shortcut.” FDIC v. Jeff Miller Stables, 573 F.3d 289, 294 (6th Cir. 2009) (quotation marks and citations omitted).

         IV. Analysis

         A. Pattern and Practice Claim

         Plaintiff's Amended Complaint alleges that “Defendant's method of hiring result[ed] in a pattern and practice of discrimination based [on] gender in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq.” (ECF No. 28 at 80.) Defendant contends that Plaintiff's claim should be dismissed because “the Sixth Circuit has held that the pattern-or-practice method of proving discrimination is not available to individual plaintiffs.” (ECF No. 54-1 at 167.) Plaintiff argues that “Defendant misunderstands [Plaintiff's] complaint. A ‘pattern and practice' case is ‘not a separate and free-standing cause of action . . . but is really merely another method by which disparate treatment can be shown.'” (ECF No. 61 at 877.)

         The Sixth Circuit has held that “the pattern-or-practice method of proving discrimination is not available to individual plaintiffs.” Bacon v. Honda of Am. Mfg., Inc., 370 F.3d 565, 575 (6th Cir. 2004). “[A] pattern-or-practice claim is focused on establishing a policy of discrimination; because it does not address individual . . . decisions, it is inappropriate as a vehicle for proving discrimination in an individual case.” Id. To the extent Plaintiff has attempted to bring a separate pattern-or-practice claim against Defendant under Title VII, that claim must be denied. Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED on Plaintiff's pattern-or-practice claim.

         B. Gender Discrimination Claim

         Plaintiff alleges that she was not hired for the March 8, 2013 GOC Manager position because of her gender. (ECF No. 28 at 78; ECF No. 61-2 at 922.) A plaintiff claiming discrimination under Title VII “must establish ‘that the defendant had a discriminatory intent or motive' for taking a job-related action.” Ricci v. DeStefano, 557 U.S. 557, 577 (2009) (internal quotations omitted). “A plaintiff can establish a claim of sex discrimination under Title VII by producing either direct or circumstantial evidence of discrimination.” White v. Columbus Metro. Hous. Auth., 429 F.3d 232, 238 (6th Cir. 2005) (citation omitted).

         “[D]irect evidence is that evidence which, if believed, requires the conclusion that unlawful discrimination was at least a motivating factor in the employer's actions.” Jacklyn v. Schering-Plough Healthcare Prods. Sales Corp.,176 F.3d 921, 926 (6th Cir. 1999). Such evidence “explains itself” and “does not require the fact finder to draw any inferences to reach the conclusion that unlawful discrimination was at least a motivating factor.” Gohl ...


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