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Coleman v. G4S Secure Solutions (USA), Inc

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

December 27, 2016

BETTY COLEMAN, Plaintiff,
v.
G4S SECURE SOLUTIONS (USA), INC. Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT [15]

          Nancy G. Edmunds, United States District Judge.

         This matter is before the Court on Defendant G4S Secure Solutions (USA), Inc.'s ("Defendant" or "G4S") motion for summary judgment. (Docket 18.) Plaintiff's claim arises from the termination of her employment by Defendant. Plaintiff brings a single claim against Defendant for retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq. (Compl. ¶ 1.) For the reasons stated below, the Court will grant Defendant's motion for summary judgment.

         I. Background & Facts

         Plaintiff was hired in late 2000 by non-party Pinkerton and assigned to perform security officer and dispatcher duties for Pinkerton's client General Motors ("GM") at the Tech Center. (Coleman Dep. 11-13, Pl.'s Resp. Ex. 2, dkt. 17-3.) The Tech Center includes both an East and West Campus housing multiple buildings, where thousands of GM employees and contractors work each day. (Id. at 13-14; Drent Dep. 44, Def.'s Mot. Summ. J. Ex. 15, dkt. 15-16.)

         In 2001, Securitas acquired contracts to provide security at the Tech Center. Several Pinkerton employees, including Plaintiff and Donald Drent, then a division manager, continued their employment with Securitas. (Drent Dep. 20-21.) In approximately 2004 or early 2005, Plaintiff was promoted to supervisor, and shortly thereafter, promoted to the position of Site Coordinator for the East Campus of the Tech Center. (Coleman Dep. 16, 19-20.) In 2011, the security contract was awarded to G4S. (Drent Dep. 21.) Again, some employees, including Plaintiff and Drent, were hired by the new company, G4S, and continued performing the same job duties. (Drent Dep. 21-22; 62.)

         At the Tech Center, one Site Coordinator was responsible for managing the West Campus and two Site Coordinators were responsible for managing the East Campus. (Coleman Dep. 63-65.) As a Site Coordinator, Plaintiff was responsible for managing approximately 60 people working on three different shifts in multiple buildings. (Coleman Dep. 19-21.) Shift Supervisors report to the Site Coordinator. (Coleman Dep. 19-20, 239, 240.) Plaintiff's job duties as a Site Coordinator included keeping "G4S and GM Plant management informed on the status of emergency situations" and ensuring "subordinates respond proactively and appropriately, " ensuring "GM/G4S policies and procedures are updated, implemented and adhered to, " and notifying "proper authorities and client in emergency situations."(Job Description, Pl.'s Resp. Ex. 9; Coleman Dep. 23-24.)

         At the time that G4S secured the GM security contract, Jeremy Paul ("Paul") was the Security Chief for the East Campus and was Plaintiff's immediate supervisor. (Coleman Dep. 56-59; Drent Dep. 34-35.) In mid-2013, G4S underwent a structural reorganization wherein Drent became the immediate supervisor of the Tech Center Security Chiefs and became the second-level supervisor of the Site Coordinators, including Coleman. (Drent Dep. 29.) GM's Global Security Division ("GSD") is GM's in-house security department and is responsible for overseeing all security and fire prevention at GM. (Drent Dep. 48, 70.) Beth Webster was the GSD Manager responsible for working with GM's security provider during the time periods relevant to this lawsuit. (Drent Dep. 48, 70; Coleman Dep. 54.)

         On or about March 7, 2014, Paul directed Plaintiff to "write up" or discipline security officer Marcus Pope ("Pope"), whom Paul alleged had made an insulting statement to a female officer, Michelle Dixon ("Dixon"), about a blazer Dixon was wearing. (Compl. ¶¶ 10-14.) Plaintiff told Paul that she would talk to Dixon to find out if Dixon had been insulted, before she would proceed with disciplining Pope. (Compl. ¶ 15.) Plaintiff proceeded to interview Dixon and other witnesses who had been present, including DeYana Wagner. (Compl. ¶¶ 18, 22.) Plaintiff determined that Paul had not actually been present during the interaction, but had observed it via security camera. (Comp. ¶¶ 19-20, 24.) Plaintiff also found out that Paul had sent a photo of a pink Power Ranger to Wagner, with a reference to Dixon and the Blazer. (Compl. ¶ 25.) During this questioning, Dixon, Wagner and another female security guard, LaToya Naylor, alluded to inappropriate comments, including sexual comments, made by Paul to them. (Compl. ¶¶ 26-31.) Paul's comments had not previously been reported. (Compl. ¶¶ 31-32.)

         Plaintiff notified Human Resources ("HR") manager Juanita Resar ("Resar") that three of her subordinates had been subjected to sexual comments from Paul, and Resar told Plaintiff to "do what you usually do, get your paperwork together and get it to me." (Coleman Dep. 184, 195.) On March 11, 2014, Plaintiff obtained written statements from Dixon, Wagner and Naylor regarding Paul's comments and submitted the statements to Resar. (Compl. ¶¶ 40, 42.) Plaintiff did not speak with Paul about the allegations. (Coleman Dep. 184:22-24.) Drent became involved in the investigation due to his concerns about the propriety of an investigation by a subordinate of a supervisor. (Drent Dep. 92.) Paul was suspended until the end of the investigation. (Drent Dep. 108.) As a result of the investigation, Paul was ultimately issued a Final Written Warning and was retrained on the company's sexual harassment policy prior to being reinstated as the East Campus Security Chief. (Paul Dep. 108-11, Pl.'s Resp. Ex. 5; Drent Dep. 123-26.) Further, any disciplinary authority over Naylor, Dixon, Wagner or Coleman was taken from Paul, in part to avoid an issue of retaliatory activity by him against those individuals. (Drent Dep. 126.)

         During the investigatory process, Drent's assistant, Scott Saunders ("Saunders"), allegedly contacted Plaintiff. (Compl. ¶ 44.) Saunders was angry that Plaintiff had conducted an investigation of Paul for sexual harassment and, per the Complaint, asked Plaintiff, "Who in the hell you think you are to investigate someone higher than you?" (Compl. ¶ 44.) Saunders had also completed an investigative report of Paul's conduct, dated March 19, 2014, in which his conclusions included both that Plaintiff "did not follow protocol throughout this process" and that "it would be difficult for Jeremy Paul to continue at this facility as an effective security manager, leader, or mentor." (Record of Investigation, Mar. 19, 2014, Pl.'s Resp. Ex. 6.)

         On or about May 16, 2014, G4S security officer Sam Smith ("Smith") made a complaint to Coleman about Naylor, alleging that she had yelled at him in front of guests. (Coleman Dep. 213-15; Security Incident Rep., Def.'s Mot. Summ. J. Ex. 10, dkt. 15-11.) Naylor had already been written up on at least one other occasion, for an unprofessional verbal altercation with a member of the housekeeping staff, in which Naylor called that person a "hood rat." (Coleman Dep. 305-06.) On May 20, 2014, Naylor reported to Coleman that Smith was watching television on his cell phone while at work and not completing his security patrols. (Coleman Dep. 223; Smith Removal Documentation, Def.'s Br. Ex. 12, dkt. 15-13.) There was an investigation of Smith and the alleged falsification of his documents and Plaintiff was given approval to remove Smith. (Coleman Dep. 249; Smith Removal Documentation, Def.'s Br. Ex. 12.)

         On the evening of June 18, 2014, Naylor and Smith engaged in a second verbal workplace altercation. (Coleman Dep. 224-25; Security Incident Reports, Pl.'s Resp. Ex. 7.) Third shift supervisor Sean Shields called Plaintiff to notify her of the incident. (Coleman Dep. 225.) Plaintiff directed Shields to take statements from Smith, Naylor and any witnesses, make sure Smith and Naylor were separated, and to let Smith go home when he finished his statement, because it was the end of his shift. (Coleman Dep. 226-27, 229.) Shields' call to Plaintiff came before midnight, and Plaintiff did not go back to work to interview anyone about the incident because she had just finished working 13 hours. (Coleman Dep. 227.) Plaintiff also directed Shields to call Paul and inform him about "what's going on." (Coleman Dep. 229.) Plaintiff herself tried to contact Paul "over eight times" about the incident, calling his desk phone, cell phone and leaving voice mails. (Coleman Dep. 238, 272; Drent Dep. 143, dkt. 15-16.) Plaintiff testified that she did not know whether a workplace GRIT (Global Reporting Incident Tool) report needed to be completed when there is a workplace violence incident because she had "never experienced it." (Coleman Dep. 206, 238-39.) Plaintiff believed that duty fell on the shift supervisor, and agreed that if the shift supervisor did not complete a GRIT, then she had to follow-up behind the shift supervisor and do a GRIT report. (Coleman Dep. 240.)

         Plaintiff did not speak with Naylor the following day, but she intended to speak with Naylor when she had the next opportunity and did not believe the incident was urgent (Coleman Dep. 244.) On June 19, Plaintiff removed Smith from employment, telling him that it was a follow-up for his falsifying of documentation (related to the television watching at work, for which Naylor had reported him). (Coleman Dep. 259.) Plaintiff had already planned to get rid of Smith before the second incident with Naylor occurred. (Coleman Dep. 279.) Plaintiff did not interview Smith about the incident with Naylor, nor did she interview anyone else, other than a single GM employee, on June 19th. (Coleman Dep. 260-63.) Plaintiff admitted that if she had interviewed Naylor and Naylor had admitted to those things that had been reported in relation to the incident, Plaintiff would have requested permission to suspend her. (Coleman Dep. 279.) Naylor was ultimately terminated for the incident with Smith. (Coleman Dep. 306.)

         On June 20, 2014, Drent received a phone call from Webster, of GSD, inquiring about an incident between two officers that was an altercation, to which security officers had to physically respond to the location and separate the parties, as had been reported to Webster by a GM employee. (Drent Dep. 138-39.) Drent did not know about the incident and Webster inquired as to why he did not know about it. (Drent Dep. 138.) Drent called both Landen Pickens and Paul to inquire whether they knew anything about such an incident, then he drove to the Tech Center to follow up. (Drent Dep. 139.) When Drent found out about the incident and questioned Plaintiff about why she didn't respond when she received the call the night of the incident, she told him that she was "too tired." (Drent Dep. 143.) She acknowledged that when the call came, she had just gotten home from work, was exhausted, and intended to address the incident the following morning. (Pl.'s Resp. 8, citing Coleman Dep. 283-84.) In the Complaint, Plaintiff admits she could have suspended Naylor immediately, rather than waiting to interview her first. (Compl. ¶ 56.) Plaintiff did not contact Drent, Saunders or the client about the incident. (Coleman Dep. 248-49, 252.) Drent suspended Plaintiff Coleman pending an investigation into the handling of the Naylor-Smith incident; it was an investigatory suspension similar to that imposed on Paul during the course of the investigation of the sexual harassment allegations against Paul. (Drent Dep. 154, 160-61.) After receiving the investigation reports and all statements, including Plaintiff's statement, Drent made the decision to terminate Plaintiff. (Drent Dep. 162.)

         On July 9, 2014, Coleman filed an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") charge with the Michigan Department of Civil Rights (MDCR) alleging that she was terminated in retaliation for her investigation of sexual harassment allegations made against Paul by her three subordinate employees approximately four months earlier. (Pl.'s Resp. Ex. 10.) The MDCR dismissed the complaint after investigation and the EEOC adopted the MDCR findings and issued a Dismissal and Notice of Rights on October 23, 2015. (Pl.'s Resp. Ex. 10.) Plaintiff filed this action on January 25, 2016.

         II. Summary Judgment Standard

         “The court shall grant 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). A moving party may meet that burden “by ‘showing' - that is, pointing out to the district court -- that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving ...


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