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Bush v. Lumileds, LLC

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

March 30, 2017

ADRIENNE BUSH, Plaintiff,
v.
LUMILEDS, LLC a/k/a PHILIPS AUTOMOTIVE LIGHTING, THOMAS STOLZENFELD, and RHONDA MCKEE-HESSEL, Defendants.

          Elizabeth A. Stafford, Magistrate Judge

          OPINION AND ORDER ACCEPTING THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S RECOMMENDATIONS [25], DISMISSING COMPLAINT [1], DENYING MOTION TO AMEND [21], AND GRANTING LEAVE TO FILE AMENDED COMPLAINT

          LAURIE J. MICHELSON U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE

         In 2010, Plaintiff Adrienne Bush began working for Defendant Lumileds, LLC (then Philips Automotive Lighting). After two years without issue, Defendant Thomas Stolzenfeld and Bush's supervisor, Defendant Rhonda McKee-Hessel, allegedly began treating Bush differently than other Lumileds employees because she was African-American and female. They also allegedly began retaliating against her for challenging discriminatory practices at Lumileds. By the end of 2015, Bush had filed three charges with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. In January 2016, Lumileds terminated Bush's employment. This lawsuit followed.

         Bush's pro se complaint is not very detailed or very organized. (See R. 1.) As such, Defendants ask the Court to dismiss the complaint or to direct Bush to file a more definitive statement. (R. 13.) Bush moves to amend her complaint; her motion includes a more detailed and more organized proposed amended complaint. (R. 21.) Defendants oppose Bush's motion on the grounds that her proposed claims are not exhausted or that adding them to her complaint would be futile because they fail to state a claim for relief. (R. 22.) The Court has referred all pretrial matters to Magistrate Judge Elizabeth A. Stafford. (R. 14, 15.) Magistrate Judge Stafford recommends granting Defendants' motion to dismiss the complaint and denying Bush's motion to amend. (R. 25.) Bush objects. (R. 26.) For the reasons that follow, the Court accepts the Magistrate Judge's recommendations, but will grant Bush leave to file a final amended complaint.

         I.

         A.

         Lumileds hired Bush in June 2010 to work as an administrative assistant on a contract basis. (R. 21, PID 205.)[1] In 2011, the company's President, Dennis Samfilippo, promoted Bush to the position of “Sales Administrator” for the marketing and sales teams. (R. 21, PID 205.) In June 2012, Bush was offered “a lead customer service position, ” but it was with one of the companies that Lumileds contracted with-not Lumileds directly. (R. 21, PID 205.) Bush declined the position. (Id.) “From this point forward is when retaliation and harassment began.” (Id.)

         In June 2012, Thomas Stolzenfeld, the Director of Operations, and Bush's supervisor, Rhonda McKee-Hessel, decided to terminate Bush's contract, effective August 2012. (R. 21, PID 206.) This was despite that Bush was not working directly in Stolzenfeld and McKee-Hessel's department. (Id.) Samfilippo, however, asked Bush to stay on as part of both Operations and Sales. (R. 21, PID 206.) In November 2012, Samfilippo gave Bush a raise. And, in March 2013, Lumileds hired Bush as a direct employee. (R. 21, PID 207.)

         In November 2013, Stolzenfeld arranged for some of Bush's marketing duties to be taken from her. (R. 21, PID 207.) This was so that Lumileds could hire an “expat spouse” of a Lumileds employee. (Id.) Although this new hire merely did Bush's former marketing duties, Lumileds paid her more than Bush. (Id.)

         In December 2013, Bush reached out to Alyssa Gorski in Lumileds' human resources department regarding Stolzenfeld's conduct at a meeting. (R. 21, PID 207.) At that meeting, Stolzenfeld had “threaten[ed] [Bush] with insubordination” because Bush had complained about “wage discrepancies and additional biases which le[d] to the whistleblower complaint.” (Id.) Bush's whistleblower complaint against McKee-Hessel and Stolzenfeld was for “Equal Pay/Compensation discrimination and racial bias.” (Id.) Bush was offered a settlement and general release, but certain people at Lumileds, including Gorski, told her she was a “valued employee.” (R. 21, PID 208.) As such, Bush agreed to move forward. (Id.)

         In February 2014, Bush was given a negative performance review. (R. 21, PID 208.) She was also denied a raise and a bonus. (Id.) Ninety-five percent of Bush's duties were for Sales, and Bush was told that she did not receive a bonus because Sales did not reach their target numbers. (Id.) Still, Bush “technically reported” to Operations. (Id.) Further, “the other” Sales Administrator who worked for both Sales and Operations received her bonus. (Id.)

         In July 2014, Bush was called into a meeting where she was told that she would have to take half of McKee-Hessel's work. (R. 21, PID 209.) Bush asked for increased pay due to the increased work (McKee-Hessel was making more than Bush), but the request was denied. (Id.) Bush also asked whether McKee-Hessel's work could be split between her and “the other” Sales Administrator, a Caucasian female. (Id.) Stolzenfeld responded that “this was not meant for . . . her.” (Id.)

         “From that date moving forward, ” McKee-Hessel began giving Bush assignments with unreasonable deadlines. (R. 21, PID 209.) Bush worked overtime to complete the assignments. (Id.) When McKee-Hessel saw that Bush had logged overtime, she told Bush that Lumileds would not pay overtime and that she would instead have to accept compensatory time off. (Id.) “This [was] the same practice used on the Customer Service team[, ] which [was] also primarily African American.” (R. 21, PID 210.)

         In January 2015, Bush emailed Stolzenfeld, McKee-Hessel, and others about a flexible work schedule so she could take a class only offered during the day. (R. 21, PID 210.) Bush also apparently requested that the class be covered by Lumileds' tuition reimbursement program. (Id.) Stolzenfeld declined the request even though Bush's other superiors were fine with it. (Id.) Further, Stolzenfeld “ha[d] approved individuals with similar request[s] or even to work from home . . . when they ha[d] doctors' appointments or an ailing parent or child. There were two Caucasian individuals during the same time that may have only worked in the office 2 or 3 times a week while taking care of another individual at home.” (R. 21, PID 209-10.)

         In the summer of 2015, an issue arose with Bush's mid-year performance review.

         It started in July when McKee-Hessel met with Bush regarding her review. (R. 21, PID 211.) Apparently, during the review, McKee-Hessel told Bush that some individuals had complained about Bush. (Id.) After her review, Bush “discover[ed] that the individuals were not complaining about [her] at all and that it was a misunderstanding on [McKee-Hessel's] part.” (Id.)

         On August 7, 2015, Bush emailed McKee-Hessel and Cynthia Bergallo in human resources for approval to take a class in the fall. (R. 21, PID 212.) McKee-Hessel approved the request. (Id.) About ten days later, McKee-Hessel told Bush that her mid-year review was available for approval through Lumileds' computer-based portal. (R. 21, PID 212.) Bush did not approve the review but instead submitted a disagreement with it. (See id.) Then, two weeks later, on September 1, 2015, McKee-Hessel and Bergallo informed Bush that her tuition reimbursement was being rescinded. (R. 21, PID 212.) When Bush asked to speak to someone higher up, Bergallo told Bush that the “education assistance program is a privilege and it can be rescinded at any time.” (Id.)

         Two days later, Lumileds posted Bush's Sales Administrator position on a job website (monster.com). (R. 21, PID 213.) In an email to a sales manager, with McKee-Hessel copied, Bush inquired about the posting. (Id.) She was told that she could apply for the position if she met the qualification requirements. (R. 21, PID 213.) But it was known that Bush was in the process of completing her Bachelor's degree, which was one of the qualification requirements. (Id.) In October 2015, when the job was filled, the new-hire email did not go to the whole organization as per usual; it was only sent to select individuals excluding Bush. (Id.)

         On September 8, 2015, Bush noticed that the Sales Administrator had not put one of Bush's work-from-home days on the calendar. (Id.) Although Bush had informed McKee-Hessel that she had emailed the Sales Administrator about the work-from-home day the week before, McKee-Hessel “immediately advised [Bush] that the Sales Admin did not get the email” without first verifying Bush's claim. (Id.)

         That day, Bush filed the first of three charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. (See R. 1, PID 9.) Bush checked boxes corresponding to “race” discrimination and “retaliation.” (Id.) Bush asserted a claim of retaliation: after she disagreed with her performance review, Phillips rescinded her tuition reimbursement. (Id.)

         About six weeks later, on October 23, 2015, McKee-Hessel sent Bush a meeting notice for October 26, 2015 titled “Performance Review.” (R. 21, PID 214.) When she arrived at the meeting with McKee-Hessel, Samfilippo (the President), and Bergallo (from HR), Bush was told that the purpose of the meeting was to discuss a performance improvement plan. (R. 21, PID 215.) Bush asked “if the team was aware that [she] was currently scheduled for mediation” with the EEOC. (R. 21, PID 215; see also R. 1, PID 10.) Both Samfilippo and McKee-Hessel said that they were unaware. (R. 21, PID 215.) Bergallo, however, stated that she was aware and that Bush did not need to sign anything but only needed to listen to what they had to say. (Id.) As for the performance issues brought up at the meeting, Bush had previously received a raise despite some of them and others were “frivolous accusations.” (Id.)

         On November 23, 2015, Bush filed a second charge with the EEOC. (R. 1, PID 11.) Like the prior charge, Bush checked boxes corresponding to discrimination based on “race” and “retaliation.” (Id.) Bush charged that she was placed on a performance improvement plan in retaliation for filing the September 2015 charge. (Id.)

         In December 2015, Stolzenfeld sent out an email regarding a holiday lunch but did not include Bush on the email. (R. 21, PID 215-16.)

         On December 14, 2015, Bush filed a third charge with the EEOC. (R. 1, PID 12.) As with the prior two charges, she checked boxes for discrimination based on “race” and “retaliation.” (Id.) Bush alleged, “[a]fter I protested my review, including complaining of racial discrimination, my job was posted . . . . By September 1, 2015, my tuition approval was rescinded . . . . I have also been forced to use vacation time instead of flex time, which is a benefit that is supposed to be available to all staff.” (Id.)

         In January 2016, Bergallo twice offered Bush a “monetary settlement” in exchange for Bush dropping her EEOC charges. (R. 21, PID 216.) One offer was made through the EEOC and the other was made directly to Bush. (Id.) Bush declined. (Id.)

         On January 29, 2016, Bush received a Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act letter informing her that she would be terminated in 60 days. (R. 21, PID 216.) Bush's ...


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