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Bonner v. Bosal Industries - Georgia, Inc.

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

October 10, 2017

CHERYL BONNER, Plaintiff,
v.
BOSAL INDUSTRIES - GEORGIA, INC., Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT [20]

          STEPHEN J. MURPHY, III UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Cheryl Bonner sued her former employer, Defendant Bosal Industries - Georgia, Inc., and alleged gender discrimination and retaliation in violation of Title VII as well as pendent state claims under Michigan's Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act. ECF 1. Now before the Court is Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment. ECF 20. The issues have been fully briefed, and the Court held a hearing. For the reasons set forth below, the Court will deny Defendant's Motion.

         BACKGROUND[1]

         Plaintiff began her permanent employment with Defendant in December 2010 as a Quality Operator. ECF 25-2, PgID 389, 393. Four years later, Plaintiff was promoted to Shift Manager and paid a $55, 000 annual salary. ECF 20-3, PgID 104. Defendant admits that Plaintiff's salary was $2, 000 less than that of two male co-workers, Mustafa Saif and Bernard Harris, who were each promoted to Shift Manager around the same time. ECF 20, PgID 77; ECF 20-32, PgID 270.

         In early 2015, Plaintiff complained internally that an Operations Manager had made sexist comments and treated her less favorably than her male counterparts. ECF 25-2, PgID 411-13; ECF 25-11, PgID 465. Plaintiff ultimately took her complaint to the EEOC on July 6, 2015. ECF 20-33, PgID 273. Afterwards, Defendant alleges Plaintiff had a slew of documented performance issues. See, e.g., ECF 20, PgID 76-80; ECF 20-22; ECF 20-25. Less than two months after Plaintiff filed her EEOC complaint, Defendant issued a "Final Warning Memo" threatening termination. ECF 20-27, PgID 255. After the final warning was issued, there was an incident in which Plaintiff allegedly did not properly address a malfunctioning machine during critical production time. ECF 20-29, PgID 259-60. Defendant terminated Plaintiff shortly thereafter, ECF 25-11, PgID 476, and Plaintiff brought suit.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         The Court must 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). The moving party must identify specific portions of the record "which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). Once the moving party has met its burden, the non-moving party may not simply rest on the pleadings, but must present "specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)) (emphasis omitted).

         A fact is material if proof of that fact would establish or refute an essential element of the cause of action or defense. Kendall v. Hoover Co., 751 F.2d 171, 174 (6th Cir. 1984). A dispute over material facts is genuine "if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). In considering a motion for summary judgment, the Court must view the facts and draw all reasonable inferences " in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party." 60 Ivy St. Corp. v. Alexander, 822 F.2d 1432, 1435 (6th Cir. 1987).

         DISCUSSION

         I. Discrimination Claim

         Plaintiff alleges that Defendant violated 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2 by paying two male Shift Managers a $2, 000 higher salary. ECF 1, PgID 3-4. Because Plaintiff relies on circumstantial evidence, ECF 25, PgID 375, the Court must apply the burden-shifting test outlined in McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792 (1973) and Tex. Dep't of Cmty. Affairs v. Burdine, 450 U.S. 248 (1981) to analyze the claim. Under authority of those cases, Plaintiff bears the initial burden of establishing a prima facie case of discrimination. Burdine, 450 U.S. at 252-53. To make the showing, Plaintiff must prove that (i) she is a member of a protected class, (ii) she was subjected to an adverse employment decision, (iii) she was qualified for the position, and (iv) similarly situated members of a non-protected class were treated more favorably. Peltier v. United States, 388 F.3d 984, 987 (6th Cir. 2004). Plaintiff's burden is not onerous at the initial phase. Burdine, 450 U.S. at 253.

         If Plaintiff discharges her initial burden, the burden shifts to Defendant to articulate a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for the adverse employment action. Id. Defendant does not need to persuade the Court that it was actually motivated by the proffered reasons. Id. at 254. Rather, it needs only to raise a genuine issue of fact as to whether it discriminated against Plaintiff. Id.

         If Defendant discharges its burden, then the final burden shifts back to Plaintiff "to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the legitimate reasons offered by the defendant were not its true reasons[.]" Id. at 253. To do so, Plaintiff must identify evidence from which a reasonable jury could conclude that the proffered reason is actually pretext for unlawful discrimination. Provenzano v. LCI Holdings, Inc., 663 F.3d 806, 812 (6th Cir. 2011).

         Addressing each step in turn, the Court will find that Plaintiff's claim survives the burden-shifting test and deny ...


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