Argued: March 14, 2019
from the United States District Court for the Eastern
District of Michigan at Detroit. No. 2:16-cv-14051-Bernard A.
Friedman, District Judge.
W. Palmer, PITT, MCGEHEE, PALMER & RIVERS, P.C., Royal
Oak, Michigan, for Appellant.
W. McInerney, CLARK HILL PLC, Detroit, Michigan, for
W. Palmer, Beth M. Rivers, PITT, MCGEHEE, PALMER &
RIVERS, P.C., Royal Oak, Michigan, for Appellant.
W. McInerney, CLARK HILL PLC, Detroit, Michigan, for
Before: CLAY and STRANCH, Circuit Judges; PEARSON, DISTRICT
Debra Redlin appeals the district court's grant of
summary judgment for Defendant Grosse Pointe Public School
System. She argues on appeal that the district court erred
because a genuine issue of material fact existed as to her
claims that Defendant discriminated against her on the basis
of her gender and retaliated against her in violation of
Title VII and Michigan's Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act
("ELCRA"), and as to her Family and Medical Leave
Act ("FMLA") retaliation claim. For the reasons set
forth below, we AFFIRM IN PART and
REVERSE IN PART the district court's
grant of Defendant's motion for summary judgment and
REMAND the case for trial.
was hired as an Assistant Principal at Grosse Pointe South
High School ("GPSHS") in September of 2012. In
2014, Deputy Superintendent Jon Dean informed another
Assistant Principal, Terry Flint, that he planned to conduct
a spot-check on a social worker suspected of being
intoxicated at work. Dean told Flint not to warn the social
worker in advance of the spot-check, but Flint disobeyed this
order and warned the social worker. Dean found out that Flint
had done so, but Flint denied it when Dean confronted him.
Later, Flint confessed, and a letter of concern was placed in
his file as punishment.
summer of 2014, Moussa Hamka became principal of GPSHS.
Plaintiff had difficulties with certain changes instituted by
Hamka, including transferring Plaintiff's secretary and
requiring her to share Flint's secretary. Plaintiff was
also dissatisfied with Hamka's reapportionment of work
between her and Flint.
December of 2014, Flint made some statements to Plaintiff
about his evaluation of GPSHS media specialist
Although Flint disputes her account of the incident,
Plaintiff took the statements to mean that Flint was
"trying to nail"-i.e., be very harsh
on-C.M. in his evaluation. (R. 26-2, Plaintiff Depo., Page ID#
469-71.) Plaintiff told C.M. to "keep an eye on her
evaluation." (Id., Page ID# 471-72.) C.M. then
discussed the matter with Hamka, and Hamka had Plaintiff
write a statement about the incident. Plaintiff was told that
she would be disciplined for telling a staff member about an
ongoing review by another administrator.
the incident with C.M., Plaintiff complained to Dean about
Hamka's comments and conduct toward her. Dean understood
this to be a complaint relating to gender discrimination and
harassment, which Plaintiff elected to resolve through an
informal process. As part of an informal investigation by
Dean and Director of Secondary Education Maureen Bur, a
meeting occurred between Dean, Bur, Hamka, and Plaintiff,
wherein Hamka apologized for past comments and for making
Plaintiff feel uncomfortable (but did not admit harassment).
At this meeting, Plaintiff and Hamka "committed to work
together in a collaborative, supportive fashion." (R.
20-12, 12/11/2014 Dean Email, Page ID# 330.) After their
investigation, Dean and Bur concluded that no harassment had
occurred. Plaintiff declined to pursue her complaint through
a formal process.
this meeting and the resolution of Dean and Bur's
investigation, Dean and Plaintiff met to discuss what
Plaintiff had done wrong in warning C.M. about Flint's
evaluation and what her punishment would be. Dean agreed to
hold Plaintiff's discipline in abeyance, since he knew
she was applying for administrative positions in other
districts. Plaintiff took Dean's statement-that she would
be disciplined "[u]nless [she] g[o]t another position by
the end of the year"-as a threat suggesting that Dean
wanted her to leave the district. (R. 26-2, Plaintiff Depo.,
Page ID# 519-20.) Dean also threatened to place a letter of
suspension in Plaintiff's file.
March of 2015, Plaintiff heard a rumor that Hamka and a
teacher named L.L. had been in Hamka's office together
after school hours. Plaintiff discussed the rumor with Flint.
Flint confirmed that he and others were aware of the rumor.
Around the same time, Dean and Bur independently heard rumors
about Hamka and L.L. and visited GPSHS to investigate them.
Upon finding out that Flint and Plaintiff were both aware of
the rumor but had not come forward about it, Dean told the
assistant principals that they had acted inappropriately.
However, neither Plaintiff nor Flint received punishment
immediately after the incident.
year-end evaluation, Plaintiff received a "minimally
effective" rating for the 2014-2015 school year in her
personnel file, but an "effective" rating was sent
to the State of Michigan as a "placeholder" pending
Plaintiff's job search. (R. 26-5, Dean Depo., Page ID#
732-33.) By contrast, Flint simply received an
"effective" rating. Plaintiff was given a negative
evaluation due to her conduct in warning C.M. about
Flint's evaluation and in inappropriately handling the
rumor regarding L.L. and Hamka. As a result of this review,
Plaintiff received only a one-year contract instead of a
two-year rolling contract. She was subject to termination if,
at the end of the following school year, she did not receive
an "effective" evaluation. She also became
ineligible for any merit pay or step increases for which she
might otherwise have been eligible. Finally, Plaintiff was
placed on an Individualized Development Plan
("IDP") for the year following this
"minimally effective" evaluation.
of 2015, Gary Niehaus became the district's
superintendent. Niehaus decided to transfer Plaintiff to
Parcells Middle School because of her gender complaint
against Hamka and her warning to C.M. about Flint's
point in summer of 2015, Dean asked Plaintiff to resign, and
Parcells Middle School, to which she was transferred,
Plaintiff was paid at the lower rate for middle school
assistant principals for two years. Niehaus claims this was
in error, and Plaintiff was given backpay for the two-year
period consistent with a high school assistant
took FMLA leave from November 17, 2015 to March 14, 2016 due
to stress. Dean informed Plaintiff that because she had
missed so much of the school year, she would not be able to
receive a full year-end evaluation but would instead receive
an "interim evaluation" for the 2016-2017 school
year. (R. 26-21, 4/13/2016 Dean Email, Page ID# 856.)
However, unbeknownst to Plaintiff, Niehaus later ordered that
Plaintiff be given a full evaluation. Plaintiff received an
"effective" rating on this evaluation, meaning she
was once again given a two-year contract and taken off the
filed an EEOC charge in December of 2015 alleging gender
discrimination and retaliation for her previously filed
complaint of gender discrimination and harassment, and the
EEOC issued a "right to sue" letter on August 17,
2016. Plaintiff filed suit against Defendant in the Eastern
District of Michigan on November 15, 2016, alleging that
Defendant 1) discriminated against Plaintiff due to her
gender and sexually harassed her in violation of Title VII of
the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), 42
U.S.C. § 2000e et seq.; 2) retaliated against
Plaintiff for engaging in protected activity in violation of
Title VII; and 3) retaliated against Plaintiff for requesting
and taking leave in violation of the Family and Medical Leave
Act of 1993 ("FMLA"), 29 U.S.C. § 2601 et
seq. Plaintiff amended her complaint to add allegations
that Defendant 4) discriminated against Plaintiff due to her
gender and sexually harassed her in violation of
Michigan's Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act
("ELCRA"), Mich. Comp. Laws § 37.2101 et
seq.; and 5) retaliated against Plaintiff for engaging
in protected activity in violation of the ELCRA.
discovery, Defendant moved for summary judgment on all
claims. The district court granted Defendant's motion,
and Plaintiff timely appealed.
challenges the district court's order granting summary
judgment for Defendant. Plaintiff argues that her claims of
sex discrimination and retaliation in violation of Title VII
(and analogous Michigan law) present genuine issues of
material fact, as does her FMLA retaliation claim, and that
summary judgment was therefore improper.
Plaintiff's claims on appeal concern whether the district
court erred in granting summary judgment, which we review
de novo. Holloway v. Brush, 220 F.3d 767,
772 (6th Cir. 2000) (en banc). Summary judgment is proper
where "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 bears the burden of proving that there is no
such genuine issue. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477
U.S. 317, 323 (1986). Whether a fact is "material"
depends on whether its resolution might affect the outcome of
the case. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S.
242, 248 (1986). In considering a summary judgment motion,
this Court must "consider the evidence in the light most
favorable to the non-moving parties, drawing all justifiable
inferences in their favor." Payne v. Novartis Pharm.
Corp., 767 F.3d 526, 530 (6th Cir. 2014) (citing
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255). "The ultimate
question is whether the evidence presents a sufficient
factual disagreement to require submission of the case to the
jury, or whether the evidence is so one-sided that the moving
parties should prevail as a matter of law." Id.
(citing Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255).
Title VII and ELCRA Gender Discrimination Claims
claims that Defendant violated Title VII and the ELCRA by
discriminating against her on account of her gender. She
claims this discrimination took the form of a transfer from
GPSHS to Parcells Middle School, a "minimally
effective" rating in her evaluation for the 2014-2015
school year, and other negative treatment.
Title VII's anti-discrimination provision, it is "an
unlawful employment practice for an employer . . . to
discriminate against any individual with respect to his
compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment,
because of such individual's race, color, religion, sex,
or national origin." 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(1).
Under § 202 of the ELCRA, "[a]n employer shall not
. . . [f]ail or refuse to hire or recruit, discharge, or
otherwise discriminate against an individual with respect to
employment compensation, or a term, condition or privilege of
employment, because of religion, race, color, national
origin, age, sex, height, weight, or marital status."
Mich. Comp. Laws § 37.2202(1)(a).
plaintiff may show discrimination by direct evidence, or a
plaintiff lacking direct evidence of discrimination may
succeed on a Title VII claim by presenting indirect evidence
under the framework first set forth in McDonnell Douglas
Corp v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 802-03 ...