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Gill v. Suburban Cadillac of Lansing, LLC

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

January 14, 2020

Teandra S. Gill, Plaintiff,
v.
Suburban Cadillac of Lansing, LLC, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          PHILLIP J. GREEN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         This case arises out of Plaintiff Teandra Gill's brief employment with Defendant Suburban Cadillac of Lansing, Michigan. Plaintiff filed this action, pro se, pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act (Title VII) and the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act (ELCRA), claiming that Defendant discriminated against her on the basis of her race and retaliated against her for complaining about discriminatory conduct by creating a hostile work environment and terminating her employment.[1]

         This matter is now before the Court on Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment. (ECF No. 40). Plaintiff has responded. (ECF No. 41). For the reasons articulated herein, the motion will be granted.

         Background

         The following facts are beyond genuine dispute.[2] Plaintiff began her employment with Defendant on August 15, 2016. She was hired to work in the Business Development Center (BDC), and her duties included responding to internet inquiries regarding the purchase or lease of vehicles, and scheduling appointments with sales and financing staff. She was one of three BDC representatives who were assigned to handle these internet leads. The internet leads were randomly assigned to the various BDC representatives on a “round robin system.” The representatives were paid a salary plus an amount for each appointment scheduled, with an additional bonus for appointments kept. If a representative was absent from work, or for some reason did not respond to the lead within a specified period of time, the lead would be forwarded to the next representative in line. Similarly, if a BDC representative was not able to take a customer's call, that call would be forwarded to the next representative in line. (Complaint ¶¶ 22-26, ECF No. 1, PageID.5-6; Pltf's Dep. Tr. 18, 27-28 ECF No. 40-3, PageID.285, 294-95; Krueger Affidavit ¶ 3, ECF No. 40-2, PageID.262).

         Plaintiff developed attendance problems shortly after coming to work for Suburban Cadillac. “She [ ] missed full days and would often come in late or leave early.” (Krueger Affidavit ¶ 5, PageID.262).

         In September 2016, Plaintiff began complaining that her leads were being “stolen.” (Complaint at ¶ 27, PageID.6; Pltf's Dep. Tr. at 38, PageID.305). Nathan Krueger, the new car sales manager, attempted to explain to Plaintiff that, when she was absent from work, her leads were transferred to other BDC representatives. He also reviewed the records, which revealed that Plaintiff was receiving her share of leads, noting that “on many occasions she received the most leads of the department.” (Krueger Affidavit ¶¶ 3-4, PageID.262).

         Plaintiff's attendance problems continued. She missed work on December 8, 9, and 15. On December 16, 2016, Mr. Krueger and used car sales manager Karl Hassenwinkle met with Plaintiff to counsel her about her poor attendance.[3] At this meeting, Mr. Kreuger admonished Plaintiff that her poor attendance was unacceptable, that her attendance was being documented, and that continued poor attendance could result in termination. Mr. Krueger has similarly taken disciplinary action against Caucasian employees for poor attendance. (Krueger Affidavit ¶¶ 6, 9, PageID.262-63).

         Plaintiff's attendance problems persisted. (See Employee Time Card Report, ECF No. 40-5, PageID.338-40). She left work at 1:52 p.m. on December 22, 2016, when she was scheduled to work until 6:00 p.m. (12/22/16 Request for Approved Time Off, ECF No. 40-5, PageID.336).[4] She noted that she left because she was “sick.” (Id.). Plaintiff came to work four hours late on December 30, 2016. (1/2/17 Request for Approved Time Off, ECF No. 40-5, PageID.335). She ascribed her tardiness to “car trouble.” (Id.). Plaintiff failed to appear at work at all on January 10, 2017. (1/12/17 Request for Approved Time Off, ECF No. 40-5, PageID.334). She simply noted: “called in/missed work.” (Id.).

         Mr. Kreuger then made the decision to terminate Plaintiff's employment due to poor attendance. (Krueger Affidavit at ¶ 8, PageID.263). Plaintiff's termination was effected January 12, 2017, and it was documented on an Employee Separation Form, signed by Plaintiff, which noted “excessive absenteeism.” (ECF No. 40-4, PageID.332).[5]Mr. Krueger denies that Plaintiff's race played any role in this decision. (Krueger Affidavit at ¶ 10, PageID.263).

         Plaintiff filed this action on June 18, 2018. Count one claims disparate impact racial discrimination, in violation of Title VII; count two claims hostile work environment racial discrimination, in violation of Title VII; count three raises a retaliation claim under Title VII; count four claims disparate impact racial discrimination, in violation of the ELCRA; and count five asserts a reprisal claim under the ELCRA.

         Summary Judgment Standard

         Summary judgment "shall" be granted "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 party moving for summary judgment can satisfy its burden by demonstrating "that the respondent, having had sufficient opportunity for discovery, has no evidence to support an essential element of his or her case." Minadeo v. ICI Paints, 398 F.3d 751, 761 (6th Cir. 2005). Once the moving party demonstrates that "there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case," the non-moving party "must identify specific facts that can be established by admissible evidence, which demonstrate a genuine issue for trial." Amini v. Oberlin College, 440 F.3d 350, 357 (6th Cir. 2006).

         While the Court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, the party opposing the summary judgment motion "must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Amini, 440 F.3d at 357. The existence of a mere "scintilla of evidence" in support of the non-moving party's position is insufficient. Daniels v. Woodside, 396 F.3d 730, 734-35 (6th Cir. 2005). The non-moving party "may not rest upon [his] mere allegations," but must instead present "significant probative evidence" establishing that "there is a genuine issue for trial." Pack v. Damon Corp., 434 F.3d 810, 813-14 (6th Cir. 2006).

         Moreover, the non-moving party cannot defeat a properly supported motion for summary judgment by "simply arguing that it relies solely or in part upon credibility determinations." Fogerty v. MGM Group Holdings Corp., Inc., 379 F.3d 348, 353 (6th Cir. 2004). Rather, the non-moving party "must be able to point to some facts which may or will entitle him to judgment, or refute the proof of the moving party in some material portion, and . . . may not merely recite the incantation, 'Credibility,' and have a trial on the hope that a jury may disbelieve factually uncontested proof." Id. at 353-54. In sum, summary judgment is appropriate "against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Daniels, 396 F.3d at 735.

         Analysis

         I. Plaintiffs Disparate Impact Claims (Counts 1 & 4).

         In count 1 of her complaint, Plaintiff claims that Defendant violated Title VII in that “[its] unlawful business practices had an adverse and disproportionate impact on her because of her race/color, Black.” (Complaint ¶ 47, PageID.9). Count 4 invokes the ELCRA, and it essentially mirrors the allegations ...


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