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Bean v. Indiana Department of Transportation

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, New Albany Division

September 8, 2014

KEVIN E. BEAN, Plaintiff,
v.
INDIANA DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION, Defendant.

ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

SARAH EVANS BARKER, District Judge.

This cause is before the Court on Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment [Docket No. 37], filed on January 29, 2014, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 and Local Rule 56.1, and Plaintiff's Motion to Strike [Docket No. 61], filed on April 7, 2014. Plaintiff, Kevin E. Bean, brings this claim against his former employer, Defendant Indiana Department of Transportation ("INDOT"), alleging that INDOT terminated him because of his sex (male), in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"). For the reasons detailed in this entry, we DENY Plaintiff's Motion to Strike and GRANT Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment.

Factual Background

General Background

Kevin Bean began working for INDOT in 1994 as an at-will employee. He started out as a mechanic and served in that position for almost ten years. In 2004, Mr. Bean earned a promotion and began working in INDOT's subdistrict office located in Aurora, Indiana, where he ran special jobs for the subdistrict manager, which included drafting schedules for salting, mowing and other maintenance tasks, arranging to have the necessary equipment for jobs, and participating in the creation of reports on mowing and salt usage. Bean Dep. at 17-20.

In August 2010, Mr. Bean earned a promotion to Aurora-unit foreman. While employed as the unit foreman, Mr. Bean reported directly to Tom Armbruster, the subdistrict operations manager. Mr. Armbruster was supervised by Gary Vandegriff who in turn reported to the district manager, Kathy Eaton-McKalip. Both crew leaders as well as maintenance workers for the Aurora Unit reported to Mr. Bean. During the relevant time period, Teresa Souders and Mark Miller were the two crew leaders in the Aurora Unit, which also included ten highway maintenance crew members. Id. at 32-34; Miller Dep. at 6. As unit foreman, Mr. Bean was responsible for supervising the Aurora Unit, maintaining the highways located within the Unit, ensuring a safe environment for those who worked there, monitoring the weather, and checking on job sites.[1] Bean Dep. at 35-37.

Plaintiff's Discipline of Crew Leader

One of Mr. Bean's powers as unit foreman was the ability to issue reprimands. However, Mr. Bean maintains that he routinely consulted Mr. Armbruster for guidance before issuing discipline. According to Mr. Bean, he always forwarded his disciplinary drafts to Mr. Armbruster and he never issued unsigned reprimands while a unit foreman. Id. at 80-82. With Mr. Armbruster's approval, Mr. Bean on one occasion issued Ms. Souders[2] a reprimand for insubordination because she had come in from mowing at 1:30 p.m. when her shift did not end until 5:00 p.m. and then purposefully brought her crew in late from the job site the next day so that INDOT was required to pay them overtime. Id. at 83-84. In June 2009, Mr. Armbruster issued to Ms. Souders a "letter of counseling" for falsification of records and dishonesty based on her failure to honor her agreement to abstain from the use of tobacco products in order to receive a reduction in her group health insurance deductible. Souders Dep. Exh. 1. Ms. Souders signed the counseling letter at the time it was issued but testified that she does not recall the incident. Souders Dep. at 24-25, 31, 36-37.

Mr. Bean testified that he otherwise found Ms. Souders's job performance to be satisfactory and he did not issue her any other reprimands or written discipline while he was her supervisor. Bean Dep. at 33-35, 84. However, Mr. Bean also testified that members of her crew complained to him about working for her because she acted like she did not have to follow rules, impermissibly set her own schedule for jobs, and came in late from jobs or did not finish them. Id. at 51-54, 57, 95. Both Mr. Miller (the other crew leader Mr. Bean supervised) and Terri Hartwell (Mr. Armbruster's administrative assistant) testified that they had heard similar complaints about Ms. Souder's supervision. Miller Dep. at 9; Hartwell Dep. at 21-22. Despite these alleged issues as crew leader, Ms. Souders reportedly publicly stated on multiple occasions that she wanted Mr. Bean's job. Bean Dep. at 60, 65-66; Miller Dep. at 9-10, 21.

Allegations Regarding Inaccurate Fuel Logs

Until the events underlying this litigation occurred, Mr. Bean maintained a clean disciplinary record throughout his eighteen-year tenure, regularly received performance ratings of meets or exceeds expectations, and was consistently promoted. However, in the fall of 2011, Ms. Souders reported to Mr. Vandegriff and Brooke Coomer from Human Resources that she had concerns about Mr. Bean and Mr. Armbruster. Specifically, Ms. Souders reported that there were discrepancies in INDOT's fuel logs and that she believed Mr. Bean had falsified the logs. She further stated that fuel and other equipment was missing from the Aurora Unit. In support of her allegations, she supplied copies of fuel logs she had previously turned in to Mr. Bean. Souder Dep. at 20-24; Commer Dep. at 24. Other employees within the Aurora Unit, including Greg Shell and Ms. Hartwell reported similar issues, to wit, that the fuel logs were not accurate and that fuel was missing. Vandegriff Dep. at 45.

Throughout the time period relevant to this litigation, INDOT used a fuel truck operated by Ms. Souders to refuel its vehicles. Ms. Souders would deliver the fuel to various job sites and the employees who refueled from the truck were supposed to record the amount of fuel used, along with the vehicle receiving it, on the log Souders kept in her truck. Bean Dep. at 41-42, 61. The logs were then turned over to Mr. Bean to deliver to Ms. Hartwell who entered the information from the fuel logs into the computer at the office, generating fuel usage reports that were sent straight to the Aurora subdistrict office. Id. at 43-45, 55. According to Mr. Bean, reviewing these reports was not part of his job duties as listed in his position description, nor was he told that he was responsible for entering fuel use into the fuel log when he was a unit foreman. Mr. Bean further contends that he was not responsible for the electronic entering of fuel information from the fuel logs on to the computer and that he did not even have access to the fuel logs on his computer. Id. at 43, 54-55.

Ms. Souders was responsible for completing her own fuel logs and turning them in to Mr. Bean. Bean Dep. at 60. Although Ms. Souders and all other employees who fueled INDOT vehicles were supposed to track their fuel use on the logs and give them to Mr. Bean each night to deliver to Ms. Hartwell, Mr. Miller testified that on one occasion he discovered that Ms. Souders had been keeping more than one month's worth of fuel receipts in the cab of her vehicle without turning them into Mr. Bean. According to Mr. Miller, Ms. Souders's conduct caused him to be concerned that she was trying to make Mr. Bean's records appear inaccurate by failing to turn over her fuel receipts. Miller Dep. at 12-15; 21-22. It is not clear whether Mr. Miller ever reported this to his supervisors or anyone else at INDOT.

Defendant's Investigation of Plaintiff

Based on Ms. Souders's concerns, Mr. Vandegriff and Ms. Coomer commenced an investigation into the fuel records. Vandegriff Dep. at 49. During their investigation, they collected one month of fuel logs from the Aurora Unit and compared them to the copies Ms. Souders had provided from her records as well as fuel logs found on Mr. Bean's desk. Coomer Dep. at 24. Upon comparison, Mr. Vandegriff and Ms. Coomer noticed that several of the sheets showed discrepancies in the amount of fuel used; specifically, the comparison revealed that fuel was missing. Mr. Vandegriff and Ms. Coomer also observed that after Ms. Souders completed the portions of the forms she was responsible for, additional entries had been made to balance the sheets, and the previous totals were erased in order to cover up the missing fuel. Id. at 25-26. Mr. Bean's signature appeared at the bottom of the records that had been altered. Id. at 27.

As part of their investigation, Mr. Vandegriff and Ms. Coomer also interviewed crew members regarding the records and they discovered that some of the employees' signatures had been falsified. INDOT maintains that none of the employees suggested that Ms. Souders was involved in falsifying the fuel logs, and Ms. Coomer testified by deposition that two other (unidentified) male employees reported that they believed Mr. Bean may have made entries on the logs to balance out the numbers. Id. Mr. Vandegriff, however, testified that Ms. Souders was the only employee whom he remembered claiming that Mr. Bean had falsified fuel records. Vandegriff Dep. at 59-60. According to INDOT, at the conclusion of the investigation, Mr. Bean was brought in to discuss ...


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