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Dennis v. Donohoe

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Fort Wayne Division

October 31, 2016

CAROLYN S. DENNIS, Plaintiff,
v.
PATRICK R. DONOHOE, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          THERESA L. SPRINGMANN, JUDGE

         This matter comes before the Court on Defendant Patrick Donohoe's, Postmaster General of the United States, Motion for Summary Judgment [ECF No. 39]. The Plaintiff, Carolyn Dennis, filed a Complaint [ECF No. 3] on May 8, 2014, alleging age, gender, and race discrimination, and retaliation, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 2000, Title VII.[1] This matter is fully briefed and ripe for the Court's review.

         FACTS OF THE CASE

         The Court considers the following facts, which are derived from the Defendant's Statement of Material Facts, designated citations to the various declarations, and the Amended Complaint. The Plaintiff submitted a Statement of Material Facts, too, with some citations to the record, as well as an Affidavit[2] and an Exhibit.[3] The Court will summarize those facts necessary for a summary judgment determination, construed in a light most favorable to the Plaintiff. Further, the Court will consider those facts from the Defendants' Statement of Material Facts which are not challenged by the Plaintiff's Affidavit to be undisputed for the purposes of summary judgment. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e)(2).

         A. Relevant Postal Service Personnel

         Plaintiff Carolyn Dennis worked for the United States Postal Service (“USPS”) at the Main Post Office in Fort Wayne, Indiana, “as an EAS-17 Supervisor of Customer Service” from about 1999 until she retired on December 31, 2013. (Stmt. of Material Facts 2, ECF No. 39; Dennis Aff. ¶ 3, ECF No. 47-1.) The only other supervisor at the Main Post Office was Thom Green, a white male employee who was five years older than the Plaintiff and retired from USPS in June 2013. (Green Decl. ¶¶ 1-2; Dennis Req. No. 6, ECF No. 39-1.) However, their duties differed: the Plaintiff “manag[ed] the retail section of the Post Office, including the window and distribution clerks, ” while Green “managed the city letter carriers.” (Dennis Aff. ¶ 38; Green Decl. ¶ 2.) Additionally, the Plaintiff was a non-bargaining unit employee, who was “assigned as needed” to accommodate the operational needs of USPS. (Gerardot Decl. ¶ 3, ECF No. 39-3; Gillig Decl. ¶ 6, ECF No. 39-2.)

         Both the Plaintiff and Green reported directly to Karen Gillig, the Main Post Office's Manager of Customer Service, until June 2013 when Gillig retired. (Dennis Req. for Admis. No. 5; Gerardot Decl. ¶ 1; Gillig Decl. ¶¶ 1-3.) Gillig was not responsible for managing other supervisors located at different post offices in the Fort Wayne area, only those at the Main Post Office. (Dennis Aff. ¶ 9; Gerardot Decl. ¶ 6; Gillig Decl. ¶ 4.). And while Julie Allen, a Bulk Mail Entry Unit Technician, worked at the Main Post Office, Gillig did not manage her because she was a temporary supervisor who could work at other locations. (Gerardot Decl. ¶ 1; Gillig Decl. ¶ 4.) Gillig reported to Dawn Gerardot, who was the Postmaster of the Main Post Office in Fort Wayne, Indiana. (Gerardot Decl. ¶ 1; Gillig Decl. ¶ 1.)[4] The Greater Indiana District's Senior Post Office Operations Manager was David Conwell, who directly supervised Gerardot. (Conwell Aff. ¶ 5, ECF No. 39-5; Dennis Req. No. 3; Gerardot Decl. ¶ 2.)

         B. Changes to Scheduled Days Off

         At some point in early 2013, Conwell met with supervisors and managers in the Fort Wayne area to instruct them to cut back on supervisor over time (“T-time”) in order to reduce USPS operational costs. (Conwell Aff. ¶¶ 11, 13, 17, 20.) One of the identified issues was the Main Post Office's Saturday scheduling: in early 2013, the Plaintiff's scheduled days off were Saturday and Sunday, while Green only had Sunday off so there was supervisory coverage at that location on Saturday. (Id.; Dennis Aff. ¶ 15; Gillig Decl. ¶¶ 2-3; Green Decl. ¶ 3.) Because Green worked six days of the week and only took Sundays off, he accrued roughly 13-14 hours of T-time. (Conwell Aff. ¶¶ 11, 13, 17, 20; Green Decl. ¶ 3.)

         Conwell suggested that Gillig rearrange supervisory coverage on Saturdays so that no single supervisor got T-time on Saturdays. (Conwell Aff. ¶¶ 11, 13, 17, 20; Gillig Decl. ¶ 5.) To achieve that, no supervisor would be allowed to work more than eight hours on Saturday and no supervisor could work more than four other days of the week. (Gillig Decl. ¶ 5.) Given that the carrier operation on Saturday tended to be more than eight hours, this meant that Gillig would have to schedule her two supervisors to work staggered eight hour shifts. (Id.)

         In response to Conwell's directive, Gillig cut T-time in March 2013 by reducing Green's schedule to five working days instead of six, with Green receiving Fridays and Sundays off. (Dennis Req. Nos. 9-10; Gillig Decl. ¶ 5; Gerardot Decl. ¶ 2; Green Decl. ¶ 3.)[5] To increase supervisory coverage on Saturdays, Gillig changed the Plaintiff's scheduled days off from Saturday/Sunday to Sunday/Monday. (Gillig Decl. ¶ 5; Gerardot Decl. ¶ 2; Green Decl. ¶ 3.) As a result, Green lost overtime pay (Green Decl. ¶ 3.) The schedule change did not reduce the Plaintiff's pay or benefits (Gillig Decl. ¶ 5.) When carrier operations relocated from the Main Post Office to the Gabriel Post Office location in summer 2013, there was a reduced need for supervisory coverage on Saturdays. (Gerardot Decl. ¶ 4.) As a result, the Plaintiff's scheduled days off were changed back to Saturday/Sunday in July 2013 and made permanent in October 2013 until her retirement at the end of that year. (Id.; Dennis Aff. ¶ 35; Moore Decl. ¶ 2, ECF No. 39-7.)

         C. Holiday Vacation Requests

         In March 2013, the Plaintiff submitted to Gillig forms requesting 40 hours of time off during the week of Thanksgiving (November 23, 2013 to December 1, 2013) and 40 hours of time off during the week of Christmas (December 21, 2013 to December 29, 2013). (Dennis Aff. ¶ 21; Gillig Decl. ¶ 7.) Gillig was retiring on June 28, 2013, so she thought that her successor should make vacation determinations for personnel during that year's peak holiday times. (Gerardot Decl. ¶ 5; Gillig Decl. ¶ 7.) As such, Gillig denied the Plaintiff's requests for vacation on March 29, 2013, and asked the Plaintiff to resubmit the requests after she retired and her replacement came onboard. (Gillig Decl. ¶ 7.) On May 9, 2013, the Plaintiff resubmitted her leave requests, which were again denied because Gillig had not yet departed. (Id. ¶ 9.) However, Gillig decided to consult her replacement, at which point the Plaintiff's request was approved for Thanksgiving. (Id.) Once Lisa Moore took over as Acting Manager of the Main Post Office in 2013, the Plaintiff resubmitted her Christmas vacation requests on November 4, 2013, and November 8, 2013, which were ultimately approved. (Moore Decl. ¶ 2)[6]

         COMPLAINT ALLEGATIONS AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         The Plaintiff has alleged discrimination against the Defendant based on her age, gender, and race, and retaliation for prior Equal Employment Opportunity (“EEO”) filings. The specific incidents supporting her claim are (1) the changing of her non-scheduled days from Saturday/Sunday to Sunday/Monday and (2) the denial of her holiday vacation requests in 2013. (Compl. ¶ 5, ECF No. 3.) The Plaintiff argued that other employees, including Green, received their requested days off when she did not (id. ΒΆΒΆ 15-16), and that her ...


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