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Spreckelmeyer v. Indiana State Police Department

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

November 23, 2016




         This matter is before the Court on the Defendant, Indiana State Police Department's (“ISP”) Motion for Summary Judgment filed pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. (Filing No. 37.) Plaintiff Shannon Spreckelmeyer (“Spreckelmeyer”) filed this action against her former employer, ISP, asserting claims of sex discrimination and retaliation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e (“ Title VII”). ISP asks for summary judgment in its favor on the Title VII claims, arguing that Spreckelmeyer cannot support her claims in that ISP had legitimate, nondiscriminatory reasons for not transitioning Spreckelmeyer to a civilian position after her retirement as a merit trooper. For the following reasons, the Court GRANTS in part and DENIES in part ISP's Motion for Summary Judgment.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The following facts are not necessarily objectively true, but, as required by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, the facts are presented in the light most favorable to Spreckelmeyer as the non-moving party. See Zerante v. DeLuca, 555 F.3d 582, 584 (7th Cir. 2009); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986).

         Spreckelmeyer began her employment with ISP in August 1978. She worked as a merit trooper, having police powers. At the time her employment ended with ISP in July 2014, she held the position of an analytical/unit supervisor in the forensic latent prints unit within the Laboratory Division. (Filing No. 15 at 3.)

         Spreckelmeyer became eligible for retirement after twenty-five years of service with ISP. ISP offers a voluntary Deferred Retirement Option Plan (“DROP”), which provides certain pension and retirement benefits, and ISP employees are eligible to sign up for the program after reaching twenty-five years of service. The DROP program requires individuals to retire within three years of entering plan. In July 2011, Spreckelmeyer became eligible and chose to enter the DROP program. Therefore, she was required to retire no later than July 2014. (Filing No. 40-3 at 4-5.)

         Throughout her employment with ISP, Spreckelmeyer continuously met the legitimate and reasonable expectations associated with her positions. ISP consistently provided her with positive performance evaluations and she was never formally disciplined. (Filing No. 15 at 3.)

         In the spring of 2013, Spreckelmeyer was one of two remaining non-civilian analytical supervisors in the Laboratory Division. The other non-civilian analytical supervisor was a man named Mark Keisler (“Keisler”). Spreckelmeyer and Keisler were supervisors in different units within the Laboratory Division-Spreckelmeyer in the forensic latent prints unit and Keisler in the firearms unit. As unit supervisors, they had similar job duties. Spreckelmeyer and Keisler were subject to the same rules, policies, and procedures in April 2013. They were subject to the same chain of command and shared the same supervisor. They were both First Sergeants in April 2013. (Filing No. 15 at 3-4; Filing No. 40-3 at 5.) Spreckelmeyer never worked in the firearms unit where Keisler was employed. She recognized that Keisler was considered a nationally recognized expert in the field of firearms, and acknowledges that while it is a matter of opinion, she did not consider herself a nationally recognized expert in her field of latent prints. (Filing No. 40-3 at 5-6.)

         Keisler sought a civilian position with ISP after his retirement as a merit trooper. Un like Spreckelmeyer, Keisler was not in the DROP program. When Keisler retired as a merit trooper in May 2013, he was a First Sergeant. Before his retirement, a forensic scientist position became available at ISP, so when Keisler retired as a police employee in May 2013, he transitioned into the position as a civilian employee in the Laboratory Division as a supervisor of the firearms unit. Before and after the transition to civilian status, Keisler performed the same job duties and had the same chain of command. ISP did not open Keisler's civilian position for bidding, and it did not take applications or conduct interviews for Keisler's civilian position. (Filing No. 15 at 4-5; Filing No. 40-3 at 5; Filing No. 40-4 at 3.) Before Keisler's retirement and transition into the civilian position, he had never complained of discrimination or threatened a lawsuit against ISP. (Filing No. 40-4 at 7.)

         With respect to Keisler's civilian position, ISP submitted its conversion request to the strategic hiring committee on April 5, 2013, while Keisler was still employed, and it was approved shortly thereafter by Superintendent Carter. (Filing No. 40-9.) In order to fund Keisler's civilian position, ISP moved a vacant supervisory position from the latent print unit, Spreckelmeyer's unit, into the firearms unit. (Filing No. 40-4 at 6-8.)

         Like Keisler, Spreckelmeyer desired a civilian position with ISP after her retirement as a merit trooper. On September 16, 2013, Spreckelmeyer emailed Superintendent Carter to explain,

My drop date is July 5, 2014, and it is my desire to finish my drop time as a State Trooper. . . . My current position in the laboratory is Unit Supervisor for the Latent Print and Photography Units. . . . I have been told there will no longer be two Latent Print Unit Supervisors as that position was moved to keep Mark Keisler as the civilian Firearms Supervisor, a very good move for the department. My situation and Mark's mirror each other except for the fact I am in the drop program and have a concrete end date of 7-5-14. I very much wish to return to my position in a civilian capacity. . . . I know you cannot guarantee I will be able to return as a civilian even though a latent print supervisor's position will be needed upon my retirement. If this seems premature, I am raising this issue now because currently the possibility of not being able to remain with the department due to the fact there is no civilian position for a supervisor of latent prints and photography is weighing heavy on me.

(Filing No. 40-10).

         Having not received a response to her September 2013 email, Spreckelmeyer sent another email to Superintendent Carter on March 20, 2014, which stated, I very much want to continue to serve the Indiana State Police and the laboratory under your command.

I have spoken to Lt. Colonel Turner on several occasions concerning my position as the fingerprint supervisor and the fact it will convert to a civilian position (E-7). I cannot seem to receive an answer as to my returning to my position in a civilian capacity and time is limited due to my drop date being July 5. I have been told there is currently no position and then I was told there was no money. There is a possibility that an E-7 position may become available as the Indianapolis Lab Manager has recently interviewed for the firearms examiner's position at the Lowell Lab. Mark Keisler was retained at the low end of the pay scale for an experienced E-7 and I have seen in the past that positions have been found and moved. The fingerprint unit's 2nd civilian fingerprint supervisor position was moved so Mark Keisler could be retained. . . . I am not complaining just stating facts. . . . I continue to be frustrated by the lack of communication and different answers I keep receiving . . . .

(Filing No. 40-11).

         Superintendent Carter forwarded Spreckelmeyer's March 20, 2014 email to Lieutenant Colonel Larry Turner, a member of the command staff, and asked for Turner's thoughts, noting, “I remember you said that we were waiting to see how Shannon [Spreckelmeyer] did during these last few months.” Id.

         On March 27, 2014, Superintendent Carter responded to Spreckelmeyer. He explained,

I am very clear on what you hope to accomplish and understand some of your frustration. While answers seem to be simple, they NEVER are and I am doing the best I can in regards to our timeline. You have not gotten absolute answers from LTC Turner or Major Holland because they do not know the answer - those are the facts. Additionally, comparing one employee issue to another, or one job to another, generally speaking is an unfair comparison.

(Filing No. 40-12).

         Each of the conversations between Superintendent Carter and Spreckelmeyer involving Spreckelmeyer's impending retirement and desire to transition to a civilian position were cordial and friendly. During a conversation at the War Memorial, Superintendent Carter indicated he hoped that Spreckelmeyer would be able to come back and work for him. During her exit interview, Superintendent Carter and Spreckelmeyer discussed her desire to return to ISP, but they never discussed the possibility of a latent print position being created for her. Spreckelmeyer acknowledged that Superintendent Carter never said anything to her in their conversations that led her to believe she was being discriminated against based on her gender. (Filing No. 40-3 at 7-8.) Spreckelmeyer retired from ISP as a merit trooper on July 5, 2014, and she was not employed by ISP in a civilian position following her retirement. (Filing No. 15 at 6.)

         ISP had represented to Spreckelmeyer that a civilian latent print unit supervisor position, and funding for such a position, was not available leading up to and at the time of her retirement. Pamela Douglas, ISP's human resources manager, believes that ISP tried to find funding for a civilian position before Spreckelmeyer's retirement, but the positions that had been found for funding did not add up to the funding needed for the civilian position. (Filing No. 40-5 at 10.) However, Pamela Douglas also testified that no efforts or communications to fund the position were made until after Spreckelmeyer's retirement. After Spreckelmeyer retired, her salary reverted back to ISP's regular operating account, and according to ISP's internal documents, the subsequently converted civilian latent print supervisor position was funded 96.6% with “General Funds.” (Filing No. 40-5 at 10, 12; Filing No. 40-17.) Furthermore, ISP's request to reclassify a “Clerical Assistant 3” position to a civilian latent print supervisor position was not made until January 27, 2015, more than six months after Spreckelmeyer's retirement and a month after she filed her charge of discrimination with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”). (Filing No. 40-16.)

         On January 29, 2015, ISP submitted its conversion request to the strategic hiring committee to allow the latent print unit supervisor position to become a civilian position. The request noted that it had been “reviewed and approved by the Superintendent.” It further noted that, “[s]everal years ago, the process was started to ‘convert' former police positions to civilian positions, thereby allowing the Department to utilize the law enforcement skills of Troopers in a more efficient manner. This request follows that model.” (Filing No. 40-6.) ISP also indicated that “in accordance with established strategy, the position needs to be ‘civilianized.'” (Filing No. 40-17 at 1.) The conversion request was approved eighteen days later on February 16, 2015. (Filing No. 40-7.)

         At the time the civilian latent print unit supervisor position became available, Spreckelmeyer was no longer an employee of ISP because of her retirement months earlier. If she wanted the civilian position, Spreckelmeyer was required to apply for the position. (Filing No. 40-5 at 14-15; Filing No. 40-2 at 17.) The job duties of the latent print unit supervisor were the same before and after the conversion from a merit position to a civilian position; thus, the civilian position was the same job that Spreckelmeyer had been performing prior to her retirement, just without the police powers. (Filing No. 40-2 at 16.)

         Spreckelmeyer knew the civilian latent print unit supervisor position was open. However, she did not apply for the position because she felt she did not need to apply for it because Keisler did not have to apply for the civilian position that he was given. Before the unit supervisor position opened but after Spreckelmeyer's retirement, Spreckelmeyer applied for a lab manager position with ISP but was not offered the job. (Filing No. 40-3 at 10-11.) A male ...

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