United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division
MARGIE A. RELIFORD, Plaintiff,
BRIGHT HOUSE NETWORKS, LLC, Defendant.
ORDER ON DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY
J. McKINNEY, JUDGE.
the Court is the Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. 33) filed
by Defendant Advance/Newhouse Partnership (“ANP”)
as to the claims raised by Plaintiff Margie A. Reliford in
her Complaint. Dkt. 1. Reliford, who is African American,
alleged that during her employment with ANP, ANP engaged in a
pattern of disparate treatment based on her race and
retaliated against her for reporting the alleged racial
abuse. Dkt. 1. Reliford claims that ANP's actions are in
violation of both Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964,
42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. (“Title
VII”), and §1981a of the Civil Rights Act of 1866,
42 U.S.C. § 1981a (“§ 1981a”). Dkt. 1.
In her response to ANP's Motion for Summary Judgment,
Reliford abandoned her disparate treatment claims and only
her retaliation claims remain. Dkt. 41-2 at 1. For the
following reasons, the Court GRANTS
ANP's Motion for Summary Judgment on Reliford's
retaliation claims under Title VII and § 1981a.
hired Reliford on July 28, 2008, as a Collection Rep. Dkt.
34-1 at 44. On October 17, 2009, Reliford transferred to the
position of Work Order Resolution Rep (“Order
Rep”). In June 2010, ANP reorganized various
departments and the Order Rep department and was placed in
the Subscriber Accounting department. Dkt. 34-1 at 46-48;
Dkt. 34-4 at 12-13. Following the transfer, Kristi Piper, the
accounting supervisor, was Reliford's direct supervisor.
Dkt. 34-1 at 46-47. Three other Order Reps, who were
Caucasian, also transferred to the Subscriber Accounting
department at the same time as Reliford. Dkt. 34-1 at 46-49.
addition to the two Caucasian Order Reps, Piper supervised
the Sub-Billing Reps. Dkt. 34-1 at 49. The Sub-Billing Reps
included Diane Howard (Caucasian), Josh Simpson (African
American), Latonda Finch (African American), Pagey Pinkston
(African American), Annie Scarborough (African American), and
C.J. Mitton (African American).Following the consolidation of the
departments, Piper integrated the duties of Order and
Sub-Billing Reps. Dkt. 34-1 at 49; Dkt. 34-4 at 34. Piper
required both Order and Sub-Billing reps to cross-train so
that each employee could perform either role. Dkt. 34-4 at
34. In ANP's internal system, Order and Sub-Billing Reps
maintained separate job titles, despite their shared duties.
Dkt. 34-3, ¶ 6.
the Sub-Billing department worked Monday through Friday and
rotated work on Saturdays. Dkt. 34-4 at 25. In August 2011,
Reliford worked the 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. shift on Monday
through Friday, but requested a schedule change to
accommodate her part-time employment with Best Buy. Dkt. 34-1
at 101. Piper agreed to allow Reliford to work every Saturday
and leave early on Thursdays to accommodate this part-time
work. Dkt. 34-1 at 101-02. Reliford was given Sundays and
Tuesdays off. Dkt. 34-1 at 101-02.
in 2013 or early 2014, Piper became concerned with
Reliford's productivity on the Saturdays that she worked.
Dkt. 34-5, ¶ 8. Reliford was not completing some of her
work items and work orders were not being checked in. Dkt.
34-5, ¶ 8. A report revealed that Reliford checked in
far fewer work orders on Saturdays than the rotating Saturday
employee. Dkt. 34-1 at 77-78; Dkt. 34-5, ¶ 8. When
confronted by Piper about these issues, Reliford told Piper
that she had too much to do on Saturdays and could not
complete all of her work. Dkt. 34-5, ¶ 9. Piper told
Reliford to begin writing down her tasks that she completed
on Saturdays, but she only did so once. Dkt. 34-5, ¶ 9.
2014, Piper received a complaint from an ANP customer care
employee that no one was in the Sub-Billing department on
Saturday morning at 7:30 a.m., which is when the department
opened. Dkt. 34-5, ¶ 10. When the complaint was made,
Reliford worked every Saturday starting at 7:30 a.m.; the
other rotating Saturday employee did not begin work until
9:00 a.m. Dkt. 34-5, ¶ 10; Dkt. 34-1 at 77. Following
this complaint, Piper began tracking Reliford's key
swipes, which document the time that an employee enters the
building, for a period of 60 days. Dkt. 34-5, ¶ 11. The
tracking revealed that Reliford was occasionally late to
work; thereafter, Piper spoke to Reliford about being to work
on time. Dkt. 34-5, ¶ 11. Piper did not, however, take
any disciplinary action against Reliford for her tardiness.
Dkt. 34-5, ¶ 11.
2, 2014, Piper issued Reliford a verbal warning about her
productivity on Saturdays and mistakes that she made on
certain accounts. Dkt. 34-1 at 115-17, Dkt. 35-4 at 33-38.
never issued Reliford any written discipline during her
employment with ANP. Dkt. 34-1 at 65; Dkt. 34-4 at 53.
September 2014, Reliford was given additional duties
following the departure of two employees in the Sub-Billing
department. Dkt. 34-1 at 137-19; Dkt. 34-4 at 17. Piper
spread the duties of the former employees amongst all other
employees. Dkt. 34-4 at 17. Reliford told Piper that she
could not keep up with her workload. Dkt. 34-4 at 17. On
January 21, 2015, Piper sat next to and observed Reliford
over the course of the work day to determine “what
she's working on, how she's doing it, and if there
was a reason maybe something was taking longer than what I
was expecting it to.” Dkt. 34-1 at 149; Dkt. 34-4 at
January 2015, Piper and Reliford met to discuss
Reliford's 2014 Performance Review. Dkt. 34-5 at 171;
Dkt. 34-2, Ex. 12. Reliford received a “Meets
Standard” for her overall rating and a merit-based
salary increase. Dkt. 34-5 at 172; Dkt. 34-2, Ex. 12. The
2014 Performance Review had some categories in which Reliford
was given a rating of “Needs Improvement, ” which
she disagreed with. Dkt. 34-5 at 172-77; Dkt. 34-2, Ex. 12.
February 9, 2015, Reliford contacted Angie Mazares, a Senior
Director of Human Resources based out of the ANP Florida
office. Dkt. 34-1 at 133-34; Dkt. 34-3, ¶ 11. Reliford
told Mazares that she was having problems with Piper that
dated back several years and she believed it to be racial
discrimination. Dkt. 34-1 at 133-34. She also informed
Mazares that in January 2015, following her 2014 Performance
Review, Piper threatened to fire her. Dkt. 34-1 at 134. After
she complained to Mazares, Mazares, Piper, and Reliford met
on multiple occasions to discuss Reliford's job duties.
Dkt. 34-5, ¶ 13. As a result of the meetings, Piper and
Mazares determined that some of Reliford's duties could
be transferred to other employees in the department, which
occurred in March 2015. Dkt. 34-1 at 137-39; Dkt. 34-5,
April 2014, Reliford told Susie Ehman, a Human Resources
Director in ANP's Indianapolis office, that she had been
to speak with the EEOC but that the EEOC representatives told
Reliford to try and “work it out.” Dkt. 34-1 at
80-81; Dkt. 34-3, ¶ 5. On May 11, 2015, Reliford filed
an official charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity
Commission (“EEOC”). Dkt. 34-2 at 205; Dkt. 34-2,
Ex. 23. Reliford went to the EEOC on four previous occasions,
but was told by EEOC representatives that she did not have a
case. Dkt. 34-1 at 168-169. Ehman did not notify Piper that
Reliford had contacted the EEOC until Reliford filed her
official charge in May 2015. Dkt. 34-3, ¶ 12; Dkt. 34-5,
¶ 14. Piper stated that she ...