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Rowlands v. United Parcel Service Inc.

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

October 5, 2017

LINDA ROWLANDS, Plaintiff
v.
UNITED PARCEL SERVICE, INC., Defendant

          OPINION AND ORDER

          Robert L. Miller, Jr. Judge United States District Court

         Linda Rowlands brought suit against her former employer, United Parcel Service, under Title VII, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act after her employment was terminated in July 2012 and January 2013.[1] She alleges that UPS discriminated and/or retaliated against her based on her sex, age, and/or disability, and that similarly situated non-protected employees were treated more favorably with respect to the enforcement of the company's policies, procedures, and discipline.[2] UPS's motion for summary judgment under Fed.R.Civ.P. 56 pends before the court. For the following reasons, the court GRANTS the motion.

         I. Standard of Review

         Summary judgment is appropriate when the pleadings, discovery materials, disclosures, and affidavits demonstrate no genuine issue of material fact, such that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Protective Life Ins. Co. v. Hansen, 632 F.3d 388, 391-392 (7th Cir. 2011). The court construes the evidence and all inferences that reasonably can be drawn from the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986). The moving party bears the burden of informing the court of the basis for its motion, together with evidence demonstrating the absence of any genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). Once the moving party has met its burden, the opposing party can't rest upon the allegations in the pleadings, but must “point to evidence that can be put in admissible form at trial, and that, if believed by the fact-finder, could support judgment in his favor.” Marr v. Bank of America, N, A., 662 F.3d 963, 966 (7th Cir. 2011); see also Hastings Mut. Ins. Co. v. LaFollette, No. 1:07-cv-1085, 2009 WL 348769, at *2 (S.D. Ind. Feb. 6, 2009) (“It is not the duty of the court to scour the record in search of evidence to defeat a motion for summary judgment; rather, the nonmoving party bears the responsibility of identifying the evidence upon which he relies.”).

         II. Background

         Linda Rowlands was 50 years old and had worked for UPS at its Fort Wayne facility for some 25 years when her employment as a Quality Control Clerk was terminated for the first time in July 2012 for falsifying her time card in violation of UPS's Honesty in Employment policy. The pertinent part of that policy states:

We expect honesty from our people in all their duties, including their handling of money, merchandise, and property with which they are entrusted.
We all expect our people to be honest in their assessment of themselves, such as the time and commitment they give to their job performance, the fairness they seek in their dealings with others, or the objectivity they use in evaluating their own contributions.
***
DISHONESTY WILL result in immediate dismissal and possible criminal prosecution.

[Doc. No. 52-6 at 7].

         Ms. Rowlands filed a grievance with the union after her termination and the parties agreed to convert it into a suspension without pay. Ms. Rowlands returned to work in September 2012. She was terminated again in January 2013 for violating the company's Crisis Management and Workplace Violence Prevention Policy after a coworker reported she threatened him when she displayed and activated a taser at work. UPS's violence prevention policy provides in pertinent part:

UPS is committed to a safe working environment, free of threats, intimidation, and physical harm . . . UPS has adopted a policy of zero tolerance with respect to violence in the workplace.
UPS prohibits violence related conduct, including but not limited to, physical assaults, fighting, threatening comments, intimidation, and the intentional destruction of any company property, employee property, or merchandise. Any comments or behavior that could reasonably be interpreted as an intent to do harm to employees or property will be considered a threat. We also prohibit the possession and/or use of weapons by any employee on UPS property.

[Doc. No. 52-6 at 9].

         Ms. Rowlands doesn't dispute that she changed the start date on her time card or that a coworker reported feeling threatened when she brought a taser to work and activated it ten to fifteen feet from him, nor does she dispute the other violations for which she was reprimanded. But she contends UPS treated other similarly situated employees more favorably and the stated reasons for the discipline were pretextual, asserting that UPS really terminated her because she was a 50-year-old woman with a disability for which she had requested accommodation.

         III. Analysis

         A. Title VII and ADEA Claims

         Ms. Rowlands alleges that she was suspended in July 2012 because she was a 50 year-old woman, in violation of Title VII and the ADEA, and that UPS's stated reason for suspending her-falsifying her time card and not reporting time correctly-was “a sham to cover up the real reason” for the suspension.

         The court of appeals has “tried to move away from the many multifactored tests in employment discrimination cases, ” and focuses on “whether the evidence would permit a reasonable factfinder to conclude that the plaintiff's race, ethnicity, sex, religion, or other proscribed factor caused the discharge.” Monroe v. Indiana Dep't of Transportation, __ F.3d __, No. 16-1959, 2017 WL 4103750, at *5 (7th Cir. 2017) (internal quotation marks omitted). The “sole question” is “[w]hether a reasonable juror could conclude that [Ms. Rowlands] would have kept [her] job if [she wasn't a 50 year-old woman], and everything else had remained the same.” Ortiz v. Werner Enterprises, Inc., 834 F.3d 760, 764 (7th Cir. 2016).

         Ms. Rowlands doesn't deny altering her time records, or disagree that she violated UPS's Honesty in Employment policy. She appears to concede that there is no direct evidence of sex or age discrimination, but contends that she has “a rather large amount” of circumstantial evidence from which a reasonable juror could ...


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