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Tunstall v. DSG Missouri, LLC

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

November 7, 2019

LATIA TUNSTALL, Plaintiff,
v.
DSG MISSOURI, LLC, Defendant.

          ORDER ON DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (ECF NO. 44)

          JAMES R. SWEENEY II, JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Latia Tunstall (“Tunstall”) alleges claims against Defendant DSG Missouri, LLC (“DSG”), for discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. (Compl. ¶ 17, ECF No. 1.) Specifically, Tunstall alleges that DSG, by terminating and failing to hire her at its furniture distribution warehouse, discriminated against her based on her gender. (Id. ¶¶ 5-15.) Defendant now moves for summary judgment. (ECF No. 44.) For the following reasons, Defendant DSG's Motion for Summary Judgment is denied in part and granted in part.

         I. Background

         Construing all facts and reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to Tun-stall, the pertinent, uncontroverted summary judgment evidence is as follows.

         DSG owns and operates an Ashley Furniture Warehouse (the “warehouse”) in Plainfield, Indiana. (Williams Dep. Tr. 55:1-7, ECF No. 51-3.) Kelly Services is a temporary staffing company that hires temporary employees to work at DSG's warehouse. (Def.'s Resp. to ICRC Compl. at 1, ECF No. 51-5.) On June 17, 2015, DSG employee Yael Canela emailed Amy Rector, DSG's contact at Kelly Services, and requested temporary employees to prepare for their inventory. (Canela E-mail, ECF No. 46-9.) Rector contacted Tunstall and her cousin, Kyrin Hill, and assigned them the roles at DSG. (Tunstall Dep. Tr. 28:1-14, ECF No. 46-6.)

         Tunstall and Hill accepted the offer and reported to the warehouse on June 23, 2015. (Id. at 30:23; 31:1-7.) They first met with Canela, who asked them if they had any experience lifting and moving furniture. (Id. at 31:12-17.) They replied that they did, and Canela left to obtain materials for Tunstall and Hill to begin working with. (Canela Dep. Tr. 31:17-25, ECF No. 51-2.) When Canela returned, she told Tunstall and Hill that her supervisor, Jerry Williams, instructed her to send them back to the temp agency. (Id. at 33:5.) Canela told the women that Williams stated “it might be too much heavy lifting. If you look, there's a lot of furniture, and it's a lot of heavy lifting, so he doesn't feel that it's going to work out.” (Id. at 34:16-22.)

         Canela and Williams have different recollections of what transpired between them when the decision was made to send Tunstall and Hill home. Canela testified that Williams approached her as she was retrieving materials and asked, “are those the two temps that we requested?” (Id. at 32:24-45.) Canela told him that yes, they were, and Williams said: “Tell them it's too much heavy lifting. It's not going to work out for them.” (Id. at 34:2-4.) Williams, on the other hand, remembers Canela as the one approaching him regarding Tunstall and Hill's ability to perform the job. (Williams Dep. Tr. 38:1-4, ECF No. 51-3) (“I believe when she approached me out on the floor with this situation, she expressed concerns about them being able to do the job.”) Williams then “turned and looked” at the women, (Id. at 39:9-13), and concluded that they “just didn't look like they could physically handle the heavy lifting.” (Id. at 33:6-8.) Williams also noted that “they seemed to be fairly petite ladies.” (Id. at 27:22.) Lastly, Williams testified: “It didn't appear that they were dressed appropriate to be in a warehouse lifting and wrapping furniture.” (Id. at 40:14-16.) But when asked what Tunstall and Hill were wearing, Williams stated that he did not remember (Id. at 41:10-11.)

         Tunstall testified that Canela also told her and Hill, “This is men's work. This is a man's job . . . [t]here's only men working out here. I'm the only supervisor, and this is men's work.” (Tunstall Dep. Tr. 36:13-17, ECF No. 46-6.) She further speculated that Williams “probably said [it's men's work] to [Canela]. That's why he sent her to dismiss the position.” (Id. at 43:19-20.) Canela was asked in her deposition if Williams stated that the “two ladies wouldn't work out because it was man's work.” (Canela Dep. Tr. 88:21-23, ECF No. 51-2.) Canela replied: “I don't recall him saying man's work.” (Id. at 88:24.) Canela did not testify that she told Tunstall or Hill that the work was for men. Williams was not asked, nor did he testify that he or Canela referred to the job as “man's work.”

         After Tunstall and Hill were dismissed, Tunstall asked Canela if there was any other work they could do. (Tunstall Dep. Tr. 36:14-15, ECF No. 46-6; Canela Dep. Tr. 34:24-25, ECF No. 51-2.) Canela asked Williams, who stated “No . . . [j]ust send them back, and we'll let the agency know to send somebody different.” (Canela Dep. Tr. 35:1-4, ECF No. 51-2.)

         Tunstall and Hill contacted Kelly Services, who informed them that they had two other complaints “about that situation” and would look into it. (Tunstall Dep. Tr. 38:3-6, ECF No. 46-6.) Tunstall also contacted the Human Resources Department at DSG. (Id. at 45:1-2.) The first time she contacted HR, the representative told her they would file a complaint. (Id. at 46:11-12.) However, Tunstall called back the next day and was told “don't call back.” (Id. at 46:13.)

         Since being sent home from her assignment at DSG, Tunstall has received other positions through Kelly Services. (Id. at 15:12-17.) Tunstall worked at a Stericycle warehouse and Heartland Suites. (Id. 15:12-13.)

         II. Legal Standard

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) provides that “[t]he court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” In considering a motion for summary judgment, the district court “must construe all the facts and reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, ” Monroe v. Ind. Dep't of Transp., 871 F.3d 495, 503 (7th Cir. 2017), but the district court must also view the evidence “through the prism of the substantive evidentiary burden, ” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 254 (1986). “Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party, ” summary judgment should be granted. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986).

         In this employment discrimination case, Tunstall bears the “substantive evidentiary burden, ” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 254, of proving by preponderance of the evidence a prima facie case of discrimination, Tex. Dep't of Cmty. Affairs v. Burdine, 450 U.S. 248, 252-53 (1981). Thus, summary judgment for DSG is warranted if, viewed in the light most favorable to Tunstall, “the record as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact” to find that Tunstall's gender caused Defendant to terminate or ...


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