102 F.3d 199 (5th Cir. 1997), 96-20533, Ward v. Bechtel Corp.

Docket Nº:96-20533
Citation:102 F.3d 199
Party Name:Diana WARD, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. BECHTEL CORPORATION, Defendant-Appellee.
Case Date:January 02, 1997
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

Page 199

102 F.3d 199 (5th Cir. 1997)

Diana WARD, Plaintiff-Appellant,


BECHTEL CORPORATION, Defendant-Appellee.

No. 96-20533

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit

January 2, 1997

Page 200

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 201

Carol L. Nelkin, Stuart M. Nelkin, Nelkin & Nelkin, Houston, TX, for plaintiff-appellant.

V. Scott Kneese, Bracewell and Patterson, Houston, TX, Elizabeth Ann Hall, Houston, TX, for defendant-appellee.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas.


BENAVIDES, Circuit Judge:

Diana Ward, an engineer and an African-American woman, sued her former employer, Bechtel Corporation, alleging workplace discrimination based on her sex, race, and national origin in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. She also asserted state law claims of intentional infliction of emotional distress, premises liability, and negligent hiring, supervision, and retention. Based upon our review of the briefs, the applicable law, and relevant portions of the record, we hold that the district court properly granted summary judgment in favor of Bechtel on all counts.


In June 1991, Bechtel assigned Ward to a supervisory position on an engineering project. One of the engineers supervised by Ward was Mohan Manghnani. According to Ward's evidence, Manghnani was a difficult employee from the outset, which one of Ward's supervisors attributed to Manghnani's reluctance to being supervised by an African-American woman. Ward claimed that Manghnani's behavior became more openly hostile after she refused to recommend him for a promotion in January 1992. Manghnani's hostility erupted in several discrete incidents between June 1992 and April 1993 in which he allegedly threatened Ward and, on one occasion, elbowed her in the forearm. Even after Bechtel, at Ward's request, reassigned Manghnani to a different engineering project and building, he allegedly persisted in stating that he would "kick [Ward's] ass" and "get" her. Concerned for

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her safety and dissatisfied with Bechtel's response to her concerns, Ward submitted her resignation on April 29, 1993.

Standard of Review and Summary Judgment Standard

We review the district court's grant of summary judgment de novo, applying the standard set out in Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). Rule 56(c) mandates the entry of summary judgment against a party who has failed to make an evidentiary showing sufficient to establish an essential element of her case. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986); Frazier v. Garrison Indep. Sch. Dist., 980 F.2d 1514, 1520 (5th Cir.1993). Summary judgment is not precluded in this case merely because appellant seeks an opportunity to prove that Bechtel was motivated by discriminatory intent. See International Shortstop, Inc. v. Rally's, Inc., 939 F.2d 1257, 1263 (5th Cir.1991), cert. denied, 502 U.S. 1059, 112 S.Ct. 936, 117 L.Ed.2d 107 (1992).

Title VII

Ward's complaint alleged that Bechtel unlawfully discriminated against her on the basis of her sex, race, and national origin. She also argues that she was placed in a hostile work environment on the basis of her sex and race, and that Bechtel failed to respond adequately to her complaints about this harassment.

The Supreme Court outlined the elements of a Title VII discrimination claim in McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 802, 93 S.Ct. 1817, 1824, 36 L.Ed.2d 668 (1973). In the present context, McDonnell Douglas requires Ward to establish, as her prima facie case, that (1) she belongs to a protected group, i.e., African-American women; (2) that she was qualified for her position; (3) that she was dismissed or suffered an adverse employment action; and (4) that Bechtel sought to replace her with a similarly qualified white man. See id. at 802 n. 13, 93 S.Ct. at 1824 n. 13; see also LaPierre v. Benson Nissan, Inc., 86 F.3d 444, 448 (5th Cir.1996).

Ward seeks to satisfy the third element by claiming that she was constructively discharged from Bechtel. Constructive discharge can form the basis of a Title VII claim. Guthrie v. Tifco Indus., 941 F.2d 374, 377 (5th Cir.1991). "To show constructive discharge, an employee must offer evidence that the employer made the employee's working conditions so intolerable that a reasonable employee would feel compelled to resign." Barrow v. New Orleans S.S. Ass'n, 10 F.3d 292, 297 (5th Cir.1994). Ward failed to adduce evidence that her decision to resign was reasonable based on any of the factors identified in Barrow. She did not, for example, demonstrate that Bechtel demoted her, cut her salary, or reassigned her to remedial or degrading work, any of which would tend to support a finding of constructive discharge. Barrow, 10 F.3d at 297. The list of factors in Barrow is non-exclusive, but Ward has failed to present other evidence sufficient to show that Bechtel placed her in an intolerable work environment. Compare Guthrie, 941 F.2d at 377 (assuming arguendo that constructive discharge was established where employer demoted plaintiff, cut his pay 40 percent, and assigned him to work for a less experienced colleague 17 years...

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