175 F.3d 861 (11th Cir. 1999), 97-3202, Taylor v. Runyon

Docket Nº:97-3202.
Citation:175 F.3d 861
Party Name:Cynthia L. TAYLOR, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. Marvin T. RUNYON, Postmaster General, United States Postal Service, Defendant-Appellee.
Case Date:May 04, 1999
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
 
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Page 861

175 F.3d 861 (11th Cir. 1999)

Cynthia L. TAYLOR, Plaintiff-Appellant,

v.

Marvin T. RUNYON, Postmaster General, United States Postal

Service, Defendant-Appellee.

No. 97-3202.

United States Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit

May 4, 1999

Page 862

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 863

Thomas J. Pilacek, Michael Bowling, Maitland, FL, for Plaintiff-Appellant.

Susan Roark Waldron, Assistant U.S. Attorney, Tamra Phipps, Chief, Assistant U.S. Attorney, Tampa, FL, for Defendant-Appellee.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida.

Before HATCHETT, Chief Judge, MARCUS, Circuit Judge, and KRAVITCH, Senior Circuit Judge.

HATCHETT, Chief Judge:

Appellant Cynthia L. Taylor appeals the district court's grant of appellee United States Postal Service's motion for judgment as a matter of law in her Title VII gender discrimination and retaliation lawsuit. We reverse and remand this case for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

I. BACKGROUND

Cynthia Taylor began her employment with the United States Postal Service (Postal Service) in 1979, at Syracuse, New York. Taylor gradually moved into management in 1987 at the main north branch in Syracuse, New York, as an electronic technician supervisor. At that facility, Taylor was responsible for mail processing equipment and supervisory responsibilities, including supervision of maintenance craft employees who worked on heating and ventilation equipment, and the building custodial staff. Taylor worked in that job until 1990, when Carl Sumner hired her as a superintendent of maintenance for mail processing equipment at the mid-Florida facility in Lake Mary, Florida. Taylor worked in that capacity from September 1990 until December 1992. Sumner hired Taylor at an executive administrative pay scale (EAS) level of 17.

When Taylor first occupied her position as superintendent at mid-Florida, she supervised 45-50 people, including subordinate supervisors who managed the craft individuals responsible for building maintenance functions. At the time Sumner hired Taylor, the mid-Florida facility also employed Hal Maloof, an EAS-14, who supervised 6 craft people and supervisors and Del Scott, an EAS-11, who supervised approximately 15 custodians with no subordinate supervisors. In 1991, the Postal Service promoted Scott to an EAS-15, where he became supervisor of building equipment maintenance.

In 1992, the Postal Service underwent a massive reorganization of management positions where all managers lost their job titles and the Postal Service changed the management complement for each facility. The new complement of EAS levels for the Florida facility included one EAS-20 position, one EAS-18 position, one EAS-17 position and six EAS-16 positions. Immediately prior to the reorganization, Sumner held an EAS-20 position, Taylor an EAS-17 position, Scott an EAS-15 position and Maloof an EAS-14 position. No EAS-18 position existed prior to the reorganization. The reorganization essentially combined Taylor's EAS-17 position and Scott's EAS-15 position into one new position, thereby creating the EAS18 position. Sumner was the selecting official at mid-Florida for the reassignment of positions during the reorganization.

For reassignment under the new system, employees had to be within three grades of their old position, although exceptions existed. As a result, Taylor was eligible for reassignment positions between EAS-14 and EAS-20. In order to apply for one of the new positions, an employee had to fill out a Form-991, listing permanent positions, details, non-postal activities, postal training and a narrative of work accomplishments. Taylor filled out a Form-991.

Prior to the reorganization, Taylor received two evaluations from Sumner, where his overall score for Taylor's performance was "very good," the second highest rating available in the Postal Service format.

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Taylor received no discipline in any form prior to the reorganization, and her lowest rating in any of the individual factors considered in her 1992 evaluation was "good."

Pursuant to the reorganization, Taylor interviewed in West Palm Beach, Florida, on December 15, 1992, to discuss a possible EAS-20 position at that Postal Service facility. West Palm Beach offered Taylor the EAS-20 position, and she returned immediately to mid-Florida to discuss her options with Sumner. When Taylor spoke to Sumner upon her return, she believed that Sumner told her that the options available to her were either the EAS-20 position in West Palm Beach or the newly created hybrid EAS-18 position in mid-Florida. Based upon this representation, Taylor called the West Palm Beach facility manager and refused the West Palm Beach offer, counting on a forthcoming offer from Sumner for the EAS-18 position in mid-Florida.

Later that day, Sumner left telephone messages at Taylor's home telling her he needed to speak with her. When Sumner reached Taylor, he told her that he would have to choose between Taylor and Scott for the EAS-18 position. Taylor testified at trial that Sumner then told her that he was leaning toward selecting Scott for the EAS-18 position because Scott had a wife and children and needed the money more than Taylor. Sumner denied that he told Taylor, or insinuated, that he preferred Scott because Scott was a man and Taylor was a woman, or that Scott needed the money more because he was a family man. Sumner claimed to only remember telling Taylor that they were all friends, and that this decision put him in a difficult predicament.

On December 16, 1992, Taylor learned that the Postal Service had placed Maloof in the EAS-17 position in maintenance. Soon after learning of Maloof's EAS-17 promotion, Taylor learned that the Postal Service had placed Scott in the new EAS-18 position. The Postal Service eventually placed Taylor in one of the EAS-16 positions, effectively a demotion; however, she continued to receive her level 17 pay. A few days after her reassignment, Taylor asked Sumner why he had not placed her in the EAS-18 position. In response, Sumner stated that Scott was stronger in building services, and that the employee opinion survey reflected morale problems among Taylor's subordinates. Sumner also told Taylor that she did not have the people skills that Scott possessed, and that she did not know enough about building maintenance to earn the position over Scott.

As a courtesy to Sumner, Taylor provided formal notification of her intent to file a Postal Service Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) complaint regarding his selection decision. Taylor strongly asserts that after filing her complaint of discrimination, the work environment changed dramatically from very pleasant to very hostile. Taylor began to routinely receive critical and negative memos from both Scott and Sumner regarding her performance, and she began experiencing difficulty in obtaining time off. She was left out of office events and criticized for matters that she did not control.

In September 1993, Taylor received a letter of warning for inappropriate conduct and for failure to follow...

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