421 F.3d 688 (8th Cir. 2005), 04-3426, Turner v. Gonzales

Docket Nº:04-3426.
Citation:421 F.3d 688
Party Name:Jane A.T. TURNER, Appellant, v. Alberto GONZALES, [1] United States Attorney General; Federal Bureau of Investigation; United States Department of Justice; Robert S. Mueller, Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Appellees.
Case Date:August 30, 2005
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
 
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421 F.3d 688 (8th Cir. 2005)

Jane A.T. TURNER, Appellant,

v.

Alberto GONZALES, 1 United States Attorney General; Federal Bureau of Investigation; United States Department of Justice; Robert S. Mueller, Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Appellees.

No. 04-3426.

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit.

Aug. 30, 2005.

Submitted: June 24, 2005.

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Stephen M. Kohn, argued, Washington DC, for appellant.

Martha A. Fagg, argued, Asst. U.S. Attorney, Sioux City, IA, for appellee.

Before MELLOY, HEANEY, and GRUENDER, Circuit Judges.

GRUENDER, Circuit Judge.

Jane Turner appeals an adverse grant of summary judgment on her claims of gender discrimination, hostile work environment and retaliation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. We affirm the grant of summary judgment with respect to Turner's gender discrimination and hostile work environment claims. However, we reverse the grant of summary judgment on the retaliation claim and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

I. BACKGROUND

Turner was a long-time FBI Special Agent with commendations for her work

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on high-profile cases. From 1978 until 1998, she consistently earned performance ratings of "Superior" or "Exceptional." She was stationed at the Minot, North Dakota Resident Agency of the Minneapolis Division of the FBI during the events that led to this discrimination suit. She became the Senior Resident Agent (SRA) at Minot in 1987. The SRA is the top-ranking agent at a station that has no official supervisor. The parties dispute the degree of supervisory authority an SRA has over the other agents at the station.

In 1996, Turner was denied a supervisory position in Fargo, North Dakota. The position went to a male, Craig Welken, who became Turner's supervisor. Turner believed that gender discrimination played a role in the denial. However, Turner did not file an Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) complaint about this incident.

In 1998, Turner began to complain that Welken was not properly crediting her with "statistics" for the cases she worked. "Statistics" are used by the FBI to evaluate worthiness for promotions and performance-based salary increases, known as "quality step increases." Turner also complained that she received lower mileage reimbursements than the male agents. Turner alleged that the other agents in Minot, who were all males, did not respect her and refused to follow her orders. When these other agents questioned Welken about Turner's authority as an SRA to control their activities, however, Welken informed them that he was their official supervisor and the sole assigner of work. One veteran male agent told a newer agent that an SRA's duties were to "order supplies." Turner believed the other agents felt that she, as a woman, was only fit to do secretarial work. Turner filed an EEO complaint about this perceived gender discrimination in June 1998.

One month later, in July 1998, Welken assigned an agent with much less experience than Turner to the Froistad case, a high-profile case involving the sexual exploitation and murder of a five-year-old. The United States Attorney for the District of North Dakota, John Schneider, asked Welken to assign Turner instead because of her expertise in child crimes. Welken complied with the request. Turner obtained a confession from Froistad, and in October 1998 Schneider sent an e-mail giving Turner primary credit for the successful resolution of the case.

In her next performance review, in April 1999, Turner again received a "Superior" rating. However, Turner objected to the review because she felt it did not properly credit her work on the Froistad case or on other cases. Turner met with Welken on June 11, 1999 to discuss the performance review. According to Turner, Welken informed her that he would not give her credit because she "poached" the case and "sandbagged" him with Schneider.

On June 18, Turner wrote a memorandum to Welken's supervisor, Minneapolis Division Special-Agent-in-Charge James Burrus, stating her complaints about the performance review and Welken's response. She also stated that Welken's discriminatory treatment of her had increased since her initial EEO complaint. She asked that the memorandum be made part of her personnel file. Burrus responded on June 22 that her complaints would be forwarded to Welken.

On June 23, Welken downgraded Turner's performance rating from "Superior" to "Minimally Acceptable/Unacceptable." The new, unscheduled interim performance review purported to cover Turner's work from late March through mid-June 1999 and cited the following reasons for the downgraded performance rating: failure to conduct investigative work in a

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timely manner, failure to properly notify other law enforcement officials about weekend unavailability, delayed report and time sheet filing, poorly written reports and minimal contacts with sources.

Welken began to document problems with Turner's work over the following months. In September and October 1999, Welken noted that one of Turner's reports showed she made inappropriate comments to a state's attorney on one case and that three Native American reservation police officials complained about Turner being difficult to work with on another case. However, the state's attorney immediately wrote a letter to the FBI saying Turner's behavior was not unprofessional, and the reservation police chief later stated in deposition testimony that Turner always worked well with the reservation police and the incident was a minor one that would normally be worked out among the participants without complaint. Nevertheless, Turner continued to receive poor performance ratings.

New Minneapolis Division Special-Agent-in-Charge Doug Domin met with Turner in September 1999 and found her to be a "very troubled agent." According to Domin, Turner admitted that she was taking antidepressants but was not under a doctor's care. She displayed a range of extreme emotions and showed Domin photographs of abused child victims from her cases. Domin informed her that he would personally review her work over the following 60 days.

The FBI Inspection Division conducted a routine investigation of the Minneapolis Division, including the Minot office, in October 1999. The report recited the problems previously mentioned with Turner and also cited procedural errors that Turner allegedly had made during the Froistad and Vigestad...

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