Carragher v. Ind. Toll Rd. Concession Co., 3:11 CV 213.

Citation936 F.Supp.2d 981
Decision Date27 March 2013
Docket NumberNo. 3:11 CV 213.,3:11 CV 213.
CourtUnited States District Courts. 7th Circuit. United States District Court of Northern District of Indiana


Betsy F. Walits, Law Office of Betsy Walits LLC, Valparaiso, IN, for Plaintiff.

Jennifer Bickley Hull, Paul E. Singleton, Faegre Baker Daniels LLP, South Bend, IN, for Defendant.


JAMES T. MOODY, District Judge.


Plaintiff Laurine Carragher began working for defendant Indiana Toll Road Concession Company in 2007 as a toll maintenance technician. (DE # 25–3 at 8, Pl.'s Dep. 20:21; id. at 12, Pl.'s Dep. 34:8.) Plaintiff believes that she was the only full-time female technician working for defendant at that time. ( Id. at 19, Pl.'s Dep. 45:14–15; id. at 35, Pl.'s Dep. 71:6–7.)

Defendant maintained an employee handbook, which outlined the company's policies and rules. ( See, e.g., DE # 25–2 at 16–20.) The handbook required employees to “maintain proper standards of conduct at all times.” ( Id. at 19.) The handbook stated: “If an individual's behavior interferes with the orderly and efficient operation of a department, corrective disciplinary measures will be taken, up to and including discharge.” ( Id.) The handbook listed “insubordination” and “disrespect toward fellow employees, visitors or other members of the public” as examples of conduct that may result in disciplinary action. ( Id.) Plaintiff received and read a copy of the handbook. (DE # 25–3 at 35, Pl.'s Dep. 2–5; Id. at 61.)

Plaintiff was initially supervised by Donald Sutton. ( Id. at 14, Pl.'s Dep. 36:5.) Sutton remained plaintiff's supervisor until he retired in August of 2009. ( Id., Pl.'s Dep. 36:25; DE # 31–2 at 1, Fedders Aff. ¶ 2.) Plaintiff was next supervised by David McClean (DE # 25–3 at 23, Pl.'s Dep. 55:21–22), who plaintiff believed did not treat her right. ( Id. at 16, Pl.'s Dep. 42:3.) McClean called plaintiff on her cellphone between four and six times, accusing her of being rude and telling her to be civil. ( Id., Pl.'s Dep. 42:7–10.) He also implied that plaintiff was rude to other employees. ( Id., Pl.'s Dep. 42:10–12.) Plaintiff disagreed with McClean's contention that she was rude to anyone. ( Id., Pl.'s Dep. 42:16–18.)

At the end of 2009, plaintiff received a performance evaluation from McClean that stated that plaintiff needed improvement in tardiness and absenteeism and should show a more positive outlook, be less critical, and be more welcoming of feedback. ( Id. at 62–63.) Plaintiff claimed that as a result of her evaluation, she was unfairly put on a “Personal Improvement Plan.” (DE # 25–3 at 57; id. at 29, Pl.'s Dep. 64:7–25; id. at 53, Pl.'s Dep. 156:9–11.) Plaintiff complained about the review to defendant's human resources manager, Rick Fedder, and defendant's Chief Information Officer, Jim Crowe. ( Id. at 20, Pl.'s Dep. 50:8–11.)

On February 4, 2010, Crowe completed a reevaluation of plaintiff ( id., Pl.'s Dep. 50:12–15; id. at 67), changing plaintiff's ratings to show that she “fully meets” job requirements in terms of attendance. ( Id. at 65.) However, Crowe did not remove McClean's remarks that plaintiff should show a more positive outlook, be less critical, and be more welcoming of feedback. ( Id. at 66.) Crowe added additional comments, stating that plaintiff “should work to improve her communication skills. Specifically, she should learn how to modify her communication style to the situation. Laurie can sometimes be a bit too blunt and she could gain more respect and cooperation by tempering her style. This is not so much a shortcoming as an opportunity for improvement that will make her job easier and allow her to be more productive.” ( Id.) In addition to receiving a reevaluation, plaintiff's work improvement plan was also rescinded. ( Id. at 20, Pl.'s Dep. 50:15–17; id. at 53, Pl.'s Dep. 156:9–17.)

Plaintiff filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”), which was received by the EEOC on February 4, 2010. (DE # 25–3 at 57.) In the charge, plaintiff claimed that she was given a lower score on her evaluation by McClean than her male co-workers. ( Id.) She also claimed that she was unfairly put on the improvement plan due to her gender. ( Id.) Plaintiff later testified that she believed the company's Chief Executive Officer, Fernando Redondo, was telling McClean to discriminate against her, because [n]obody does anything without express blessing of Fernando Redondo.” ( Id. at 22, Pl.'s Dep. 54:20–23.)

Around the start of 2010, the company was reorganized, and plaintiff's department moved from under the umbrella of information technology (“IT”) to under the umbrella of the toll collection department, which was headed by Gloria Utley. ( Id. at 52, Pl.'s Dep. 148:13–15; id. at 32, Pl.'s Dep. 68:22–24.) Utley assigned Mike McCombs to serve as team leader over plaintiff's part of the department. ( Id. at 40, Pl.'s Dep. 79:17–21.) Plaintiff testified that she was never given a meaningful opportunity to apply for and be considered for the team leader position. ( Id. at 52, Pl.'s Dep. 148:5–7; id. at 54, Pl.'s Dep. 157:1–18.)

On May 27, 2010, plaintiff met with toll collection manager Utley and tollway operations supervisor Jennifer Cronin. ( Id. at 24, Pl.'s Dep. 56:12–17; id. at 68.) At the meeting, plaintiff was given a copy of a letter authored by Utley and witnessed by Cronin regarding plaintiff's unwillingness to accept work and her poor communication skills. ( Id. at 68.) Specifically, the letter described Utley's concern that plaintiff “refused to accept trouble tickets if it was close to the end of [her] shift,” “became confrontational” with other employees attempting to serve her with trouble tickets, and improperly sent trouble tickets back to the IT department. ( Id.) Utley stated that in the future plaintiff “must respond with respect” to her co-workers. ( Id.) The letter informed plaintiff that it was intended to “formally put you on notice that you need to improve in the areas mentioned above.” ( Id.) Plaintiff's pay and hours did not decrease as a result of the letter. ( Id. at 33, Pl.'s Dep. 69:19–23.) Plaintiff perceived the letter as retaliation for the filing of her first EEOC charge. ( Id. at 24, Pl.'s Dep. 56:20–22.) Plaintiff believed the action was taken at the direction of Redondo, the company's CEO. ( Id. at 25, Pl.'s Dep. 57:2–6.)

On July 6, 2010, the EEOC received plaintiff's second charge of discrimination. ( Id. at 69.) In this charge, plaintiff stated that she was subjected to “harassment” by Utley in retaliation for filing her first EEOC charge. ( Id.) Plaintiff stated that she was accused of refusing to do her job, being confrontational, and not respecting others. ( Id.) Plaintiff stated that male technicians were respected for their observations and suggestions, while plaintiff was considered uncooperative and argumentative. ( Id.)

Plaintiff was unhappy with the fact that the company did not use the correct parts for the equipment it operated. According to plaintiff, at one point McCombs fabricated a piece of equipment that did not meet the requirements that would allow the equipment to function properly. ( Id. at 40, Pl.'s Dep. 79:4–7.) As a result, the equipment fell apart. ( Id.) Because the company did not have the right part or any spare parts, plaintiff got upset. ( Id., Pl.'s Dep. 79:7–10.) Plaintiff stated that she reported problems of this nature to her superiors like McCombs, but her input was not valued. ( Id. at 51, Pl.'s Dep. 144:3–23; see also id. at 55, Pl.'s Dep. 161:8–20; id. at 56, Pl.'s Dep. 162:10–14.)

On August 6, 2010, McCombs and plaintiff had a discussion about some equipment. McCombs attested that plaintiff was not happy about having to install new equipment. (DE # 25–4 at 3, McCombs Aff. ¶ 3.) McCombs further stated that in response, plaintiff became visibly upset and stated: “These Mother Fuckers need to buy us the original parts, I don't have the tools to modify these machines, you should send these parts back to these bastards and make them get us what we need, what is wrong with those cocksuckers!” ( Id.) Plaintiff testified that though she swears at work and probably used obscene language in the August 6 exchange with McCombs, it was not an argumentative or heated exchange. (DE # 25–3 at 42, Pl.'s Dep. 81:23–24.) Further, plaintiff stated that her August 6 statements were not directed at McCombs, but just happened to occur in a discussion with McCombs about parts that did not fit the machines. ( Id. at 41, Pl.'s Dep. 80:12–10, 23–24.)

On August 19, 2010, plaintiff left a voicemail on McCombs' phone. (DE # 25–4 at 3, McCombs Aff. ¶ 5.) McCombs attested that in this voicemail, plaintiff requested that the company order the right parts and to “tell them cheap asses down at Central to order them!” ( Id.) During her deposition, plaintiff admitted: “I think I called them cheap asses at central supply.” (DE # 25–3 at 40, Pl.'s Dep. 79:11–12.)

On August 24, 2010, plaintiff was terminated. ( Id. at 8, Pl.'s Dep. 20:21.) Plaintiff was provided with an “Employee Disciplinary Action Notice”; under “Type of Offense,” a box was checked next to “Rudeness to Customers/Co-workers.” ( Id. at 71.) The document cited plaintiff's prior meeting with Utley and Cronin, noting that plaintiff had already been warned that her “confrontational approach to employees is not appropriate.” ( Id.) Further, the document stated that on August 6, 2010, plaintiff became argumentative and used explicit obscene language directed at her team leader (McCombs). ( Id.) The notice also stated that on August 19, 2010, plaintiff left a voicemail on her team leader's cellphone, calling the employees of the central facility “cheap asses” and using a “rude and abrasive” tone of voice. ( Id.)

Plaintiff believed she was unfairly singled out for punishment for foul language because she is a woman. She also believed...

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