Davidson v. Tyco/Healthcare, Mallinckrodt, Inc.

Decision Date25 May 2005
Docket NumberNo. 4:04 CV 258SNL.,4:04 CV 258SNL.
Citation416 F.Supp.2d 690
PartiesVirginia DAVIDSON, Plaintiff, v. TYCO/HEALTHCARE, MALLINCKRODT, INC., Defendant.
CourtU.S. District Court — Eastern District of Missouri

Nichole H. Bolton, Spencer and Fane, LLP, Francis X. Neuner, Jr., Spencer and Fane, LLP, St. Louis, MO, Renee Parsons, Ogletree and Deakins, Donald S. Prophete, Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C., Kansas City, KS, for Defendants.


LIMBAUGH, Senior District Judge.

Pro se plaintiff has filed this employment discrimination action alleging race discrimination and retaliation in connection with her employment termination in violation of Title VII and § 1981; interference and retaliation in connection with her rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act, 29 U.S.C. § 2601; and violation of her rights under the Missouri Service Letter Act, § 290.140 R.S.Mo. This matter is before the Court on the defendant's motion for summary judgment (# 37), filed October 20, 2004.1 Responsive pleadings have been filed.2 This matter is set for trial on the Court's jury trial docket of June 13, 2005.

Courts have repeatedly recognized that summary judgment is a harsh remedy that should be granted only when the moving party has established his right to judgment with such clarity as not to give rise to controversy. New England Mut. Life Ins. Co. v. Null, 554 F.2d 896, 901 (8th Cir.1977). Summary judgment motions, however, "can be a tool of great utility in removing factually insubstantial cases from crowded dockets, freeing courts' trial time for those that really do raise genuine issues of material fact." Mt. Pleasant v. Associated Elec. Coop. Inc., 838 F.2d 268, 273 (8th Cir.1988).

Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c), a district court may grant a motion for summary judgment if all of the information before the court demonstrates that "there is no genuine issue as to material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Poller v. Columbia Broadcasting System, Inc., 368 U.S. 464, 467, 82 S.Ct. 486, 7 L.Ed.2d 458 (1962). The burden is on the moving party. Mt. Pleasant, 838 F.2d at 273. After the moving party discharges this burden, the nonmoving party must do more than show that there is some doubt as to the facts. Matsushita Elec. Industrial Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986). Instead, the nonmoving party bears the burden of setting forth specific facts showing that there is sufficient evidence in its favor to allow a jury to return a verdict for it. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). In passing on a motion for summary judgment, the court must review the facts in a light most favorable to the party opposing the motion and give that party the benefit of any inferences that logically can be drawn from those facts. Buller v. Buechler, 706 F.2d 844, 846 (8th Cir.1983). The court is required to resolve all conflicts of evidence in favor of the nonmoving party. Robert Johnson Grain Co. v. Chem. Interchange Co., 541 F.2d 207, 210 (8th Cir.1976). Although summary judgment should seldom be granted in employment discrimination cases, it is proper in those cases wherein the plaintiff fails to establish a factual dispute on an essential element of the case. Snow v. Ridgeview Medical Center, 128 F.3d 1201, 1205 (8th Cir.1997), citing Bialas v. Greyhound Lines, Inc., 59 F.3d 759, 762 (8th Cir.1995). "Although summary judgment is to be used sparingly in employment discrimination cases, it is appropriate where one party has failed to present evidence sufficient to create a jury question as to an essential element of its claim." Whitley v. Peer Review Sys., Inc., 221 F.3d 1053, 1055 (8th Cir.2000) (citations omitted). The Eighth Circuit has "repeatedly cautioned that summary judgment should seldom be granted in the context of employment actions, as such actions are inherently fact based. Summary judgment is not appropriate unless all the evidence points one way and is susceptible to no reasonable inferences sustaining the position of the nonmoving party." Hindman v. Transkrit Corp., 145 F.3d 986, 990 (8th Cir.1998) (citations omitted); see, Mayer v. Nextel West Corp., 318 F.3d 803, 806 (8th Cir.2003) citing Keathley v. Ameritech Corp., 187 F.3d 915, 919 (8th Cir.1999). However, it is clear that to survive summary judgment, a plaintiff must support his/her allegations with sufficient probative evidence to permit a finding in the plaintiff's favor based upon more than mere speculation, conjecture, or fantasy. Putman v. Unity Health System, Inc., 348 F.3d 732, 733-34 (8th Cir.2003) quoting Wilson v. Int'l Bus. Machines Corp., 62 F.3d 237, 241 (8th Cir.1995); Girten v. McRentals, Inc., 337 F.3d 979, 982 (8th Cir.2003)(plaintiffs theory of age discrimination failed "[b]ecause this theory is supported more by contentions and speculation than evidence, it is insufficient to withstand summary judgment.").

After careful consideration, the Court finds the following facts germane to the issues raised by the plaintiffs complaint and the instant motion.3 Plaintiff Davidson an African-American woman, was employed by defendant Mallinckrodt from June 26, 1989 to January 28, 2003. Over the years she held various positions; however, at the time of her termination, she was employed as an Accounting Clerk III in the Distributor Reporting Department. The Distributor Reporting Department handled a variety of accounting and processing functions related to indirect sales made for Mallinckrodt through authorized distributors.

Although plaintiff names "Tyco/Healthcare Mallinckrodt" as the sole party defendant, such an entity does not exist. Mallinckrodt is a limited partner of Tyco Healthcare Group LP; however, it is a separate legal entity. Defendant's Exhibit 1-Declaration of Linda K. Graham (attached to defendant's memorandum in support of summary judgment motion). Whether or not both entities share "signage" space is irrelevant to the issue of plaintiff's employer. Being listed on a sign does not create a legally binding employer-employee relationship. Plaintiff has offered no evidence to dispute Ms. Graham's declaration. Thus, the Court finds that Mallinckrodt alone is the sole employer of the plaintiff and is the party defendant in this case.

During the relevant time-period, plaintiffs immediate supervisor was Tom Hill (white male). Sandy Schott (white female) supervised Hill as the Director of Distributor Reporting and Deductions. During the relevant time-period, two other women, among others, were plaintiff's co-workers in the Distributor Reporting Department: Barbara Bull (white woman) and Alicia Buchanan (black woman).

Sometime in 2000-2001 plaintiff avers that she began complaining about "disparity" in her workload, especially in comparison with her co-worker Ms. Bull. Plaintiff's Deposition, pgs. 50-52; 61-63. She made her workload complaints to Susan Campbell, Bob Moore, Gabby Bush, Bob Martsching and Gloria Schmidt. Although she complained about "unfair" workloads, she never complained about racial discrimination in connection with the workloads.

In a performance appraisal for the period July 1, 2000 to September 30, 2001, Hill noted:

"Given her number of years in charge-back processing, Virginia should be more knowledgeable and productive than she is today. She needs to be more proactive in obtaining the information needed to clear submissions on a timely basis ... Virginia took on some Lafayette distributors, but her workload would not be considered more than her peers given the size of the distributors ... The Distributor Administration Analysts have had significant change over the past year from new systems, additional responsibilities, and different managers."

Defendant's Exhibit 2-Declaration of Sandy Schott and Exhibit A thereto. On October 12, 2001, plaintiff responded in writing to this performance appraisal stating "during processing I tend to focus more on gathering pertinent information prior to pushing a submission to ensure quality, which encumbers quantity." Schott Declaration and Exhibit B thereto.

Meanwhile, plaintiff continued to complain about her workload. She believed that Ms. Bull had a lesser workload than her but never attributed it to race. Plaintiffs Deposition, pgs. 61-64. Bull had transferred into the department without experience in accounting or in processing rebates. Management decided to give Bull other responsibilities in the contracts department and redistributed a part of her workload among plaintiff and other employees within the department. Schott Declaration; Plaintiffs Deposition, pgs. 63-64, 69-70.

In June 2002, an account called Allegiance, which plaintiff had been handling, was reassigned to one of plaintiffs coworkers. On June 12, 2002 plaintiff sent an e-mail to both Hill and Schott in which she attempts to explain the problems with the account and why she should not be considered responsible for them. She emphasizes that she is a "team player" and a hard worker; but that her perspective is different from management's perspective. She states "[A]lhough I feel that in our ever-changing department with great deadline restraints, it seems that very little thought is considered for in-depth detailed discrepancy research which is highly important for accurate chargebacks. It seems that more focus is on the end result rather than what it takes, or how much it takes to get there." Schott Declaration and Exhibit C thereto. Plaintiff ends her e-mail by stating "[A]s we discussed yesterday, I do hope that realigning Allegiance will not be a reflection or have any negative bearings on my performance." Again, nowhere in the e-mail does plaintiff make any reference whatsoever to race discrimination or any action being taken by defendant...

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