Doyle v. Sentry Ins.

Decision Date03 March 1995
Docket NumberCiv. No. 3:94CV614.
Citation877 F. Supp. 1002
CourtU.S. District Court — Eastern District of Virginia
PartiesStephanie K. DOYLE, Plaintiff, v. SENTRY INSURANCE, a Mutual Company, Inc., Defendant.

COPYRIGHT MATERIAL OMITTED

Robert Patrick Geary, Richmond, VA, for plaintiff Stephanie K. Doyle.

Kirk David McQuiddy, Thomas Dudley Stokes, III, Ann Adams Webster, Morris and Morris, Richmond, VA, for defendant Sentry Ins., a Mut. Co., Inc.

MEMORANDUM

MERHIGE, District Judge.

Plaintiff alleges that Defendant, in failing to promote her, discriminated against her on account of her sex in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. ("Title VII"). Plaintiff also asserts that she was discharged on account of her sex. Defendant has moved for summary judgment, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. This Court has jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1343. For the reasons which follow, the Court will grant Defendant's motion.

I.

Plaintiff commenced employment with Defendant as a claims representative in 1988. During the course of her employment, Plaintiff was promoted on two occasions. In 1989, she was promoted to claims adjuster, and, in 1990, was promoted to senior claims adjuster. In November, 1992, she applied and was selected to interview for an open management position as claims unit manager in Defendant's bodily injury section. Several other senior claims adjusters, including one male, James Carr, interviewed for the position as well. The interviews were conducted by claims manager Ray Walters subsequent to an initial applicant screen by human resources manager Bonnie Chappelle. Walters was responsible for the ultimate promotion decision (although Chappelle made recommendations as to whom she felt was the best person for the job) and eventually selected Carr for the position. Chappelle concurred with this decision. Both Walters and Chappelle agreed that the next most-qualified individual was senior claims adjuster Millicent Barclay.

Subsequent to Walters' decision, Plaintiff was transferred to Carr's former position. Plaintiff initially welcomed this opportunity because of the breadth of experiences associated with that position. Doyle Dep. at 45. She soon became discontent, however, and began searching for another job. Consequently, Plaintiff submitted a voluntary resignation in January, 1993. In her exit interview with Chappelle, Plaintiff stated that she resigned because she had accepted an external position. She also opined that the company was not supportive of women.

Plaintiff filed a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") in February, 1993. Upon the issuance of a right to sue letter, Plaintiff filed her suit under Title VII on August 23, 1994. Defendant moved for summary judgment on January 20, 1995.

II.

Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure governs motions for summary judgment. F.R.Civ.P. 56. Summary judgment is appropriate where parties do not dispute material facts that might affect the outcome of an action. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2510, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). Under Rule 56, the movant bears the burden of proving the absence of any genuine issues of material fact, and the Court must view the facts and any justifiable and legitimate inferences drawn therefrom in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Id. at 248, 255-56, 106 S.Ct. at 2508, 2513-14. "As to materiality, the substantive law will identify which facts are material. Only disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment. Factual disputes that are irrelevant or unnecessary will not be counted." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248, 106 S.Ct. at 2510. "Genuineness means that the evidence must create fair doubt; wholly speculative assertions will not suffice." Ross v. Communications Satellite Corp., 759 F.2d 355, 364 (4th Cir.1985). Where no genuine issue of material fact exists, the Fourth Circuit has imposed an obligation on the trial judge "to prevent `factually unsupported claims and defenses' from proceeding to trial." Felty v. Graves-Humphreys Co., 818 F.2d 1126, 1128 (4th Cir. 1987).

Once the movant has met this burden, and a properly supported motion is before the Court, a non-moving party, who will bear the burden of proof at trial on a dispositive issue, may not rest upon mere belief or conjecture, or the allegations and denials contained in his pleadings. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 2553, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). Rather, the non-moving party must set forth specific facts with affidavits, depositions, interrogatories or other evidence to show a genuine issue for trial. Id.

Courts must take special care in considering summary judgment in cases involving questions of motive, such as in employment discrimination cases. Ballinger v. North Carolina Agricultural Extension Service, 815 F.2d 1001, 1004 (4th Cir.), cert. denied, 484 U.S. 897, 108 S.Ct. 232, 98 L.Ed.2d 191 (1987); see Ross v. Communications Satellite Corp., 759 F.2d 355, 364-65 (4th Cir.1985). However, "`the fact that motive is often the critical issue in employment discrimination cases does not mean that summary judgment is never an appropriate vehicle for resolution.'" Ballinger, 815 F.2d at 1005 (quoting Woodworkers of America v. Chesapeake Bay Plywood Corp., 659 F.2d 1259, 1272 (4th Cir.1981)) (emphasis in original). Where a plaintiff fails to set forth either a prima facie case of discrimination or a "genuine factual dispute over the employer's legitimate non-discriminatory explanation," a defendant may prevail on summary judgment. Mitchell v. Data General Corp., 12 F.3d 1310, 1316-17 (4th Cir.1994).

III.

Where a plaintiff advances a disparate treatment claim by alleging discriminatory promotion or discriminatory discharge and there is a lack of direct evidence on the issue, the Fourth Circuit has adopted the three-part burden of proof test initially set forth by the Supreme Court in McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 93 S.Ct. 1817, 36 L.Ed.2d 668 (1973), and later clarified in Texas Department of Community Affairs v. Burdine, 450 U.S. 248, 252-56, 101 S.Ct. 1089, 1093-95, 67 L.Ed.2d 207 (1981).1 See e.g., Carter v. Ball, 33 F.3d 450, 458 (4th Cir.1994); McNairn v. Sullivan, 929 F.2d 974, 977 (4th Cir.1991). First, the plaintiff must establish a prima facie case. In discriminatory promotion cases, a prima facie case consists of the following elements:

(1) plaintiff is a member of a protected group; (2) plaintiff applied for the position in question; (3) plaintiff was qualified for the job; and (4) plaintiff was rejected in favor of someone not a member of the protected group under circumstances giving rise to an inference of unlawful discrimination.

Carter, 33 F.3d at 458 (citations omitted). The prima facie case for discriminatory discharge, on the other hand, consists of the following elements:

(1) plaintiff is a member of a protected group; (2) plaintiff was qualified for the job and performed the job satisfactorily; (3) in spite of plaintiff's qualifications and performance, plaintiff was demoted or ultimately discharged; and (4) the position remained open to similarly qualified applicants after plaintiff's dismissal.

Id. (citations omitted); see also McDonnell Douglas, 411 U.S. at 802, 93 S.Ct. at 1824; Burdine, 450 U.S. at 253-54, 101 S.Ct. at 1093-94. "Establishment of the prima facie case in effect creates a presumption that the employer unlawfully discriminated against the employee." Burdine, 450 U.S. at 254, 101 S.Ct. at 1094.

The burden then falls upon the defendant to rebut this presumption by producing evidence that the plaintiff was not hired for a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason. Id. If the defendant satisfies this burden of production, he has rebutted the presumption raised by the plaintiff's prima facie case. Id. at 255, 101 S.Ct. at 1094-95. Because the burden of persuasion remains on the plaintiff, the ultimate burden then falls on her to demonstrate that the reason set forth by the employer "was not the true reason for the employment decision ... either directly by persuading the court that a discriminatory reason more likely motivated the employer or indirectly by showing that the employer's proffered reason is unworthy of credence." Id. at 256, 101 S.Ct. at 1095. The employer's proffered reason is not pretextual "unless it is shown both that the reason was false, and that discrimination was the real reason." St. Mary's Honor Ctr. v. Hicks, ___ U.S. ___, 113 S.Ct. 2742, 125 L.Ed.2d 407 (1993) (emphasis added). If the plaintiff fails to evidence a genuine dispute of fact over the employer's nondiscriminatory reason, he has not satisfied his burden and the defendant may prevail as a matter of law. Mitchell, 12 F.3d at 1317.

IV.

Plaintiff asserts that Defendant did not promote her because of her sex and that such alleged discrimination "forced her to leave her position with Defendant." Complaint ¶ 9. The Court need not address the merits of this discriminatory discharge claim because the Court determines that Plaintiff failed to exhaust her administrative remedies as to this portion of her complaint.

Plaintiff's failure to include allegations of discriminatory discharge in either the EEOC charge or the accompanying affidavit is manifest.2 A review of these documents plainly reveals that Plaintiff was immediately concerned with bringing only a failure to promote claim before the EEOC. In fact, these documents nowhere mention that Plaintiff even left Defendant's employ. Subsequent correspondence with the EEOC also reveals that Plaintiff was merely bringing before the EEOC "allegations concerning sexual discrimination in Defendant's promotion process." Defendant's Brief, Ex. 3 (letter dated April 1, 1993 from Plaintiff to EEOC). Likewise, in an August 23, 1993...

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