Habib v. Nationsbank, 01-2056.

Decision Date28 December 2001
Docket NumberNo. 01-2056.,01-2056.
Citation279 F.3d 563
PartiesNazia HABIB, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. NATIONSBANK, Defendant-Appellee.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Eighth Circuit

Robert S. Sanderson, Holtkamp & Liese, St. Louis, MO, Nazia Habib, St. Ann, MO, for Plaintiff-Appellant.

Robert James Golterman, John Joseph Moellering, Kristine K. Kraft, Neal F. Perryman, Lewis & Rice, for Defendant-Appellee.

Before WOLLMAN, Chief Judge, BOWMAN, and STAHL,1 Circuit Judges.

STAHL, Circuit Judge.

Plaintiff Nazia Habib brought suit against Defendant NationsBank, claiming that she was unlawfully terminated on the basis of her race, religion, and/or national origin in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq. ("Title VII"). On March 22, 2001, the district court2 entered summary judgment in favor of the defendant. We affirm.

Nazia Habib, a Muslim Pakistani woman, began working as a part-time teller with NationsBank (then known as Boatman's Bank) in June 1996 at the St. John's Branch, switching to full-time work in October 1997. She was the only Asian person of the Muslim faith working at the branch. When she was hired, Habib had informed NationsBank's management that, in accordance with her religious beliefs, she needed to pray five times a day, and that her prayers would last from five to fifteen minutes. In response to this request, the defendant allowed Habib to schedule her breaks so as to accommodate her prayer time. According to Habib, however, some of her fellow employees, including her direct supervisor Sandra Tipton, were less understanding about her cultural and religious practices, and made derogatory comments about her dress and diet. Habib alleged that Tipton had been particularly unsupportive. According to Plaintiff, Tipton had made public remarks that Habib's unique scheduling arrangements were unfair to the other tellers, and on three separate occasions specifically had prevented Habib from taking a break for prayer at the particular time required by her religion.3 Although Habib wrote a letter in February 1998 to Herman Travis, the Branch Manager, complaining about Tipton's insensitivity, Tipton's hostile behavior toward her allegedly continued unabated.

In early June 1998, having received prior approval of her request for compassionate leave, Habib took three days off from work to attend her grandmother's funeral in California. When she was unable to return to St. Louis as scheduled, she contacted NationsBank before her next scheduled shift to advise them of the delay and took a fourth day off as a personal day. Upon her return, Habib received a written counseling memorandum dated June 5, 1998 for absenteeism from Julie Childs, the Banking Center Manager of the St. John's Branch.4 The memorandum warned that "any further occurrences of absenteeism can result in further written notification, up to and including termination of employment."

Less than one week after she had received the counseling memorandum, while at work Habib began to suffer from a headache, dizziness and fatigue, and asked Tipton if she could go home for the rest of the day. Tipton referred the matter to the other Banking Center Manager, Karen Allen. After consulting with the Bank's human resources representative, Allen informed Habib that she could go home if she agreed to bring in a doctor's note the next day. Habib responded that it was unreasonable to require her to visit a doctor that afternoon and that she had no intention of bringing in a note from her doctor. At this point, Allen emphasized to Habib that she had only two options: (1) finish her shift, or (2) leave work early and provide a doctor's note the next morning. Otherwise, Allen warned, she would be fired. Habib rejected what she characterizes as Allen's "ultimatum" and left work, steadfast in her refusal to bring a doctor's note. True to her word, Allen fired Habib that day.5

Plaintiff filed this lawsuit in August 1999, alleging that NationsBank discriminated against her on the basis of race, religion and/or national origin with respect to the terms and conditions of her employment, up to and including her termination. The district court dismissed her case on the defendant's motion for summary judgment, however, after finding that her termination did not "occur[] under circumstances which allow the Court to infer unlawful discrimination."

We review de novo the district court's grant of summary judgment, Barrera v. Con Agra, 244 F.3d 663, 665 (8th Cir.2001), and may affirm its judgment on any grounds supported by the record, Hatchett v. Philander Smith College, 251 F.3d 670, 674 (8th Cir.2001). Summary judgment is appropriate when the evidence, viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, demonstrates that there are no outstanding issues of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Henerey v. City of St. Charles, 200 F.3d 1128, 1131 (8th Cir.1999); Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c).

In order to establish a prima facie case of discrimination based on circumstantial, rather than direct evidence, as Habib wishes to do here, the plaintiff must show that (1) she is a member of a protected class; (2) she was qualified for her position and performed her...

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