Jones v. Reliant Energy-Arkla, 02-3740.

Decision Date15 July 2003
Docket NumberNo. 02-3740.,02-3740.
Citation336 F.3d 689
PartiesBridget JONES, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. RELIANT ENERGY-ARKLA, Defendant-Appellee.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Eighth Circuit

Eugene Hunt, argued, Pine Bluff, AR (Jan Dewoody Scussel, on the brief), for appellant.

J. Bruce Cross, argued, Little Rock, AR (Melissa McJunkins Duke, on the brief), for appellee.

Before BOWMAN, RICHARD S. ARNOLD and BYE, Circuit Judges.

BYE, Circuit Judge.

Bridget Jones appeals the district court's1 adverse grant of summary judgment dismissing her claim of race discrimination against Reliant Energy-ARKLA. We affirm.


Jones, an African-American, was hired by ARKLA (Reliant Energy's [Reliant] predecessor) in 1990 as a Customer Service Representative in its Pine Bluff, Arkansas, customer service office. ARKLA was later purchased by Reliant and reorganized. As part of the reorganization, Reliant closed the Pine Bluff office in April 1999. Before the Pine Bluff office closed, Jones applied for and received training as a Training Champion whose duties included training Reliant's employees to use its new Systems Application Processor computer system. After becoming a Training Champion, Jones traveled in-state to Little Rock, Benton, Jacksonville, Conway, Monticello and out-of-state to Shreveport, Louisiana, on behalf of the company. Jones rotated between these various locales within the company until given a permanent assignment in Reliant's Monticello office in March 2000. Jones continued to reside in Pine Bluff and commuted daily to Monticello. In June 2001, Jones requested and received a permanent position at Reliant's Pine BluffWarehouse. Jones continues to be employed by Reliant.

Beverly Terry, a Caucasian, also worked at the Pine Bluff customer service center until it closed in April 1999. After Pine Bluff closed, she was transferred to a position in Little Rock dealing with customer accounts that were in bankruptcy. Reliant contends Terry's position in Little Rock was eliminated when it decided to move all bankruptcy accounts to Shreveport. Because she was not offered a new position, Terry was terminated and received a lump sum severance package.

Jones disputes such factual assertions and argues Terry's position was never eliminated. Rather, it was transferred and Terry could have retained the position had she been willing to relocate. Jones argues she was discriminated against because she was not given the option of accepting a severance package instead of relocating, as was Terry.

Jones sued for race discrimination in employment under 42 U.S.C. § 1981 and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e to 2000e-17. Reliant moved for but was denied summary judgment because of unresolved fact issues relating to Jones's eligibility for severance. Reliant renewed its motion for summary judgment arguing Jones failed to show an adverse employment action as a result of Reliant's failure to offer her a severance package. Upon reconsideration, the motion for summary judgment was granted. On appeal, Jones argues the district court erred in finding the failure to offer a severance package cannot constitute an adverse employment action.


This court reviews the district court's grant of summary judgment de novo. Spears v. Missouri Dep't of Corr. & Human Res., 210 F.3d 850, 853 (8th Cir.2000). "Summary judgment is proper where the evidence, when viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, indicates that no genuine issue of material fact exists and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Id.

To establish a prima facie case of disparate treatment in a race discrimination claim, the plaintiff must show 1) she is within the protected class, 2) she was qualified to perform her job, 3) she suffered an adverse employment action, and 4) non-members of her class, e.g., white employees, were treated differently. Breeding v. Arthur J. Gallagher & Co., 164 F.3d 1151, 1156 (8th Cir.1999).

"An adverse employment action is a tangible change in working conditions that produces a material employment disadvantage." Spears, 210 F.3d at 853. "Termination, reduction in pay or benefits, and changes in employment that significantly affect an employee's future career prospects meet this standard." Id.

Jones does not argue she suffered a reduction in responsibilities or pay. Nor does she argue relocation constitutes an adverse employment action. See Spears, 210 F.3d at 852 (holding a relocation to another correctional facility within the same system not an adverse employment action because there was no impact on title, salary, benefits or other material aspect of employment); Hoffman v. Rubin, 193 F.3d 959, 964 (8th Cir.1999) (holding relocation from Chicago to St. Paul not an adverse employment action). Instead, Jones contends she suffered an adverse employment action because she was not permitted to take advantage of a benefit provided by Reliant, i.e., severance pay. We disagree.

We have previously declined to find an employer's failure to give severance benefits constitutes an adverse employment action. In Cooney v. Union...

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  • Dunbar v. Pepsi-Cola General Bottlers of Iowa
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Northern District of Iowa
    • October 7, 2003; (2) he was qualified for his position; and (3) he suffered an adverse employment action. See, e.g., Jones v. Reliant Energy-ARKLA, 336 F.3d 689, 691 (8th Cir.2003). Pepsi contends that there is also a fourth element: that similarly situated employees who are not members of the plaint......
  • Johnson v. Be & K Constr. Co.
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    • U.S. District Court — Southern District of Iowa
    • June 22, 2010
    ...removing Plaintiff from her position in the warehouse, in itself, constitutes an adverse employment action. See Jones v. Reliant Energy-ARKLA, 336 F.3d 689, 691 (8th Cir.2003) (finding that an adverse employment action is a “tangible change in working conditions that produces a material emp......
  • Filter Specialists, Inc. v. Brooks
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    ...discrimination in firing, courts differ on the precise elements of the plaintiff's prima facie case. See, e.g., Jones v. Reliant Energy-ARKLA, 336 F.3d 689, 691 (8th Cir. 2003) (for prima facie claim of disparate treatment based on race, a plaintiff must prove: "1) she is within the protect......
  • Warr v. Hagel
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    • April 18, 2014
    ...1142, 1144 (8th Cir.1997), nor will transferring an employee to a different office within commuting distance, Jones v. Reliant Energy–ARKLA, 336 F.3d 689, 692 (8th Cir.2003), or refusing to transfer an employee, LePique v. Hove, 217 F.3d 1012, 1013–14 (8th Cir.2000), or transferring an empl......
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2 books & journal articles
  • Deposing & examining the plaintiff
    • United States
    • James Publishing Practical Law Books Deposing & Examining Employment Witnesses
    • March 31, 2022
    ...on this issue. See Houston v Easton Area School District , 355 F. App’x 651, 654-55 (3rd Cir. 2009); Jones v. Reliant Energy – ARKLA , 336 F.3d 689, 692 (8th Cir. 2003); Leap v. Bodman, 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 32349, at *22 (D. Or. April 17, 2008); Willingham v. Gonzales , 391 F.Supp.2d 52, 5......
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    • United States
    • University of Washington School of Law University of Washington Law Review No. 90-3, March 2021
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    ...of Nassau, 524 F.3d 160 (2d Cir. 2008) (requiring adverse employment action for Title VII claim to proceed); Jones v. Reliant Energy, 336 F.3d 689 (8th Cir. 2003) (same). 148. 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(2) (2012). 149. See Naomi Schoenbaum, It's Time That You Know: The Shortcomings of Ignorance......

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