McDougal-Wilson v. Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co.

Decision Date31 March 2006
Docket NumberNo. 5:04-CV-33-D(2).,5:04-CV-33-D(2).
Citation427 F.Supp.2d 595
CourtU.S. District Court — Eastern District of North Carolina
PartiesDella McDOUGAL-WILSON, Plaintiff, v. GOODYEAR TIRE AND RUBBER COMPANY, d/b/a Just Tires, Defendant.

Clarence Andrew McGuffin, Joyce L. Davis and Associates, Joyce L. Davis, Joyce Davis and Associates, Raleigh, for Della McDougal-Wilson, Lisa Brandenburg, Plaintiffs.

Patricia W. Goodson, Kilpatrick Stockton, LLP, Sabrina Presnell Rockoff, Kilpatrick Stockton, LLP, Sarah W. Fox, Kilpatrick Stockton, LLP, Raleigh, for Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company doing business as Just Tires, Goodyear International Corporation, Defendants.


DEVER, District Judge.

Plaintiff Della McDougal-Wilson ("Wilson"), an African-American woman, sued her former employer, defendant Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company ("Goodyear"), for alleged employment discrimination in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981, Title VII, and North Carolina state law. Essentially, Wilson alleges that Goodyear discriminated against her based on race, gender, and pregnancy with respect to wages, promotion, discipline, and termination. She further claims that Goodyear retaliated against her and created a hostile work environment. Wilson also asserts three state law claims: negligent infliction of emotional distress, negligent supervision, and wrongful discharge in violation of North Carolina public policy. Goodyear moved for summary judgment on all claims.

As explained below, the court grants in part and denies in part Goodyear's motion for summary judgment. Specifically, the court rejects all of Wilson's federal claims except her Title VII claim concerning a sexually hostile work environment. As to that claim, the court defers ruling until it holds an evidentiary hearing on Goodyear's laches defense. As for the state law claims, the court rejects Wilson's negligent infliction of emotional distress claim and her wrongful discharge claim. As for the negligent supervision claim, the court defers ruling on that claim until the court resolves Goodyear's laches defense.


Wilson worked continuously with Goodyear from 1984 until her termination on August 7, 2002. (Pl. Resp. Ex. 244; Pl. Dep. 11.) In January 1992, Wilson became a sales associate with the Goodyear Auto Service Center at Crabtree Valley Mall in Raleigh, North Carolina. (Pl. Resp. Ex. 64 at 2; Pl. Dep. 19.) She ultimately held positions as retail sales manager, store sales manager, and service manager at the Crabtree Valley Mall store. (McElroy Decl. Ex. C at D005109-11; Pl. Dep. 19-20.) In April 1996, Wilson was promoted to store manager and transferred from the Crabtree Valley Mall store to the Jones Franklin Road store in Raleigh. (Pl. Resp. Ex. 64 at 2; Pl. Dep. 22; McElroy Decl. ¶ 5)

As store manager, Wilson reported to a district manager.1 From April 1996 until October 2001, Dave Montgomery was Wilson's district manager. (McElroy Decl. ¶ 6.) In October 2001, all Goodyear Auto Service Centers were converted to the Just Tires format, and Jeff Stewart became Wilson's district manager. (Id.)

Goodyear periodically audits its retail stores. The Jones Franklin Road store was audited three times while Wilson was store manager: July 1997, February 2000, and June 2001. (Coale Aff. ¶ 3.) Wilson received a satisfactory score on each of the audits. (Id. ¶¶ 4, 6, 7.) Nonetheless the auditor noted Wilson's poor operational and organizational skills, including handling personnel poorly and not paying vendor bills on time. (Id. ¶ 9.) Both Montgomery and Stewart also noted deficiencies in Wilson's management. Montgomery counseled Wilson about her management of the store and sent other store managers to assist her with operational aspects of the store. (Montgomery Dep. 93-95; Montgomery Decl. ¶ 3.) In December 2000, Montgomery required Wilson to write a letter acknowledging that she was responsible for the performance of her store and committing to improve performance by organizing paperwork, controlling costs, maintaining control of inventory, and timely clearing weekly document registers. (Pl. Resp. Ex. 5; Montgomery Decl. ¶ 4.) Stewart witnessed Wilson's difficulties keeping up with paperwork and following company policies and procedures. (Stewart Decl. ¶ 5.) On January 10, 2002, Stewart gave Wilson a verbal warning for being late to a store manager meeting. (Id. ¶ 11, Ex. C.) Stewart also gave a verbal warning to two other store managers — Bob Phillips and Tony Pulliam — for being late to the same meeting. (Stewart Decl. ¶ 11.) On February 7, 2002, Stewart gave Wilson a written warning for being late to another store manager meeting. (Id. ¶ 11.)

From February 2002 to July 9, 2002, Wilson worked reduced hours or was on a medical leave of absence due to complications from her pregnancy. (Pl.Dep. 286-87, 345.) During Wilson's absence, Stewart discovered that multiple invoices had not been paid (Stewart Dep. 224, 244) and that employees in the store were not coding services properly. (Stewart Decl. ¶ 14.) Upon Wilson's return to work on July 9, 2002, Stewart sent her home to write a letter of commitment regarding unpaid bills and improper coding of services. (Id. ¶ 15; Pl. Resp. Ex. 9-10; Stewart Dep. 246-47.) Plaintiff called Goodyear human resources to complain about the timing of the request, was allowed to return to work, and was given two weeks to write the letter of commitment. (Stewart Dep. 247-48; Walker Dep. 151-54.)

On or about August 7, 2002, Stewart called the Jones Franklin Road store at 7:30 a.m., when the store was to be open for business, but no one answered. (Stewart Dep. 250, 255.) Stewart reached someone at the store at 7:40 a.m. and was told that the store had just opened. (Id. at 250; Stewart Decl. ¶ 16.) Stewart reviewed security records for the store and discovered that the store had opened late 14 times in the 22 days since Wilson's return from maternity leave. (Stewart Decl. ¶ 17.) Stewart sent Wilson home pending human resources approval of her termination, which he received on August 9, 2002. (Id. ¶ 18; Pl. Resp. Ex. 48.)

On August 7, 2002, Wilson filed her EEOC charge. (Pl. Resp. Ex. 15; Pl. Dep. 288.) Wilson received her right to sue notice on May 23, 2003, and she filed suit in state court on August 21, 2003.


Wilson offers no direct evidence of discrimination as to any of her disparate treatment claims. Instead, she proceeds under McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 93 S.Ct. 1817, 36 L.Ed.2d 668 (1973), which "established an allocation of the burden of production and an order for the presentation of proof in . . . discriminatory-treatment cases." St. Mary's Honor Or. v. Hicks, 509 U.S. 502, 506, 113 S.Ct. 2742, 125 L.Ed.2d 407 (1993). First, the plaintiff must establish a prima facie case of discrimination. See id.; Texas Dep't. of Cmty. Affairs v. Burdine, 450 U.S. 248, 252-53, 101 S.Ct. 1089, 67 L.Ed.2d 207 (1981). The prima facie case varies depending on the factual nature of the claim. See McDonnell Douglas, 411 U.S. at 802 n. 13, 93 S.Ct. 1817; Miles v. Dell, Inc., 429 F.3d 480, 485-89 (4th Cir. 2005). If the plaintiff establishes the prima facie case, the burden shifts to the defendant to produce evidence that the defendant took adverse employment action "for a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason." Burdine, 450 U.S. at 254, 101 S.Ct. 1089. This burden is one of production, not persuasion. St. Mary's Honor Ctr., 509 U.S. at 509, 113 S.Ct. 2742. If the defendant offers admissible evidence sufficient to meet its burden of production, "the burden shifts back to the plaintiff to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the employer's stated reasons were not its true reasons, but were a pretext for discrimination." Hill v. Lockheed Martin Logistics Mgmt., Inc., 354 F.3d 277, 285 (4th Cir. 2004) (en banc) (quotation omitted); see, e.g., Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 143, 120 S.Ct. 2097, 147 L.Ed.2d 105 (2000); Burdine, 450 U.S. at 256, 101 S.Ct. 1089; King v. Rumsfeld, 328 F.3d 145, 150-54 (4th Cir. 2003). A plaintiff can demonstrate pretext by showing that the employer's "explanation is unworthy of credence or by offering other forms of circumstantial evidence sufficiently probative of [illegal] discrimination." Mereish v. Walker, 359 F.3d 330, 336 (4th Cir. 2004) (quotation omitted).

The elements required to establish a prima facie case of race discrimination are the same under Title VII and section 1981; therefore, the court considers these claims together. See Bryant v. Bell Atlantic Md., Inc., 288 F.3d 124, 133 n. 7 (4th Cir. 2002); Gairola v. Va. Dep't of Gen. Servs., 753 F.2d 1281, 1285 (4th Cir. 1985).2 Further, in considering the defendant's motion for summary judgment, the court applies the governing standard under Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. See, e.g., Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986); Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986).


"[I]n order to establish a prima facie case of racial discrimination in compensation under either Title VII or section 1981, [plaintiff needs] to show: (1) membership in a protected class; (2) satisfactory job performance; (3) adverse employment action with respect to compensation; and (4) that similarly-situated employees outside the protected class received more favorable treatment." White v. BFI Waste Servs., LLC, 375 F.3d 288, 295 (4th Cir. 2004). Additionally, Title VII incorporates four defenses from the Equal Pay Act: unequal pay "made pursuant to (i) a seniority system; (ii) a merit system; (iii) a system which measures earnings by quantity or quality of production; or (iv) a differential based on...

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