Moore v. Delta Airlines, Inc., Case No. 5:18-cv-00485-HNJ

Decision Date15 January 2020
Docket NumberCase No. 5:18-cv-00485-HNJ
PartiesDREAMA MOORE, Plaintiff v. DELTA AIRLINES, INC., Defendant
CourtU.S. District Court — Northern District of Alabama

This action proceeds before the court on Defendant Delta Airline, Inc.'s Motion for Summary Judgment. (Doc. 45). Plaintiff Dreama Moore claims defendant Delta Airlines retaliated against her, and discriminated against her on account of her race and gender, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, et seq., as amended, and 42 U.S.C. § 1981.

Moore bases her claims upon (1) her receipt of discipline for leaving the worksite; (2) her receipt of discipline for applying makeup at work; (3) her receipt of a Final Corrective Action Notice ("FCAN"); and (4) Delta's termination of her employment. The court concludes Moore abandoned her gender discrimination claims, and race discrimination claims based upon her discipline for leaving the worksite and applying makeup at work. Similarly, Moore's retaliation and race discrimination claims based upon the FCAN are untimely under Title VII. In addition, no reasonable juror could conclude Delta terminated Moore's employment with retaliatory or discriminatory animus in violation of Title VII or § 1981. However, there exist genuine issues of material fact whether the FCAN issued with retaliatory and discriminatory animus under § 1981.

Therefore, based upon the following discussion the court GRANTS IN PART and DENIES IN PART Delta's Motion for Summary Judgment. The court will GRANT the Motion as to Moore's Title VII gender discrimination, race discrimination, and retaliation claims based upon her discipline for leaving the worksite and applying makeup at work, and the issuance of the FCAN and her discharge. The court will DENY the Motion as to Moore's § 1981 retaliation and race discrimination claims based upon the issuance of the FCAN.


Pursuant to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, "[t]he court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. Rule 56(a). The party seeking summary judgment bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Clark v. Coats & Clark, Inc., 929 F.2d 604, 608 (11th Cir. 1991) (quoting Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986)).

If the movant sustains its burden, a non-moving party demonstrates a genuine issue of material fact by producing evidence by which a reasonable fact-finder could return a verdict in its favor. Greenberg v. BellSouth Telecomms., Inc., 498 F.3d 1258, 1263 (11th Cir. 2007) (citation omitted). The non-movant sustains this burden by demonstrating "that the record in fact contains supporting evidence, sufficient to withstand a directed verdict motion." Fitzpatrick v. City of Atlanta, 2 F.3d 1112, 1116 (11th Cir. 1993). In the alternative, the non-movant may "come forward with additional evidence sufficient to withstand a directed verdict motion at trial based on the alleged evidentiary deficiency." Id. at 1116-17; see also Doe v. Drummond Co., 782 F.3d 576, 603-04 (11th Cir. 2015), cert. denied, 136 S. Ct. 1168 (2016).

The "court must draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party, and it may not make credibility determinations or weigh the evidence." Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 150 (2000) (citations omitted). "Credibility determinations, the weighing of the evidence, and the drawing of legitimate inferences from the facts are jury functions, not those of a judge." Id. (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986)). "Thus, although the court should review the record as a whole, it must disregard all evidence favorable to the moving party that the jury is not required to believe." Reeves, 530 U.S. at 151 (citation omitted). "That is, the court should give credence to the evidence favoring the nonmovant as well as that 'evidence supporting the moving party that is uncontradicted and unimpeached, at leastto the extent that that evidence comes from disinterested witnesses.'" Id. (citation omitted).1

Rule 56 "mandates the entry of summary judgment, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322. "In such a situation, there can be 'no genuine issue as to any material fact,' since a complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial." Id. at 322-23. In addition, a movant may prevailon summary judgment by submitting evidence "negating [an] opponent's claim," that is, by producing materials disproving an essential element of a non-movant's claim or defense. Id. at 323 (emphasis in original).

There exists no issue for trial unless the nonmoving party submits evidence sufficient to merit a jury verdict in its favor; if the evidence is merely colorable or is not significantly probative, summary judgment may be granted. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249. The movant merits summary judgment if the governing law on the claims or defenses commands one reasonable conclusion, id. at 250, but the court should deny summary judgment if reasonable jurors "could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Id. at 248. That is, a court should preserve a case for trial if there exists "sufficient evidence favoring the nonmoving party for a jury to return a verdict for that party." Id. at 249.


The undersigned sets forth the following facts for the summary judgment determination, drawn from the evidence taken in the light most favorable to Moore.

I. Moore's Early Employment

In 2007, Plaintiff Dreama Moore, an African-American woman, commenced employment for Defendant Delta Airlines Inc. as a "Ready Reserve" customer service agent at the Huntsville International Airport in Alabama. As a "Ready Reserve" customer service agent, Moore worked on a part-time, as-needed basis. In May 2010, Delta promoted Moore to a regular, full-time customer service agent position. Mooreperformed the same job duties in both positions: assisted Delta passengers at the ticket counter, baggage service office, and terminal gates.

Relatedly, Delta employed Todd Kruebbe, a Caucasian male, as a regular, full-time customer service agent at its Huntsville station. Bill Johnson worked as a Delta Operations Service Manager at its Huntsville station. Johnson reported to Randy Tiemann, who served as the Huntsville Station Manager. Johnson and Tiemann served as Moore and Kruebbe's immediate supervisors. Tiemann reported to Nancee Franklin, a Field Director for Airport Customer Service ("ACS"), and he worked closely with Matthew Morrison, a Human Resources ("HR") Manager for ACS/Cargo. Franklin reported to Stephanie Baldwin, who was then ACS Director of Operations East, and Morrison reported to Josh Jessup, HR General Manager for ACS/Cargo.

Customer service agents receive job performance feedback — positive and negative — from both supervisors and customers. Supervisors may reward customer service agents for outstanding performance with Delta "honor roll passes" and "spot awards," and customers may compliment an agent's performance via surveys or letters. Contrariwise, supervisors may discipline agents for poor performance, and customers may lodge complaints for unsatisfactory customer service. Supervisors maintain a "one-on-one journal" for each agent, in which they document job performance feedback and other employment-related notes.

To discipline a customer service agent, supervisors follow Delta's tiered disciplinary system. The system comprises a series of increasingly punitive disciplinaryactions: verbally "coaching" the agent, issuing the agent a Written Corrective Action Notice, issuing the agent a written Final Corrective Action Notice (FCAN), and submitting to Delta officials a recommendation for termination of the agent's employment. When a supervisor recommends termination, Delta officials must either accept or deny the recommendation.2 (Franklin Dep. at 46:18-47:19; Morrison Dep. at 101, ll. 19-23; 104, ll. 13-16).

Johnson and Tiemann disciplined Huntsville customer service agents, including Moore and Kruebbe, under Delta's disciplinary system. Before 2016, Kruebbe's journal reflects he received coaching three times for failing to use guest names "100% of the time" and once for failing to observe a scheduling change. (Doc. 49-14 at 4-5). In addition, his journal depicts Kruebbe arrived to work tardy twice, had a face-to-face discussion regarding safety, and received a customer complaint for rudeness. Id. Each incident occurred in 2014, except for a tardy arrival on January 1, 2015. Kruebbe's journal only includes entries during the years 2014 to 2017.

II. Moore's 2007-2015 Job Performance History

Moore's journal includes the following job performance feedback for each year between 2007 and 20153:

2007: received "counseling" for tardiness on two occasions; received one "verbal warning" and "Warning Letter" for tardiness
2008: marked tardy on three occasions; "advised" once for tardiness; received one customer complaint for poor service
2009: marked tardy on nine occasions; received one "Final Warning" letter for tardiness; received two customer compliments and one honor roll pass for excellent service
2010: marked tardy on six occasions; promoted to full-time customer service agent; received four customer compliments and one honor roll pass for excellent service

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