Roberson v. Game Stop, Inc., CIV. 3:03-CV-2816-H.

CourtUnited States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Northern District of Texas
Citation395 F.Supp.2d 463
Docket NumberNo. CIV. 3:03-CV-2816-H.,CIV. 3:03-CV-2816-H.
PartiesWanda ROBERSON, Plaintiff, v. GAME STOP, INC., Defendant.
Decision Date08 February 2005

Eliot D. Shavin, SMU School of Law, Dallas, TX, for Plaintiff.

Ashley Scheer, W. Gary Fowler, Jackson Walker, Dallas, TX, for Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

SANDERS, Senior District Judge.

Before the Court are Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment, filed November 15, 2004; Plaintiff's Response, filed December 6, 2004; and Defendant's Reply, filed December 16, 2004.1 Also before the Court are Defendant's Motion to Strike Plaintiff's Summary Judgment Evidence, filed December 16, 2004; and Plaintiff's Response, filed December 30, 2004. For the following reasons, Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff was hired by Defendant on August 10, 1999, to work in the Return to Vendor (RTV) department. (2d Am. Compl. at 2.) Plaintiff was promoted to Lead of the RTV department on February 1, 2001. (Pl.'s App. at 106.) On November 11, 2002, Plaintiff took a leave of absence under the Family and Medical Leave Act ("FMLA"). She returned to work on December 9, 2002.

Plaintiff alleges that upon her return, she was demoted from the position of RTV Lead and that she was replaced by a white employee Stephanie McKee. (Pl.'s App. at 158-60.) McKee had served as Plaintiff's "backup" Lead, or "Co-Lead," prior to Plaintiff's leave of absence. (Id. at 158.) Plaintiff alleges she was demoted on December 13, 2002, because McKee possessed WMS computer training-training which Plaintiff sought but never adequately received. (Id. at 160, 156, 157.) Plaintiff also states that on January 8, 2003, McKee and Plaintiff were informed that they "were both going to be demoted to clerks with a cut in pay." (Id. at 163.) Plaintiff continued working for Defendant until Plaintiff broke her foot and could not return to work. (Id.) Plaintiff received a medical release from work and has not since been cleared to return to work. (Id. at 24.) Plaintiff's initial worker's compensation claim was denied, but was later approved. (Id. at 164.) Plaintiff filed complaints with the Texas Commission on Human Rights and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. (Id. at 164-65.) Upon the conclusion of Plaintiff's provided leave under the FMLA, Defendant terminated Plaintiff's employment, stating the expiration of such leave as the cause of her termination. (Id. at 165.) Plaintiff argues that Defendant's stated reason for terminating Plaintiff is mere pretext for discrimination and/or retaliation.

Plaintiff filed the instant case alleging discrimination and retaliation in violation of (1) Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e; (2) 42 U.S.C. § 1981; (3) the Texas Worker's Compensation Act; and (4) the FMLA. Defendant now moves for summary judgment as to all of Plaintiff's claims.

II. STANDARD

Summary judgment is appropriate where the facts and law as represented in the pleadings, affidavits, and other summary judgment evidence illustrate that no reasonable trier of fact could find for the non-moving party as to any material fact. FED.R.CIV.P. 56; Lujan v. National Wildlife Federation, 497 U.S. 871, 888, 110 S.Ct. 3177, 111 L.Ed.2d 695 (1990); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 251, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-25, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986); Innovative Database Systems v. Morales, 990 F.2d 217 (5th Cir.1993). "The moving party bears the initial burden of identifying those portions of the pleadings and discovery in the record that it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact, but is not required to negate elements of the nonmoving party's case." Lynch Properties, Inc. v. Potomac Ins. Co. of Ill., 140 F.3d 622, 625 (5th Cir.1998) (citing Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322-25, 106 S.Ct. 2548). If the movant fails to meet its initial burden, the motion must be denied, regardless of the nonmovant's response. Little v. Liquid Air Corp., 37 F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th Cir.1994).

If the movant does meet its burden, the nonmovant must go beyond the pleadings and designate specific facts showing that a genuine issue of material fact exists for trial. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986); Edwards v. Your Credit, Inc., 148 F.3d 427, 431 (5th Cir.1998). A party opposing summary judgment may not rest on mere conclusory allegations or denials in its pleadings unsupported by specific facts presented in affidavits opposing the motion for summary judgment. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e); Lujan, 497 U.S. at 888, 110 S.Ct. 3177; Hightower v. Texas Hosp. Assn., 65 F.3d 443, 447 (5th Cir.1995).

In determining whether genuine issues of fact exist, "[f]actual controversies are construed in the light most favorable to the nonmovant, but only if both parties have introduced evidence showing that a controversy exists." Lynch, 140 F.3d at 625; Evans v. City of Houston, 246 F.3d 344, 348 (5th Cir.2001); see also Eastman Kodak v. Image Technical Services, 504 U.S. 451, 112 S.Ct. 2072, 119 L.Ed.2d 265 (1992). However, in the absence of any proof, the Court will not assume that the non-moving party could or would prove the necessary facts. Lynch, 140 F.3d at 625. A party must do more than simply show some "metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 586, 106 S.Ct. 1348. "If the record, taken as a whole, could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party, there is no genuine issue for trial." Friou v. Phillips Petroleum Co., 948 F.2d 972, 974 (5th Cir.1991).

III. ANALYSIS

Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint includes the following claims: racial discrimination in violation of Title VII and 42 U.S.C. § 1981; violations of the Family and Medical Leave Act; and retaliation in violation of Title VII and the Texas Worker's Compensation Act. Each claim shall be addressed in turn.

A. Race Discrimination
1. Title VII

Plaintiff alleges racial discrimination in violation of Title VII because Defendant failed to train Plaintiff in the same manner that Defendant trained a subordinate white employee. (Pl.'s Br. at 6.) Plaintiff's Response establishes that Plaintiff repeatedly requested training beginning in the Spring of 2001 and continuing through December 2002, the approximate time when Stephanie McKee, Plaintiff's "backup" Lead and a white employee, was given the training. (Pl.'s Resp. at 5-6; Pl.'s App. at 30A.) Plaintiff properly raised her claim for a failure to train within 180 days of the time when she knew that McKee was given the training Plaintiff was allegedly denied. See Celestine v. Petroleos de Venezuella SA, 266 F.3d 343, 352 (5th Cir.2001). Although a failure to train may rise to the level of an adverse employment action establishing discrimination under Title VII, this does not occur where the alleged failure to train an employee is one of a matter of adequacy and where no formal program of training exists. See Neal v. Wolf Camera & Video, No. CA 3:97-CV-3007-R, 1999 WL 172319, at *5-6 (N.D.Tex. Mar. 22, 1999) (Buchmeyer, C.J.). It is undisputed that no formal training program existed at Gamestop. (Pl.'s App. at 157.) Plaintiff "provides no significant evidence that a denial of such training would `tend to affect' her employment status or benefits." See Shackelford v. Deloitte & Touche, LLP, 190 F.3d 398, 406-07 (5th Cir.1999). Therefore, Plaintiff has not sufficiently demonstrated an adverse employment action in her failure to train claim and fails to establish a prima facie case of racial discrimination. Accordingly, Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED as to Plaintiff's Title VII failure to train claims.

2. 42 U.S.C. § 1981

Plaintiff claims that Defendant's failure to provide training denied Plaintiff the opportunity to make and enforce contracts on equal footing with white citizens. (See 2d Am. Compl. at 7.) Plaintiff, however, points to no right to training established by contract or necessity for promotion. Instead, Plaintiff acknowledges that Defendant provided training only informally. (Pl.'s App. at 42, 157.) Plaintiff does not provide summary judgment evidence indicating that she had a right to training as part of her employment. As a result of the above, Plaintiff has failed to establish a violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981 for her failure to train claim. Accordingly, Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment as to Plaintiff's § 1981 claim is GRANTED.

B. Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

Plaintiff claims multiple violations of the FMLA. First, Plaintiff claims Defendant failed to restore Plaintiff "to the position she held when her Family Medical Leave commenced, or to an equivalent position with equivalent benefits, pay, and other terms and conditions in employment." (2d Am. Compl. at 7.) Second, Plaintiff claims Defendant failed to provide her with the training necessary to remain qualified for her job following her return from Family Medical Leave. Plaintiff alleges two instances when she utilized her Family Medical Leave: once while taking care of her wounded son between November 11, 2002, and December 9, 2002 (id. at 3); and once upon her injury beginning on April 14, 2003. (Id. at 5-6.)

Following Plaintiff's injury in 2003, Plaintiff has been unable to return to work. (See Pl.'s App. at 164.) It is well established that an employer may terminate an employee unable to return to work after the exhaustion of the twelve week period of Family Medical Leave where the employer has a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for terminating the employee. 29 U.S.C. § 2612(a)(1)(D) (2004); Gray v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., Inc., 131 F.Supp.2d 895, 900-01 (S.D.Tex.2001); Karnes v. Central Tex. Mental Health Retardation...

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