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Marshall v. Exelis Systems Corp.

United States District Court, D. Colorado

March 26, 2015

RASHANNA MARSHALL, Plaintiff,
v.
EXELIS SYSTEMS CORPORATION, and LAWRENCE LINDLOFF, Defendants.

ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART DEFENDANTS' MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

]CHRISTINE M. ARGUELLO, District Judge.

In this employment discrimination action, Plaintiff Rashanna Marshall alleges that Defendants discriminated against her on the basis of race during her employment on Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan. This matter is before the Court on Defendant Exelis Systems Corporation's ("Exelis") Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. # 78) and Defendant Lawrence Lindloff's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. # 79). For the reasons discussed below, the Court grants in part and denies in part both motions.

I. BACKGROUND[1]

In June 2006, Marshall began working for Exelis at Bagram Airfield. (Doc. # 78, ¶ 1.) In February 2011, Lindloff became the Afghanistan Country Manager and one of Marshall's supervisors. ( Id., ¶¶ 7, 8.) Starting in approximately May 2011, Marshall began to complain to Lindloff that Exelis failed to consider her and other qualified African Americans for a promotion from Network Administrator to Temporary Section Lead, which was given to Robert Coapman, who is white. (Doc. # 116, ¶¶ 16, 17.)

On May 26, 2011, Site Manager Robert Payne requested a merit-pay increase for Marshall because he "really would like to keep her on Bagram" due to her "knowledge of the network...." (Doc. # 78, ¶ 27.) However, her pay increase was denied. Simultaneously, Exelis approved a merit increase for Marshall's white co-worker. (Doc. # 116, ¶ 28.) Later, Lindloff told Marshall that her request was denied because it was not his policy to give out-of-cycle raises. (Doc. # 78, ¶ 44.)

In August of 2011, Lindloff complained that Marshall had raised her voice and spoke to him in disrespectful tone. Although Marshall denied doing so, Lindloff gave her a written warning. (Doc. # 78, ¶ 41.) Marshall alleges that the written warning was in retaliation for her complaints about race discrimination. (Doc. # 116, ¶ 41.)

Between October 24 and November 7, Exelis decided that all Network Administrators would work at the South Node, resulting in Marshall's and her fiance Andre Hill's assignment to that location. (Doc. # 78, ¶ 52.) Exelis tested employees' technical abilities through a "tech out, " which Hill did not pass. ( Id., ¶ 53, 56.) Hill was demoted to Help Desk Administrator and told he would be transferred to another site in Afghanistan. ( Id., ¶ 59.) On November 7, 2012, Marshall inquired whether Lindloff would treat her request to transfer to join Hill "equally." (Doc. # 78-1 at 37.) During the meeting, Marshall accused Lindloff of dismissing her concerns by rolling his eyes. (Doc. # 116, ¶ 65.) The following day, Lindloff drafted a final written warning in which he stated that during the meeting, Marshall accused him of "being a racist, rolling [his] eyes, and acting inappropriately" and reprimanded her for being "loud and unprofessional." (Doc. # 78-4.) Marshall denied that she behaved in an inappropriate manner. (Doc. # 116, ¶ 74.)

Lindloff forwarded the warning to Program Manager Harry Loper and Human Resources Professional Bridget Bailey, who held a conference call with Marshall that day. (Doc. # 78, ¶¶ 72, 73.) During the call, Marshall repeated her concerns that Lindloff was racist and treated her and other African Americans unfairly because of their race. She expressed concern that, following his own termination, a former African-American employee warned her and her fiance that they would be the next targets. She also reiterated her concern that African Americans were passed up for promotions and that she was denied a pay raise, even though Lindloff approved one for a white employee, and that Lindloff failed to take action in response to another employee's racially derogatory remark. (Doc. ## 78, ¶ 76; 116, ¶ 76.) That evening, Lindloff gave Marshall the written reprimand, at which time she became emotional and cried. (Doc. # 78, ¶ 77.) Following that meeting, Lindloff recommended that Exelis terminate Marshall's employment. ( Id., ¶ 84.)

On November 9, 2012, Marshall told Site Manager Luther Murray that she was en route to the S3 Medical Clinic with chest pains and, then, that the clinic was referring her to Dubai for further testing. (Doc. # 116, ¶ 87.) Marshall gave Murray a note from an EMT at the clinic, stating that she needed "bed rest" until November 17, when she would "travel to Dubai for testing...." (Doc. # 78, ¶ 88.) On November 11, Vice President of Human Resources Frank Peloso decided to terminate Marshall's employment for insubordination. ( Id., ¶ 89.) That day, when Marshall came into the office to fill out medical leave paperwork, Bailey and Lindloff informed her that she was terminated. ( Id., ¶ 90.)

The following day, Bailey and Lindloff went to the S3 Medical Clinic to request information related to Marshall's illness. ( Id., ¶ 92.) Bailey and Lindloff claim that because Exelis is required to promptly evacuate or "demobilize" from Bagram any employee whose employment has been terminated, they asked merely whether Marshall's medical condition prevented her from traveling before November 17 and if she could travel commercially or required a medevac. ( Id., ¶¶ 91, 92.) However, John Kronmiller wrote an email[2] complaining to Loper that Lindloff and Bailey "question[ed] the validity of a medical referral and the credibility of our medical staff." (Doc. # 116-36.) Kronmiller further stated, "S3 Medical Clinic is in no way associated with and does not report to your company regarding your employees, however, we also will not be lied to or be used to obtain a termination." ( Id. ) He also stated that Lindloff and Bailey "have gone above and beyond to attack a patient of the S3 Medical Clinic and tried to get information that they were not privy to...." ( Id. )

On August 29, 2012, Marshall filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"), alleging that she was discriminated against based on race and subjected to discriminatory and retaliatory discipline, including discharge. (Doc. # 78-5.) On March 1, 2013, Marshall filed the instant action. (Doc. # 1.) Both Defendants moved for summary judgment, which is ripe for this Court's review. (Doc. ## 78, 79, 110, 111, 116, 118, 126, 128.)

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Summary judgment is warranted when "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. 56(a). A fact is "material" if it is essential to the proper disposition of the claim under the relevant substantive law. Wright v. Abbott Labs., Inc., 259 F.3d 1226, 1231-32 (10th Cir. 2001). A dispute is "genuine" if the evidence is such that it might lead a reasonable jury to return a verdict for the nonmoving party. Allen v. Muskogee, Okl., 119 F.3d 837, 839 (10th Cir. 1997). When reviewing motions for summary judgment, a court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Id. However, conclusory statements based merely on conjecture, speculation, or subjective beliefs do not constitute competent summary judgment evidence. Bones v. Honeywell Int'l, Inc., 366 F.3d 869, 875 (10th Cir. 2004).

The moving party bears the initial burden of demonstrating an absence of a genuine dispute of material fact and entitlement to judgment as a matter of law. Id. In attempting to meet this standard, a movant who does not bear the ultimate burden of persuasion at trial does not need to disprove the other party's claim; rather, the movant need simply point the Court to a lack of evidence for the other party on an essential element of that party's claim. Adler v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 144 F.3d 664, 671 (10th Cir. 1998) (citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325 (1986)).

Once the movant has met its initial burden, the burden then shifts to the nonmoving party to "set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 256 (1986). The nonmoving party may not simply rest upon its pleadings to satisfy its burden. Id. Rather, the nonmoving party must "set forth specific facts that would be admissible in evidence in the event of trial from which a rational trier of fact could find for the nonmovant." Adler, 144 F.3d at 671. "To accomplish this, the facts must be identified by reference to affidavits, deposition transcripts, or specific exhibits incorporated therein." Id.

III. ANALYSIS

A. STATE LAW CLAIMS-OUTRAGEOUS CONDUCT AND INTENTIONAL ...


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