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Colaizzi v. Fire Protection Service Corp.

United States District Court, D. Colorado

January 27, 2017



          Marcia S. Krieger Chief Judge

         THIS MATTER comes before the Court on Defendant, Fire Protection Service Corporation d/b/a Mountain Alarm (FPS)'s Motion for Summary Judgment (# 22), Plaintiff, Rebecca Colaizzi's, Response (# 24), and FPS's Reply (# 28). Also before the Court is Plaintiff's Motion to Restrict (# 27).

         I. Jurisdiction

         Ms. Colaizzi asserts a claim under Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, and the Court exercises jurisdiction over this claim pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331. The Court exercises jurisdiction over Ms. Colaizzi's related state law claim under 28 U.S.C. § 1343.

         II. Relevant Undisputed Facts[1]

         The following is an abbreviated summary of the facts; relevant details are discussed with more specificity in the Court's analysis.

         FPS is a business that installs home and building alarm systems designed to alert fire and police departments in the event of an emergency. Ms. Colaizzi began working at FPS in 2008 as an administrative assistant. In 2010 she was promoted to office manager.

         As office manager, Ms. Colaizzi was responsible for overseeing administrative functions including the processing of alarm system contracts and invoicing service tickets (requests for work from preexisting customers). Prompt processing of contracts was essential to FPS' business. Until a contract was processed, a customer's alarm was non-functional and law enforcement agencies did not have the relevant information necessary to respond to an emergency. In other words, if an alarm went off before a contract had been processed, no emergency assistance would be dispatched to the customer's address. This exposed the customer to risk and FPS to potential liability. Similarly, the prompt billing of service tickets was important to FPS' cash flow.

         Ms. Colaizzi initially performed her job well. In 2011, she was commended for her work ethic, but urged to focus on delegating work to subordinates. In 2012, she received the “Employee of the Month” award, and in June of 2013 she was given a raise.

         Near the end of 2012 or early 2013, FPS acquired Rocky Mountain Alarm. As a result of the expansion, Ms. Colaizzi's workload increased substantially, and two administrative staff members from Rocky Mountain Alarm were hired to assist her. Despite the extra staff, Ms. Colaizzi fell behind in her work, particularly with regard to processing contracts and billing service tickets. Ms. Colaizzi told her supervisor, Craig Simonds, that she was behind in these tasks and that she was unable to timely complete the increased volume of work. She also maintains that she requested help but none was provided.

         Mr. Simonds was concerned about Ms. Colaizzi's failure to keep up with the processing of contracts and the billing of tickets, and as a result had regular meetings with her. In September 2013, Mr. Simonds met with Michael Bailey, FPS' Chief Financial Officer, and Karen Hockins, a human resources representative, regarding Ms. Colaizzi's performance. Mr. Simonds and Mr. Bailey contemplated either terminating Ms. Colaizzi's employment or moving her to another position. However, no action was taken at that time because, based on his conversations with Ms. Colaizzi, Mr. Simonds still “had full trust that she would get [her job duties] handled.”

         Ms. Colaizzi left work for maternity leave on October 14, 2013. Before leaving, she informed FPS of several other issues: 1) that there was a problem with closing service tickets; 2) that several service tickets had not been entered into the correct database, and as a result customers had not been billed for work done by FPS technicians; and 3) that she and another employee had had a conflict with one another, but that it had been resolved.

         When Ms. Colaizzi began her maternity leave, Mr. Simonds and staff went to her office to determine what work needed to be done. To their surprise, they found more than 70 contracts that had not been processed. Of great concern was that some of the unprocessed contracts were not found in files or cabinets (where contracts were usually kept), but instead in the drawers of Ms. Colaizzi's desk. This discovery led Mr. Simonds to believe that Ms. Colaizzi had not been forthcoming with him about the extent to which she had fallen behind, that instead she had deliberately hidden much of her uncompleted work.

         On November 6, while still on leave, Ms. Colaizzi was asked to meet with Mr. Simonds, Mr. Bailey, and Ms. Hockins. At that meeting, Mr. Simonds and Mr. Bailey told Ms. Colaizzi what they had discovered and that FPS intended to terminate her employment based on poor job performance. Later that day, FPS sent Ms. Colaizzi formal notice of her termination and the reasons therefore. The letter stated that FPS' decision was made because: 1) FPS employees found more than seventy unprocessed contracts, some more than a year old; 2) there were over 600 service tickets dating back to May of 2012 that had not been closed or billed; 3) Ms. Colaizzi had failed to enter emergency contacts and public safety agencies into customers records, undermining the purpose of those customers' security alarms; 4) Ms. Colaizzi had “broken relationships with the key staff members”; and 5) Ms. Colaizzi refused to accept management's offer for additional staff members. Ms. Colaizzi's employment was terminated effective immediately, and a new office manager, Christine Graverson, was hired.[2] Ms. Graverson did not have children.

         Ms. Colaizzi asserts two claims against FPS: 1) discrimination in violation of Title VII based on pregnancy; and 2) defamation/ slander under Colorado law.[3] FPS moves for summary judgment on both claims.

         III. ...

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