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Smith v. Sprint/United Management Co.

United States District Court, D. Colorado

March 27, 2017

ANTHONY SMITH, Plaintiff,
v.
SPRINT/UNITED MANAGEMENT COMPANY, and LINDSEY MASON, Defendants.

          ORDER ADOPTING FEBRUARY 24, 2017 RECOMMENDATION OF MAGISTRATE JUDGE GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          William J. Martínez, United States District Judge

         This matter is before the Court on the February 24, 2017 Recommendation of United States Magistrate Judge Kristen L. Mix (“Recommendation, ” ECF No. 121) that Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (the “Motion, ” ECF No. 73) be granted. The Recommendation is incorporated herein by reference. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B); Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b). Plaintiff filed an objection to the Recommendation. (“Objection, ” ECF No. 124.) For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiff's Objection is overruled, the Magistrate Judge's Recommendation is adopted, Defendants' Motion is granted, and judgment is entered in favor of Defendants on all claims in this matter.

         I. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         When a magistrate judge issues a recommendation on a dispositive matter, Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 72(b)(3) requires that the district judge “determine de novo any part of the magistrate judge's [recommendation] that has been properly objected to.” An objection to a recommendation is properly made if it is both timely and specific. United States v. One Parcel of Real Property Known as 2121 East 30th St., 73 F.3d 1057, 1059 (10th Cir. 1996). An objection is sufficiently specific if it “enables the district judge to focus attention on those issues-factual and legal-that are at the heart of the parties' dispute.” Id. In conducting its review, “[t]he district court judge may accept, reject, or modify the recommendation; receive further evidence; or return the matter to the magistrate judge with instructions.” Id. Here, Plaintiff filed a timely objection to Judge Mix's Recommendation. Therefore, this Court reviews the issues before it de novo.

         Summary Judgment is appropriate only if there is no genuine issue of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986); Adamson v. Multi Cmty. Diversified Servs., Inc., 514 F.3d 1136, 1145 (10th Cir. 2008). Whether there is a genuine dispute as to a material fact depends upon whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or, conversely, is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. 242, 248-49 (1986); Stone v. Autoliv ASP, Inc., 210 F.3d 1132, 1136 (10th Cir. 2000).

         On a motion for summary judgment, the moving party bears the burden of demonstrating that no genuine issue of material fact exists. Adamson, 514 F.3d at 1145. Where the moving party does not bear the ultimate burden of persuasion at trial, it may satisfy this burden by demonstrating a lack of evidence for an essential element of the nonmovant's claim. Id. In contrast, a movant who bears the burden at trial must submit evidence to establish the essential elements of its claim or affirmative defense. In re Ribozyme Pharms., Inc. Sec. Litig., 209 F.Supp.2d 1106, 1111 (D. Colo. 2002). In deciding whether the moving party has carried its burden, the Court does not weigh the evidence, and instead views it, and draws all reasonable inferences from it, in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Adamson, 514 F.3d at 1145. Unsupported conclusory allegations, however, are not sufficient to create a genuine dispute of material fact on summary judgment. See Mackenzie v. City & Cnty. of Denver, 414 F.3d 1266, 1273 (10th Cir. 2005). When a moving party has carried its burden under Rule 56(c), more than “some metaphysical doubt” as to the material facts must be demonstrated by the nonmovant to survive summary judgment. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986).

         Further, in considering Judge Mix's Recommendation, the Court is mindful of Plaintiff's pro se status, and accordingly reads his pleadings and filings liberally. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972); Trackwell v. United States Gov't, 472 F.3d 1242, 1243 (10th Cir. 2007). The Court, however, cannot act as advocate for Plaintiff, who must still comply with the fundamental requirements of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. See Hall v. Bellmon, 935 F.2d 1106, 1110 (10th Cir. 1991); see also Ledbetter v. City of Topeka, Kan., 318 F.3d 1183, 1188 (10th Cir. 2003).

         II. BACKGROUND

         No parties object to the recitation of facts set forth by Judge Mix in the February 24, 2017 Recommendation. (ECF No. 121.) Accordingly, the Court adopts and incorporates Section I of the Recommendation as if set forth herein. Briefly, Plaintiff began working for Defendant Sprint in June 2008 as a technical support call center representative “whose job duties included troubleshooting Sprint cellular devices and cellular networks.” (ECF No. 56 ¶ 12.) In this position, Plaintiff was required to comply with Defendant Sprint's “Accountability - Take Ownership Policy” which makes it a “critical offense, ” i.e., one that could lead to disciplinary action or termination, to fail to “call a customer back upon agreement during [a representative's] scheduled work time or to reassign the callback if outside of [the representative's] scheduled work time.” (ECF No. 73-2.)

         Defendant Lindsey Mason became Plaintiff's supervisor in March 2013. (ECF No. 73-19 ¶ 1.) Supervisors issue corrective action notices (“CANs”) to call center representatives who violate the “Accountability - Take Ownership Policy.” (ECF No. 73-2.) On June 5, 2013, Plaintiff received a CAN from Mason because he forgot to return a call to a customer. (ECF No. 56 ¶ 26.) On June 18, 2013, Plaintiff filed an internal complaint against Mason alleging discrimination and harassment, and a few days later he filed a Charge with the EEOC. (ECF Nos. 73-2, 17-2.) Defendant Sprint investigated the internal complaint and found no evidence of discrimination or harassment. (ECF No. 73-2.)

         On July 9, 2013, Mason recommended that Plaintiff's employment be terminated based on Plaintiff's “continued disregard for Sprint policy in regards to call ownership” and callback procedure. (ECF No. 73-17.) Plaintiff was informed of his termination on July 15, 2013. (ECF Nos. 73-2, 73-3.) Based on this course of events, Plaintiff filed the instant action asserting the following claims: employment discrimination and retaliation based on race, breach of contract against Sprint, and tortious interference with contractual relations against Mason. (“Amended Complaint, ” ECF No. 56.)

         III. ANALYSIS

         Judge Mix recommended that Defendants Motion be granted “and that judgment enter in favor of Defendants on all claims in this matter.” (ECF No. 121 at 22.) Judge Mix made several findings to reach that recommendation.

         First, Judge Mix found that Plaintiff “failed to establish a prima facie case of discrimination, ” noting that Plaintiff “failed to identify evidence demonstrating a genuine issue of material fact regarding an inference of discrimination[.]” (Id. at 8, 15.) As to Plaintiff's claim for retaliation, Judge Mix found that he “failed to identify evidence demonstrating that there ...


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