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Apodaca v. Colorado Nonprofit Development Center

United States District Court, D. Colorado

October 6, 2017

ERILYN E. APODACA, Plaintiff,
v.
COLORADO NONPROFIT DEVELOPMENT CENTER, a Colorado non-profit corporation in good standing doing business as Families Forward Resource Center, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER ON MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          Marcia S. Krieger, United States District Court Judge

         THIS MATTER comes before the Court on the Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (# 79), the Plaintiff's Response (# 84), and the Defendant's Reply (# 92); the Plaintiff's Motion to File Brief Out of Time (# 84), and the Defendant's Motion to Restrict Access (# 90, 91).

         In this action, Ms. Apodaca brings the following claims: (1) a violation of the Equal Pay Act (EPA), (2) retaliation for reporting child neglect under Colorado law, (3) wrongful termination in violation of public policy under Colorado law; and (4) intentional infliction of emotional distress. (# 56) She also requests an award of exemplary damages. The second claim for retaliation was dismissed upon the Magistrate Judge's recommendation. CNDC now moves for summary judgment on the remaining claims.

         I. JURISDICTION

         The Court exercises jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331.

         II. BACKGROUND[1]

         In 2005, Plaintiff Jerilyn Apodaca began working as an intern for defendant Colorado Nonprofit Development Center, which had done business as the Lowry Family Center and the Families Forward Resource Center.[2] She was hired in 2007 and became Director of Programs in early 2012 without a raise but with an increase in responsibilities. As Director of Programs, Ms. Apodaca managed four CNDC programs: Family Development, Parent Education, Youth Development, and Community Health. At some point, her compensation was increased to $35, 000 annually. In March 2014, she received a cost-of-living increase to $35, 700 annually, but in 2013 was denied a merit-based raise due to work performance.

         Nonparty comparator Ron Allen began working for CNDC as a Fatherhood Coordinator in October 2012 at a salary of $32, 000 annually. He reported to Ms. Apodaca. In April 2013, Ms. Apodaca and Mr. Allen asked Dave Bechhoefer, executive director of CNDC, for an increase to Mr. Allen's salary based on extra duties that required extra time expenditure. Mr. Allen was given a 20% increase to $38, 400, which corresponded to the increase in the number of hours he worked. He still reported to Ms. Apodaca. Ms. Apodaca concedes that the Fatherhood Coordinator position did not require the same level of skills duties supervision, effort, and responsibilities as her positions.

         By 2014, Ms. Apodaca was overwhelmed by her responsibilities. As a consequence, Mr. Bechhoefer reassigned the supervision of the Parent Education and Youth Development programs from Ms. Apodaca to Mr. Allen, and promoted him to be Director of Programs. In conjunction with his promotion and increased responsibilities, Mr. Allen's compensation was increased to $40, 000 annually.

         Ms. Apodaca continued as the Director of Programs, but oversaw only the Family Development and Community Health programs. She received a merit-based raise at her performance review in early 2015 with delayed implementation until she returned from medical leave. While she was on medical leave, however, Ms. Apodaca was terminated for causes not relevant to her claims. Her raise was made retroactive to the beginning of 2015, resulting in a final annual salary of $37, 485.

         III. LEGAL STANDARD

         Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure facilitates the entry of a judgment only if no trial is necessary. See White v. York Int'l Corp., 45 F.3d 357, 360 (10th Cir. 1995). Summary adjudication is authorized when there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and a party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). Substantive law governs what facts are material and what issues must be determined. It also specifies the elements that must be proved for a given claim or defense, sets the standard of proof, and identifies the party with the burden of proof. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986); Kaiser-Francis OilCo. v. Producer's Gas Co., 870 F.2d 563, 565 (10th Cir. 1989). A factual dispute is “genuine” and summary judgment is precluded if the evidence presented in support of and opposition to the motion is so contradictory that, if presented at trial, a judgment could enter for either party. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. When considering a summary judgment motion, a court views all evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, thereby favoring the right to a trial. See Garrett v. Hewlett Packard Co., 305 F.3d 1210, 1213 (10th Cir. 2002).

         If the movant has the burden of proof on a claim or defense, the movant must establish every element of its claim or defense by sufficient, competent evidence. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(1)(A). Once the moving party has met its burden, to avoid summary judgment the responding party must present sufficient, competent, contradictory evidence to establish a genuine factual dispute. See Bacchus Indus. Inc. v. Arvin Indus. Inc., 939 F.2d 887, 891 (10th Cir. 1991); Perry v. Woodward, 199 F.3d 1126, 1131 (10th Cir. 1999). If there is a genuine dispute as to a material fact, a trial is required. If there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact, no trial is required. The court then applies the law to the undisputed facts and enters judgment.

         If the moving party does not have the burden of proof at trial, it must point to an absence of sufficient evidence to establish the claim or defense that the non-movant is obligated to prove. If the respondent comes forward with sufficient competent evidence to establish a prima facie claim or defense, a trial is required. If the respondent fails to produce sufficient competent evidence to establish its claim or defense, ...


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