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Price v. Bavaria Inn Restaurant, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Colorado

November 21, 2019

BAVARIA INN RESTAURANT, INC., d/b/a Shotgun Willies, Defendant.


          PHILIP A. BRIMMER Chief United States District Judge

         This matter is before the Court on Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment [Docket No. 44] filed on May 24, 2019. Plaintiff filed a response on June 19, 2019, Docket No. 54, [1] to which defendant replied. Docket No. 65. Also before the Court is Plaintiff's Motion to Supplement [Docket No. 81]. Defendant responded to the motion to supplement, Docket No. 84, and plaintiff filed a reply. Docket No. 85. The Court has jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331.

         I. BACKGROUND[2]

         On December 14, 2017, plaintiff Heather Price sued her former employer, defendant Bavaria Inn Restaurant, d/b/a Shotgun Willie's (“defendant”), raising one claim of retaliation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. Docket No. 1; Docket No. 7 at 9-10. Plaintiff alleges in her complaint that defendant retaliated against her after she had reported that one of defendant's managers, Randy Thornton, had sexually harassed her at work. Docket No. 7 at 9.

         Defendant hired plaintiff on June 3, 2014 to work as a concierge. Docket No. 44 at 2, ¶ 1. On October 3, 2014, defendant terminated plaintiff for “improperly taking customers away from other Shotgun Willie's employees.” Id., ¶ 2. Defendant rehired plaintiff on October 15, 2014. Id.

         In May 2014, Brian Barker began to manage defendant's concierge program. Id., ¶ 7. His duties included scheduling employee shifts. Id. Sometime after May 5, 2015, plaintiff spoke with manager Hopi Mondale and reported that Thornton had asked her if she was wearing panties and grabbed her buttocks. Id., ¶ 9.[3] Ms. Mondale told plaintiff to speak with another manager, Michelle Poague, about the incident. Id.[4]Plaintiff informed Ms. Poague of her complaint against Thornton, but did not file a written complaint. Id.[5]

         While working at defendant's business, plaintiff was involved in an ongoing conflict with another employee, Desi LaFebre. Docket No. 44 at 2, ¶ 3.[6] Ms. Poague had warned plaintiff that, if the conflict with Ms. LaFebre continued, she, Ms. LaFebre, or both would be terminated. Docket No. 44 at 2, ¶ 4.[7] On June 9, 2015, defendant's principal, Debbie Matthews, held a meeting with multiple managers (“the decision-makers”). Docket No. 44 at 3-4, ¶¶ 12. At the meeting, the decision-makers discussed plaintiff's conflict with Ms. LaFebre.[8] Id. at 4, ¶ 13. They did not discuss plaintiff's claim that Thornton had harassed her or that she had complained to Ms. Mondale or Ms. Poague about the harassment. Id., ¶ 14.[9] On June 10, plaintiff was terminated. Id. at 4, ¶ 16.[10]

         Plaintiff sued defendant, arguing that defendant retaliated against her after she engaged in the protected activity of reporting sexual harassment. Docket No. 7 at 9. Defendant argues that it is entitled to summary judgment on plaintiff's retaliation claim. Docket No. 44.


         Summary judgment is warranted under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 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); see Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248-50 (1986). A disputed fact is “material” if under the relevant substantive law it is essential to proper disposition of the claim. Wright v. Abbott Labs., Inc., 259 F.3d 1226, 1231-32 (10th Cir. 2001). Only disputes over material facts can create a genuine issue for trial and preclude summary judgment. Faustin v. City & Cty. of Denver, 423 F.3d 1192, 1198 (10th Cir. 2005). An issue 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, 119 F.3d 837, 839 (10th Cir. 1997).

         Where “the moving party does not bear the ultimate burden of persuasion at trial, it may satisfy its burden at the summary judgment stage by identifying a lack of evidence for the nonmovant on an essential element of the nonmovant's claim.” Bausman v. Interstate Brands Corp., 252 F.3d 1111, 1115 (10th Cir. 2001) (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting Adler v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 144 F.3d 664, 671 (10th Cir. 1998)). “Once the moving party meets this burden, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party to demonstrate a genuine issue for trial on a material matter.” Concrete Works of Colo., Inc. v. City & Cty. of Denver, 36 F.3d 1513, 1518 (10th Cir. 1994). The nonmoving party may not rest solely on the allegations in the pleadings, but instead must designate “specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324 (1986) (internal quotation marks omitted). “To avoid summary judgment, the nonmovant must establish, at a minimum, an inference of the presence of each element essential to the case.” Bausman, 252 F.3d at 1115. When considering a motion for summary judgment, a court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Id.

         III. ANALYSIS

         Defendant argues it is entitled to summary judgment on plaintiff's Title VII retaliation claim for three reasons: (1) plaintiff cannot demonstrate a causal connection between reporting Thornton's sexual harassment and her termination; (2) plaintiff was terminated for legitimate, non-retaliatory reasons; and (3) plaintiff cannot demonstrate that the legitimate, non-retaliatory reasons for terminating her are pretextual. Docket No. 44 at 5-6.

         To succeed on a retaliation claim under Title VII, a plaintiff must establish that (1) “she engaged in protected opposition to discrimination”; (2) “an adverse action was taken against her”; and (3) “a causal connection existed between the protected activity and the adverse action.” Salemi v. Colo. Pub. Emp. Ret. Assoc., 176 F.Supp.3d 1132, 1148 (D. Colo. Mar. 31, 2016). If the plaintiff meets this burden, the burden shifts to the defendant “to produce a legitimate, nondiscriminatory justification for taking the disputed employment action.” Stover v. Martinez, 382 F.3d 1064, 1071 (10th Cir. 2004). If the defendant can provide a legitimate, non-discriminatory justification for the adverse employment action, “the burden shifts back to the employee to provide evidence showing that the employer's proffered reason . . . was so inconsistent, implausible, incoherent, or contradictory that it is unworthy of belief.” Id.

         A. ...

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