United States District Court, N.D. Oklahoma
OPINION AND ORDER
E. DOWDELL, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the Court is defendant Spirit Aerosystems, Inc.'s Motion
for Summary Judgment as to Plaintiff Carol Puckett and Brief
in Support Thereof (the “Motion”) (Doc. 76),
which plaintiff has opposed (Doc. 80). For the reasons below,
the Court finds that the Motion should be granted.
following summary is based upon the evidence, drawn in favor
of the plaintiff, as it must be at the summary judgment
stage. Defendant Spirit Aerosystems, Inc.
(“Spirit”) manufactures component parts for the
aerospace industry. Plaintiff was hired by defendant as an
industrial engineer in 2008. Industrial engineers support
Spirit's internal manufacturing operations by maximizing
the flow and efficiency of production. An industrial
engineer's internal customers are Spirit's
operations/manufacturing managers, who are responsible for
overseeing hourly production employees. Because industrial
engineers must frequently communicate with and observe
manufacturing operations employees, their shift hours
coincide with the hours of manufacturing operations.
received a “full high” performance review rating
from her supervisor, Cynthia Isaacson, for the 2008 calendar
year. (Doc. 80 at 8, ¶ 2; id. at 9, ¶ 4).
A “full high” rating is the second-highest out of
four possible ratings. (Id.). Rajen Shah became
plaintiff's supervisor in April 2009. (Id. at 9,
¶ 5). In March 2010, plaintiff received a verbal warning
from Mr. Shah regarding her attendance. Plaintiff received
her first written warning regarding her attendance on April
14, 2010, in an Attendance Disciplinary Memo issued to her by
Mr. Shah. That month, plaintiff also received her Salaried
Annual Performance Appraisal for the 2009 calendar year, in
which she received the lowest overall performance rating.
(Doc. 76, Exh. 4-3). Mr. Shah noted in the comments section
that plaintiff's excessive time off was caused by
sickness and recommended that she take medical leave.
(Id.). Plaintiff took a medical leave of absence for
approximately four weeks from April 2010 through May 2010.
(Doc. 80 at 10, ¶ 10).
comments on her 2009 performance review reflect that she was
experiencing health issues due to “harassment from her
coworkers, ” including her team leader, Ken Fitzgerald.
(Doc. 80, Exh. 14 at 2; Doc. 80 at 9, ¶ 7). Plaintiff
states that Mr. Fitzgerald called plaintiff “stupid,
” told her that she was not an engineer and that she
had no business working there, instructed plaintiff's
coworkers not to ask her questions, and refused to give her
assignments that would allow her to expand her knowledge as
an industrial engineer. (Id. at 9, ¶ 7).
Plaintiff also alleges that Mr. Fitzgerald did not allow
plaintiff to attend meetings. (Id.). Plaintiff
states that this harassment affected her performance at work
because she was unable to sleep and would therefore arrive
late to work and found it difficult to focus. (Id.).
Plaintiff stopped working with Mr. Fitzgerald in May 2010.
(Doc. 76 at 12, ¶ 31).
again received the lowest overall performance rating for the
2010 calendar year. (Doc. 76 at 4, ¶ 6). On her 2010
review, Mr. Shah commented that plaintiff had a “high
rate of absenteesm [sic] due to illness” and failed to
complete her assignments. (Id., Exh. 4-4).
February 2011, plaintiff began reporting to Paul Wright, her
coworker, as her first level manager. Mr. Wright reported to
Mr. Shah. Shortly after becoming plaintiff's supervisor,
Mr. Wright observed plaintiff's pattern of tardiness and
absences and began documenting plaintiff's attendance on
a spreadsheet. (Id. at 4, ¶ 7). On February 28,
2011, Mr. Wright met with plaintiff to discuss her tardiness
and absences. Plaintiff was told that she was expected to be
at work at 7:18 a.m. each day and was reminded that it was
important for industrial engineers to be punctual in order to
communicate with and support manufacturing operations.
(Id. at 4, ¶ 8). Mr. Wright's spreadsheet
demonstrates that plaintiff was tardy 31 times and absent for
12 days from February 28, 2011 through July 7, 2011.
(Id., Exh. 3-2). Mr. Wright received complaints from
internal customers regarding issues with plaintiff's
work, and also received a request from internal customers to
assign another industrial engineer to plaintiff's
met with Mr. Shah, Mr. Wright, and Kaelin Blasel from Human
Resources on July 8, 2011. At that meeting, plaintiff
received a Performance Improvement Plan (“PIP”),
which identified the following concerns regarding her
attendance performance: frequent tardiness, high absenteeism,
poor communication when absent, missing deadlines, and
failure to satisfy internal customer expectations.
(Id. at 5, ¶ 10). Plaintiff was advised that if
she anticipated missing work, she should communicate with her
manager within the first hour of her shift. Plaintiff was
informed that she needed to understand her deadlines,
prioritize her work, and communicate early if a deadline was
at risk. Plaintiff was also told that she was expected to
communicate with customers regarding whether their needs were
being satisfied. (Id. at 5, ¶¶ 11-12).
Plaintiff was informed that she would be monitored for the
following ninety days and failure to improve her attendance
and performance could result in further discipline, including
as termination. (Id. at 6, ¶ 14).
received counseling from Spirit's employee assistance
program from July through September 2011. Plaintiff admitted
to her counselor that she was aware of the issues with her
attendance and performance. (Id. at 6, ¶ 15).
Wright again met with plaintiff on July 15, 2011 regarding
her continued attendance issues. (Id. at 6, ¶
16). On September 6, 2011, sixty days after plaintiff was
placed on the PIP, plaintiff met with Mr. Shah, Mr. Wright,
and Ms. Blasel to discuss her progress. Mr. Wright documented
that plaintiff was tardy 27 times and absent twice between
July 8, 2011 and September 5, 2011. Plaintiff was informed at
the meeting that she had not shown any improvement in her
tardiness, absences, and missed deadlines, and that Mr.
Wright was forced to work plaintiff's morning assignments
because of her frequent tardiness. (Id. at 7, ¶
contends that her absences decreased significantly during
this period of time, and also that many of her absences until
September 2011 were covered by her earned time off
(“ETO”). Plaintiff further states that she
“regularly made up” her time when she was tardy.
Plaintiff also states that her inadequate performance was a
result of health problems, harassment by her male team
leader, not being permitted to attend meetings or meet with
internal customers, and not being assigned projects to expand
her knowledge. (Doc. 80 at 3, ¶¶ 5-6). Plaintiff
also alleges that Don Timms, a male employee in
plaintiff's department who worked under her supervisor,
was not disciplined for his tardiness. (Doc. 76 at 10, ¶
27; Doc. 80 at 7, ¶ 23).
October 6, 2011, Mr. Shah and Mr. Wright completed a final
review of plaintiff's progress on her PIP. They noted
that she had been tardy 21 times and absent twice since her
September 6, 2011 review. They also reviewed plaintiff's
performance on each of her assignments, most of which were
late or incomplete. Mr. Wright noted that he was required to
remind plaintiff to complete assignments or completed them
himself. Further, internal customers continued to request
that another industrial engineer work on plaintiff's
projects. Based on their review, Mr. Wright and Mr. Shah
recommended plaintiff's termination. (Doc. 76 at 7,
Corrective Action Review Board (“CARB”),
comprised of Mr. Shah, Mr. Wright, and four Human Resources
employees, met on October 14, 2011 to discuss the
recommendation that plaintiff be terminated. The CARB
recommended that plaintiff be terminated for unacceptable
attendance and performance. Plaintiff was terminated that
day. (Id. at 8, ¶ 20).
testified that she had never heard remarks by Mr. Wright or
Mr. Shah regarding an employee's age or gender. (Doc. 76
at 13, ¶ 35). Plaintiff filed a charge of discrimination
with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
(“EEOC”) on October 26, 2011. (Id. at 8,
¶ 22). Plaintiff later filed this case alleging that
Spirit unlawfully discriminated against her on the basis of
gender and age in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights
Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000 et seq. and the
Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967
(“ADEA”), 29 U.S.C. § 621 et
judgment is appropriate only “if 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 Celotex Corp. v. Catrett,
477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby,
Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986). A fact is material only
if it “might affect the outcome of the suit under the
governing law . . . .” Anderson, 477 U.S. at
248. There is no genuine issue of material fact “unless
there is sufficient evidence favoring the nonmoving party for
a jury to return a verdict for that party.”
Id. at 249. The district court thus must determine
“whether the evidence presents a sufficient
disagreement [about that material fact] to require submission
to a jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must
prevail as a matter of law.” Id. at 251-52.
The non-movant's evidence should be taken as true, and
all justifiable and reasonable inferences are to be drawn in
the non-movant's favor. Id. at 255.
determinations, the weighing of evidence, and the drawing of
legitimate inferences from the facts are jury functions, not
those of a judge . . . ruling on a motion for summary
judgment. . . .” Id. “[A]t the summary
judgment stage the judge's function is not himself to
weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter but
to determine whether there is a genuine issue for
trial.” Id. at 249.
argues that it is entitled to summary judgment because
plaintiff has failed to establish a prima facie case of both
gender and age discrimination. (Doc. 76 at 14).
Alternatively, Spirit argues that even if plaintiff can
establish a prime facie case of gender and age
discrimination, there is insufficient evidence of pretext.
(Id. at 17). In response, plaintiff contends that
she has met her prima facie burden and has also established
that Spirit's asserted reason for her termination was
pretextual. (Doc. 80).
there is no direct evidence of discrimination, the Court
applies the three-step, burden shifting analysis set forth in
McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792
(1973).Under this framework, plaintiff must first
establish a prima facie case that her employment was
terminated due to her gender or age. A plaintiff's burden
to make a prima facie showing of discrimination under Title
VII is not onerous. Bird v. W.Valley City, 832 F.3d
1188, 1200 (10th Cir. 2016). Then, the burden of production
shifts to defendant “to articulate a legitimate,
nondiscriminatory reason” for her termination. EEOC
v. PVNF, L.L.C., 487 F.3d 790, 800 (10th Cir. 2007). If
defendant satisfies its burden, “then summary judgment
is warranted unless [plaintiff] can show there is a genuine
issue of material fact as to whether the proffered reasons
are pretextual.” Plotke v. White, 405 F.3d
1092, 1099 (10th Cir. 2005).
the McDonnell Douglas analysis is not rigid.
“Regardless of whether [courts] analyze the
plaintiff's evidence in reference to the prima facie case
or the business justification versus pretext inquiry, . . .
if the court correctly concludes that the evidence of
discrimination/pretext fails as a matter of law, summary
judgment for the defendant is the proper ...