United States District Court, N.D. Oklahoma
OPINION AND ORDER
E. DOWDELL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
employment discrimination action, plaintiff, Brittany Rigo,
alleges violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of
1964, on the basis of gender discrimination and unlawful
retaliation. Plaintiff, a female, began working as a
receptionist at Remington Pipe & Supply Company
(Remington) in September 2008. At the time, Remington was
owned by co-founder, president, and chief executive officer
Colby Forrester, who was plaintiff's brother-in-law.
Plaintiff's sister also worked at the company and was
plaintiff's supervisor. Mr. Forrester hired plaintiff,
and she worked in a number of different positions. In the
fall of 2009, Forrester sold the company to Apex
Distribution, Inc., and it was renamed Apex Remington, Inc.
(Apex). Apex was subsequently purchased by Russell Metals,
Inc. (Russell Metals) in November 2012, and Forrester
resigned as president of the company in April 2013 and
departed on May 17, 2013. At that point, plaintiff was
working as a Special Projects Coordinator in the
company's Human Resources Department (HR), under the new
HR head, Lucy Cravens.
generally alleges that, after the management changes in 2013,
she was treated differently than her male co-workers and was
subjected to stereotyping. (Doc. 26 at 1). She specifically
alleges that, when she pointed out grammatical errors in a
brochure, Calvin Cannon, who was the President of Apex at the
time, said she was “acting like a
woman.” For her retaliation claim, plaintiff
asserts that, after she submitted a written complaint about
gender discrimination to her HR supervisor (on June 25,
2013), she was terminated and was “given no legitimate
reason for her termination. . . .” (Doc. 2-3 at 3,
asserts that plaintiff was discharged from employment based
upon a history of insufficient work performance and attitude
problems. Apex has submitted evidence to support its position
that plaintiff was terminated because she frequently failed
to finish assigned tasks, exerted minimal efforts, maintained
a terrible attitude towards others at the office, complained
about every job that was assigned to her, frequently avoided
work, played on her iPad, did shopping online, worked on
homework while at work, and fell asleep at her desk when she
was supposed to be working. (See Doc. 20-6, 20-7,
20-8, 20-11). Apex asserts that, during the time that
plaintiff's brother-in-law (Forrester) ran the company,
plaintiff's behavior was tolerated, and such behavior
continued after Forrester left.
supervisor, Lucy Cravens, testified to the reasons that she
terminated the plaintiff's employment. Ms. Cravens
indicated that, when plaintiff was assigned a new job duty in
electronic billing, plaintiff appeared uninterested in
learning and, in the days that followed, plaintiff kept her
office door closed. (Doc. 20, 20-5 at 1). Plaintiff then
complained about covering the phones, even though Cravens had
already given instructions as to covering the phones when the
receptionist was away from her desk for more than a few
minutes. (Id.). Plaintiff had informed other
employees that she did not have to cover the phones, and she
argued with Cravens as to why she had to cover the front desk
while having to do other tasks, and plaintiff complained that
the assignment was ridiculous. (Id.). According to
Cravens, “[w]hen plaintiff goes into this mode she
talks 90 miles an hour, and [Cravens told] her that the issue
. . . was not just covering the front desk but . . . was
[plaintiff's] attitude. Everything we bring to her
she complains about or doesn't want to do or never does
the job completely.” (Id.). Three days
later, Cravens noticed plaintiff's door was again closed
even though she was not completing much electronic invoicing.
Cravens then sent plaintiff an email to confirm a
conversation with plaintiff and to outline what was expected
of her. Among other things, in her email, Cravens identified
a “goal” for plaintiff to complete 30 to 50
invoices daily, and Cravens instructed plaintiff to keep her
office door open so that other team members would know
plaintiff was in the office and available to assist when
needed. (See id.; see also Doc. 20-5 at
encountered “pushback” in a response email from
the plaintiff, who questioned the setting of the goals and
wanted clarification of exactly how far “open”
her door must be. (See Id. at 19-20). Cravens
explained that such pushback “is just an example of how
every instruction with [plaintiff] goes.” (Id.
at 17). Shortly after plaintiff sent the response, she sent
an email to Cravens and Cannon, complaining about several
instructions, job assignments, and supervisory issues.
(See Id. at 22). Cravens further explained her
decision to terminate plaintiff as follows:
Q. Okay. So what led to her termination? Why was she
A. This. Having to deal with this [referring to the
communications and pushback from plaintiff on June 21-25] on
a regular basis. Any other employee that I gave specific
instructions to, I don't get this much pushback on
everything. It - [the email] plainly states [the 30-50
invoices per day] is a goal. [Plaintiff] questions it again.
The door open. She wants to know how far it has to be open.
If it says the door is to be open, open the door. You want to
argue with how far it has to be open? You can see the stuff
that I - I dealt with on a daily and a weekly basis,
anything. Anytime anything changes, anytime anything was
expected, anytime there was an issue, this is what I dealt
with. . . .
Q. Okay. Then why did you terminate her instead of just
issuing a written warning?
A. The attitude and the drama, I was not going to deal with
it anymore. I was done. Everything was a fight. Everything
was a pushback. I couldn't before. Colby Forrester
resigned on April 9th. He didn't physically leave until
May 17th. I couldn't do anything with her before then.
Q. Why not?
A. [Plaintiff is] his wife's sister.
(Doc. 20-5 at 7, 9 [Dep. pp. 27-28, ...