United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma
TIMOTHY D. DeGIUSTI UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Betty Wood and her husband founded Matador, Inc. in 1973.
Matador was a food processing facility that focused on making
chile rellenos and other breaded food products that could be
frozen and sold to wholesale food distributors. In 2015,
after experiencing financial difficulty and bankruptcy,
Matador was purchased by Defendant Midwest Performance Pack,
Inc. After the purchase was completed, Defendant retained all
Matador employees including Plaintiff, who it retained as a
consultant. This lawsuit arises from the subsequent breakdown
in the parties' relationship.
alleges she was singled out for unequal treatment and
harassment by her supervisor. Plaintiff contends she
complained of such treatment, but was disparaged and
eventually retaliated against by way of termination for her
actions. She asserts claims for age discrimination,
retaliation, violation of the Employee Retirement Income
Security Act of 1974 (“ERISA”), breach of
contract, breach of implied contract, and intentional
infliction of emotional distress. Before the Court is
Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment [Doc. No. 21].
Plaintiff has filed her response in opposition [Doc. No. 28]
and Defendant has replied [Doc. No. 31]. The matter is fully
briefed and at issue.
(and her husband until his death in the early 1980's)
owned Matador Processors, Inc. from approximately 1973 until
approximately May 2015. In May 2015, Defendant purchased
Matador's assets from Matador's creditor through a
Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceeding. Defendant did not acquire
Matador's debts as a result of the purchase. At the time
of Defendant's purchase, Matador employed less than
Allensworth, Defendant's President, and Rick Jackson, its
Director of Sales and minority owner, decided to hire
Plaintiff and retain other Matador employees after the
purchase was complete. No. written contract was executed by
the parties regarding the terms of Plaintiff's
employment, nor was Plaintiff offered a retirement program.
Defendant's decision to hire Plaintiff was motivated by
her forty-year experience in manufacturing chili rellenos and
the guidance she could provide MPP based on her experience.
Jackson hired Plaintiff, and Jackson is the only person
Plaintiff spoke with regarding Defendant's decision to
hire her as an employee.
job duties included general office duties on an as-needed
basis, laundering employee aprons and running company
errands. Plaintiff did not have any management or
decision-making authority, and she was not authorized to make
decisions relating to sales, vendors, creditors, strategic
decisions, the purchase of machinery or any other management
decisions. At the time she was hired, Plaintiff was
eighty-five (85) years old.
and Jackson began to experience tension in their work
relationship. For example, Plaintiff felt that the new
management did not devote enough attention to sales. For his
part, Jackson felt like Plaintiff was still trying to run the
company and was unhappy with every decision Defendant made in
the management of the business. Plaintiff thought that
Jackson was rude because he was allegedly not dependable,
would not listen to her, and did not discuss anything with
her. Jackson also disapproved of Plaintiff's reference to
herself as the “Head Nigger In Charge, ” or HNIC,
when she had owned Matador and her use of the term “the
Mexicans” or “Mexican Workers” in reference
to Matador's Hispanic employees.
2015, Plaintiff wrote an air conditioning company and asked
them to repossess Matador's air conditioning unit. Her
letter stated, in pertinent part:
Good Morning Mark and Brad -
Matador sold May 5th, 2015 - the new owners refuse to
take care of this small balance covering the Compressor to
provide air conditioning for THEIR new employees.
Can you repossess the unit? I wish you could
admits she did not have authority to ask the company to
repossess the unit, but she felt responsible for equipment
sold to Matador prior to Defendant's acquisition, since
Defendant did not acquire Matador's debts as a result of
December 2015, Jackson learned that Plaintiff had asked the
air-conditioning company to repossess the unit and decided
Defendant could no longer tolerate Plaintiff's apparent
indifference to the limitations of her new position and
racially derogatory and insubordinate behavior. Jackson
concluded Plaintiff should be terminated and spoke with
Allensworth about terminating Plaintiff's employment.
Allensworth approved Jackson's recommendation for
Plaintiff's termination. On or around December 30, 2015,
Jackson terminated Plaintiff's employment.
allegations of age discrimination relate only to
Jackson's conduct. Plaintiff alleges her age was
“mentioned several times” by Jackson, but she is
unable to recall any specific details or context regarding
any alleged age-based comments. As noted supra,
Plaintiff felt Jackson was rude, did not listen to her and
did not discuss anything with her because she was older. In
this regard, Plaintiff's allegation that her termination
was discriminatory is based on Defendant's hiring of
Jalie “Jodi” Lankford (“Lankford”),
who was fifty-eight (58) years old at the time. Lankford was
employed to perform accounting and bookkeeping work;
Plaintiff never performed accounting and bookkeeping work
during her employment. Plaintiff never made any complaints
about discrimination during her employment.
56(a), Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, provides that
“[t]he court shall grant summary judgment 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.” The Court views the material
undisputed facts in the light most favorable to the
nonmoving party. T.D. v. Patton, 868 F.3d 1209, 1219
(10th Cir. 2017). The Court's function at the summary
judgment stage is not to weigh the evidence and determine the
truth of the matter asserted, but to determine whether there
is a genuine issue for trial. Birch v. Polaris Indus.,
Inc., 812 F.3d 1238, 1251 (10th Cir. 2015). An issue is
“genuine” if there is sufficient evidence on each
side so that a rational trier of fact could resolve the issue
either way. Adler v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 144 F.3d
664, 670 (10th Cir. 1998). An issue of fact is
“material” if under the substantive law it is
essential to the proper disposition of the claim.
the moving party has met its burden, the burden shifts to the
nonmoving party to present sufficient evidence in specific,
factual form to establish a genuine factual dispute.
Bacchus Indus., Inc. v. Arvin Indus., Inc., 939 F.2d
887, 891 (10th Cir. 1991). The nonmoving party may not rest
upon the mere allegations or denials of its pleadings.
Rather, it must go beyond the pleadings and establish,
through admissible evidence, that there is a genuine issue of
material fact that must be resolved by the trier of fact.
Salehpoor v. Shahinpoor, 358 F.3d 782, ...