United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma
CATHERINE E. WAIDE, Plaintiff,
CITY OF OKLAHOMA CITY, et al., Defendants.
TIMOTHY D. DEGIUSTI UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
the Court is Defendant City of Oklahoma City's Motion for
Summary Judgment [Doc. No. 54], filed pursuant to
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. The City seeks a judgment in its favor on
all claims asserted in the Complaint: gender and race
discrimination, hostile work environment, and retaliation
under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as amended
(“Title VII”), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et
seq.; interference with rights under the Family and
Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”), 29 U.S.C. § 2601
et seq.; violation of a Fourteenth Amendment right
of due process under 42 U.S.C. § 1983; and a parallel
discrimination claim under Oklahoma law. Plaintiff
Catherine Waide has filed a response brief [Doc. No. 75], and
the City has replied [Doc. No. 78]. Thus, the Motion is fully
judgment is proper “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). A material fact is one that “might affect the
outcome of the suit under the governing law.”
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248
(1986). A dispute is genuine if the evidence is such that a
reasonable jury could return a verdict for either party.
Id. at 255. All facts and reasonable inferences must
be viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party.
Id. If a party who would bear the burden of proof at
trial lacks sufficient evidence on an essential element of a
claim, all other factual issues concerning the claim become
immaterial. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317,
movant bears the initial burden of demonstrating the absence
of a dispute of material fact warranting summary judgment.
Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322-23. If the movant carries
this burden, the nonmovant must go beyond the pleadings and
“set forth specific facts” that would be
admissible in evidence and that show a genuine issue for
trial. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248;
Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324; Adler v. Wal-Mart
Stores, Inc., 144 F.3d 664, 671 (10th Cir. 1998).
“To accomplish this, the facts must be identified by
reference to affidavits, deposition transcripts, or specific
exhibits incorporated therein.” Adler, 144
F.3d at 671; see Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(1)(A).
“The court need consider only the cited materials, but
it may consider other materials in the record.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(3). The Court's inquiry is whether the
facts and evidence identified by the parties present “a
sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or
whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a
matter of law.” See Anderson, 477 U.S. at
of Undisputed Facts 
June 22, 2015, Plaintiff worked for the City as the
superintendent of the grounds division of the parks
department. This is a high-level management position that
reports directly to the assistant director of the department,
who in turn reports directly to the director. In her position
as a division head, Plaintiff (a white female) had five peers
who were heads of other divisions - three white males, one
black male, and another white female. Plaintiff directly
supervised two unit operations supervisors (a black male and
a white male), a management specialist (white female), and an
office coordinator (black female). As discussed
infra, Plaintiff complains as part of her Title VII
claim that the black male under her supervision, John Brooks,
received no discipline for engaging in some of the same
conduct for which she was terminated.
2014, the director and assistant director of the parks
department, as well as the business manager, all retired. In
May 2014, Douglas Kupper was hired as the new director. In
October 2014, Walt Bratton was hired as the assistant
director and became Plaintiff's immediate supervisor. In
November 2014, Mr. Bratton approved Plaintiff's request
to take 40 hours of paid leave from December 15-19, 2014; the
parties dispute whether Mr. Bratton knew this leave period
was protected by FMLA.
November 14, 2014, Mr. Bratton presented Plaintiff with her
annual performance evaluation for the period of June 2013 to
June 2014. Plaintiff received an overall rating of
“Proficient - Meets All Expectations.” During the
meeting, Mr. Bratton set goals for Plaintiff. She later
provided comments about the goals; Mr. Bratton responded and
sent a copy to Mr. Kupper. On November 20, 2014, Plaintiff
met with Mr. Kupper and delivered a document stating
complaints about Mr. Bratton's supervision, particularly
his evaluation and his responses to her comments. Plaintiff
said she did not believe any further conversation between her
and Mr. Bratton would be successful because “he appears
to interpret a differing opinion as a personal attack.”
See Def. Kupper's Mot., Ex. 4 [Doc. No. 48-4] at
1 (ECF page numbering). Plaintiff stated that Mr. Bratton had
questioned her integrity and abilities as a manager, and she
complained of his chastising tone and lack of professional
courtesy. Plaintiff also suggested certain comments by Mr.
Bratton were “harassing.” Id. at 3. Mr.
Kupper sent Plaintiff's complaint to the human resources
department (“HR”) and discussed it with Mr.
conflict between Plaintiff and Mr. Bratton, and complaints to
Mr. Kupper, ensued. On December 22, 2014, following her FMLA
leave, Plaintiff complained that Mr. Bratton's had
“harassed” her female subordinate during her
absence about Plaintiff's FMLA leave. See Waide
Aff. [Doc. No. 75-1] ¶ 9. Mr. Kupper viewed Mr.
Bratton's questioning of Plaintiff's leave as
inappropriate and discussed it with him.
December 23, 2014, Mr. Bratton met with Plaintiff and
discussed the status of five job assignments. Later that day,
he followed up with an email summarizing their agreement
regarding her projects and deadlines. He also advised her to
“concentrate on focusing [her] energy on listening and
following through with work assignments . . . rather than
spending [her] valuable energy on how to get out of
them.” See City's Mot., Ex. 8 [Doc. No.
54-8]. Plaintiff was offended by this comment, and complained
to Mr. Kupper about it on December 29, 2014. She viewed it as
an example of how Mr. Bratton “continue[d] to chastise,
belittle and berate” her; she told Mr. Kupper that she
found “the continual nature of this type of
communication harassing.” See Id. After
receiving this message, Mr. Kupper again contacted HR
regarding Plaintiff's complaint.
January 2015, Plaintiff, Mr. Brooks, and Mr. Bratton
interviewed candidates for a vacant position of field
operations supervisor (“FOS”) in the grounds
division. They selected two candidates and recommended them
to the personnel department for hiring. The personnel
operations manager, Rebecka Shaw, rejected the recommendation
in favor of a different candidate, David Thiemann, whom they
were instructed to hire. Plaintiff, Mr. Brooks, and Mr.
Bratton met with Ms. Shaw on January 23, 2015, concerning her
instructions. She directed them to meet with Mr. Thiemann,
explain their expectations, delineate what tasks he would
perform, and let him decide whether to accept the challenge.
In Ms. Shaw's words, they should “have a come to
Jesus meeting [with Mr. Thiemann] so he understands what
he's getting into.” See Shaw Dep. [Doc.
No. 75-16], 29:22-30:6.
and Mr. Brooks subsequently met with Mr. Thiemann and offered
him the job, which he accepted. Plaintiff's statements
during the meeting later became the subject of a complaint by
Mr. Thiemann in March 2015. He accused Plaintiff and Mr.
Brooks of trying to discourage him from taking the job and
setting him up to fail. According to Plaintiff, her
statements were misconstrued and taken out of context. Within
two months after assuming the position, Mr. Thiemann asked to
be demoted to a lower position.
the time of Mr. Thiemann's promotion, another vacant FOS
position was filled by a candidate selected by Mr. Brooks and
Plaintiff, without consulting Mr. Bratton. On January 29,
2015, Mr. Bratton sent email messages to Plaintiff and Mr.
Brooks requesting an explanation. In communicating with Mr.
Brooks, Mr. Bratton sent a copy to Plaintiff and included a
message to her (“Catherine it is now 5:25 PM, and once
again I sent you an email(s) requesting information and you
didn't respond”) and referenced the personnel
policy regarding insubordination. See City's
Mot., Ex. 10 [Doc. No. 54-10]. On January 30, 2015, Plaintiff
forwarded Mr. Bratton's message to Mr. Kupper with a
complaint that she felt threatened and
disrespected. She also apologized for her mistake
regarding the second FOS selection, stating she understood
“the selection process was inappropriate and lacking
communication.” Id. Ex. 11 [Doc. No. 54-11].
February 16, 2015, Mr. Bratton met with Plaintiff and
presented her with a “Documentation Log” listing
dates and items of concern regarding her performance. A
personnel specialist, Carla Chatman, attended the meeting.
Mr. Bratton discussed with Plaintiff the contents of the log,
which consisted of a four-page, single-spaced document
spanning a period from October 7, 2014, to February 13, 2015.
The log included alleged instances in which Plaintiff failed
to communicate with Mr. Bratton, did not comply with his
directives or deadlines, and acted in an unprofessional
manner, including making degrading comments regarding her
employees. More than one witness has testified that Plaintiff
used the word “retards” in reference to part-time
or seasonal employees who worked in grounds maintenance.
Plaintiff denies these reports and the accuracy of Mr.
Bratton's log; she later provided a written response.
Plaintiff cites the log as another example of Mr.
Bratton's harassment and attempts to intimidate her.
February 20, 2015, Plaintiff met with Ms. Chatman and the
personnel director, Dianna Berry, to discuss Mr.
Bratton's treatment of her. Plaintiff took a copy of the
log to the meeting. According to Plaintiff, she reported that
she viewed Mr. Bratton's conduct as harassment and she
believed he was treating her more harshly than male employees
under his supervision. Neither Ms. Chatman nor Ms. Berry
perceived Plaintiff's complaint as raising a personnel
issue to be investigated. Plaintiff was instructed to discuss
her concerns with Mr. Kupper. However, Mr. Kupper later met
with Ms. Berry and others to discuss complaints that the
personnel department had received about Mr. Bratton.
March 17, 2015, a probationary employee in the grounds
division, referred to in Plaintiff's Motion only as D.B.,
allegedly made remarks that his co-workers considered
threatening while holding a machete. D.B.'s supervisor
did not send him home at the time of the incident, but
reported it to Mr. Brooks. Plaintiff and Mr. Brooks reviewed
witness statements and interviewed D.B., who denied picking
up a machete. D.B. also complained that he had been denied
training and had been retaliated against by his supervisor.
Plaintiff and Mr. Brooks decided to transfer D.B. to another
district until an investigation could be completed. However,
on March 27, 2015, Mr. Bratton directed Plaintiff to
terminate D.B.'s employment, which she did.
March 2015, Mr. Kupper directed Mr. Bratton to meet with Ms.
Shaw and investigate a complaint that HR had received from
Mr. Thiemann about his treatment by Mr. Brooks. Mr. Bratton
launched an investigation in which he interviewed a number of
employees regarding their treatment by Mr. Brooks and
Plaintiff. On March 31, 2015, Mr. Bratton delivered a written
report to Mr. Kupper that summarized witness interviews,
stated his findings, and recommended that Plaintiff and Mr.
Brooks “should be relieved of the responsibilities of
their positions” due to “a pattern of behavior of
management through fear and intimidation.” See
City's Mot., Ex. 20 [Doc. No. 54-20] at 13.
a meeting with Mr. Kupper and Mr. Bratton on April 2, 2015,
Plaintiff and Mr. Brooks were informed of the results of the
investigation, and Plaintiff was informed she would be
relieved of supervisory duties. Mr. Brooks received no
discipline because, according to Mr. Kupper, “[t]he
actions that Brooks was accused of happened under
[Plaintiff's] management, not Mr. Bratton's
management.” See Kupper Dep. 185:16-20. Mr.
Kupper intended for Mr. Bratton to start “immediately
working with Mr. Brooks . . . to change his attitude towards
his employees, and take the necessary opportunities to
counsel [him] on a better way of communicating.”
Id. 186:2-7. Asked why Plaintiff did not receive the
same opportunity, Mr. Kupper explained, “I felt that a
woman and a manager of so many years of experience should
intuitively know that these are the wrong activities, and
again, if she wasn't aware that her management team was
acting inappropriately, then there was issues with her
ability to manage the organization.” Id.
Kupper provided Plaintiff a written list of her changed job
responsibilities in a memorandum dated April 2, 2015.
See City's Mot., Ex. 21 [Doc. No. 54-21]. Mr.
Kupper intended the job changes to limit Plaintiff's
contact with subordinate employees. Plaintiff believed some
of the changes - such as a requirement to “[c]heck in
with Walt Bratton each morning when arriving at the office,
” id., ¶ 3 - were intended to humiliate
her. She also viewed the investigation as retaliation for her
complaints about Mr. Bratton's conduct.
April 2 meeting, Plaintiff delivered her written rebuttal to
Mr. Bratton's log, and Mr. Kupper reviewed it. In the
rebuttal, Plaintiff complained of Mr. Bratton's
“oppressive micromanagement” that was meant to
harass her and accused Mr. Bratton of engaging in
“workplace bullying.” See City's
Mot., Ex. 22 [Doc. No. 54-22] at 6, 10. Plaintiff also
provided a copy of the rebuttal to HR, and met with Ms.
Chatman on April 7, 2015, to discuss it and Mr. Kupper's
April 2 memo. Plaintiff performed the responsibilities set
out in the April 2 memo with agreed modifications, and
certain duties that had been removed were subsequently
in April 2015, in response to complaints to HR about Mr.
Bratton, Ms. Berry interviewed other division heads regarding
Mr. Bratton's supervision. One interviewee, Melinda
McMillan, also criticized Plaintiff's supervision of
subordinate employees. Ms. Berry prepared a summary of
reported complaints about Mr. Bratton. See Pl.'s
Resp. City's Mot., Ex. 9 [Doc. No. 75-9]. In late April
or early May, Mr. Kupper determined that Mr. Bratton was not
correcting the issues that they had discussed, and ...