United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma
GAYLA A. GASKIN, Plaintiff,
SCIENCE APPLICATIONS INTERNATIONAL, INC., Defendant.
L. RUSSELL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
this Court is Defendant Science Applications International,
Inc.'s (“Defendant” or “SAIC”)
Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 23). Plaintiff has
responded (Doc. 24); Defendant has replied (Doc. 25); and the
matter is fully briefed and at issue. For the reasons stated
herein, the Court GRANTS Defendant's Motion.
Court views the factual record and all reasonable inferences
drawn from it in the light most favorable to Plaintiff, the
non-movant. See Banner Bank v. First Am. Title Ins.
Co., 916 F.3d 1323, 1325 (10th Cir. 2019).
contracts with the Federal Aviation Administration
(“FAA”) to train air traffic controller
candidates at the FAA Academy in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
Doc. 23, at 5. Beginning on September 9, 2015, Plaintiff
began working for Defendant as an Instructor II at the FAA
Academy. Doc. 13, at 2; Doc. 23, at 6. To hold an Instructor
II position, one must be certified by the FAA. Doc. 23, at 6;
see also Doc. 23-2, at 4; Doc. 23-3, at 4
(“Personnel in these [Instructor II] positions require
FAA certification.”). Moreover, as terms of their
employment, Instructor IIs were required to comply with the
SAIC Code of Conduct, the SAIC Workplace Behavior policy, the
FAA Academy Lab Rules, and the FAA Guidance on Maintaining
Professional Relationships. Doc. 23, at 6. These various
guidance documents prohibit employees from fraternizing or
behaving inappropriately with or around students. See
id. at 6-8; see also Doc. 23-5, at 12
(outlining harassment policy and noting that
“[h]arassment . . . will not be tolerated”); Doc.
23-6, at 2, 4 (defining “Prohibited Conduct” and
stating that, “[i]f SAIC determines that an employee
has engaged in Prohibited Conduct . . . appropriate
disciplinary action will be taken . . . including
termination”); Doc. 23-7, at 1 (barring “All
Academy Controller Training Contract ‘CTC'
employees” from fraternizing with students); Doc. 23-8
(FAA guidance document further explicating bar on
in 2016, Plaintiff began receiving warnings about misconduct.
On February 17, 2016, Plaintiff received a letter from her
supervisor detailing “four specific comments”
submitted in end-of-course reviews from students Plaintiff
instructed. Doc. 23, at 8; Doc. 23-2, at 7-8; Doc. 23-9.
According to Plaintiff's supervisor, these students
complained that Plaintiff distracted them during their lab
work. See Doc. 23-9. Plaintiff denied the
accusations, but she was instructed to change her behavior
and act in a more professional manner. Id.
March 2, 2016, Plaintiff was counseled by Dan Morgan, her
supervisor, in relation to another anonymous end-of-year
critique from one of her students, who accused her of
criticizing the assigned curriculum. Doc. 23, at 8; Doc. 23-2
at 8-9; Doc. 23-10; Doc. 23-11. During the counseling,
Plaintiff was asked to “[d]ispense with . . .
unacceptable lab conduct” and told that “[f]uture
occurrences of this type could lead to a determination of
unstability for employment with SAIC-CTC.” Doc. 23-10,
March 15, 2016, Plaintiff received a warning memorandum from
Mr. Morgan “outlin[ing] the performance that is
required from . . . a[n] SAIC-CTC Tower Instructor.”
Doc. 23-12, at 1; see also Doc. 23-2, at 10.
Plaintiff was told she was not meeting the requirements of
her position-specifically, because she “ma[de]
disparaging remarks concerning the courseware and customer
required practices”; “engag[ed] in non-course
related dialogue with students during labs”; and did
“not remain professional, concise, and
non-distracting in all situations.” Doc. 23-12, at 1.
The memorandum detailed ways in which Plaintiff was expected
to improve her conduct and conform to SAIC and FAA
guidelines. Id. at 2. The memorandum also informed
Plaintiff that failure to improve her conduct “may
result in disciplinary action . . . including termination . .
. .” Id.
alleged misconduct resulting in Plaintiffs termination
occurred in late 2016 in one of Plaintiffs courses. Plaintiff
taught eighteen students in Class 102897 from December 8,
2016, to February 1, 2017. Doc. 23, at 8. On January 30,
2017, Mr. Morgan received an email from FAA Section Manager
Andy Taylor, in which Mr. Taylor requested that Mr. Morgan
speak to Plaintiff about allegations made by her students in
their end-of-course critiques. Id. at 9; Doc. 23-14,
at 1-2. Among the student comments were the following:
. “[Plaintiff] hit on my classmates a
. “[Plaintiff] was very inappropriate
as an instructor. She made me feel pretty uncomfortable at
. “[Plaintiff] . . . made a lot of
noises into the headset that made me miss a number of call
. “I even had [Plaintiff] talk through
my entire skill check to another instructor about how bad I
was doing in my run. That whole run was ruined for me because
she was talking into the headset.”
Doc. 23-14, at 1-2. Mr. Taylor expressed concern about
Plaintiff s job performance and concluded that Plaintiffs
alleged misconduct did not seem to be “an isolated
issue” given that multiple students complained.
Id. at 2. Mr. Morgan reached out to Plaintiff
following the email, requesting that she respond to the
allegations, providing her with a copy of the email, and
sending her home on paid leave pending an investigation. Doc.
23, at 9; Doc. 23-2, at 13. On February 1, 2017, Plaintiff
submitted a letter from her attorney denying any wrongdoing.
Doc. 23, at 10; Doc. 23-2, at 13-14; Doc. 24-2.
the student comments, the FAA conducted its own
investigation. Doc. 23, at 10. Two students' comments
stood out from the FAA's inquiry. First, Leighton Smith
complained that Plaintiff touched him inappropriately and
made him uncomfortable. Id.; see also Doc.
23-15. Specifically, Smith accused Plaintiff of the
. Plaintiff touched him “on the
shoulders or upper arm” during lab work;
. Plaintiff told him, “I'd like to
ride you like a rented mule” in the presence of other
. Plaintiff shook his hand in a way that
made him uncomfortable; and
. Plaintiff told him that he “reminded
her of a policeman that she had formerly dated.”
Id. Second, Adam Jaworski complained of similar
conduct, alleging that Plaintiff (1) inquired about his
personal life and shared details of her personal life, (2)
showed him personal pictures on her phone and told him he
“need[ed] to come over to [her] house in Yukon and hang
out with [her] and [her] dogs, and (3) repeatedly grabbed his
arm. Id. Jaworski also claimed that Plaintiff
stopped speaking to him after she accused him of getting her
in trouble. Doc. 23-15, at 2. Finally, Jaworski corroborated
Smith's account. Id. (“[Jaworski] did
state that [Plaintiff] ‘ma[de] advances toward Leighton
[Smith] and said inappropriate
investigated these student comments, the FAA notified SAIC on
February 3, 2017, that it was decertifying Plaintiff as an
Academy Instructor in light of her “inappropriate
behavior.” See Doc. 23, at 11-12; Doc. 23-4.
On February 6, 2017, SAIC terminated Plaintiff's
employment because she “violat[ed] . . . SAIC's
Code of Conduct.” Doc. 23-16; see also Doc.
23, at 12.
Motion for Summary Judgment Standard
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.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). “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. . . . An
issue of fact is ‘material' if under the
substantive law it is essential to the proper disposition of
the claim.” Adler v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.,
144 F.3d 664, 670 (10th Cir. 1998) (quoting Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)).
“The movant bears the initial burden of making a prima
facie demonstration of the absence of a genuine issue of
material fact and entitlement to judgment as a matter of
law.” Id. at 670-71 (citing Celotex Corp.
v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986)). “If the
movant carries this initial burden, the nonmovant that would
bear the burden of persuasion at trial may not simply rest
upon its pleadings; the burden shifts to the nonmovant to go
beyond the pleadings and ‘set forth specific facts'
that would be admissible in evidence in the event of trial
from which a rational trier of fact could find for the
nonmovant.” Id. at 671 (citing Fed.R.Civ.P.
56(e)). In short, the Court must inquire “whether the
evidence presents 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.” Liberty
Lobby, 477 U.S. at 251-52.
the Court construes all facts and reasonable inferences in
the light most favorable to the non-moving party, Macon
v. United Parcel Serv., Inc., 743 F.3d 708, 712- 13
(10th Cir. 2014), “[t]he mere existence of a scintilla
of evidence in support of the plaintiff's position will
be insufficient; there must be evidence on which the [trier
of fact] could reasonably find for the plaintiff.”
Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. at 252. At the summary
judgment stage, the Court's role is “not . . . 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.
asserts one count of sex discrimination under Title VII of
the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et
seq. “To survive summary judgment on a Title VII
claim, ” Plaintiff must present either direct or
indirect evidence of discrimination. Bekkem v.
Wilkie, 915 F.3d 1258, 1267 (10th Cir. 2019).
“When a plaintiff relies on circumstantial evidence to
prove employment discrimination, [the Court] appl[ies] the
three-step burden-shifting framework set forth in
McDonnell Douglas and its progeny.” Plotke
v. White, 405 F.3d 1092, 1099 (10th Cir. 2005) (citing
McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792,
800-07 (1973)). Under the McDonnell Douglas
framework, Plaintiff must first “raise a genuine issue
of material fact on each element of the prima facie case, as
modified to relate to differing factual situations.”
Morgan v. Hilti, Inc., 108 F.3d 1319, 1323 (10th
Cir. 1997) (citations omitted). Plaintiff may establish a
prima facie case of wrongful, sex-based ...