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Stanley v. Central Kentucky Community Action Council, Inc.

United States District Court, Sixth Circuit

June 27, 2013

NATHANIEL STANLEY, Plaintiff,
v.
CENTRAL KENTUCKY COMMUNITY ACTION COUNCIL, INC., Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

THOMAS B. RUSSELL, Senior District Judge.

This matter is before the Court upon Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment. (DN 13.) Plaintiff has responded, (DN 14), and the Defendant has replied. (DN 18.) Also before the Court is Plaintiff's Motion to Deny Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 37. (DN 15.) Defendant has responded, (DN 19), and the deadline by which to reply has passed. These matters are now ripe for adjudication. For the following reasons, Plaintiff's Motion, (DN 15), is DENIED and Defendant's Motion, (DN 13), is GRANTED.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, Nathaniel Stanley ("Plaintiff" or "Stanley"), is an African American male who worked as an employment specialist for Defendant, the Central Kentucky Community Action Council, Inc. ("Defendant" or "CAC"), from March 2008 until his termination in July 2010. (Stanley Dep. 18:12, Sept. 10, 2012, DN 14-1.) Kentucky Works Coordinator, Tracy Dennison, interviewed Stanley for the position and became his immediate supervisor. ( Id. at 18:20-20:3.) During the course of his employment at the CAC, Stanley experienced a number of problems with Dennison. At some point in 2008, Stanley noticed Dennison would make remarks "about her husband and men in general." ( Id. at 23:1.) Stanley could not remember any specific comments, but does remember that he took the comments to be demeaning, although he admits the comments were never about him. ( Id. 22:19-23:5.) Stanley also found Dennison to be abrasive and disrespectful in her interactions with him. ( Id. at 24:23-26:5.)

Stanley levied his first documented complaint about Dennison in late February 2009. Following an email exchange about the proper procedure for submitting certain information to Dennison, Stanley sent a lengthy email to Dennison on which he copied CAC Human Resource Director Denise Fogle. (Defs.' Ex. 2, DN 13-3.) In part, the letter told Dennison: "you are rude, abrasive, talk down to your subordinates; patronize your subordinates; and make off-the-wall and untrue statements and accusations to your subordinates about following directions, work attitudes, performance and following instructions." ( Id. ) Stanley further noted that he felt like he was being singled out because Dennison had said nothing to the other employment specialists and said that Dennison was "com[ing] across like a supervisor that [sic] is trying to build a case or initiate a paper trail for disciplinary actions, when it is not warranted." ( Id. )

After a period without documented problems, on July 31, 2009, Dennison issued a written reprimand to Stanley for his behavior at a personnel meeting. (Defs.' Ex. 3, DN 13-4.) Dennison's reprimand also advised Stanley to discontinue including negative remarks in case tracking comments. ( Id. ) Stanley was not demoted or otherwise disciplined as a result of the written reprimand, though he was advised that continuing such behavior would result in his immediate dismissal. ( Id. ) A few days following the reprimand, Stanley sent Fogle an email on August 5, 2009, indicating that he continued to have problems with Dennison. (Defs.' Ex. 6, DN 13-7.) Specifically, Stanley reiterated his complaints that Dennison was abrasive and demeaning and inappropriately scrutinized Stanley's work. Stanley told Fogle that he was "the first and only [Kentucky Works Program] Worker that [Dennison] has ever harassed, scrutinized, and called clients behind my back in an effort to find something wrong." ( Id. ) Fogle shared Stanley's complaints with Community Services Director, Lynne Robey, and CAC Executive Director, Thomas Moorman. ( See Robey Aff. Attach. 1, 2, DN 13-8; Moorman Dep. 25:8-10, Aug. 9, 2012, DN 13-10.) In response, Moorman attempted to set up a meeting addressing Stanley's concerns. (Defs.' Ex. 8, DN 13-9 (handwritten note from Moorman suggesting August 17, 18, or 19 as possible dates and telling Stanley to contact him "at any time" on his cell phone).) Though the parties "went back and forth" about possible dates to discuss Stanley's complaints, the meeting ultimately never occurred. (Stanley Dep. at 64:23-65:14.)

From late September 2009 through mid-February 2010, Stanley continued to draft complaints to Fogle.[1] In a communication hand-dated September 20, 2009, Stanley described a staff meeting that covering topics ranging from computer usage, time off policies, the expectation that workers not remain in the office after hours, and safety issues. (Defs.' Ex. 11, DN 13-12.) Stanley complained that the staff was already aware of most of the information covered during the meeting, and he and fellow co-workers "believed that most of the topics that were discussed by [Dennison] were aimed at me." ( Id. ) Stanley also noticed various vehicles in the parking lot when he would leave work for the day, which he contended were individuals "spot checking" him on behalf of Dennison. ( Id. ) The email also noted that the previous Friday, September 18, 2009, Dennison had asked him to rearrange his office, and as a result, he was unable to get his work done. ( Id. ) Stanley complained that although Dennison had told him all of the offices would be rearranged to enable staff to exit in an emergency, his was the only office that had been rearranged as of his September 20 communication. ( Id. )

A November 6, 2009, communication again referenced his suspicion he was being watched as he departed from the office. (Defs.' Ex. 12, DN 13-13.) Stanley also recounted incidents where Dennison: questioned whether Stanley had come to work on a day during which he had not returned her phone message and arrived late the following morning;[2] addressed him in "a very loud mean voice" while discussing making copies of office keys; questioned his and coworker Jane Lee's handling of a Wage Subsidy Termination; and made him turn his radio volume down to personal listening level, despite office practice of leaving it loud enough for the entire office to hear. ( Id. ) After describing these events, Stanley noted that "Tracy does not even seem to have any respect for any employees of color'" and displayed a "total disregard for minority staff members that are in positions of authority." He also told Fogle that he was tired of the constant harassment. ( Id. )

Finally, in a February 13, 2010, communication, Stanley informed Fogle that Dennison continued "knit-picking" his work, spoke to his assistant rather than directly to him about critical information, asked fellow employee Cindy Milby to report whether Stanley and his co-workers were working the required number of hours, and gave him, but not other employment specialists, an annual evaluation. (Defs.' Ex. 13, DN 13-14.) Stanley contended that "[i]f [Dennison] is making an attempt to evaluate her personnel, she needs to... hold all seven employment specialist [sic] accountable for this, and not just the lone black male employee' that she obviously has disdain for." ( Id. )

Although his February 13, 2010, is Stanley's last written complaint, Stanley met with Dennison, Moorman, Robey, and Fogle on April 16, 2010, following his failure to immediately report a client's threat on a case manager's life. (Stanley Dep. 133:13-135:3.) During the meeting, Plaintiff was informed that his delay was a serious lapse in judgment and grounds for termination, but because there was no set reporting procedure, he received only a verbal reprimand. ( Id. ) A few days following this meeting, Dennison and Stanley exchanged a series of emails concerning proper procedures for requesting and recording personal leave. (Defs.' Ex. 19, DN 13-20.)

On May 5, 2010, Stanley filed his first EEOC charge, alleging that he was subjected to different terms and conditions of employment, disciplined, denied promotion, and retaliated against because of his sex and his complaints of sex discrimination. (May 5, 2010, EEOC Charge of Discrimination, DN 14-4.) After learning of Stanley's complaint, Moorman ordered an investigation: "[t]o see if there was any truth to it, if there was anything to it, I wanted to know. He was the only man working in that program at the time." (Moorman Dep. 31:19-21.) Thereafter, Robey met with Stanley; Dennison; Milby; Cheryl Freeman; and Freeman's assistant, Sharon Perry about "the friction in the Hardin County Office." (Robey Aff. Attach. 1, 6.)

Just over two months later, Stanley's co-worker, Cindy Milby, informed Dennison that Stanley had been making "vulgar" statements about Dennison at work. (Dennison Dep. 18:1-8, DN 14-3.) Because the allegations concerned comments about her, Dennison directed Milby to speak with Robey. ( Id. 26:16-22.) Robey asked Milby to put her allegations in writing. (Robey Aff., Attach. 1, 7.) Milby's written statement alleged that Stanley made a variety of vulgar statements about Dennison, and indicated that Cheryl Freeman also had overheard his comments.[3] (Milby Statement, Defs.' Ex. 26, DN 13-27.) On July 23, 2010, Milby's statement was incorporated into a sworn affidavit. (Defs.' Ex. 27, DN 13-28.) Robey presented the affidavit to Executive Director Moorman and the two discussed its implications. (Moorman Dep. 33:16-21.) On July 23, 2010, Moorman drafted a termination letter that was not executed or provided to Stanley. (Pls.' Ex. 9, DN 14-10.) On July 27, 2010, Moorman, Fogle, Robey and Robey's assistant, Ellen Leake, interviewed Cheryl Freeman. Although Freeman had not overheard the more colorful comments, she confirmed that, like many in the office, Stanley had called Dennison a "bitch." (Freeman Dep. Aug. 9, 2012, 14:13-17, DN 14-13.) She also confirmed overhearing Stanley comment that Dennison likely was the man of the house and that "if she'd get her some, she'd calm down." ( Id.; Freeman Sworn Statement, July 17, 2011, 27:11-12, DN 13-29.) Based on this confirmation, Moorman drafted a modified termination letter on July 27, 2010. ((Pls.' Ex. 10, DN 14-10.) Stanley was terminated on July 29, 2010.

On January 21, 2011, Stanley filed a second complaint with the EEOC alleging discharge in retaliation for his discrimination complaints and prior charge with the EEOC. On July 7, 2011, the EEOC dismissed Stanley's charges and issued him a right to sue letter. This suit followed ...


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