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Douglas v. Five Star Hospitality

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Central Division, Frankfort

February 9, 2018

FAYE DOUGLAS, Plaintiff,



         Faye Douglas contends she was retaliated against and ultimately fired by her employer for complaining of racial discrimination within the workplace. As explained below, Five Star Hospitality, LLC terminated Douglas following complaints it received about Douglas's interactions with customers, and Douglas has not established a prima facie case for retaliation. Even if she could establish a prima facie case of retaliation, Douglas has not demonstrated that the legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason given for her termination was pretextual. For that reason, Five Star Hospitality's motion for summary judgment is GRANTED.


         Faye Douglas was hired in 2005 to be the general manager of a Frankfort, Kentucky, Hampton Inn, owned by Defendant Five Star Hospitality, LLC (“Five Star”). [R.12-1 at 1.] Her responsibilities included “maintaining the cleanliness of the property, hiring and firing employees, and ensuring the quality of guest experiences.” Id. She served in this capacity until her termination in May 2015. [See R. 1.]

         In October 2014, Howard “Max” Allen, part owner of Five Star, had an occasion to be present at the hotel. [R. 12-1 at 2; R. 12-7.] According to Douglas, during Allen's visit, a group of homeless individuals entered the hotel and obtained job applications from the front desk. [R. 16 at 2.] At that time, again according to Douglas, Allen spoke with Douglas and advised her “under no certain terms was she to hire people of color, ” and that she “was only allowed to hire Anglo-Saxons.” [Id.] According to Allen, however, the conversation on that date never involved race or color, but instead he advised Douglas that “she needed to hire people who had a hospitable appearance and could operate the hotel reservation system.” [R. 12-1 at 2; R. 12-7.] Douglas reported this conversation to her immediate supervisor, Marc Stone, who believed Douglas must have misunderstood Allen and who advised Douglas to continue hiring “the best candidates regardless of their race. . . .” [R. 12-8 at 3.]

         According to records and affidavits, several complaints were lodged concerning Douglas. [See R. 12-2; R. 12-8; R. 12-9.] In May 2015, Douglas received notification that a representative from Montaplast Corp. (“Montaplast”) had filed a complaint with the official Hampton Inn complaint system. [R. 12-1 at 2.] At the time, Montaplast was the hotel's largest corporate client and frequently booked rooms at the Hampton Inn for its representatives, employees, recruits, and suppliers. [R. 12-1 at 1-2; R. 12-2 at 5.] Montaplast's complaint dealt the hotel's accounting practices and with late invoices Montaplast received from the hotel. [See R. 12-2 at 4-6.] Douglas became upset after learning of this complaint because she felt the information in this complaint was false. [R. 12-1 at 2.] Douglas called Montaplast representative Kevin Buehner and was very rude to him on the phone. [Id.] Sometime after Douglas's call to Buehner, Buehner notified Stone of the events surrounding the complaint. [R. 12-8 at 2.] On May 22, 2015, Stone met with Douglas to discuss the complaint. [Id.] Douglas claimed the information in the complaint was fabricated, claimed the Montaplast representative had a personal vendetta against her, and refused to apologize. [Id.] The meeting culminated with Stone terminating Douglas's employment. [Id.]

         Ms. Douglas asserts that she filed an EEOC claim before bringing this action in 2016. [See R. 1]. She alleges her termination was retaliation for having complained of racial discrimination, in violation Title VII and KRS Chapter 344. [R. 1 at 3.] Four Star filed a motion for summary judgment claiming (1) Ms. Douglas cannot establish a prima facie case of retaliation; and (2) even if she could establish a prima facie case, Ms. Douglas could not show that Four Star's reason for termination was somehow pretextual. [R. 12-1 at 5.] Ms. Douglas responded alleging genuine issues of material fact. [R. 16.]



         Summary judgment is appropriate “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 genuine dispute exists on a material fact, and thus summary judgment is improper, if the evidence shows ‘that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.'” Olinger v. Corporation of the President of the Church, 521 F.Supp.2d 577, 582 (E.D. Ky. 2007) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986)). Stated another way, “[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 jury could reasonably find for the plaintiff.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252.

         The moving party has the initial burden of demonstrating the basis for its motion and identifying those parts of the record that establish the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Chao v. Hall Holding Co., Inc., 285 F.3d 415, 424 (6th Cir. 2002). The movant may satisfy its burden by showing “that there is an absence of evidence to support the non-moving party's case.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325 (1986). Once the movant has satisfied this burden, the non-moving party must go beyond the pleadings and come forward with specific facts demonstrating the existence of a genuine issue for trial. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56; Hall Holding, 285 F.3d at 424 (citing Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324). Moreover, “the nonmoving party must do more than show there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material fact. It must present significant probative evidence in support of its opposition to the motion for summary judgment.” Hall Holding, 285 F.3d at 424 (internal citations omitted).

         When applying the summary judgment standard, the Court must review the facts and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party. Logan v. Denny's, Inc., 259 F.3d 558, 566 (6th Cir. 2001) (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986)). However, the Court is under no duty to “search the entire record to establish that it is bereft of a genuine issue of material fact.” In re Morris, 260 F.3d 654, 655 (6th Cir. 2001). Rather, “the nonmoving party has an affirmative duty to direct the court's attention to those specific portions of the record upon which it seeks to rely to create a genuine issue of material fact.” Id.


         Ms. Douglas alleges Four Star violated her rights under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Kentucky Civil Rights Act, KRS § 344.450, which, among other things, prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who oppose discriminatory practices in the workplace. See Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 344.280(1). Retaliation claims brought under the Kentucky Civil Rights Act (“KCRA”) are analyzed under the same framework used to analyze similar federal claims. See Montell v. Diversified Clinical Servs., 757 F.3d 497, 504 (6th Cir. 2014) (citing Hamilton v. Gen. Elec. Co., 556 F.3d 428, 435 (6th Cir. 2009) (‚ÄúRetailiation claims under the KCRA ...

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