United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Northern Division, Covington
KELLY A. MCLAUGHLIN, et al., Plaintiffs,
FIFTH THIRD BANK, INC., Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
K. CALDWELL, CHIEF JUDGE.
matter is before the Court on a Motion for Summary Judgment
(DE 55) by Defendant Fifth Third Bank, Inc. (“Fifth
Third”). Plaintiffs McLaughlin and Raniero have
responded, and the motion is ripe for review. For the
following reasons, the Court GRANTS the
motion (DE 55).
are both former employees of Fifth Third Bank at its Newport,
Kentucky location. (DE 1). Kelly McLaughlin was an employee
of Fifth Third for approximately one and a half years, and
was last employed as a Personal Banker. Janet Raniero was an
employee of Fifth Third for approximately thirty-two years,
and was last employed as a Customer Service Representative.
On February 17, 2015, both McLaughlin and Raniero were
discharged from their employment with Fifth Third.
Third alleges it fired McLaughlin and Raniero because they
violated its dual control policy regarding entry to its cash
vault. (DE 1 at 3). Opening the cash vault at the Covington
location required the simultaneous use of two separate keys,
and the required keys were assigned to different level
employees. (DE 55-1 at 4). Other than an exception for a
designated vault teller that is not at issue in this case,
Fifth Third contends that a written policy required its
employees to follow a system of dual control. As part of the
policy, it was mandated that no less than two employees enter
the vault at a time, and both remain present while the cash
vault was open to observe the transaction. Id. at
4-5. When the transaction was completed, both employees were
required to sign the dual control vault log to record their
participation in the transaction. Id. Fifth Third
contends that, due to a cash outage and a missing ATM key at
the Newport Branch, it initiated an investigation into
violations of the policy in January 2015, including through
review of surveillance video and employee interviews.
Id. The investigation concluded with Fifth Third
firing several employees and issuing performance counseling
to several others. Relevant here, Fifth Third fired three
females: Kelly McLaughlin, Janet Raniero, and Alana Dillon.
(DE 56 at 5). Fifth Third retained and provided performance
counseling to three males: Randall Dreyer, Blake Hoover, and
Joseph Durrett. Id. Fifth Third claims that its
investigation also led to the recommendation that employees
Will Sekula and Caitlyn Beagle be fired, but that the two
resigned prior to termination. (DE 51 at 41, Gehlauf).
April 19, 2016, Plaintiffs filed a complaint against Fifth
Third alleging sex discrimination under Title VII of the
Civil Rights Act of 1964, and Raniero also brought a claim
for age discrimination under the Age Discrimination in
Employment Act. (DE 1). Neither McLaughlin nor Raniero deny
having entered the vault alone during the time they were
employed by Fifth Third. (DE 47 at 33-34, McLaughlin; DE 46
at 11-12, Raniero). Instead, they argue that violation of the
policy was widespread, and that, while they were fired,
similarly-situated male employees who also broke the policy
were retained. (DE 56 at 4-9).
Third has moved for summary judgment, alleging that
Plaintiffs cannot prove a prima facie case of discrimination,
and also cannot show that Fifth Third's purported reason
for firing the Plaintiffs was pretext. (DE 55-1). The
Plaintiffs argue that they can show a prima facie case based
on the differing treatment of similarly-situated male
employees, and that there exists a genuine dispute of
material facts regarding whether the firing was motivated by
sex, rather than violation of the dual control policy. (DE 56
at 13-21). The Court reviews the arguments below.
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). The moving party bears the initial burden and must
identify “those portions of the pleadings...which it
believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of
material fact.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477
U.S. 317, 323 (1986) (internal citation omitted).
the movant meets the initial burden, the opposing party
“must set forth specific facts showing that there is a
genuine issue for trial.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e). In the
Court's consideration of the motion, “the evidence
should be viewed in the light most favorable to the
non-moving party.” Ahlers v. Schebil, 188 F.3d
365, 369 (6th Cir. 1999) (citing Anderson, 477 U.S.
Title VII Sex Discrimination Claim
establish a Title VII employment discrimination claim, a
party is required to either “present direct evidence of
discrimination or introduce circumstantial evidence that
would allow an inference of discriminatory treatment.”
Carter v. University of Toledo, 349 F.3d 269, 272-73
(6th Cir. 2003) (quoting Johnson v. Kroger
Co., 319 F.3d 858, 864-65 (6th Cir. 2003)).
When a party fails to put forth evidence of direct
discrimination, the burden-shifting framework of
McDonnell Douglas applies. Id. at 273;
see also McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S.
792, 93 S.Ct. 1817 (1973). In this case, the Plaintiffs have
not alleged direct evidence of discrimination, and both
parties argue under the burden shifting framework. The
framework requires the plaintiff to first present a prima
facie case of discrimination, which creates a rebuttable
presumption that discrimination occurred, and shifts the
burden to the defendant to articulate a legitimate,
nondiscriminatory reason for taking the challenged employment
action. Carter, 349 F.3d at 273. If the defendant
satisfies this burden, the plaintiff must then prove that the
proffered reason was actually a pretext to hide unlawful
discrimination. Id. (quoting Johnson, 319
F.3d at 865-66).