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Young v. Sungard Financial Systems, LLC

United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division

March 17, 2014

WANDA L. YOUNG, Plaintiff,
v.
SUNGARD FINANCIAL SYSTEMS, L.L.C., Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION [1]

SHARON LOVELACE BLACKBURN, District Judge.

This case is currently before the Court on Defendant SunGard Business System, Inc.'s (denominated in the Complaint as SunGard Financial Systems, LLC; hereinafter referred to as "SunGard" or "Defendant") Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 17).[2] In her Complaint, Plaintiff, Wanda Young (hereinafter "Plaintiff" or "Young") asserts the following claims against SunGard: (1) disability discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"); (2) hostile work environment under the ADA; (3) retaliation under the ADA; (4) retaliatory discharge under Alabama Code §25-5-11.1; (5) discrimination under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"); (6) hostile work environment under the ADEA; (7) interference with rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act ("FMLA"); and (8) retaliation under the FMLA.

Upon consideration of the record, the submissions of the parties, the arguments of counsel, and relevant law, the court is of the opinion that SunGard's Motion for Summary Judgment is due to be granted with respect to all claims.

I. SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD

Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a), 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); Clark v. Coats & Clark, Inc., 929 F.2d 604, 608 (11th Cir. 1991); see Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 157 (1970). Once the moving party has met its burden, the non-moving party must go beyond the pleadings and show that there is a genuine issue of fact for trial. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324 (1986). A dispute is genuine "if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).

A party asserting that a fact cannot be or is genuinely disputed must support the assertion by:
(A) citing to particular parts of materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations (including those made for purposes of the motion only), admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials; or
(B) showing that the materials cited do not establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute, or that an adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(1); see also Clark, 929 F.2d at 608 ("it is never enough simply to state that the non-moving party cannot meet its burden at trial").

In deciding a motion for summary judgment, the court's function is not to "weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249. "[C]ourts are required to view the facts and draw reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the party opposing the [summary judgment] motion.'" Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 378 (2007)(quoting United States v. Diebold, Inc., 369 U.S. 654, 655 (1962)(per curiam)). Nevertheless, the non-moving party "need not be given the benefit of every inference but only of every reasonable inference." Graham v. State Farm Mut. Ins. Co., 193 F.3d 1274, 1282 (11th Cir. 1999)(citing Brown v. City of Clewiston, 848 F.2d 1534, 1540 n.12 (11th Cir. 1988)); see also Scott, 550 U.S. at 380 ("When opposing parties tell two different stories, one of which is blatantly contradicted by the record, so that no reasonable jury could believe it, a court should not adopt that version of the facts for purposes of ruling on a motion for summary judgment.").

II. STATEMENT OF FACTS[3]

A. SUNGARD'S SERVICE BUREAU

SunGard operates a Service Bureau in Birmingham, Alabama. (Doc. 19-1 ¶ 3.) Data entry employees, who work for the Service Bureau, process documents and information for the Thrift Savings Plan of the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board ["FRTIB"]. ( Id. ¶ 4.) Information processed by the SunGard employees is highly confidential and includes personal identifying information and financial information of the plan participants. ( Id. )

The data entry employees work in a "clean room" to ensure that confidential information cannot be taken from the room. ( Id. ¶ 5.) Service Bureau employees are required to execute a document acknowledging the FRTIB Service Bureau Clean Room Requirements. ( Id. ) Those requirements include multiple restrictions on the use of computer systems and employees are told specifically, "There is absolutely no personal use of FRTIB systems and applications allowed." ( Id. ; doc. 19-2, exh. 3, at 86 [emphasis in original]; id., exh. 4, at 88 [emphasis in original].) Employees are prohibited from bringing cell phones and other wireless devices, computing devices and cameras into the clean room. (Doc. 19-1 ¶ 5; doc. 19-2, exh. 3, at 86-87.) SunGard has policies that limit employees' use of its computer systems and email and that prohibit, among other things, the display or transmission of sexually explicit material. (Doc. 19-1 ¶ 6; doc. 19-2, exh. 6, at 91, 92-93.)

B. YOUNG'S EMPLOYMENT AND DISCIPLINARY HISTORY

Young was hired by SunGard as a Data Entry Associate on August 22, 2007. (Doc. 19-2 at 97.) She remained in that position throughout her employment working in the service bureau processing information for the FRTIB contract. ( Id. at 99.) For the period relevant to this case, Young's Supervisor was Leonard Crear, age 42, and Crear's supervisor, the Manager of the FRTIB Service Bureau, was Mitchel "Mitt" Ware, age 37. (Doc. 19-1 ¶ 8; doc. 19-3 at 7.) The local Human Resources Representative was Debi Sisson, age 57, and Joyce LaMere, age 57, was the Vice President of Human Resources for the division. (Doc. 19-1 ¶ 8; doc. 19-3 at 7.)

During her employment, Young received a copy of SunGard's Global Business Conduct and Compliance Program, which included SunGard's anti-discrimination policies and its polices regarding use of company internet, email, and other communication resources. (Doc. 19-2 at 114, 117; doc. 19-2, exh. 7, at 114-119, 138-143.) Young acknowledged receipt of a copy of the Global Business Conduct and Compliance Program on August 24, 2007. (Doc. 19-2, exh. 5, at 90.) On two separate occasions, Young executed confirmations of the FRTIB Clean Room Requirements. ( Id., exh. 3, at 87; id., exh. 4, at 89.)

On February 8, 2010, Young received a warning notice for unsatisfactory work performance for completing only 65% of her monthly performance quota. ( Id., exh. 18, at 159.) Two months later, on April 26, 2010, she received a verbal warning for sleeping on the job. ( Id., exh. 20, at 164.) Young acknowledges sleeping on one occasion while working at her desk and on other occasions while on a break. (Doc. 19-2 at 187-89.) She testified that a young, male employee named Tony slept on the job "every day all day" during his employment but he was not disciplined. ( Id. at 191-93.) Tony was eventually terminated by Sungard for sleeping on the job. ( Id. at 192-93; doc. 19-4 ¶ 12.)

On February 16, 2011, Young received a Final Written Warning for violating SunGard's Clean Room Requirements by bringing her purse and her cell phone into the clean room. (Doc. 19-2 at 200-01; doc. 19-2, exh. 22, at 173.) She testified that she had brought her purse and cell phone in the clean room and that she knew such conduct was a violation of SunGard's Clean Room Requirements. (Doc. 19-2 at 201, 205-06.) She contends that some employees were allowed to violate the Clean Room Requirements without discipline; however, she acknowledges that other employees received written warnings for violation of the Clean Room Requirements. ( Id. at 204, 207.) Ware testified that at least two employees were terminated for violation of the Clean Room Requirements - April Smith and Nicholas Sawyer. (Doc. 19-4 ¶ 12.)

The record also contains warning notices Young received for punctuality and attendance. (Doc. 19-2, exh. 19, at 160-63; id., exh. 21, at 165-72.) Young testified that these warning notices correctly reflected the times she was tardy and/or absent. (Doc. 19-2 at 183-85, 199-200.) On August 3, 2011, Young received a written warning regarding an unexcused absence and excessive tardiness. (Doc. 19-2, exh. 23, at 174.) She does not dispute that she was in fact tardy on the days for which she received discipline. (Doc. 19-2 at 208.) However, she argues that younger, non-disabled employees were not similarly disciplined for tardiness or unexcused absences, but this assertion is not supported by the record. Ware testified that a number of employees - who were under 40 and without a known disability - received similar disciplinary notices for tardiness. (Doc. 19-4 ¶ 12.)

C. YOUNG'S ALLEGATIONS OF DISABILITY AND HARASSMENT

Young contends that she "suffers from a number of disabling physical conditions, including anxiety, depression, sleep apnea, high blood pressure, and plantar fasciitis. (Doc. 19-1 ¶ 9.) She testified that she also has back pain. (Doc. 19-2 at 38-39.) She testified that her back pain limits her ability to stand for long period. ( Id. at 43.) She has been given work restrictions due to her back pain, but she does not currently have any work restrictions. ( Id. at 46-47.) She also testified that the pain from her plantar fasciitis hampered her ability to concentrate and impaired her ability to walk. ( Id. at 48.) Young testified that she is not currently being treated for depression, although she has been prescribed medications for depression in the past. (Doc. 19-2 at 50.) She does not see a doctor for medical treatment on a regular basis. ( Id. at 38.)

Young testified that, during her employment, she was subjected to harassment due to her disabilities. ( Id. at 282-86.) The alleged harassment included her co-employees being mean to her, ignoring her, not inviting her to join them for after-hours activities, leaving her off mass emails, making her sit in the back of the room, being hard on her, and tattling on her. ( Id. at 53-55, 65-66, 283-86.) According to Young, she was "bullied in silence." ( Id. at 70.) She also testified that her co-workers called her "gay" and questioned her sexual orientation. ( Id. at 55-56, 64-65.) She also testified that she overheard a Supervisor tell another employee to stop talking to her. ( Id. at 72-73.)

Young contends that Debi Sisson, the Human Reasources Manager, harassed her based on her disability by telling Young "if I had a disability, I would just stay home." ( Id. at 238-39, 240; doc. 19-5 ¶¶ 2, 7.) Sisson testified that she made this comment in response to a statement Young made "in which she indicated to [Sisson] that she was at work even though she was not well." (Doc. 19-5 ¶ 7.) Sisson testified she made the statement to Young about staying home "in conjunction with an explanation to Young that she did not have to come to work on days when she was suffering from an FMLA-approved medical condition." ( Id. )

Young also testified that she was harassed by Lisa Peterson because of her age. (Doc. 19-2 at 289.) She described this alleged harassment as follows: "[Peterson] would be the one that - I mean, I remember her coming down, you know, to tell people, like you know, everything that she would-it was like whatever I did, then it would come out, well, y'all can't do that no more. She just has her way. She tiptoes around there." ( Id. ) She testified that Peterson, a Team Leader, and "management" harassed her "because of maybe the certain things that maybe some people do at their age, maybe key slower or sleep on their breaks." ( Id. at 288-89.)

SunGard's Sexual and Other Discriminatory Harassment Policy states that employees who believe that they have been subjected to discriminatory harassment (including age and/or disability-based harassment) are "require[d]... to promptly notify [their] Supervisor, [their] Human Resources representative or the Chief Compliance Officer." (Doc. 19-2, exh. 7, at 142.) Young complained to Ware about the treatment she was receiving from other employees on one occasion; she told Ware that, "People, they don't like me." (Doc. 19-2 at 160.) She added that she never told Ware, "Hey, they are discriminating against me." ( Id. ) At no time during her employment did Young make a complaint to any member of SunGard management of discrimination or harassment based on disability or age or any other protected characteristic. (Doc. 19-2 at 113, 290.)

D. YOUNG'S WORKERS' COMPENSATION CLAIM AND FMLA REQUESTS

On December 23, 2010, Young reported to SunGard that she had suffered an on-the-job injury to her finger by falling down the stairs at work. (Doc. 19-2 at 276-77.) She received medical treatment and benefits through workers' compensation. ( Id. at 278-79.)

Young requested and was granted FMLA leave repeatedly during her employment with SunGard. Aetna administers FMLA leave requests for SunGard's Service Bureau employees. ( Id. at 219-20.) When an employee requests leave, Aetna processes the paperwork and reviews the medical documentation to approve or disapprove the leave request. ( Id. at 220-21.) Aetna's records reflect that Young was approved for medical leave 29 times and denied leave twice during her employment. (Doc. 19-2, exh. 26, at 179-80.) She testified that her leave was approved every time that she provided proper documentation to Aetna. (Doc. 19-2 at 224.)

In May 2011, SunGard held a meeting to educate all employees about the FMLA and address potential FMLA abuse. ( Id. at 214-16.) Young contends that, after the meeting, her supervisors called her aside to talk to her about her use of FMLA. ( Id. at 217-19.) She testified that she was told that her FMLA leave was "not adding up, " but she conceded that she was allowed or approved for all requested FMLA leave. ( Id. )

E. EVENTS LEADING TO YOUNG'S TERMINATION

On September 9, 2011, Young sent an email to a number of other employees in the Service Bureau inviting them to have some of the candy she was keeping at her desk. ( Id. at 133; doc. ...


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