United States District Court, S.D. Alabama, Southern Division
MALISSA H. STOVALL, Plaintiff,
THE COMPASS GROUP/MORRISON MANAGEMENT SPECIALIST, Defendant.
CALLIE V. S. GRANADE, District Judge.
This matter is before the court on the defendant Compass Group USA, Inc.'s ("Compass Group") motion for summary judgment (Doc. 41), the plaintiff Malissa H. Stovall's ("Stovall") response in opposition to the motion for summary judgment (Doc. 43), and Compass Group's reply thereto (Doc. 45). For the reasons stated below, Compass Group's motion for summary judgment is GRANTED.
This is a lawsuit in which the plaintiff alleges that she was discriminated against by her employer on account of her race and her religion, and that she also was subject to retaliation for statutorily protected activity.
On November 3, 2008, Stovall began working as a Credit Specialist in the Cash and Credit Management Department at Compass Group's Mobile Support Center ("MSC") in Mobile, Alabama. (Doc. 41-1 ¶ 4; Doc. 41-2 at 55-56). Compass Group is a food service management and support services company with multiple sectors and lines of business, including the Morrison Management Specialists ("Morrison") division. Morrison provides food, nutrition and dining services exclusively to healthcare organizations and senior living communities throughout the United States. (Doc. 41-1, at 2, 3). Stovall's job duties included managing the accounts receivable process for field accounts assigned to her. (Doc. 41-2 Exhibit 7). Stovall's written job description required her to: (1) work with operations to collect opening costs and client deposits; (2) verify accounts receivable from contracts and load it into Compass Group's IT system; (3) monitor the field accounts on a repayment plan; (4) assist in posting account receivable payments; (5) initiate refund requests for credit balances; (6) work with operations regarding uncollectible amounts; (7) assist with billing reconciliations; and (8) assist with write-off reports. (Doc. 41-2 at 60-61, Exhibit 7). Credit Specialists are particularly busy on the first two days of every month when they review outstanding invoices and distribute interest invoices. (Doc. 41-1 ¶ 5). Stovall reported to Jerry Carpenter ("Carpenter") who was the Director of the Cash and Credit Management Department. (Doc. 41-2 at 57-58). Several senior members of the Cash and Credit Management Department trained Stovall on her job duties during her first year of employment. Carpenter also provided feedback to Stovall. (Doc. 41-2 at 90).
Stovall alleges that Compass Group discriminated and retaliated against her based on her race and religion. Stovall is African American and a Jehovah's Witness. (Doc. 8 ¶ 3; Doc. 41-2 at 193). In December 2008, Compass Group announced that the office would close during MSC's holiday party to allow employees to attend. (Doc. 41-2 at 207-209). At some point, Stovall informed Carpenter that she would not be attending the party because she did not celebrate Christmas and asked what she should do during the time that the office was closed. (Id. at 209). After Carpenter spoke with his supervisor Kenny Eiland about the request, he advised Stovall that she could use 0.5 days of vacation time for the period in which the office was closed for the party. (Doc. 41-2 at 219-20).
In early 2009, Carpenter granted Stovall's request to change her work schedule from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. to 7:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. (Doc. 41-2 at 58-59). Shortly thereafter, however, Stovall repeatedly failed to arrive at work by her newly scheduled start time of 7:30 a.m. Based on these tardy arrivals, Carpenter placed Stovall back on her original schedule. (Doc. 41-2 at 59-60).
Stovall alleges that she was treated differently than her co-worker Stephanie Meil ("Meil") who also worked from 7:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. (Doc. 43 at 6-16). Although Meil was employed as a Credit Specialist, she worked exclusively in the treasury group opening and closing bank accounts. (41-1 ¶ 9, Exhibit A). During the first month of her employment, Roberts, who performed bank reconciliation duties, and Amanda Bellum trained Meil. Thereafter, Meil worked on her own and asked questions when needed. (Doc. 41-1 ¶ 10; Doc. 401-2 at 88-89).
At the end of Stovall's first year working with Compass Group, she met with Carpenter to discuss her performance appraisal. (Doc. 41-2 at 96-98). In the evaluation, Carpenter rated Stovall as not competent in the areas of productivity, quality of work, knowledge of work, sense of responsibility, relations with others, creativity, reasoning and judgment, self-confidence, adaptability, drive and expression. (Doc. 41-2 at 96-97, Exhibit 17). Stovall agreed with Carpenter's assessment of her performance because "it was clear that [it] was correct." (Doc. 41-2 at 96-98). Neither Stovall's salary nor benefits decreased as a result of the evaluation. (Doc. 41-1 ¶ 6; Doc. 41-2 at 87). Rather, Stovall received a 1.5% merit increase raise on January 1, 2010. Id.
In light of the appraisal, Plaintiff agreed to receive additional job training. (Doc. 41-2 at 96-98, Exhibit 17). Kohn trained Stovall for several months in various areas with which she demonstrated a lack of understanding, such as behind-the-scenes-billing and proper check allocation. (Doc. 41-2 at 98-101, 112). Stovall met with Carpenter in March 2010 to discuss her specific performance problems-namely, the improper posting of payments and incorrect handling of other transactions. (Doc. 41-2 at 106-108, Exhibit 18). During the meeting, Stovall agreed that she received adequate training and acknowledged the next steps in the counseling process she would face if she continued to make mistakes. Id.
On July 10, 2010, Stovall sent Carpenter an email stating, "I need to request July 2 off to attend a convention." (Doc. 41-2 at 193, Exhibit 28). Shortly after sending the email, Stovall met with Carpenter in person to discuss the request. (Doc. 41-2 at 194-94). Because it would be difficult to coordinate PTO on that date as it fell during the busy period when Credit Specialist review and distribute interest invoices, Carpenter suggested that Stovall come into work in the morning and attend the convention in the afternoon if everything went well. (Doc. 41-1 ¶¶ 5, 7; Doc. 41-2 at 193-197). Stovall agreed to Carpenter's proposal and did not inform anyone of any issues with the arrangement. (Doc. 41-1 at 197-98). On June 29, 2010, Stovall emailed Carpenter stating he could disregard her request to take off work July 2 because she arranged to attend a different conference instead. (Doc. 41-2 at 199-200, Exhibit 29).
After overhearing Roberts discussing vacation plans for the first week of August, Stovall emailed Carpenter on June 30, 2010, asking, "[i]s there a particular reason why you discriminated against my (sic) and my request for time off last month during Finance Charges and you have approved Linda's request the very next month?" (Doc. 41-2 at 201-202, Exhibit 30). Carpenter explained that he granted Roberts' request because she sent it four months in advance of her proposed vacation days. (Doc. 41-1 ¶ 8; Doc. 41-2 at 202-204).
On November 18, 2010, Stovall and Carpenter met to discuss her performance appraisal for 2010. Carpenter rated Stovall less than competent in ten areas including quality of work and knowledge of work. (Doc. 41-2 Exhibit 19). Stovall's overall score for 2010 was 2.08, which was below the threshold rating for competent. (Doc. 41-2 at 117, Exhibit 19). In line with the action plan section of the performance appraisal, Stovall resumed training in the early part of 2011 with Kohn and met with Carpenter at least once a month to discuss her progress. (Doc. 42-2 at 119, 123-24, Exhibit 19).
On March 4, 2011, Carpenter issued Stovall her first formal progressive counseling report regarding errors she continued to make as a Credit Specialist. (Doc. 41-2 at 124-26, Exhibit 20). The report noted that Stovall lacked progress and knowledge in certain areas, such as instances where she admittedly handled payments incorrectly. (Doc. 41-2 at 124-26, Exhibit 20). Stovall agreed ...