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Dailey v. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama

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

May 12, 2017

DR. FELECIA DAILEY, Plaintiff,
v.
BLUE CROSS BLUE SHIELD OF ALABAMA, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          ABDUL K. KALLON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Felecia Dailey brings this action against Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama (“BCBS”), pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. (“Title VII”), and 42 U.S.C. § 1981 (“section 1981”), alleging race and gender discrimination and retaliation with respect to four promotion decisions. Doc. 32 at 1. The court has for consideration BCBS's motion for summary judgement, doc. 42, which is fully briefed, docs. 43; 57-1; 59, and ripe for review. For the reasons stated below, except for the claims related to Dailey's second application for Application Development Manager (Counts V and VI), the motion is due to be granted.

         I. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Under Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a), summary 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.” To support a summary judgment motion, the parties must cite to “particular parts of materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations, admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). Moreover, “Rule 56(c) mandates the entry of summary judgment, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). The moving party bears the initial burden of proving the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Id. at 323. The burden then shifts to the nonmoving party, who is required to “go beyond the pleadings” to establish that there is a “genuine issue for trial.” Id. at 324 (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). A dispute about a material fact 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).

         The court must construe the evidence and all reasonable inferences arising from it in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Adickes v. S. H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 157 (1970); see also Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255 (all justifiable inferences must be drawn in the non-moving party's favor). Any factual disputes will be resolved in the non-moving party's favor when sufficient competent evidence supports the non-moving party's version of the disputed facts. See Pace v. Capobianco, 283 F.3d 1275, 1276 (11th Cir. 2002) (a court is not required to resolve disputes in the non-moving party's favor when that party's version of events is supported by insufficient evidence). However, “mere conclusions and unsupported factual allegations are legally insufficient to defeat a summary judgment motion.” Ellis v. England, 432 F.3d 1321, 1326 (11th Cir. 2005) (per curiam) (citing Bald Mountain Park, Ltd. v. Oliver, 863 F.2d 1560, 1563 (11th Cir. 1989)). Furthermore, “[a] mere ‘scintilla' of evidence supporting the opposing party's position will not suffice; there must be enough of a showing that the jury could reasonably find for that party.” Walker v. Darby, 911 F.2d 1573, 1577 (11th Cir. 1990) (citing Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252).

         II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         Dailey, who is an African-American female, has worked for BCBS for over nineteen years, beginning initially as a part-time consultant. Docs. 32 at 2; 44-1 at 4. Dailey became a full-time employee in 1998 as a Systems Analyst, and moved into her current role as a Senior Database Administrator in the Database Administration (“DBA”) Department also in 1998. Doc. 44-1 at 4-5. In this capacity, Dailey “work[s] with the application developers reviewing code” to make sure it is “consistent and adheres to standards, ” and on data modeling to implement new database designs to tables, and to ensure that tables and databases are backed up consistently. Id. at 5.

         Dailey challenges four selection decisions in this case. According to Dailey, her experience as a Senior Database Administrator, her education (a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science, Masters of Business Administration, and a Doctorate of Management), doc. 44-4 at 17, and her overall work[1] and life experience made her the best candidate for these positions.

         A. DBA Manager and DBA-IM Manager Positions

         In January 2013, Dailey submitted applications for DBA Manager and DBA-Information Management Manager (“DBA-IM Manager”). Doc. 44-4 at 3, 11-12, 14-16. The DBA Manager supervises the DBA Department, and the DBA-IM Manager supervises a focused group of DBA Administrators tasked with information management. Id. at 2. Both positions required “success in a leadership role” and considered “[p]rior management experience” as “a plus.” Id. at 11-12.

         1. DBA-Manager

         Jim Dorris (the Department Manager of Technology Support and the supervisor for both positions) and Brice Baumann (the Senior Recruiting Consultant) interviewed Dailey and three other applicants selected from sixteen internal candidates. Id. at 3. At the end of her interview, when Dailey asked about the next step in the process, Dorris responded “that it was all about the noise and the Gayles and the Scotts, that he would repost the position if he needed to.” Doc. 44-1 at 7. Dailey interpreted this comment to mean that Dorris preferred white candidates and would not select her because of her race: “my speculation is that I did not look like Gail and Scott, so, therefore, I didn't have an opportunity, Gail being a Caucasian female and Scott being a Caucasian male.” Id.; see also doc. 57-1 at 9. Although Dorris denies making this comment, he testified that Gail Myers and Scott Davis are Dailey's coworkers and that Scott Davis applied for the two positions. Doc. 44-5 at 41.

         Ultimately, Dorris and Baumann found Dailey qualified technically, but lacking in interpersonal skills and managerial experience. Doc. 44-4 at 4. Moreover, because all four finalists met the required level of technical skills, Dorris asserts that he decided he wanted someone who would make a good team manager. Id. at 3. Dorris added that Dailey was not the best candidate because Dailey lacked management experience at BCBS, had negative reviews from her previous manager regarding her interpersonal interactions with team members and internal customers, and due to Dorris' own observations of Dailey through customer service complaints he received and by noticing that Dailey often kept to herself. Docs. 44-1 at 13; 44-4 at 4, 17-19; 44-5 at 21-25; 44-6 at 3.

         Dailey's purported lack of interpersonal skills is well documented. Doc. 44-3 at 55-56, 62-63, 69. Despite receiving “exceeds expectations” overall in her annual evaluations, Dailey's most consistent critical feedback centered on the need to improve in her communication and interactions with customers and coworkers. Id. at 41-44, 55, 62, 69. In performance reviews from July 2001 to July 2003, for example, Dailey's managers described Dailey as projecting the impression that she did not like for customers and coworkers to approach her, and noted that Dailey needed to improve her communication skills. Id. Notably, in July 2002, Dailey's then manager wrote that Dailey had “the lowest [customer surveys] of the DBA group” and that customers described Dailey as impatient and “not truly listening” to their issues. Id. at 62. Dailey disagrees with this assessment and, in her July 2012-July 2013 performance evaluation, countered with positive reviews that she has received from customers. Id. at 45-47.

         Dorris and Baumann selected David George for the DBA Manager position based, in part, on his management experience. Doc. 44-4 at 4. George's experience included fourteen years of hands-on technical experience with desktop applications and programming, including working in systems analysis, programming, and IT support. Doc. 44-4 at 4, 24-27. George also had management experience at BCBS and five years' experience with a previous employer that included supporting a 30-site system. Doc. 44-4 at 4, 24-27. In addition to George's experience, Dorris also selected him because Dorris previously worked with George when George managed BCBS's move to a newly built data center, during which Dorris observed George's work and leadership skills, including George's positive interactions with the Database Administrators, successful navigation of the team as the “day-to-day guy” to solve problems, and facilitating interactions among divergent groups. Docs. 44-4 at 4; 44-5 at 17-19.

         After his selection, George became Dailey's manager. In George's July 2012-2013 performance review of Dailey, he scored Dailey an overall “Exceeds Expectations, ” but also reported that Dailey needed development in fostering teamwork and communicating with customers. Docs. 44-3 at 39-44; 57-1 at 12. George included documentation of customer feedback in the evaluation, in which multiple customers described Dailey “as plain difficult, ” “condescending, ” “just too hard to get along with, ” “argumentative and difficult, ” and “tiresome to work with.” Doc. 44-3 at 39-52. Dailey wrote a rebuttal to the evaluation, and George followed up with guidance on how Dailey could improve. Id. at 45-49. Dailey challenges the accuracy of this evaluation, and believes that Dorris and George conspired to ensure she received negative reviews and evaluations in this area to prevent her from receiving future promotions. Docs. 44-5 at 43; 57-1 at 12-13.

         2. DBA-IM Manager

         BCBS closed the DBA-IM Manager position after determining that none of the applicants had the necessary skillset. Doc. 44-4 at 5. A second posting in May 2013 generated more applicants, including Alan Mims to whom BCBS offered the position. Id. At the time of his selection, Mims held the Project Director position at BCBS's national healthcare data warehouse, a position in which he delivered data-driving information about healthcare trends and best practices. Id. at 5, 40. In addition to Mims' experience in analytics, id. at 4, 40-41, Mims' positive interactions with others, as observed by Dorris, and his role as Project Director indicated to Dorris that Mims had the leadership skills for the DBA-IM position. Id.; see also doc. 44-5 at 33. However, Mims turned down the offer and the role remained vacant. Doc. 44-5 at 33.

         3. Second DBA-Manager Vacancy

         After George worked successfully in the DBA Manager role, the Vice President of Technology Support transferred George into the vacant DBA-IM Manager position that Mims turned down. Docs. 44-4 at 5-6; 44-5 at 34. As a result, BCBS re-posted the DBA Manager position. However, BCBS closed the posting because it deemed none of the candidates viable. Doc. 44-4 at 6. When Atlee Dinsmore, an Application Development Manager, expressed interest in the position in October 2013, BCBS transferred Dinsmore laterally based on his experience as a manager, and the positive recommendations he received from other department managers and supervisors. Docs. 44-4 at 6; 44-5 at 38. As a lateral transfer, BCBS only needed upper management approval of the appointment in lieu of a formal application process. Doc. 44-4 at 6.

         4. First EEOC Charge

         In light of the decision to bypass her for these positions, Dailey filed a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, alleging race and gender discrimination. Doc. 44-1 at 126.

         B. Application Development Manager Position 1

         In December 2014, after Dailey filed this lawsuit, Dorris, in his new role as Department Manager of Application Development, posted an opening for an Application Development Manager. Docs. 44-4 at 6; 44-6 at 2. The posting listed management experience as “strongly preferred, ” because the position had oversight for eighteen employees, including an employee with a “significant performance issue” on a performance improvement plan (“PIP”). Docs. 44-4 at 7, 29; 44-5 at 45. Perhaps because of the PIP, Dorris explained that he did not feel comfortable placing a first time manager in this role. Docs. 44-4 at 7; 44-5 at 45. As a result, Dorris asked Baumann to screen applicants for management experience. Docs. 44-4 at 7; 44-6 at 2.

         Baumann separated the seventeen applicants into three categories: (1) managerial experience; (2) no managerial experience (Dailey's group); and (3) not qualified. Doc. 44-6 at 3. Dorris, in turn, interviewed the three applicants Baumann identified as having management experience, and consulted with an interview panel consisting of five Department Managers in Application Development to discuss the remaining candidates. Doc. 44-4 at 7. The panel decided to interview three additional applicants “to provide them with interview experience, ” even though the panel determined they were not viable candidates. Id. The three individuals in this group “had ...


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