United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division
BARBARA J. WELLS, Plaintiff,
CRST MALONE, INC., Defendant.
DAVID PROCTOR, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
case is before the court on Defendant's Motion for
Summary Judgment (Doc. # 25). The parties have fully briefed
the motion (Docs. # 27, 32-34), and it is under submission.
After careful review, and for the reasons explained below,
the court concludes Defendant's Motion for Summary
Judgment (Doc. # 25) is due to be granted.
worked for Defendant, a flat-bed trucking company, from 1980
to 2013. (See Docs. # 26-1 at 64; 26-2 at
In 2012, Defendant employed Plaintiff as a driver recruiter
in its Recruiting Department. (Doc. # 26-7 at 2). Plaintiff
has testified that she was the senior recruiter in the
Recruiting Department. (Wells Deposition at 47).
Defendant's recruiters used several sources to find new
truck drivers, including online applications, purchased
leads, Internet advertisements, referral networks, and
personal referrals. (See Wells Deposition at 92-102,
117-19). Defendant classified drivers into three categories.
(Doc. # 26-2 at 2). First, “New Lease drivers, ”
or owner operators, owned their own equipment, leased the
equipment to Defendant, and drove the leased truck for
Defendant. (Id.). Second, “Lease Purchase
drivers” signed installment leases with Defendant to
purchase equipment and drove the leased truck for Defendant.
(Id.). Finally, truck owners could supply drivers to
Defendant through a “Driver for Owner
arrangement” if they owned several trucks, leased them
to Defendant, and provided drivers for Defendant to use.
to 2012, Defendant's recruiters typically recruited all
three types of drivers (id.), and Defendant expected
each recruiter to find, on average, four owner operators per
week. (Id.). By 2011, most of Defendant's
recruiters were failing to meet that goal. (Id.).
Plaintiff has testified that this reflected a general decline
in the number of owner operators in the labor market, as
truck drivers “had gotten out of that industry.”
(Wells Deposition at 24-25). In 2012, Hadley hired Dennis
Frey as Defendant's director of recruiting. (Doc. # 26-2
at 2). Hadley assigned specific recruiters to focus on New
Lease and Lease Purchase prospects respectively, but expected
all recruiters to handle Driver for Owner prospects.
(Id.). He modified the New Lease recruitment goal to
two new owner operators per week. (Id.).
June 2012 annual review stated that she met some, but not
all, expectations. (Doc. # 26-7 at 2-6). Specifically, it
explained that Plaintiff had failed to meet her “New
Lease” recruitment goal. (Id. at 3). It
further noted that Plaintiff had failed to meet the modified
two-per-week goal instituted on June 1, 2012, in the five
weeks before her annual review. (Id.). The review
expressed doubt as to whether Plaintiff was well-placed in
the recruiter position because her recruitment rate was at
28% of the company's annual goal. (Id. at 4).
Plaintiff's reviewer rated her performance as not meeting
expectations in the categories of flexibility/change,
judgment/initiative, and volume of work. (Id. at 5).
Plaintiff's supervisor cautioned that, “[w]ith the
new guidelines in place, which are reduced from recent years,
[Plaintiff] must be able to meet expectations on a regular
basis.” (Id. at 6). Defendant placed Plaintiff
on a performance plan, which directed her to (1) meet her
weekly and quarterly recruitment goals and (2) achieve a
show-to-hire ratio of at least seventy percent. (Id.
at 7). The show-to-hire ratio measured the percentage of
prospects that successfully completed orientation. (Wells
Deposition at 110-11).
October 26, 2012, Frey issued Plaintiff a written warning
because of her failure to meet the weekly recruitment goal
and her low show-to-hire ratio. (Doc. # 26-7 at 15). Frey
explained in the warning that Plaintiff had not completed
training on free media advertisement that was offered to her.
(Id.). Moreover, Defendant had provided Plaintiff
exclusive access to half of its rehire list, but Plaintiff
still failed to meet her recruitment goal. (Id.).
Frey stated that he expected Plaintiff would meet the
recruitment goal of two “New Leases” per week on
a consistent basis. (Id.). On December 4, 2012, Frey
issued Plaintiff another written warning for failing to meet
the recruitment goal. (Id. at 17).
undisputed that almost all of Defendant's New Lease
recruiters failed to meet their respective recruiting goals.
(Docs. # 32 at 4, 34 at 1). During Frey's tenure as
recruiting director, he terminated three recruiters for poor
performance: (1) Myron Clinton, a 47-year-old
African-American male, (2) Dustin Knowles, a 28-year-old
white male, and (3) Pamela Gasnik, a 51-year-old white
female. (Doc. # 26-6 at 2) (listing recruiter
terminations in 2012 and early 2013). Frey left his position
in May 2013. (Doc. # 26-2 at 2).
April 2013, Plaintiff transitioned from working as a
recruiter to working as a recruiting
specialist. (Doc. # 26-6 at 2-3). As a recruiting
specialist, Plaintiff tracked the progress of prospects sent
to Defendant by third-party recruiters and was dedicated to
processing their applicants. (Wells Deposition at 109,
112-13). The recruiters forwarded applications from drivers
to Plaintiff, and, in turn, she screened the drivers and
contacted the recruiters to inform them whether the driver
was approved. (Id. at 128). Defendant cut
Plaintiff's yearly salary by approximately $10, 000 when
it reassigned her to recruiting specialist. (Id. at
54). The parties dispute whether Defendant created
recruitment goals for the recruiting specialist position.
(See Docs. # 26-2 at 3; 32 at 3). Hadley has averred
that the recruiting specialist had no production goals. (Doc.
# 26-2 at 3). To the contrary, Plaintiff has pointed out that
her June 2013 performance plan required her to properly
qualify and schedule “at a minimum 2 New Lease and 4
Lease Purchase commission recruits . . . weekly.” (Doc.
# 26-7 at 13). In addition, Defendant continued to track
Plaintiff's recruitment of New Lease drivers in the third
and fourth quarters of 2013, after she had transitioned to
recruiting specialist. (Doc. # 26-5 at 3-4) (stating that
Plaintiff recruited three New Lease drivers in the third
quarter and three New Lease drivers in the fourth quarter).
Ultimately, when viewed in Plaintiff's favor, the Rule 56
record shows that the recruiting specialist position had
production goals based on Plaintiff's processing of
prospects presented by third-party recruiters. (See
Doc. # 26-7 at 9, 13).
her 2012 annual review, Plaintiff's 2013 annual review
stated that she met some, but not all, expectations.
(Id. at 8-12). It described her job title as
“Recruiting” (id. at 8), and explained
that Plaintiff had failed to meet her production goal of two
New Lease drivers per week in the third quarter of 2012, the
fourth quarter of 2012, and the first quarter of 2013.
(Id. at 9). Plaintiff's numbers declined in
three straight quarters. (Id.). She recruited an
average of 1.15 drivers per week in the third quarter of
2012, 1.08 drivers per week in the fourth quarter of 2012,
and 0.54 drivers per week in the first quarter of 2013.
(Id.). The annual review stated, though, that the
recruiting goal mentioned in Plaintiff's 2012 annual
report was no longer applicable because she had transitioned
to “a position that was accountable for the processing
of all outside commission recruits and agent contractor
processing.” (Id.). Plaintiff's reviewer
reported concerns that she was failing to process paperwork
in a timely manner and that recruiters had to call her
several times to receive necessary information. (Id.
2013, Defendant again placed Plaintiff on a performance plan
for the upcoming year. (Id. at 13). First, it
required Plaintiff to “[c]ontact and review with all of
the outside recruiters at a minimum monthly all of the
program, qualification guidelines, bonus programs and needs
for [Defendant's] recruiting.” (Id.).
Second, it instructed Plaintiff to process prospects'
paperwork as soon as it was received and to communicate
quickly with third-party recruiters. (Id.). In
addition to the weekly production report, the performance
plan stated that Plaintiff's performance would be
measured by “[n]otification of any issue[s] that are
not being addressed in a time sensitive manner from the
outside commission recruiters.” (Id.).
Finally, the performance plan directed Plaintiff to work with
the New Lease recruiters to find additional Driver for Owner
recalls that he received complaints from two third-party
recruiters, Pro Drivers and Hall of Fame, about delays in
processing applications and a lack of communication by
Plaintiff. (Doc. # 26-2 at 3). Plaintiff does not contest
this fact but testified that employees at Hall of Fame were
very rude to her. (Wells Deposition at 127-28). In response
to the complaints, Hadley issued Plaintiff a final written
warning in August 2013. (Doc. # 26-7 at 18). In the warning,
Hadley directed Plaintiff to immediately inform recruiters
when she had received an application and to tell the
recruiters within 24 hours whether the applicant was
qualified to work for Defendant. (Id.). He warned
Plaintiff that he wanted no more complaints about her failure
to communicate or her slow processing of applications, and he
indicated that he would discipline Plaintiff further if he
received such complaints. (Id.).
August 2013, Plaintiff received a service award acknowledging
her 30 years of service for Defendant. (Doc. # 33-1 at
2-3). In an associated letter, Defendant's president and
chief executive officer (“CEO”) congratulated
Plaintiff for her service to Defendant and thanked her for
her loyalty to the company. (Id. at 2). In November
2013, Hadley terminated Plaintiff because her performance had
not improved. (Doc. # 26-2 at 3-4). He assigned her duties to
administrative assistants and did not fill the recruiting
specialist role. (Id. at 4). No Rule 56 record
evidence identifies the administrative assistants who took on
these duties and no evidence identifies their gender, race,
her deposition, Plaintiff acknowledged that neither Frey, nor
Hadley, nor any other supervisor made a derogatory comment to
her based on her race or gender. (Wells Deposition at 37-39,
42-43). And, she stated that Frey never made a derogatory
comment about her age. (Id. at 37-38). She recalled
that Hadley once asked her about when she would retire
because he was older than her at the time. (Id. at
38). But, she admitted that this statement might not have
been derogatory. (Id. at 42-43).