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Boyd v. Medtronic, PLC

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

April 26, 2018

JOSHUA H. BOYD, Plaintiff,
MEDTRONIC, PLC, Defendant.


          L. Scott Coogler United States Disttrict Judge

         Plaintiff Joshua H. Boyd (“Boyd”) brings the instant action against his former employer, Medtronic, PLC (“Medtronic”)[1], alleging claims for sex discrimination and retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. (“Title VII”). Before this Court is Medtronic's Motion to Dismiss the sex-discrimination claim in count one of Boyd's Complaint (Doc. 7.) The Motion has been fully briefed by the parties and is ripe for review. For the reasons described more fully herein, Medtronic's Motion is due to be denied.

         I. BACKGROUND[2]

         Boyd began his employment with Medtronic, a medical technology company, as an Area Sales Manager in January of 2013. When hired, Boyd's supervisor was Kevin Burke (“Burke”). Under Burke's supervision, Boyd was not subjected to any form of discipline and generally maintained an excellent sales record.

         On November 24, 2014 Medtronic's Chief Executive Officer, Omar Ishrak (“CEO Ishrak”), gave a presentation to a Medtronic's women's group called “Aspire”. At this presentation, CEO Ishrak stated “our goal should be that we get to fifty-percent [female representation in management] . . . those of you who are managers or in positions where you can do that, please make it a priority.” CEO Ishrak did not address the qualifications or merits of female managers at this presentation.

         In April of 2015, Kelly Nicholas (“Nicholas”), a new regional vice president (“RVP”), became Boyd's direct supervisor. Under Nicholas's supervision, Boyd achieved 252% of his requisite sales plan, earning him the title of “top-seller, ” prestige, and pecuniary awards. Despite his status as “top-seller, ” in April of 2016 Nicholas placed Boyd on a Performance Improvement Plan (“PIP”), Medtronic's progressive discipline system, all the while knowing that doing so would strip Boyd of his “top-seller” position. The title and associated accolades were then awarded to a female coworker. Boyd contested his placement on the PIP and Medtronic conducted an extensive, two-month long investigation.

         Before the investigation concluded, but after fully discovering the facts, Boyd notified Medtronic that it was his belief that his placement on the PIP was motivated by Nicholas's gender bias. Nicholas had previously voiced personal gender bias when speaking to a male employee interested in applying for one of the new RVP positions. During this conversation, Nicholas said to the male employee “[y]ou know, [], the only problem you are going to have is you don't have the right gender…they [Medtronic] are looking for.” Once the two-month investigation concluded, Boyd's PIP was removed, he was re-designated “top-seller, ” and he was placed under a new supervisor, RVP Michelle Gaulding (“Gaulding”).

         When Boyd was placed under Gaulding as of July 2016, Medtronic removed Regional Capital Manager, Chuck Gross (“Gross”), from Gaulding's supervision and placed Gross under Nicholas's supervision. Prior to Gross's transfer, Gaulding had twice tried to replace Gross with two separate female employees and Gross made internal complaints of gender discrimination against Gaulding.

         Working under Gaulding meant Boyd would be working in a new region, which required him to set up a new capital sales pipeline and obtain new contacts. As a result, he only achieved thirty-five percent of his sale's quota, whereas in his previous region, he had achieved one-hundred seventy-five percent of his sales quota.

         On August 8, 2016 Boyd filed the First Charge against Medtronic for gender discrimination and retaliation. Shortly after Boyd filed his First Charge, Gaulding began using derogatory statements and making false accusations about Boyd to his coworkers by stating “[Boyd] left a mess in the Midwest Region. You know he left behind a log of broken glass.” In a conference call to various team leaders, Gaulding also stated “[Boyd] is not allowed in Memorial Hospital.” Memorial hospital is one of Medtronic's largest accounts, and if Boyd was banned from entering the premises, it would be detrimental to his and his coworkers'/subordinates' careers.

         On or about September 13, 2016, Medtronic notified Boyd of its receipt of his First Charge. Boyd then engaged Medtronic in discussions about his First Charge and his concerns relating to Gaulding's actions. On September 22, 2016, Boyd met with Gaulding and Mark Eller (“Eller”), a Human Resources Representative, to discuss Gaulding's behavior towards Boyd and their working relationship. During this meeting, Boyd voiced his opposition to Gaulding's gender discrimination and retaliation.

         On or about September 30, 2016, CEO Ishrak gave another presentation to Aspire, which Gaulding attended. In line with his April 2015 mandate, CEO Ishrak once again emphasized the advancement of women over men without regard to qualification or merit. At this presentation, CEO Ishrak stated that Medtroinc has “. . . a goal to see forty percent (40% women in leadership positions within Medtronic by 2020)” and they all needed to try to make this happen. CEO Ishrak also stated that “. . . two (2) areas of particular focus, to move the needle, are within the engineering and sales functions.”

         In order to realize CEO Ishrak's mandate by 2020, Medtronic would need to either more than triple in size or immediately begin terminating males in sales leadership and management roles. On October 5, 2016, five days after CEO Ishrak's second goal presentation, Medtronic placed Boyd on administrative leave for allegedly undermining Gaulding. Boyd contested the discipline and attempted to explain the situation. Unlike the thorough investigation Medtronic conducted when Boyd contested his placement on the PIP, Medtronic's investigation on this matter lasted only five days, only two of which were full business days.

         During the investigation, a key witness submitted a statement to Lisa Jones (“Jones”), a Human Resources Representative. This statement would have exonerated Boyd from any wrong doing, but Jones told the witness “she did not have time to read” the statement. On October 10, 2017 Boyd was terminated. Based on these events, count one of Boyd's Complaint asserts a claim of sex discrimination, and more ...

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