United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Western Division
MEMORANDUM OF OPINION
Scott Coogler United States District Judge.
Marilyn Matthews ("Matthews" or
"Plaintiff"), a 44 year old female, brought the
instant action against her former employer, Faurecia
Automotive Seating, Inc. ("Faurecia") and others,
alleging claims for gender discrimination, hostile work
environment, and retaliation under Title VII of the Civil
Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"),  42 U.S.C. §
2000e et seq. Faurecia is the only remaining
Defendant. Before the Court is Faurecia's motion for
summary judgment (doc. 39). For the reasons stated below, the
motion is due to be granted.
is a first-tier supplier of automotive equipment and parts;
they specialize in manufacturing seating. After working on a
nonpermanent basis, Matthews began her employment on January
13, 2014 at the Cottondale, Alabama location of Faurecia as a
full-time Production Operator. Matthews' duties included
pulling leather over seats for Mercedes Benz vehicles. On
January 21, 2014, approximately one week after she began
work, Matthews received an injury to her hand. She reported
the injury to her supervisor at the time. According to
Matthews, she filed numerous complaints and grievances with
her Union not only for the improper handling of her injury,
but also incidents she claims prevented Faurecia from being a
conducive working environment.
part of the orientation process, Faurecia requires new hires
to sign a Receipt and Acknowledgment form demonstrating that
they have read and understood Faurecia's Employment
Handbook ("the Handbook"). Matthews signed the form
indicating her receipt and understanding of its contents on
December 12, 2013. (Doc. 41-1 at 10, Ex. 1G.) The Handbook
includes Faurecia's attendance policy, which provides
that "[a]n absence of three (3) or more consecutive days
without reporting will result in voluntary termination of
employment with the Company." (Doc. 41-1 at 12-14, Ex.
1C, Employee Handbook.) The attendance policy assesses points
and partial points for employees' unapproved absences and
tardiness. (Id. at 12-13.) It specifies that
"immediate termination of employment" is warranted
after an employee has accumulated 10 attendance points during
a 12-month rolling calendar period. (Id. at 13.)
the end of June, Matthews had accrued 12.5 points during a
12-month rolling calendar period. On July 1, 2014, instead of
terminating Matthews, Faurecia gave her a one-day suspension
and issued a written warning apprising her of the fact that
receiving any further points would result in dismissal from
Faurecia. (See Suspension Letter, Doc. 41-1 at 21,
Ex. 1F.) Thereafter, in the wake of her suspension and
warning, between June 29, 2014 and August 1, 2014, Matthews
received an additional 4.5 attendance points. (Parrish Bowlin
("Bowlin") Declaration, Ex. 1.) Bowlin, a Faurecia
Human Resources ("HR") manager to whom all Shift
Supervisors directly reported, terminated Matthews effective
August 21, 2014, for her violation of the attendance policy.
(Termination Letter, Doc. 41-1 at 23, Ex. 1G.) At the time of
her discharge, Matthews had received a total of 17 attendance
to Matthews, on the day Bowlin fired her, she had written out
a grievance against her female co-worker Shavote Bonner
("Bonner") who was physically threatening her.
Immediately thereafter, Akins, her supervisor at the time,
told her that Bowlin wanted to see her in his office.
Matthews complied and brought the union shop stewardess on
duty, Diane Austin ("Austin"), to Bowlin's
office with her. Akins accompanied them as well. Austin had
Matthews' written statement in hand; upon their entering
Bowlin's office he snatched the statement, then looked at
Matthews and said that her services were no longer needed.
Bowlin then refused to give the grievance back to either
Matthews or Austin-though they both pointed out that Matthews
had the right to make her complaint and present it to union
representatives. The three of them went back and forth about
Matthews' rights, and also about whether or not Matthews
had actually exceeded the allowable attendance points.
(See Pl. Dep. at 78- 80, 127.)
August 22, 2014, Matthews' union filed a grievance on her
behalf. After review, Faurecia determined that "the
discipline given was appropriate, " and denied the
grievance request for reinstatement owing to the fact that
Matthews' termination was in conformance with
Faurecia's attendance policy and did not violate the
labor agreement between it and the union. (Doc. 41-1 at 26,
Ex. 1H.) The union subsequently withdrew its grievance by
letter dated November 6, 2014. (Doc. 41-1 at 28, Ex. 1I.)
November 4, 2014, Matthews filed two Unfair Labor Practice
Charges with the National Labor Relations Board, in which she
alleged her discharge was on account Faurecia's efforts
"to discourage union activities or membership, " and
that her union grievance was not considered "for
arbitrary or discriminatory reasons or in bad faith."
(Doc. 41-2 at 2.) Both of the Charges were withdrawn in
letters dated November 20, 2014. (Pl. Dep. at 111-12.)
filed her Charge of Discrimination with the Equal Employment
Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") on November 7,
2014, alleging age discrimination and retaliation in
violation of Title VII and the Age Discrimination in
Employment Act ("ADEA"). Matthews did not allege
discrimination based on sex or gender in the first section of
her EEOC charge. She did, however, briefly reference how
gender played a role in the discrimination she experienced in
the explanation section located below the heading. She
specifically alleged that she "opposed discriminatory
employment practices by filing complaints with the union
about being subjected to adverse treatment that employees not
of [her] protected class Age (44) were not." (Doc. 41-4
at 2, EEOC Charge.) Matthews also averred that she had lodged
complaints to Faurecia Supervisor Chris James
("James") regarding an incident in which her
co-worker, Hamilton stated to Matthews that she "needed
to be in a nursing home" and that "women were a
distraction . . . ." (Id.) James refutes that
Matthews ever specifically complained to him about
discriminatory practices, discrimination or harassment on the
basis of her age or gender. There were also other incidents
which Matthews avers contributed to her claims. Some female
co-workers, Bonner and Rudolph allegedly assaulted her,
dropped parts on the floor and stared at her. On September
15, 2015, the EEOC issued Matthews' Dismissal and Notice
of Rights Letter.
filed the present action in December of 2016, alleging gender
discrimination, hostile work environment based on gender, and
retaliation in violation of Title VII. Her Complaint makes no
reference to any allegations of discrimination based on age
which were raised in her EEOC charge. Though Matthews was
initially represented, her counsel was terminated on July 10,
2017, and she now precedes pro se.
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). A dispute is genuine if "the record taken as a
whole could lead a rational trier of fact to find for the
nonmoving party." Id. A genuine dispute as to a
material fact exists "if the nonmoving party has
produced evidence such that a reasonable factfinder could
return a verdict in its favor." Greenberg v.
BellSouth Telecomms., Inc., 498 F.3d 1258, 1263 (11th
Cir. 2007) (quoting Waddell v. Valley Forge Dental
Assocs., 276 F.3d 1275, 1279 (11th Cir. 2001)). The
trial judge should not weigh the evidence, but determine
whether there are any genuine issues of fact that should be
resolved at trial. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc.,
477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986).
considering a motion for summary judgment, trial courts must
give deference to the non-moving party by "view[ing] the
materials presented and all factual inferences in the light
most favorable to the nonmoving party." Animal Legal
Def. Fund v. U.S. Dep't of Agric, 789 F.3d 1206,
1213-14 (11th Cir. 2015) (citing Adickes v. S.H. Kress
& Co., 398 U.S. 144, 157 (1970)). However,
"unsubstantiated assertions alone are not enough to
withstand a motion for summary judgment." Rollins v.
TechSouth, Inc., 833 F.2d 1525, 1529 (11th Cir. 1987).
Conclusory allegations and "mere scintilla of evidence
in support of the nonmoving party will not suffice to
overcome a motion for summary judgment." Melton v.
Abston, 841 F.3d 1207, 1220 (11th Cir. 2016) (per
curiam) (quoting Young v. City of Palm Bay, Fla.,
358 F.3d 859, 860 (11th Cir. 2004)). In making a motion for
summary judgment, "the moving party has the burden of
either negating an essential element of the nonmoving
party's case or showing that there is no evidence to
prove a fact necessary to the nonmoving party's
case." McGee v. Sentinel Offender Servs., LLC,
719 F.3d 1236, 1242 (11th Cir. 2013). Although the trial
courts must use caution when granting motions for summary
judgment, "[s]ummary judgment procedure is properly
regarded not as a disfavored procedural shortcut, but rather
as an integral part of the Federal Rules as a whole."
Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 327 (1986).
failed to respond to Faurecia's motion for summary
judgment; however, this Court is nonetheless obligated to
determine whether Faurecia is entitled to judgment as a
matter of law on the undisputed facts. See Trs. of
Cent. Pension Fund of Int'l Union of Operating Eng'rs
& Participating Emp'rs v. Wolf Crane Serv.,
Inc., 374 F.3d 1035, 1039 (11th Cir. 2004) (per curiam)
(A district court "cannot base the entry of summary
judgment on the mere fact that the motion was unopposed but,
rather, must consider the merits of the motion."
(internal quotation marks omitted)). As such, the Court will
address the merits of Faurecia's motion.
Title VII Gender Discrimination Claim
avers that she was discriminated against on the basis of her
sex by Faurecia's decision to discharge her. A plaintiff
can prove her Title VII discrimination claim by either direct
or circumstantial evidence. Quigg v. Thomas Cty. Sch.
Dist., 814 F.3d 1227, 1236-37 (11th Cir. 2016). Matthews
has presented the Court with no direct evidence, but
circumstantial evidence is before the Court in the form of
her deposition testimony submitted by Faurecia. When
analyzing a claim of discrimination by way of circumstantial
evidence, the Court applies the McDonnell Douglas Corp.
v. Green burden-shifting framework. Id. at 1238
n.7; see also Vessels v. Atlanta Indep. Sch. Sys.,
408 F.3d 763, 767 (11th Cir. 2005) (per curiam).
McDonnell Douglas, a plaintiff carries the initial
burden of producing circumstantial evidence sufficient to
prove a prima facie case of discrimination. 411 U.S.
792, 802 (1973); see also Schoenfeld v. Babbitt, 168
F.3d 1257, 1267 (11th Cir. 1999). If the plaintiff meets her
initial burden of establishing a prima facie case,
the burden of production shifts to the defendant to
articulate a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for the
adverse employment action. Traskv. Sec'y, Dep't
of Veterans Affairs,822 F.3d 1179, 1191 (11th Cir.
2016), cert. denied sub nom. Trask v. Shulkin, 137
S.Ct. 1133, 197 L.Ed.2d 176 (2017). If the defendant is
successful, "the burden shifts back to the plaintiff to