United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION 
H. ENGLAND, III UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Sonya Evans (“Evans”) initiated this action
against Defendant EPC, Inc. (“EPC”) alleging
employment discrimination and retaliation claims pursuant to
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, and 42
U.S.C. § 1981. (Doc. 1). Prior to the close of
discovery, on October 10, 2017, EPC moved for summary
judgment. (Doc. 16). Evans filed a “Motion for
Continuance Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(d), ”
requesting the deadline to respond to the summary judgment
motion be extended to March 8, 2018 (after the close of
discovery) because, inter alia, depositions had yet
to be completed. (Doc. 19). EPC opposed Evans' motion.
(Doc. 20). On October 25, 2017, finding the interests of
justice required Evans have an opportunity to depose two
individuals before a summary judgment motion is considered,
the undersigned granted Evans' Rule 56(d) motion and
denied EPC's motion for summary judgment without
prejudice as premature. (Doc. 21).
completing the two outstanding depositions, EPC moved for
summary judgment. (Doc. 24). Evans filed a response in
opposition to summary judgment (doc. 27), and EPC replied
(doc. 29). The renewed motion for summary judgment is ripe
for review. Based on the foregoing, EPC's renewed motion
for summary judgment (doc. 24) is GRANTED.
Standard of Review
Rule 56(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, 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.” Rule 56
“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, 447 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 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).
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 Plaintiff's favor when sufficient competent
evidence supports Plaintiff's version of the disputed
facts. See Pace v. Capobianco, 283 F.3d 1275,
1276-78 (11th Cir. 2002) (a court is not required to resolve
disputes in the non-moving party's favor when that
party's version of the 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 Mtn. Park, Ltd. v. Oliver, 836
F.2d 1560, 1563 (11th Cir. 1989)). Moreover, “[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).
Summary Judgment Facts
Evans' Employment with EPC
“Engineered Plastics Components, ” is a plastic
injection molding company that produces interior automotive
components and assemblies. (Doc. 26-1 at ¶ 3). On July
3, 2015, Plant Manager Ben Weber (“Weber”) and
Human Resources Director Pam Gillard (“Gillard”)
hired Evans as the third shift production supervisor for EPC.
(Id. at ¶4; doc 26-2 at 23 (85:12-15,
86:4-12)). Evans went to work for EPC because she had
previously worked with Gillard and because she was excited to
go work for Gillard again. (Doc. 26-2 at 23 (86:16-23)).
Evans and Gillard knew each other on a personal level and had
been acquainted for approximately seventeen years, as they
both worked together at a previous employer. (Id. at
4-5, 13 (10:15-17, 13:11-14:11, 47:19-22)).
role as third shift production supervisor, Evans reported to
Weber. (Doc. 26-2 at 23 (87:4-10)). From a management
standpoint, Evans was the highest-ranking person in the
facility on third shift. (Id. (87:4-10)). Her shift
typically lasted from 10:30 PM to 7:00 AM. (Id.
(86:4-12)). As third shift production supervisor, Evans was
responsible for ensuring the presses were running on time,
starting and stopping machinery, handling issues with the
machines, making sure the material was accurate, and making
sure the employees were doing what they were supposed to be
doing. (Id. at 23-24 (88:10-89:1)).
of the production process, paperwork is filled out for each
mold produced at EPC. (Doc. 26-2 at 24 (91:9-92:23)). Five to
six employees have a responsibility for filling out a
different section of the paperwork and for signing their
names to the section to verify the parts and materials.
(Id.). Evans was familiar with company policies and
procedures. (Id. (89:2-4)). In fact, it was
Evans' responsibility to discipline employees on her
shift when they were not doing their job properly, not
signing their documents, or not following the proper process.
(Id. (89:5-90:7)). Evans understood that, as a
supervisor or manager, EPC was counting on her to enforce its
policies and procedures. (Id. at 27 (103:4-7)).
Evans' Relationship with Korey Mendenhall
working at EPC, Evans met Korey Mendenhall
(“Mendenhall”). (Doc. 26-2 at 14 (51:13-19)).
Mendenhall, who is African-American,  worked as a material handler
(an hourly position); Evans supervised Mendenhall.
(Id. at 10-11, 15 (54:2-4), 36:19-37:1)). According
to Evans, she and Mendenhall began dating several months
after she started working at EPC. (Id. at 14
(51:20-23)). Evans separated from her husband after beginning
her relationship with Mendenhall. (Id.
(51:17-52:7)). Evans and Mendenhall took breaks together and
ate their lunches together, fixing each other's lunches,
making each other's plates, and sitting down to eat
together. (Id. at 10, 14-15 (36:14-18, 52-21-53)).
Evans believes her co-workers knew they were dating based on
these observations (id.), and because co-worker John
Dodge (“Dodge”),  a mold changer, told Evans he
couldn't believe she would date a “nigger”
and that he “didn't like the fact a white person
would date a nigger.” (Id. at 11-12
(40:14-41:16)). Evans and Mendenhall did not engage in
romantic activities at work. (Doc. Id. at 14
began receiving complaints from employees about Evans and
Mendenhall as well as complaints that people on Evans'
shift took longer break times. (Doc. 26-2 at 41
(159:1-160-11)). Evans understood that employees were not
supposed to take extended lunches or breaks. (Id. at
26-27 (100:19-101:8)). Evans testified that Gillard told her
that, because she was a manager and Mendenhall was an hourly
employee, they should not be dating. (Id. at 12-13, 27
(43:21-44:4, 45:17-22, 101:9-13)). There was no written rule
against dating at EPC. (Doc. 26-4 at 9 (31:1-7)). According
to Evans, Gillard told Evans that people were complaining to
her about Evans and Mendenhall's relationship on a daily
basis, and Gillard did not say that these complaints had
anything to do with race. (Doc. 26-2 at 12 (43:6-16)). EPC
had an “open door policy” and Gillard had no
control over what complaints were made. (Id. at 39
(151:3-8)). However, during this conversation Gillard also
told Evans that Evans' parents would “not be
proud” of her for dating Mendenhall, that her parents
“would not agree [with] it.” (Id. at 13
(45:23-46:7)). Evans' testified, “our conversation
was because he was black” (id. (46:20-21)),
and that “[Gillard] said something about birds of a
feather flock together.” (Id. (48:2-9)). Evans
understood this comment to be referring to Mendenhall's
race. (Id. (48:10-17)). Gillard testified that
interracial dating is “not an issue' to her. (Doc.
26-4 at 10 (33:17-19)). Evans described the conversation as
talking about how her parents would feel, then talking about
Gillard's children and Gillard's feelings.
to Evans, no one made comments to Mendenhall about his
relationship with Evans. (Doc. 26-2 at 14 (50:12-20)). And,
Mendenhall was never disciplined or had any other issues at
EPC. (Id. at 15 (54:9-19)).
alleges two other EPC employees, Paul Klem
(“Klem”) and Bethany Cross (“Cross”),
were in a relationship and that they were never disciplined
for taking long lunches. (Doc. 26-2 at 27-28
(103:19-105:16)). Cross was a Quality Auditor who reported to
Alisa Washington. (Doc. 26-1 at ¶ 18). Cross and Klem
were in a romantic relationship, but Cross did not report to
Klem. (Id.). EPC only prohibits involvement between
a supervisor or manager and his or her direct reports.
(Id.). Gillard spoke with Klem about his
relationship with Cross and told him he must be professional
with his behavior in the work place. (Id.). Klem was
a first shift supervisor, an equivalent management position
to Evans. (Doc. 26-2 at 10 (35:7-9)).
Evans' Complaints About Race-Based Comments
reported Dodge's comment to Weber on March 24, 2016.
(Doc. 26-2 at 12, 31 (42:3-14, 118:3-120-22)). Evans and
Mendenhall met with Weber and informed him that people were
starting to make racial comments and were treating them
differently, that it had been going on for several days, and
that they were tired of it and wanted it
stopped. (Id. at 31 (118:10-22)). Evans
told Weber that she and Mendenhall were coming to him because
he was her direct supervisor and she didn't know how
Gillard would take it if they were talking about racial
discrimination. (Id.). Weber reminded Evans that she
was a supervisor and had authority to discipline any employee
on third shift who was causing problems. (Doc. 26-3 at
¶ 10). Evans did not discipline any of her subordinate
employees for problems of the type she was complaining about
to Weber. (Id.). According to Evans, Weber also told
her he would investigate the behavior and put a stop to it.
(Doc. 26-2 at 31 (118:3-120:2)). Weber instructed Evans to
write down her specific problems in a notebook for him, and
Evans believed this would be used as part of Weber's
investigation into her complaint. (Id. at 32
(121:20-122:19)). Evans testified she was satisfied with
Weber's response and that she would “give him a few
days, and then, if things didn't change that we would
be readdressing it with both him and [Gillard].”
(Id. at 31 (120:13-18)).
to Weber, he spoke with Gillard regarding Evans'
complaints that employees were “mouthing back.”
(Doc. 26-5 at 9 (34:15-23)). When he spoke to Evans the next
day, Weber told her he and Gillard were addressing the
issues. (Doc. 26-2 at 31 (120:3-12)).
March 24, 2016, Evans attended a pre-planned, plant-wide
training that addressed the recurring problems of employees
taking extended lunch and break times and of employees
signing documents with another employee's number. (Doc.
26-2 at 26-27 (99:2-102:9), 58-60; doc. 26-1 at ¶ 8).
The training made clear to all employees that signing
documents with another employee's number is fraud and is
cause for immediate termination. (Doc. 26-2 at 27 (102:7-17);
doc. 26-1 at ¶ 8; doc. 26-3 at ¶ 4). Following this
meeting, Evans understood she was not supposed to sign for
other people and that she was not supposed to take or permit
employees to take breaks for personal reasons. (Doc. 26-1 at
26 (97:17-98:1, 100:17-23); doc. 26-1 at ¶ 7).
four days after the training session that addressed the
issues of extended breaks and falsification of documents,
Evans falsified another employee's signature and took an
extended lunch break. (Doc. 26-1 at ¶ 9). On March 25,
2016, Evans and Mendenhall took an extended lunch and left
the facility to go to Wal-Mart and pick up a grill. (Doc.
26-1 at 32 (123:4-7)). Given the prior warning, EPC decided
to discipline Evans. (Doc. 26-1 at ¶ 11). The written
warning was prepared on March 28, 2016, but Evans was not
available to meet until March 30, 2016. (Id. at
on March 28, 2016, Evans signed Rudy Juran's
(“Juran”) name on a company document. (Doc. 26-2
at 34-37 (129:4-131:23), 72). According to Evans, Juran was
several hours behind on his work, and while he was standing
on top of a machine, she asked him if he wanted her to sign
off for him and he said yes. (Doc. 26-2 at 25 (94:5-95:21)).
On March 29, 2016, Gillard interviewed Juran, ...