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Monse v. Adtran Inc.

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

September 28, 2018

LYNNE MONSE, Plaintiff,
v.
ADTRAN, INC., Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          MADELINE HUGHES HAIKALA, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This FMLA retaliation case is before the Court on defendant ADTRAN, Inc.'s motion for summary judgment. (Doc. 17). ADTRAN argues that plaintiff Lynne Monse cannot prove her claim that ADTRAN terminated her employment because she took leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). For the reasons stated below, the Court grants ADTRAN's motion for summary judgment.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         “The court shall grant summary judgment 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). To demonstrate that there is a genuine dispute as to a material fact that precludes summary judgment, a party opposing a motion for summary judgment must cite “to particular parts of materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations (including those made for purposes of the motion only), admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(A). “The court need consider only the cited materials, but it may consider other materials in the record.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(3). When considering a summary judgment motion, the Court must view the evidence in the record and draw reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. White v. Beltram Edge Tool Supply, Inc., 789 F.3d 1188, 1191 (11th Cir. 2015). Accordingly, the Court views the evidence in the light most favorable to Ms. Monse.

         BACKGROUND

         ADTRAN is a global provider of networking and communications equipment. ADTRAN supplies equipment that enables voice, data, video, and internet communications across a variety of network infrastructures. (Doc. 19-2, p. 11).

         ADTRAN hired Ms. Monse as a buyer in November 2008. (Doc. 19-8, ¶ 3.a). Ms. Monse reported directly to the manager of Indirect Procurement, Mary Stephenson. (Doc. 19-8, ¶ 3). Ms. Stephenson reported to the Director of Global Procurement. (Doc. 19-8, ¶ 3). When Ms. Monse began her employment, the director of global procurement was Grady Broadnax. (Doc. 19-8, ¶ 3.b).

         • Ms. Monse's Early Successes and Contributions to ADTRAN

         Ms. Monse's first performance review, conducted in January 2010, covers Ms. Monse's first full year of employment with ADTRAN, the 2009 calendar year. (Doc. 19-6, pp. 6-7, tpp. 20-21). This review is signed by Ms. Stephenson and Mr. Broadnax. (Doc. 19-6, p. 61). In the overview section, the reviewers state:

Lynne has worked diligently her first year in this position getting acquainted with ADTRAN's process of reviewing and negotiating consulting, service and software agreements. As one of her first assignments, she readily accepted the challenge of working with HR on an extensive agreement for HR's new software system, ADP.

(Doc. 19-6, p. 59). The review indicates that Ms. Monse “[e]xcels in written communications skills and her piers [sic] often seek her council in this area.” (Doc. 19-6, p. 59). The supervisor comments section of this review states:

Lynne has proven in her first year to be a positive contribution to the MRO group. She is dedicated in performing her job in a timely manner, being customer oriented, and conscientious in the details of her work. I encourage Lynne to look for opportunities to expand her knowledge in all aspects of software, service, consulting and escrow agreements.

(Doc. 19-6, p. 61).

         Six months after Ms. Monse received her first review, she took FMLA leave. (Doc. 19-8, ¶ 9). The leave ran from July 23, 2010 to September 10, 2010. (Doc. 19-8, ¶ 9).

         Ms. Monse's second performance review is dated January 2011. Like the January 2010 review, the January 2011 review covers the 2010 calendar year, and the review is signed by Ms. Stephenson and Mr. Broadnax. (Doc. 19-6, p. 64). In the overview section, the reviewers state:

Lynne had a significant increase in agreements this year and has done a very good job processing the contracts. She is detailed in reviewing the contract terms & conditions in order to reduce the risk to Adtran.

(Doc. 19-6, p. 62). The “areas for improvement” section states, “Projects or assignments that are delegated to Lynne will need to be worked by establishing a timeline. This will provide small goals to achieve, leading to completing the project/assignment in a reasonable time frame.” (Doc. 19-6, p. 62). The review recommends that Ms. Monse participate ADTRAN's learning program by taking classes in conflict resolution, project management, and finance. (Doc. 19-6, p. 63). The supervisor comments section of the review states:

Lynne is a conscious worker and is always receptive to new opportunities. She keeps a positive attitude under stressful circumstances. Lynne will be given more opportunities to become more involved in projects that are assigned to the MRO Group. This will allow her to hone her skills in time management, communication, and other areas that will assist in her growth as a buyer.

(Doc. 19-6, p. 64).

         Ms. Monse took FMLA leave for the second time from July 11, 2011 to September 30, 2011. (Doc. 19-8, ¶ 9).

         Ms. Monse's performance review from January 2012 is signed by Ms. Stephenson and Mr. Broadnax and covers the 2011 calendar year. (Doc. 19-6, p. 67). The overview section of this review states:

Lynne has effectively developed her skills in negotiating terms & conditions as well as pricing in software agreements. She has gained the confidence of her customers and has been commended on her quick response to their request [sic]. Lynne also was one of the significant contributors in achieving MRO's goal of 10% cost savings.

(Doc. 19-6, p. 65). Under strengths, this review states:

Lynne has continued to expand her knowledge and skills in negotiating software agreements. These can be very challenging due to the changes in technology and new terms & conditions used by software companies to protect their I.P. She was able to achieve a significant cost savings on several software procurements in 2011.

(Doc. 19-6, p. 65). The supervisor comments section of this review states:

Lynne continues to be a conscientious worker. She has been very supportive in taking on new responsibilities when the MRO group lost a buyer position. Lynne keeps a positive attitude and remains calm when the workload has been very stressful. I am confident that Lynne will use her MRO experience and work towards achieving cost savings goals in her commodities for 2012.

(Doc. 19-6, p. 67). Ms. Monse reviewers recommended the same subject areas for educational programs as in the previous year's review. (Doc. 19-6, p. 66).

         Ms. Monse's performance review from January 2013, covering the 2012 calendar year, is signed by Ms. Stephenson and Mr. Broadnax. (Doc. 19-6, p. 71).

         In the overview section, this review states:

Lynne has contributed to the cost savings goal of the MRO group in 2012 in areas like capital equipment and software. She also played a major part in the support of the group in Germany, which was part of the NSN acquisition. Lynne has supported her customers in spite of the heavy workload.

(Doc. 19-6, p. 68). Under accomplishments, this review states:

1. Lynne was instrumental in setting up the order process for GmbH before and after the acquisition. Lynne has worked with several new ADTRAN GmbH employees and trained them on how to submit the proper information which has helped the turn-around time for EPROC GmbH orders.
2. Due to the NSN acquisition the amount of contracts also increased, Lynne completed several key contracts pertaining to the acquisition. The international contracts require quite a bit more information and formal verifications to complete.
3. Lynne completed IT contracts and purchases related to the NSN acquisition as well as establishing contracts for our new India entity.
4. Lynne was able to get additional cost savings for many capital equipment purchases and was requested by one engineering group to get involved in the negotiations early in the process.
5. Lynne worked with Marty Hunt's group to set up 17 new suppliers for installation services in Mexico. This included working with our Mexico lawyer to establish a contract that would better protect ADTRAN in Mexico.
6. In Q1 Lynne worked diligently in negotiating two significant cost savings with savings with SumTotal ($120K) and Spirent ($201K).
7. Lynne made a significant personal accomplishment in 2012 by making cost savings presentation for the MRO group. This presentation was in front of the Purchasing Department, the Senior VP of Operations and other invited guests. She was very creative in her presentation and did an excellent job.

(Doc. 19-6, p. 68).

         Under strengths, the 2012 review states that “[o]ne of the areas that Lynne has shown her skill and knowledge is in the area of contracts. She works several IT, software and service contracts at one time and works with the contracts group as well as the requestor to obtain the best deal for ADTRAN.” (Doc. 19-6, p. 68). Under areas for improvement, this review states:

Lynne has negotiated several small and large purchases in 2012 and obtained cost savings for ADTRAN. I would like for her to track these areas more closely in 2013 so that we can see the TOTAL savings she has accomplished. This will also help the MRO group reach our goal for cost savings.

(Doc. 19-6, p. 69). The listed goals for 2013 include, “[p]ut the toolcrib items out for bid in Q1/Q2.” (Doc. 19-6, p. 71). The supervisor comments section of this review states:

The MRO group took on the responsibility of supporting the GmbH group in Europe. Lynne has been instrumental in training this group on how to submit their requisitions to allow quicker turn-around time. She has kept a very positive attitude in spite of a very heavy workload. Lynne's hard work and support of the MRO group is very much appreciated.

(Doc. 19-6, p. 71). Ms. Monse reviewers recommended that she participate in an educational program in statistics. (Doc. 19-6, p. 70).

         On October 2, 2013, Ms. Monse's title changed to procurement specialist and some of her duties shifted. (Doc. 19-8, p.5, ¶ 9; compare Doc. 19-7, pp. 15- 17, with Doc. 19-7, pp. 19-20). She acquired many more management responsibilities. (Doc. 19-7, pp. 19-20).

         Ms. Monse's performance review from January 2014, covering the 2013 calendar year, is signed by Ms. Stephenson and Michael Martin. (Doc. 19-6, p. 74). At the time, Michael Martin was “in a contract position at ADTRAN.” (Doc. 19-7, ¶ 2.a). In the overview section, this review states:

Lynne has made a significant contribution to the Indirect Procurement cost savings goal. She has done a good job supporting the demands of the Indirect Procurement group while we have been short staffed. Lynne has shown improvement in her position and overall performance as a buyer.

(Doc. 19-6, p. 72). Under accomplishments, this review lists, among others, that Ms. Monse “[a]chieved a cost savings of approx. $475K for the year; which included several individual cost savings ranging from $70 up to $100K”; “[n]egotiated with a very difficult supplier . . . to waive a transfer of a software license of $17K”; and “received several positive comments this year on a job well done, ” including a comment that Ms. Monse helped achieve “pricing lower than we have ever seen before.” (Doc. 19-6, p. 72). Under strengths, this review states that “Lynne has improved her negotiating skills to the level of being a significant contributor to the MRO cost savings goal. She has gained the confidence of vice-presidents, managers, and departments in her ability to obtain additional cost savings.” (Doc. 19-6, p. 72). Further, the follow-up from Ms. Monse's last review states that “[i]n the last review Lynne's area of improvement was to improve in tracking her cost savings. She has achieved this goal and also improved in the area of total cost savings.” (Doc. 19-6, p. 72).

         The only area for improvement stated in the 2013 review is “[c]ontinue to look for cost savings opportunities and process improvements in her commodities.” (Doc. 19-6, p. 72). The goals listed for 2014 are to “[c]omplete RFP and award of tool crib contract, ” “[c]omplete MSA with Spirent with a negotiated discount for all purchases, ” “[c]omplete MSA with Shenick with a negotiated discount for all purchases, ” and “[c]ontinue to support the Indirect Procurement Group in achieving cost saving goals.” (Doc. 19-6, p. 74). Again, Ms. Monse reviewers recommended that she participate in an educational program in statistics. (Doc. 19-6, p. 73). The supervisor comments state that “Lynne has shown improvement in her overall performance. She is a valuable part of the Indirect Procurement Group. I encourage Lynne to continue to grow in her new job title as a Procurement Specialist.” (Doc. 19-6, p. 74).

         • Mr. Martin Replaces Mr. Broadnax as Ms. Monse's Supervisor

         Mr. Martin replaced Mr. Broadnax as Director of Global Procurement in February 2014. (Doc. 19-7, ¶ 2.a; Doc. 19-8, ¶ 3.b). When Mr. Martin became Director of Global Procurement, he “immediately increased the expectations of the department” because he “did not feel the team was performing at a high level.” (Doc. 19-7, ¶ 3; see also Doc. 19-6, pp. 3-4, tpp. 8-9). Mr. Martin revisited some policies. For example, Mr. Martin asked to sign all insertion orders. (Doc. 19-1, pp. 18-19, tpp. 67-69). An insertion order is submitted to marketing and is required to hold a company's place in advertising. (Doc. 19-1, p. 18, tp. 68).

         Shortly after Mr. Martin arrived, Ms. Monse took FMLA leave. This was her third leave; it lasted from April 17, 2014 to May 8, 2014. (Doc. 19-8, ¶ 9). According to Ms. Monse, when she returned from this leave, Ms. Stephenson's ...


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