United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division
JOSHUA H. BOYD Plaintiff,
MEDTRONIC, PLC, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OF OPINION
SCOTT COOGLER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the Court is Defendant, Medtronic, PLC
(“Medtronic's”), motion for summary judgment.
(Doc. 46.) For the reasons stated below, Medtronic's
motion for summary judgment (doc. 46) is due to be denied.
CEO Ishrak's Initiative and Complaints about
Joshua H. Boyd (“Boyd”), a man, brings this
action against Medtronic, PLC (“Medtronic”),
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”). On November 24, 2014, Medtronic's CEO Omar
Ishrak (“Ishrak”) spoke to Medtronic's
women's resource group “Aspire” where he
announced that Medtronic's goal was to achieve
fifty-percent female representation in management. Around six
months later, Medtronic reorganized and created twelve new
regional vice president positions. Medtronic filled five of
the twelve positions with women. Two of the new regional vice
presidents were Michelle Gaulding (“Gaulding”)
and Kelley Nicholas (“Nicholas”). Ishrak further
reiterated his goal of having more female representation in
management during a September 30, 2016 Aspire presentation.
contends that in September 2015, soon after she had been
named a regional vice president, Gaulding falsified an email
chain between herself and another Medtronic employee, Jeff
Dortch (“Dortch”), to make it appear as though
she had sent an email on August 11, 2015 rather than
September 10, 2015. Dortch filed multiple complaints about
this incident with Medtronic. On January 31, 2017, Medtronic
disciplined Gaulding for the email falsification by issuing
her a final written warning.
Medtronic's April 2015 reorganization, Chuck Grose
(“Grose”) assumed the position of navigation
manager and reported directly to Gaulding. A Medtronic sales
representative, Angela Holley (“Holley”),
testified that at an Aspire meeting on September 8, 2015,
Gaulding approached her to inquire into her interest in the
position of Regional Navigation Manager South Central. At the
time, this was the position occupied by Grose.
November 2015, Mark Eller (“Eller”), a member of
Medtronic's Human Resources Department, sent multiple
emails to Christian LaBarbera (“LaBarbera”), a
high-ranking member of the Human Resources Department,
expressing concerns regarding Gaulding. This included
describing an incident where Gaulding told Kristy Roberts,
Medtronic's Regional Sales Director for the South-Eastern
Gastro Urology Division, that she should have hired an
African American female interviewee instead of a more
qualified white male interviewee. On November 23, 2015, Grose
called Medtronic's “Voice Your Concern Line”
and complained that he felt as though Gaulding was
discriminating against him due to his gender. In response to
these concerns, LaBarbera ordered that a Speed of Trust
Workshop be conducted for Gaulding and her team.
began his employment with Medtronic in January
2013. After Medtronic's reorganization, Boyd
was assigned to work as a navigation manager in
Medtronic's Midwest Region. In this position, his job was
to sell Medtronic surgical equipment. Boyd's supervisor
was Nicholas, the Midwest's regional vice president. On
April 5, 2016, Nicholas placed Boyd on a performance
improvement plan, which Boyd challenged. Ultimately,
Medtronic removed the performance improvement plan. In June
2016, Boyd met with LaBarbera and expressed frustration with
how he had been treated by Nicholas.
that summer, Gaulding became Boyd's supervisor, and he
became the Navigation Manager for the South-Central Region.
However, Boyd was not officially transferred to the
South-Central Region in Medtronic's internal system until
October 1, 2016. On July 18, 2016, Boyd informed Eller that
he would be filing an EEOC complaint the next day. Eller
forwarded this email to LaBarbera who told another Medtronic
employee that Boyd should remain an employee during the
complaint process. On August 8, 2016, Boyd filed a charge of
discrimination with the EEOC, alleging that he had been
subjected to gender discrimination and retaliation by
this same time period, Medtronic was in negotiations with
Memorial Hospital (“Memorial”) to purchase a
piece of surgical equipment known as an “O-arm.”
However, Boyd was not involved in these negotiations. On
September 6, 2016, Gaulding's superiors informed her that
Memorial had expressed frustration about how the negotiations
had been progressing. On September 9, 2016, Gaulding
contacted Sherry Fusco (“Fusco”) at Memorial
regarding the negotiations over the purchase of the O-arm.
Gaulding also discussed the Memorial account with Dortch.
Dortch told Gaulding that Boyd should not be inserted into
the Memorial discussions at that time and mentioned that Boyd
had some negative history with the account. Following her
conversation with Dortch, Gaulding emailed Boyd and
instructed him to “hold off on proactively contacting
the customer(s) until I've given you the all
clear.” (See Doc. 47-1 at 34.)
September 14, 2016, Gaulding and Boyd discussed the Memorial
account during a telephone call. Following this call,
Gaulding emailed Eller and LaBarbera to inform them that Boyd
had complained that she was discriminating against him due to
his gender. On September 20, 2016, Dortch emailed Eller and
Lisa Jones (“Jones”), another member of
Medtronic's Human Resources Department, about concerns he
had with Gaulding's handling of the Memorial account.
then completed the sale of an O-arm to Memorial. On September
27, 2019, Gaulding emailed Dortch and Christopher Farr to
discuss the best delivery date for Memorial's new O-arm.
Gaulding copied Boyd, among others, on the email. Dortch
testified that during a phone call with Gaulding she gave him
full authority to go in and quarterback the Memorial deal.
According to Dortch, Fusco wanted “as many Medtronic
people as possible to get [the O-arm] ready to go.”
(See Doc. 57-15 at 4.) On September 29, 2016, when
the purchased O-arm was being installed, Boyd went to
Memorial after Dortch asked him to be there. Dortch testified
that due to his previous phone call with Gaulding he felt
that he was “fully authorized to engage the customer
with . . . whoever I felt was necessary to engage the
customer.” (See Doc. 59-1 at 28.) Boyd did not
inform Gaulding that he would be going to Memorial. While at
Memorial, Boyd spoke with Fusco about options available to
Memorial for the purchase of a second O-arm. Boyd contends
that he only discussed the purchase of this second O-arm
because one of Memorial's other O-arms had failed and
Fusco asked him what her options were.
next day, on September 30, 2016, Fusco informed Gaulding
about her conversation with Boyd. Gaulding testified that she
believed Boyd's actions contradicted her instruction that
he not contact Memorial. Gaulding then called Boyd and told
him that by going to Memorial he had disobeyed her previous
instructions. Gaulding also contacted several Medtronic
officials and asked for guidance on how to respond to what
she alleged was Boyd's failure to follow her
instructions. Approximately twenty minutes later, LaBarbera
responded to Gaulding's email and asked two other
Medtronic officials copied on the email to “[p]lease
liase with [Gaulding] on terminating [Boyd] for cause with
immediate effect.” (See Doc. 47-3 at 52.)
Beck (“Beck”) and Lisa Jones
(“Jones”), members of Medtronic's Human
Resources Department, then conducted an investigation into
Boyd's interactions with Memorial. Gaulding did not
participate in this investigation into Boyd's employment.
On October 10, 2016, Medtronic informed Boyd that his
employment had been terminated. The parties dispute whether
Boyd's employment was terminated on September 30, 2016
when LaBarbera responded to Gaulding's email or if it was
terminated on October 10, 2016 after Medtronic had conducted
the investigation into Boyd's interactions with Memorial.
However, the parties agree that LaBarbera was a final
decision-maker with respect to Boyd's termination. Holley
testified that just weeks after Boyd's termination
Gaulding again approached her to inquire about her interest
in the Navigation Manager position.
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.” Hickson Corp. v. N. Crossarm Co.,
Inc., 357 F.3d 1256, 1260 (11th Cir. 2004). 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, 1219 (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. ...