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Jones v. Globe Specialty Metal, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. Alabama, Northern Division

August 13, 2019

VIVIAN M. JONES, Plaintiff,
v.
GLOBE SPECIALTY METAL, INC., a/k/a FERROGLOBE/GLOBE METALLURGIC, INC., and FERROGLOBE METALURGIC, INC., Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          TERRY F. MOORER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Pending before the Court is Defendant Globe Metallurgical, Inc.'s (“Globe” or “Defendant”), [1] Motion for Summary Judgment. Doc. 76, filed April 29, 2019. The motion has been fully briefed (Docs. 76, 80, & 81) and is ripe for review. Having considered the motion and relevant law, the Court finds the Motion for Summary Judgment is due to be GRANTED.

         I. JURISDICTION

         The district court has subject matter jurisdiction over the claims in this action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331 (federal question) and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e-2000e-17.

         The parties do not contest personal jurisdiction or venue, and there are adequate allegations to support both.

         II. PROCEDURAL AND FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         A. Procedural Background

         On June 6, 2018, Plaintiff Vivian M. Jones (“Jones” or “Plaintiff”) originally filed in this Court her Complaint for Employment Discrimination, in which she brought against Globe claims of gender and race discrimination, pursuant to Title VII. Doc. 1. In Jones's Complaint, she states she filed her charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) on February 18, 2018. Doc 1 at 4. Jones subsequently filed her Amended Complaint for Employment Discrimination and Second Amended Complaint for Employment Discrimination, on June 7, 2018, and June 11, 2018, respectively. Docs. 2, 3.

         On July 2, 2018, Defendants Globe, Lee Payssa (“Payssa”), and Stephen Smith (“Smith”) filed their Motion for Partial Dismissal of the Second Amended Complaint, in which they argued Payssa and Smith, who were identified as employees of Globe by Plaintiff in her Second Amended Complaint, could not be held personally or individually liable pursuant to Title VII. Doc. 9, at 1-2. After the motion for partial dismissal was fully briefed (see Docs. 13 & 18), the assigned Magistrate Judge entered a Report and Recommendation, in which she recommended the motion be granted and the claims against Payssa and Smith be dismissed with prejudice (Doc. 21). The Report and Recommendation was subsequently adopted as the opinion of the Court, which left Globe as the sole defendant. Doc. 24.

         On January 7, 2019, Plaintiff filed her Third Amended Complaint for Employment Discrimination (Doc. 48), which the Court construed as a motion for leave to file a third amended complaint (Doc. 49). Globe filed its response to the motion, in which it stated it did not object to the motion (Doc. 50), the motion was granted (Doc. 51), and the Third Amended Complaint was entered as the operative pleading.

         On April 29, 2019, Globe filed its instant Motion for Summary Judgment, in which it requests the Court dismiss Plaintiff's claims. Doc. 76. The Court entered a submission order for the motion. Doc. 78. Jones timely filed her reponse, and Globe filed its reply. Docs. 80, 81. The motion is fully briefed and ripe for review.

         B. Factual Background[2]

         Jones, an African-American female, worked for Globe at its plant in Selma, Alabama (“Selma Plant”), from December 2003 until her termination in September 2017. Doc. 76-2 at 6-7. Jones was first placed in the Accounts Payable Department at Globe through a temporary staffing agency, Manpower. Id. at 12-13. Jones worked in the Accounts Payable Department from December 2003 until July 2004, when Globe decided to employ her in a fulltime position. Id. at 12.

         Prior to her employment with Globe, Jones worked for various companies, including Stanfast Printing and Hormel Food Service. Id. at 7-10. Jones was terminated from her positions with Stanfast Printing and Hormel Food Service for absenteeism and failure to report to work on time. Id. at 8-10.

         In 1993, Jones pled no contest to two (2) counts for violations of the Georgia Employment Security Act for “knowingly making a false representation to obtain benefits” in violation of the Act, for which she received twelve (12) months of probation and was ordered to pay a $1, 186.00 fine, $946.00 of which was suspended. Id. at 17-20. In 1997, Jones pled gulty to one (1) count of “Allowing Driver to Violate State Law” in violation of Georgia Code § 40-1-3, for which she received a $200 fine. Doc. 76-6. Specifically, Jones pled guilty to allowing the driver, Eddit Walter, of the vehicle she occupied to drive “while suspended” and assisted Walter with giving to a law enforcement officer a false name and date of birth. Id. at 3.

         To become a full-time employee with Globe, Jones was required to complete an application for employment, which she completed on June 21, 2004. Doc. 76-2 at 11-12. On Jones's application for employment, she indicated she understood and acknowledged as follows: “I certify that all the information that I provide on this application and in any interview will be true and accurate. I understand that if I am employed and such information is later found to be false or misleading in any respect I may be dismissed.” Id. at 14. Despite Jones's acknowledgment in her application, she represented she left Stanfast Printing for a “better job;” she had not been terminated, or asked to resign, from any job; and she had never pled “guilty” or “no contest” to a crime. Id. at 15-16, 21-22. Globe was not aware of Jones's misrepresentations until after she initiated the instant action. Doc. 76-1 ¶ 14.

         On July 1, 2004, Jones began her full-time employment with Globe in its Accounts Payable Department. Doc. 76-2 at 12. Jones remained in that position until sometime in 2006 when she was offered, and accepted, the position of Human Resources Specialist (“HR Specialist”). Id. at 23-24. As an HR Specialist, Jones reported to Steve Pralley - the then Selma Plant Manager - and was responsible for maintaining “harmony between the company and the union, ” and recruiting and conducting interviews, with direction from the plant manager. Id. at 23-25. As an HR Specialist, Jones received positive evaluations and pay increases. Id. at 26-27.

         Sometime in 2008, Jones was promoted to HR Manager. Id. at 28. As HR Manager, Jones believed she was responsible for “bring[ing] harmony between the employee and the company;” assisting the plant manager, director of HR, corporate director of HR, and any other Globe executives; and ensuring the enforcement of Globe policies. Id. at 30-31. Jones was also involved in decisions that were related to discipline and discharge within the Selma Plant and interviewing employees for open positions. Id. at 31-32. Jones understood, in her position as HR Manager, she occupied a position of trust, and an important part of her position was to provide truthful information. Id. at 29, 31.

         Globe's HR Department is not solely under the management of the individual plants; as HR Manager, Jones had responsibilities to both the Plant Manager, Stephen Smith, and the Corporate Director of HR, Lee Payssa. Doc. 76-3 at 21. For the relevant time period for this case, Payssa was Jones's direct supervisor. Doc. 76-2 at 63. Payssa did not typically have any involvement in the discipline or termination of non-HR employees within the Selma Plant, although Smith would sometimes consult with him on such matters. Doc. 76-3 at 25. Globe does not maintain a written disciplinary or progressive discipline policy for its non-unionized employees. Id. at 26; Doc. 76-2 at 63. Globe's practice was to determine the appropriate discipline on a case-by-case basis, based on the severity of the conduct. Doc. 76-3 at 26.

         As the Selma Plant Manager, Smith was responsible for supervising all of the Selma Plant employees, except for Jones, and made disciplinary determinations for those employees. Doc. 76-2 at 63. Jones routinely consulted with Smith on Selma Plant employee disciplinary issues. Id. at 50. Smith made the final decision as to what the disciplinary action would be, but he typically sought Jones's advice on the subject and often followed it. Doc. 76-4 at 63-64.

         As HR Manager, Jones also participated in the employee hiring process for the Selma Plant. Doc. 76-2 at 31-32. The hiring process would begin when Jones would advertise open positions, then collect resumes from applicants for the available positions and distribute them to the hiring committee for review. Doc. 76-4 at 12-13. The hiring committee, which typically comprises the Plant Manager, HR Manager, Furnace Department Manager, Shipping Manager, Bag-House Manager, and any other manager or supervisor for the specific hiring department, would review the resumes, conduct interviews, and make collective hiring decisions. Id. at 10-11 & 13-14. Jones was responsible for conducting background checks and other necessary pre-employment investigations for potential employees, and finalizing employment decisions based on the results of those pre-employment investigations.[3] Id. at 14-15.

         Claude Bess informed Jones that Globe was not allowed to hire anyone that was previously terminated from the company or had a prior felony.[4] Id. at 21. On September 17, 2017, Jones was emailed the same information by Payssa (Doc. 76-3 at 38-39 & 73), but she denies that she received the email (Doc. 76-2 at 46). Specifically, Payssa's email to Jones stated:

Just a reminder that we need to be aggressive this week to complete hiring for the furnace 1 startup. I won't have a chance to there [sic] early this week however possibly later in the week. Also, I have heard some rumors that we are hiring people who we have terminated in the past and possibly have criminal records. I am sure this is not ...

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