An African-American woman who complained about questions from contract marketing employees about whether she liked watermelon and whether there were still “crack hoes running around” Harlem, where plaintiff had family, was not terminated because of her complaints but because she falsified customer service qualification forms; the Richmond U.S. District Court grants summary judgment to employer.
In April 2011, plaintiff began working as a retail sales representative for defendant Marketstar. Her duties included selling Verizon products and services and customer service at local events and festivals for defendant in Verizon’s booths at these events.
On Aug. 5, 2012, plaintiff worked in the Verizon booth during the Watermelon Festival in Richmond. Marketing Werks, a separate entity from defendant, was responsible for the set up and logistical services at the booth. During the festival, the boyfriend of a Marketing Werks employee, asked her three times if she wanted any watermelon, and told her it was hilarious that she said she did not like watermelon.
On Aug. 12, 2012, plaintiff worked the Jazz Festival in Richmond and Marketing Werks again provided set-up and logistical services. A Marketing Werks employee heard plaintiff’s accent and asked if she was from New York. She explained she was from New York and the employee asked her about going to Harlem and “crack hoes.” Plaintiff was offended because her grandmother, who was addicted to crack cocaine, is from Harlem and was murdered there.
Plaintiff filed an EEOC claim on Aug. 16, 2012, citing the incidents at the Watermelon and Jazz Festivals. In August 2012, defendant’s HR director discussed both incidents with plaintiff and assured her by phone and email that she could continue her employment and would not be required to attend any events with Marketing Works employees. Defendant’s HR department contacted Marketing Werks concerning both complaints. Marketing Werks refused defendant’s request that the two Marketing Werks employees involved in plaintiff’s complaints no longer work Verizon events.
Plaintiff also complained that one of defendant’s male sales representatives referred to a woman from another company as a “bimbo,” and reportedly had made a “dumb blonde” joke.
On Jan. 15, 2013, plaintiff’s manager observed that plaintiff had only worked a couple of hours of her shift, but turned in customer service qualification forms showing she had qualified 10 customers that day. Plaintiff usually recorded eight to 10 qualifications in an entire shift. The manager reviewed the customer qualification form and compared it to others. He noticed the customers on the form were the same customers plaintiff had qualified on Aug. 28, 2012. He reported his discovery to HR and began consulting with the HR manager. At the HR manager’s suggestion, plaintiff’s manager spent a few weeks attempting to contact all the customers on plaintiff’s Jan. 15, qualification log, to confirm whether they had visited the store on that day. He spoke with four of the 10 customers on the form – all of whom told him they had not been in the store for months and confirmed they were not in the store on Jan. 15.
Plaintiff denied falsifying the Jan. 15 records, but admitted to falsifying the qualification forms on other occasions. Defendant’s policy manual specifically prohibits falsification of records, including qualification logs. Defendant routinely terminates employees who falsify company records. Defendant terminated plaintiff on March 5, 2013.
The record here fails to establish a prima facie case of discrimination and retaliation. The alleged conduct was not sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of employment and create an abusive atmosphere, as required for a claim of sexually or racially hostile work environment. Further, plaintiff has not shown a causal connection between the alleged protected activity and her termination because there is a seven-month gap between the filing of plaintiff’s first EEOC claim and her termination. Moreover, defendant had a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for terminating plaintiff.
Summary judgment for defendant.
Abbott v. Marketstar (Hudson) No. 3:13cv143, Oct. 8, 2013; USDC at Richmond, Va. VLW 013-3-518, 15 pp.