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Frednel St. George v. Advance Stores Company

December 6, 2011

FREDNEL ST. GEORGE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
ADVANCE STORES COMPANY, INC., D/B/A ADVANCE AUTO PARTS, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Edwin G. Torres United States Magistrate Judge

CONSENT CASE

ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR FINAL SUMMARY JUDGMENT

This matter is before the Court on Defendant Advance Stores Company, Inc., d/b/a Advance Auto Parts' Motion for Summary Judgment as to Plaintiff Frednel St. George's claims [D.E. 53]. The Court has reviewed the motion, response, reply, relevant authorities, supplemental filings, and record evidence submitted in support for or in opposition to the motion. Based upon a thorough review of the record, we find that there are no genuine issues of material fact to preclude final summary judgment. For the following reasons, the final summary judgment motion will be GRANTED.

I. BACKGROUND

Defendant, Advance Stores Company, Inc., d/b/a Advance Auto Parts ("Defendant" or "Advance"), employs over 51,000 people and operates 3,500 retail locations in the United States and in the Caribbean. [D.E. 54]. In each retail location, a Store Manager supervises between ten and fifteen full-time and part-time hourly employees. [Id.]. Advance divides its retail locations into districts and assigns a District Manager to supervise the Store Managers within the relevant district. [Id.]. Asset Protection Managers further monitor Advance's retail locations by conducting announced or unannounced financial audits of the stores within the Asset Protection Manager's assigned territory. [Id.].

Plaintiff Frednel St. George (Black/Haitian) began working for Advance's predecessor, Discount Auto Parts, in 2000 as a Sales Associate. [D.E. 53]. He worked at several of Advance's locations and, in 2005, received a promotion to Store Manager. [Id.]. As a Store Manager, St. George's duties included supervising the store's overall operations, training, supervising, hiring and disciplining team members, ensuring customer satisfaction, maximizing profitability through sales, payroll, inventory, cost control, and complying with all company policies and procedures. [Id.]. In 2007, St. George began reporting to Phil Bean (White/American) after Bean was promoted to District Manager. Bean gave St. George a raise on March 30, 2008, paying him the maximum amount allowed under the company's guidelines. [Id.].

On April 7, 2008, Bean gave St. George a "letter of commitment" notifying St. George that an upcoming work schedule for his store exceeded its allotted payroll for the week and indicating that hours needed to be trimmed from the schedule. [D.E. 54]. St. George addressed the issue and it had no adverse effect on his employment. The letter of commitment did not go into his personnel file. [Id.].

Later that month, St. George was held at gunpoint when his store was robbed. [Id.]. He requested to be transferred to a different store, but Advance did not transfer him. Gloria Duque (White/Columbian) also worked at St. George's store at the time of the robbery and was granted a transfer to the Boca Raton location. St. George alleges that she was treated more favorably than he was because she was given a transfer. [D.E. 89]. However, Advance states that it re-hired Duque with the understanding that she would shortly thereafter be assigned to the Boca Raton location as its Store Manager, and there were no open Store Manager positions at the time St. George requested the transfer. [D.E. 54]. No other Store Managers in Bean's district have received a transfer following a robbery, although Store Manager Angelo Jean Hilaire (Black/Haitian American) did receive a transfer to a store closer to his home. [Id.].

During his employment with Advance, St. George alleges that Bean yelled at him in front of customers and employees regarding the condition of his store on one occasion. [Id.]. Bean denies this claim, stating that he does recall walking through St. George's store with him and pointing out numerous things that needed improvement, in the same manner that he does with other Store Managers. [Id.]. We assume on summary judgment that St. George's version of these events is true.

In September 2008, Fernando Rondinoni, an Asset Protection Manager, conducted a routine inventory of St. George's store and discovered that St. George had been violating Advance's cash handling policy for several months. [Id.]. When a manager removes cash from a register for a store-related purpose, the manager must provide a receipt for the exact amount of the transaction. This procedure is called a "paid-out." [Id.]. If there is change from the transaction, it must be returned to the register and electronically recorded on the register. In an interview following the inventory, St. George told Rondinoni that he used money from the registers to purchase meals for his employees. [Id.]. St. George said that he purchased 30-40 meals from a Haitian restaurant which, according to St. George, does not give receipts. However, after Rondinoni interviewed several other employees, he became suspicious of the number of meals St. George claimed to have purchased. Most of the employees interviewed only recalled one or two meals where pizza was served, although one employee remembered receiving five to ten lunches in the last 90 days. [Id.]. Nearly all of the expenses were in even dollar amounts. St. George also admitted to putting change back into the registers without documenting the transactions which violates another of Advance's policies. The transactions totaled approximately $500 in the 90-day period preceding the inventory, and over $1,400 in the eight-month period prior to the inventory. [Id.]. Because of the violations of company policy, St. George's employment was terminated. [Id.].

St. George claims that Advance discriminated against him on the basis of his race and national origin because of the "letter of commitment," the denial of the transfer, the fact that Bean yelled at him in front of others, and his termination for violating Advance's cash-handling policies. [Id.].

II. APPLICABLE LAW

A. Summary Judgment Standard

"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). A party asserting that a fact cannot be or is not genuinely disputed must support that assertion by "citing 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; or showing that materials cited do not establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute, or that an adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact." Id.at 56(c)(1).

However, "in determining whether summary judgment is appropriate, the facts and inferences from the facts are viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, and the burden is placed on the moving party to establish both the absence of a genuine material fact and that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-87 (1986). As such, the court must resolve all reasonable doubts in favor of the non-moving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986).

In opposing a motion for summary judgment, the non-moving party may not rely solely on the pleadings, but must show by affidavits, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions that specific facts exist demonstrating a genuine issue for trial. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c), (e); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-24 (1986); Gonzalez v. Lee County Hous. Auth, 161 F.3d 1290, 1294 (11th Cir. 1998). Further, "this standard provides that the mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material fact." Anderson, 106 S. Ct. at 2510. Likewise, a court need not permit a case to go to a jury when the ...


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