United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Jacksonville Division
TIMOTHY J. CORRIGAN United States District Judge
Ecia Truesdale, who is African-American, worked for defendant
CSX Transportation, Inc. (“CSXT”) as a customer
service representative and coordinator from June 2012 until
August 2015 when CSXT terminated her employment. Truesdale
sued under 42 U.S.C. § 1981, alleging CSXT harassed and
discriminated against her based on her race (Count I) and
retaliated against her for making complaints to the human
resources department (Count II). CSXT has moved for summary
judgment (Doc. 14), Truesdale responded (Docs. 18 & 19),
and CSXT replied (Doc. 24). “Summary judgment is proper
‘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.'” Trask v.
Sec'y, Dep't of Veterans Affairs, 822 F.3d 1179,
1184, n.1 (11th Cir. 2016) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a)).
job as a customer service representative, Truesdale worked
with customers to track and locate freight on CSXT's
rails and trucks. Doc. 14-5, Ex. 1; Doc. 18-6, Ex. 80. At
some point her title changed to customer service coordinator,
but her responsibilities remained the same. Doc. 18-6, Ex.
80. At her first year-end review, Truesdale's supervisor,
Janel Williams (who is African-American), rated
Truesdale's performance as unsatisfactory. Doc. 14-5, Ex.
5; Doc. 14-15 at ¶ 6. Truesdale disagreed with the
rating. Doc. 14-5, Ex. 9. Williams provided Truesdale with
detailed feedback as to why the rating was warranted. Doc.
14-5, Ex. 10.
left CSXT in April 2013 and Debra Ghourley (who is white)
then supervised Truesdale until November 2013 when Ghourley
became the Director of Customer Service. Doc. 24-1. Ghourley
completed Truesdale's 2013 year-end review and initially
rated her performance as “fair.” Doc. 14-5, Ex.
15. Truesdale disagreed with the rating and Ghourley, in
consultation with her own supervisor (who is white) and the
human resources director (who is African-American), changed
Truesdale's score to “satisfactory” which,
unlike the “fair” rating, entitled Truesdale to
receive a raise. Doc. 14-2 at Tr. 150; Doc. 14-5, Ex. 13, Ex.
17, Ex. 18. Ghourley explained that because she had not
supervised Truesdale for the entire year, she changed the
rating to give Truesdale “the benefit of the doubt,
” Doc. 14-16 at ¶ 6, though Truesdale testified
that Ghourley only grudgingly raised her rating, and reminded
Truesdale on many occasions that she disagreed with the
higher rating. Doc. 14-2 at Tr. 155-56.
Perry (who is white) began supervising Truesdale in February
2014. Doc. 24-1 at ¶ 4; Doc. 14-2 at Tr.158, Doc. 14-6,
Ex. 19. In June 2014, Truesdale was counseled
after sending her biggest customer an email telling the
customer that her tone was “very disrespectful, rude
and condescending, ” and that she was making
Truesdale's work “very difficult.” Doc. 14-6
at Ex. 22; Doc. 14-2 at Tr. 164. Perry completed
Truesdale's 2014 year-end review, rating her as
“sometimes achieves expectations, ” and noting
that Perry was seeing improvement after “work[ing]
through several issues” with Truesdale to help her
better address her customers' needs. Doc. 14-6, Ex. 19.
In February and March 2015 different coworkers complained to
Perry about interactions with Truesdale. Doc. 14-7, Ex. 51,
Ex. 53. In March 2015 Truesdale was counseled for directing a
customer to submit inquiries in a manner that created more
work for the customer and made it appear that Truesdale was
handling a high volume of inquiries. Doc. 14-7, Ex. 54, Ex.
May 26, 2015, accompanied by two human resources directors,
LaTisha Thompson and Kelly Toaston (both African-American),
Perry met with Truesdale and issued her a formal Performance
Warning. Doc. 14-6, Ex. 25. Perry advised Truesdale that if
she did not sustain acceptable performance over the next
sixty days, she would be subject to further disciplinary
action, up to and including termination. Id. Several
days later, Truesdale sent a lengthy email to Toaston
explaining that she felt she was being retaliated against and
treated unfairly for having contacted human resources to
dispute her performance reviews; she felt threatened and
intimidated by Perry and Ghourley (who was now Perry's
supervisor); and management was sabotaging her by not timely
sharing performance information with her. Doc. 14-6, Ex. 27.
Truesdale's email does not once mention race. Truesdale
closed her letter by seeking Toaston's assistance in
finding another position within CSX. Id. Truesdale
applied for other open positions at CSX but was not selected.
Doc. 14-6, Ex. 32, Ex. 33.
Perry and Toaston met with Truesdale every two weeks for
coaching sessions meant to improve her performance. Doc.
14-6, Ex. 31, Ex. 35; Doc. 14-7, Ex. 39, Ex. 40. However,
Perry did not rate Truesdale's performance as meeting
expectations on a regular basis and at the end of the sixty
days, Perry recommended to Ghourley that Truesdale be
terminated. Doc. 14-10 at Tr. 35. Ghourley, Perry and Toaston
met with Truesdale, and Ghourley terminated Truesdale on
August 10, 2015.
two count complaint, Truesdale alleges she was harassed and
terminated because she is African-American and retaliated
against for reporting unlawful employment practices, all in
violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981. Doc. 1. Race
discrimination and retaliation claims brought under §
1981 are analyzed in the same manner as claims brought under
Title VII. Rice-Lamar v. City of Ft.
Lauderdale, 232 F.3d 836, 843 n.11 (11th Cir. 2000)
(analyzing § 1981 claim of wrongful termination under
Title VII framework); Bryant v. Jones, 575 F.3d
1281, 1296 n.20 (11th Cir. 2009) (stating that elements of a
§ 1981 claim of hostile work environment are same as
those under Title VII); Goldsmith v. Bagby Elevator Co.,
Inc., 513 F.3d 1261, 1277 (11th Cir. 2008) (analyzing
§ 1981 and Title VII retaliation claims under the same
Termination Claim (Count I)
Truesdale relies on circumstantial evidence to attempt to
prove her race discrimination claim, the Court first
addresses her claim under the McDonnell Douglas
burden-shifting framework. Smith v. Lockheed-Martin,
Corp., 644 F.3d 1321, 1325 (11th Cir. 2011) (citing
McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792,
802-05 (1973)). Barring success there, the Court may consider
whether Truesdale has painted “a convincing mosaic of
circumstantial evidence” from which a jury could infer
intentional discrimination. Id. at 1328-29
(quotation and citation omitted).
first with the McDonnell Douglas analysis, Truesdale
must establish a prima facie case of discrimination by
showing “(1) that [she] is a member of a protected
class (here, [African-American]); (2) that [she] was
qualified for the position [she] held; (3) that [she] was
discharged from that position; and (4) that in terminating
[her] employment, [CSXT] treated [her] less favorably than a
similarly-situated individual outside [her] protected
class.” Smith, 644 F.3d at 1325 (citing
Maynard v. Bd. of Regents, 342 F.3d 1281, 1289 (11th
Cir. 2003)). If Truesdale can establish a prima facie case,
the burden shifts to CSXT to rebut the presumption that its
decision to terminate Truesdale was motivated by race, which
it may do by articulating a legitimate non-discriminatory
reason for her termination. See Id. at 1325. If CSXT
meets its burden of production, “the presumption of
discrimination is rebutted” and “the inquiry
‘proceeds to a new level of specificity, ' whereby
[Truesdale] must show [CSXT's] proffered reason to be a
pretext for unlawful discrimination.” Id. at
1325-26 (quoting EEOC v. Joe's Stone Crabs,
Inc., 296 F.3d 1265, 1272 (11th Cir. 2002)).
Court finds Truesdale cannot establish a prima facie case of
discrimination because she cannot demonstrate that in
terminating her employment, CSXT treated her less favorably
than similarly-situated co-workers who were not
African-American. Truesdale testified that one white
co-worker (Roxanne McElroy) received a “bad
review” in 2013 but was not terminated, and two other
white co-workers (Janeene Bartley and Patti Cole) performed
as poorly as Truesdale but were not
disciplined.But Truesdale also testified that she had
never seen Bartley or Cole's personnel files, Doc. 14-3
at Tr. 213; doesn't know if they were ever disciplined or
how they scored on their performance reviews, id.;
didn't know how many mistakes Bartley made, Doc. 14-1 at
Tr. 90; hadn't seen any of McElroy's subsequent
reviews, Doc. 14-2 at Tr. 92-93; was “making a
guess” that McElroy had as many performance
deficiencies as Truesdale, id. at Tr. 92; had never
observed Cole's work, Doc. 14-3 at Tr. 213; and admitted
that her source of information about Cole was “rumors
in the grapevine.” Doc. 14-2 at Tr. 92. In fact,
neither McElroy, Bartley or Cole ever received an
unsatisfactory performance review (as did ...