United States District Court, N.D. Iowa, Eastern Division
K.E. MAHONEY CHIEF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Yoshida Loretta Thomas, an African-American woman, brought
suit against her former employer, Gray Transportation, Inc.
(Gray Transportation), alleging race and sex discrimination
in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Doc. 2. Currently before the court is Defendant Gray
Transportation's motion for summary judgment. Doc. 15.
Thomas filed a resistance (Docs. 16, 19), and Gray
Transportation filed a reply (Doc. 21). After a hearing on
the motion (Doc. 23), the parties filed supplemental briefing
(Docs. 24, 25). I find that Gray Transportation is entitled
to summary judgment on all of Thomas's claims and thus
grant the motion (Doc. 15).
following facts are recited in the light most favorable to
Thomas, the nonmoving party. Gray Transportation is a
trucking company that employs (among others) truck drivers,
dispatchers who communicate with the drivers, and brokers
that arrange for customers' loads to be transported by
truck. LeRoy Gray is the chief executive officer of Gray
Transportation, and his son, Darrin Gray, is the president
(to avoid confusion, I refer to the Grays by their first
names). Pl. SOF ¶¶ 1-2; Def. Resp. SOF ¶¶
hired Thomas to work as a dispatcher after an in-person
interview on October 19, 2015, and Thomas met Darrin that
same day. Def. SOF ¶¶ 2-4; Pl. Resp. SOF
¶¶ 2-4. LeRoy offered to pay Thomas $600 per week
($31, 200 annually), which Thomas accepted without requesting
additional pay (this salary represented a 50ḉ per hour
increase as compared to what Thomas had been earning). Def.
SOF ¶ 5; Pl. Resp. SOF ¶ 5; Pl. SOF ¶¶ 4, 17;
Def. Resp. SOF ¶¶ 4, 17; Pl. App. 29, 31; Def. App.
17. Thomas began working for Gray Transportation two weeks
later, on November 2, 2015. Def. SOF ¶ 4; Pl. Resp. SOF
¶¶ 4. She primarily worked as a dispatcher, but she
also performed brokerage work from January to June 2016. Pl.
SOF ¶¶ 22-25, 35-37, 40; Def. Resp. SOF
¶¶ 22-25, 35-37, 40. She stopped working as a
broker after Sel Saric, the other dispatcher who also worked
as a broker, received a $408 bonus, while she did not. Pl.
SOF ¶¶ 25- 40; Def. Resp. SOF ¶¶ 25-40;
Pl. App. 62-63. Saric is a white man of Bosnian descent.
Transportation's unwritten brokerage bonus policy was
that when the brokerage profit was more than $10, 000 for a
month, brokers were paid a bonus based on the amount of
profit that was over $10, 000-with one broker, the bonus was
5% of the amount of profit greater than $10, 000; and with
two brokers, the bonus was 2.5% each of the amount of profit
greater than $10, 000. Pl. SOF ¶¶ 32-33; Def. Resp.
SOF ¶¶ 32-33. Rather than determining the bonus
based on how much work each broker did, the 5% bonus was
split evenly between brokers because of the time and effort
to determine loads and revenues for each broker. Pl. SOF
¶ 34; Def. Resp. SOF ¶ 34. After the main person
who performed brokerage work for Gray Transportation left in
January 2016, Gray Transportation no longer had a
“primary broker.” Pl. SOF ¶¶ 24-25;
Def. Resp SOF ¶¶ 24-25. LeRoy told Saric and Thomas
“that [they] were going to take over the brokerage side
of the business, ” in addition to performing their
dispatching duties. Pl. App. 45. Saric had previously been
trained to perform brokerage work as a substitute when the
main person was on vacation or otherwise out of the office;
he had begun brokering in February 2015 and received his
first brokerage bonus in June 2015. Pl. App. 22-23. Thomas
had experience as a broker from her previous employment. Pl.
App. 42. When Thomas learned that Saric had received a bonus
in June 2016 and she had not, Thomas asked LeRoy about
it. Pl. App. 47. LeRoy said that “it was his company
and he can do what he wants and if [Thomas didn't] like
it, [she] could quit.” Pl. App. 47. Thomas stopped
performing brokerage work after that. Gray Transportation
contends that Thomas did not receive a bonus because
“she did not generate enough revenue to offset a bonus
package” and that although Thomas brokered a few loads
or otherwise helped Saric, “the majority of [the
brokerage work] was . . . Saric.” Pl. App. 18, 21-22.
Friday, December 23, 2016, Thomas was twenty to thirty
minutes late to work (she had previously received a written
warning after being late in July 2016 “that further
tardiness can and will result in her termination”).
Def. SOF ¶¶ 8-10; Pl. Resp. SOF ¶¶ 8-10.
Darrin believed that Thomas was hungover or otherwise
disheveled and not “in a frame of mind to . . . work,
” so he sent her home for the day, making no mention of
her tardiness. Pl. SOF ¶ 45; Def. Resp. SOF ¶ 45;
Pl. App. 33; Def. Supp. App. 78-79. Feeling wrongly accused,
Thomas went to a clinic to obtain a blood test, and she
returned to work a few hours later to show Darrin the results
indicating that there was no alcohol in her bloodstream. Pl.
App. 35; Def. Supp. App. 80. At that point, Darrin conveyed
to Thomas that her employment with Gray Transportation was
terminated, and he instructed her to leave and to come back
at a later date for her things. Pl. App. 35-36. Thomas
applied for unemployment benefits that day. Pl. SOF ¶
51; Def. Resp. SOF ¶ 51; Pl. App. 26, 66. On Monday,
December 26, 2016, she applied for a few jobs. Def. SOF
¶ 11; Pl. Resp. SOF ¶ 11.
the holiday, even if Thomas had not been fired, she would not
have returned to work until Tuesday, December 27, 2016. Def.
Supp. App. 80. At some point during the holiday weekend,
Thomas received a text message from someone at Gray
Transportation stating that “if [Thomas] want[ed] to
come in Tuesday morning and discuss [her] employment, [she
could].” Def. App. 21. Thomas went to the meeting on
the 27th and returned to work the next day, on Wednesday,
December 28, 2016. Def. SOF ¶ 12; Pl. Resp. SOF ¶
12; Def. App. 22.
employment with Gray Transportation did not last much longer.
On January 17, 2017, a flurry of emails were exchanged
between Thomas, Darrin, and LeRoy after Thomas notified them
that she had begun applying for other employment after being
fired. Def. SOF ¶¶ 13-20; Pl. Resp. ¶¶
13-20; Def. App. 47-53. Darrin asked when Thomas planned on
leaving, because she was supposed to begin a week-long
training session on a new software system the following
Monday, January 23. Def. App. 48. Thomas responded that she
was “putting in applications now” and had not
“interviewed for anything yet.” Def. App. 49.
Darrin indicated that since Thomas was looking for other
employment, he would obtain a replacement to attend the
training on Monday, concluding his email by saying he
“accept[ed] [Thomas's] resignation.” Def.
App. 51. Thomas replied that she had not resigned. Def. App.
49. Darrin ignored this representation, emailing Thomas that
they needed to train someone who expected to continue their
employment with Gray Transportation and that he appreciated
the notification of “her intentions and again, [he]
accept[ed] [her] resignation.” Def. App. 50. LeRoy
added that it was “not right to spend the time and
money to train” Thomas on the new system and indicated
that they had already arranged for a dispatcher candidate to
come in for an interview. Def. App. 51. Thomas asked whether
they wanted her to come in for work on Monday, since they had
no intentions of training her on the new system. Def. App.
54. Darrin emailed that he never said she was terminated, and
LeRoy clarified that they would “have other work for
[Thomas], ” and “[i]f [she didn't] like or
accept it [she] can make the decision to stay or
leave.” Def. App. 53.
went to talk to LeRoy in person and covertly recorded the
conversation. Def. SOF ¶¶ 21-22; Pl. Resp. SOF
¶¶ 21-22; Def. Ex. K (audio recording). The
recording captures LeRoy twice telling Thomas rather angrily
that he was “not going to invest ten cents in
[her]” for training given that she was looking for new
employment. Id. LeRoy continued that if Thomas were
“working for [him], ” she would be doing
“something else within this company, ” not
dispatching. Id. Thomas asked whether she would
receive a decrease in pay with a new position, and LeRoy
said, “Well, could be, depends on what I'm going to
have you do.” Id. Thomas asked whether she
would have a choice in the matter, and LeRoy retorted,
“you'll have a choice of quitting.”
Id. Thomas said she liked dispatching, but LeRoy
said she would no longer be doing that. Id. Thomas
asked if he had any idea what her new job would be, and he
said no. Id. The next day, Thomas emailed LeRoy and
Darrin “respectfully declin[ing]” the new
position, indicating that she could not take a position with
lesser pay. Def. App. 59. Thomas's last day was Friday,
January 20, 2017. Pl. App. 59.
the time that Thomas worked as a dispatcher for Gray
Transportation, she made less money than the other
dispatchers, none of whom were African-American. Pl. App.
62-63. The dispatchers working for Gray Transportation at the
time Thomas was hired made between $43, 200 and $48, 400 a
year. Pl. App. 62-63; Pl. SOF ¶¶ 4-16; Def. Resp.
SOF ¶¶ 4-16. The dispatchers hired after Thomas
also made more than her. Yasmina Halkic, a white Bosnian
woman who was hired after Thomas, made $39, 000 a year.
Id. And Edin Obic, a white Bosnian male who began
working as a dispatcher after Thomas but who had previously
worked for Gray Transportation as a driver manager,
maintained his salary of $63, 000 after his change in
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a), “[t]he court
shall grant [a motion for] 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.” For the plaintiff to avoid summary judgment,
sufficient evidence must exist “on which the jury could
reasonably find for the plaintiff.” Olmsted v.
Saint Paul Pub. Sch., 830 F.3d 824, 828 (8th Cir. 2016)
(quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S.
242, 252 (1986)). The court “view[s] the record in the
light most favorable to the nonmoving party and draw[s] all
reasonable inferences in that party's favor.”
Soo Line R.R. Co. v. Werner Enters., 825 F.3d 413,
418 (8th Cir. 2016) (quoting Bishop v. Glazier, 723
F.3d 957, 960-61 (8th Cir. 2013)).
Transportation moves for summary judgment on Thomas's
claims of race and sex discrimination in violation of Title
VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits an
employer from “discharg[ing] an individual or
otherwise . . . discriminat[ing] against any individual with
respect to [her] compensation, terms, conditions, or
privileges of employment, because of such individual's
race . . . [or] sex.” 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(1).
As I read the complaint and the summary-judgment briefing,
Thomas alleges Title VII claims based on her failure to
receive a brokerage bonus in June 2016, the termination of
her employment in January 2017, and unequal salary (although
the pleadings could be clearer). See Docs. 2, 19.
Gray Transportation's original briefing in support of its
motion addresses only the discriminatory-discharge claim
(indeed, Gray Transportation does not respond to Thomas's
argument that the “adverse employment actions”
against her included her failure to receive a bonus and her
unequal pay).See Doc. 15; Doc. 19 at 9-10;
Doc. 21. At the hearing on the summary-judgment ...