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Gonzalez v. MRC Global (US) Inc.

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

August 27, 2019

DENISE GONZALEZ, Plaintiff,
v.
MRC GLOBAL (US) INC., Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

         THIS MATTER is before the Court on Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment, filed May 9, 2019 (Doc. 33). Having reviewed the parties' briefs and applicable law, the Court finds that Defendant's motion is well-taken in part and, therefore, is GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN PART.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff asserts she was subjected to a hostile work environment, was constructively discharged, and received less pay than her male counterparts. Plaintiff is a former branch manager for Defendant MRC Global, Inc. She alleges the following claims:

Count I - Constructive discharge in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
Count II - Severe Emotional Distress
Count III- Violation of the New Mexico Fair Pay for Women Act.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         A motion for summary judgment may be granted only when “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). Summary judgment is appropriate if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact. Munoz v. St. Mary Kirwan Hosp., 221 F.3d 1160, 1164 (10th Cir. 2000). When applying this standard, the court examines the record and makes all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Id. The movant bears the initial burden of establishing that no genuine issue exists as to any material fact. See Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 157 (1970). A court cannot weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter. Rather, where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party, there is no genuine issue for trial. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986) (quoting First Nat'l Bank of Arizona v. Cities Serv. Co., 391 U.S. 253, 289 (1968)).

         UNDISPUTED FACTS

         Defendant's statement of facts are generally undisputed. Plaintiff asserted additional facts, which Defendant generally disputes as “subjective”, but Defendant did not object to each fact with particularity or explain with particularity why each additional fact is not supported by the record. Rather, Defendant generally argues that Plaintiff view of her employment situation is irrelevant. Defendant asserts that at trial, it may produce evidence to controvert Plaintiff's additional facts, but Defendant did not do so in its reply. This is not sufficient under either Federal Rules of Civil Procedure or the local rules to create a genuine dispute of fact. Therefore, the Court deems Plaintiff's additional facts to be undisputed, but will omit immaterial facts below. The Court finds that the following material facts are not in genuine dispute:

         A. Background and Promotion to Branch Manager.

         Defendant provides supplies to businesses operating in the oil and gas industry. Plaintiff worked for Defendant in its Carlsbad, New Mexico branch, in her final position as branch manager. Plaintiff previously worked for Production Specialty as an administrative assistant for five years before Defendant acquired that company. Defendant promoted her to “inside sales” after it acquired Production Specialty.

         On November 4, 2014, Defendant promoted Plaintiff to assistant manager. Defendant selected Plaintiff over another male sales employee. Her branch manager was David Ramirez, who was supervised by Defendant's Regional Operations Director Daniel Rappe. Eventually her branch manager left, and the position was open. It appears there were two other applicants for the branch manager position. Plaintiff does not know who they were, whether they were interviewed, or their gender. The branch manager position was first offered to another male employee, who apparently declined the position. As assistant manager, Plaintiff believed she was next in line and applied for the position.

         Mr. Rappe gave Plaintiff an offer letter for the manager position without an interview. Plaintiff viewed the promotion to Branch Manager as a “good thing.” Mr. Rappe was Plaintiff's direct supervisor once she was promoted to Branch Manager. When she was promoted, Defendant gave her a raise to $75, 000. Plaintiff was the only female member of management and was manager for approximately one year before she left.

         B. Disrespect and Lack of support by her immediate supervisor, Daniel Rappe

         In April 2017, Plaintiff sent an employee Ralph Olivas home after he told her in a meeting that no one respected her. Daniel Rappe told her she did not have the authority to send him home. This contradicted the human resources department, which told Plaintiff she has authority to send employees home. In her discussion with Mr. Rappe, Plaintiff accused Mr. Rappe of not “having her back.” She believed that he supported other male managers, but not her. She also believed she did not have a good working relationship with Mr. Rappe, and that he did not communicate with her unless it was to express something negative.

         Plaintiff also believed that Mr. Rappe did not like her and she told him so. Mr. Rappe asked what she meant and reminded her that he promoted her to Branch Manager. In other words, Mr. Rappe appeared to like her enough to give her a promotion. Plaintiff contacted human resources, which confirmed she had authority to send an employee home. Plaintiff also reported to human resources that she felt Mr. Rappe treated her differently from other branch managers because of her gender.

         Plaintiff stated that Mr. Rappe did not talk to any man the way he would talk to her, and did not give Plaintiff respect because of her gender. As evidence, Plaintiff cited to the following incidents:

• Mr. Rappe would shake male managers' hands and greet them, but he would walk past her office and not greet her. He would fail to respond to her emails, but he did not ignore her male predecessor's emails. Moreover, Mr. Rappe did not acknowledge her at a manager's meeting, but did acknowledge other male managers.
• When Plaintiff was an assistant manager, work was passed down to her from her Branch Manager. When she became Branch Manager, she did not have an assistant manager to give work.

         Plaintiff reported these concerns to human resources. Immediately thereafter, Mr. Rappe's supervisor, Jason McAnally, visited the Carlsbad branch and met with Plaintiff for half a day. She stated he treated her “super nice.” They met again the following day to address Plaintiffs concerns. Mr. Rappe and Mr. McAnally subsequently supported her writing up Ralph Olivas for being disrespectful to her. When Mr. McAnally left, Plaintiff was satisfied. Mr. McAnally told her to bring future concerns to him, and not human resources. Mr. McAnally told her that Mr. Rappe would not be coming around her and that she did not have to worry about retaliation. Plaintiff agrees that no one disciplined her or retaliated against Plaintiff for (1) sending Mr. Olivas home or (2) reporting the alleged discrimination.

         However, Plaintiff notes the following further evidence of disrespect or abuse:

• Other new branch managers were provided with new trucks, but Plaintiff was not. Rather, she inherited the previous manager's truck, which had a broken grill, broken windshield, and cigarette burn marks. Mr. McAnally arranged to provide her with a new truck. Defendant provided Plaintiff a new Dodge Ram work truck within two months of Plaintiffs request. To do so, Defendant re-rerouted a male Branch Manager's new truck to Plaintiff.
• When Plaintiff and Mr. Rappe were going to lunch, he told her “I don't know how a company man is gonna take going out to eat with a woman…” Plaintiff took that to mean he did not know how a customer would feel having a business lunch with her. Plaintiff is not aware of any customers who did not want to work with her because she is a woman.
• Plaintiff asked for a raise in January 2018, and Mr. Rappe told her she did not qualify for one. She does not know why she didn't qualify for one. Every other employee at her branch received a raise.
• Mr. Rappe had offered to help Plaintiff prepare for her branch assessment but did not show up. He would spend upwards of two weeks helping other male branch managers prepare for their assessments.
• Mr. Rappe took a driver from Plaintiff s branch to use him at different locations, while at the same time charging the driver's hours to her branch and telling Plaintiff she had to cut hours at her branch.

         Mr. Rappe never put Plaintiff on a performance improvement plan or disciplined her. Plaintiff contends Mr. Rappe is the only employee of Defendant who discriminated against her because of her gender. Plaintiff admits Mr. Rappe never made any sexual comments to her.

         C. Incidents ...


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