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Ford v. The Alotian Club Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Western Division

February 11, 2019



         Defendants' motion for summary judgment [Doc. No. 15] is granted.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Kara Lee Ford sued the Alotian Club, Inc. and The Alotian Club LLC (the “Alotian” or “Club”) alleging age discrimination under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”). See Compl., Doc. No. 1. The Alotian moves for summary judgment. Doc. No. 15.

         When viewed in the light most favorable to Ford, the nonmoving party, the pertinent facts are as follows. Ford was 66 years old when the Alotian, an exclusive golf club, terminated her because “the [C]lub was going in a different direction.” DeLozier Dep. 38, 40, Doc. Nos. 15-1, 24-1; Ford's Brief in Opposition to Summary Judgment (“Ford's Brief”) at 2, Doc. No. 24. She was hired by the Club approximately three years before, as assistant to Chief Operating Officer Dan Snider. Ford Dep. 17, Doc. Nos. 15-4, 24-1; See Charge of Discrimination, Doc. No. 15-3. Her salary was $45, 000, and when she was fired, it was about $49, 000. Ford Dep. 17-18. Her duties included taking staff meeting minutes, managing concierges and reservations, and communicating reservations with other departments. Ford Dep. 22-25; DeLozier Dep. 10-11. Snider retired at the end of 2015, and Patrick DeLozier became the new COO. Ford Statement of Facts ¶ 2, Doc. No. 23; DeLozier Decl. ¶ 19, Doc. No. 15-5.

         About four months before DeLozier was promoted to COO, he hired Amy Ramage, then 29, as his administrative assistant, to work as a concierge, and to administratively support the golf course maintenance department. See Ramage Decl. ¶¶ 6, 8, Doc. No. 15-6; Employee Hiring Chart, Plaintiff's Ex. C, Doc. No. 24-1 at ¶ 00158; Staff Meeting Minutes Typed by Ford, August 11, 2015, DeLozier Decl. Ex. 1. Ramage had undergraduate and graduate degrees in hospitality management and had worked in hospitality and event planning since graduating. Ramage Decl. ¶¶ 2-3. On the other hand, Ford had decades of experience in public relations and marketing. Ford Dep. 8-13.

         Ramage negotiated a one-time $1, 500 clothing allowance when she was hired, a benefit that Ford did not receive. Ramage Decl. ¶ 5; Ford Dep. 52-53. She also started at a rate of $20 per hour, and later became salaried at $50, 000 per year. Ramage Decl. ¶ 7; Ford Dep. 52. DeLozier gave Ramage some new duties that Ford felt were part of her domain in member preferences. Ford Dep. 23-25; Ramage Decl. ¶ 8. Although Ford complains that Ramage was also given a better schedule, see Ford Dep. 58, Ramage worked nearly three times as many weekends as Ford, which Ford did not enjoy working. See Weekends Worked, DeLozier Decl. Ex. 2; Ford Dep. 31-33. During a summer golf tournament, Ramage worked inside, while Ford kept score outside in the heat. Ford Dep. 56.

         Although Ford's work performance was mostly satisfactory, she failed to meet expectations on several occasions. She failed to notify the other Alotian departments of a dinner reservation in June 2015. See Cronkhite Decl. ¶ 6 & Ex. 2, Incident Report, Doc. No. 15-2; Ford Dep. 44-46. She struggled to recruit and retain concierges. See 2014 Ford Performance Review, Cronkhite Decl. Ex. 1, (Ford received a 3 out of 5 for “[i]nspires others to excel and trains thoroughly”); Ford Dep. 59-63; DeLozier Dep. 23-25, 29-30, 36-37. She resisted and resented working weekends. See Ford Dep. 31-33; Cronkhite Decl. ¶ 8. She also failed to notify the other departments of nearly three dozen reservations before taking scheduled medical leave. See DeLozier Decl. ¶ 30; Ramage Decl. ¶ 17; Ford Dep. 92 (testifying, when asked why she didn't enter the reservations, “I don't know that I didn't enter” them); Ford Statement of Facts ¶ 39 (suggesting guests' plans were not yet definitive). In addition, Ford apparently did not respect DeLozier. See, e.g., Sept. 28, 2016 Ford Email to Dan Snider, DeLozier Decl. Ex. 11 (emailing Snider that DeLozier was “[f]eathering his own cap rather than caring about Alotian.”).

         While Ford was on medical leave, her duties were divided between several employees. See Duties Assignments, DeLozier Decl. Ex. G, Doc. No. 15-7, DeLozier Decl. ¶ 29. When she returned from leave, she was fired, Ford Dep. 76-78, DeLozier Decl. ¶¶ 38-39, Cronkhite Decl. ¶¶ 11-12, and her former duties remained dispersed, DeLozier Decl. ¶ 40. Some of those duties were absorbed into a new position, Director of Member Relations. DeLozier Decl. ¶ 41 & Ex. 9, Job Description; Ramage Decl. ¶ 21. O n e w e e k a f te r For d w a s fired, Ramage was promoted to this new position with a salary of $70, 000. Ramage Decl. ¶¶ 21, 23.

         Ford filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and was given her right to sue. See Charge of Discrimination. She timely sued.


         Summary judgment is appropriate when there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact, and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249-50 (1986). Once the moving party demonstrates that there is no genuine dispute of material fact, the non-moving party may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials in his pleadings. Holden v. Hirner, 663 F.3d 336, 340 (8th Cir. 2011). Instead, the non-moving party must produce admissible evidence demonstrating a genuine factual dispute requiring a trial. Id.

         “If a party fails to properly support an assertion of fact or fails to properly address another party's assertion of fact as required by Rule 56(c), the court may consider the fact undisputed for purposes of the motion.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)(2). All reasonable inferences must be drawn in a light most favorable to the nonmoving party, Holland v. Sam's Club, 487 F.3d 641, 643 (8th Cir. 2007), but a plaintiff's own self-serving, conclusory allegations in an affidavit or deposition, standing alone, are insufficient to defeat summary judgment, Haas v. Kelly Services, 409 F.3d 1030, 1034 (8th Cir. 2005). The evidence is not weighed, and no credibility determinations are made. Jenkins v. Winter, 540 F.3d 742, 750 (8th Cir. 2008).


         The Alotian's motion for summary judgment is granted on Ford's claim that the Alotian fired her and gave other employees ...

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