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Terry v. G4S Secure Solutions USA Inc.

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

February 13, 2019




         Angela Terry has worked for G4S Secure Solutions (USA), Inc., as a private security officer since 2013. She was removed from a permanent post at a G4S client's business in early 2018 after the client requested her removal for a disciplinary reason. She then brought this action without the help of a lawyer, asserting several claims against G4S employees and G4S itself. After the Court dismissed some of those claims, remaining are Terry's claims for sex discrimination, retaliation, and defamation, all running against G4S. See Documents #18 and #28. G4S now moves for summary judgment. For the reasons that will be explained, the motion is mostly granted and partly denied.

         A court should grant summary judgment if the evidence demonstrates that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The moving party bears the initial burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine dispute for trial. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 2553, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). If the moving party meets that burden, the nonmoving party must come forward with specific facts that establish a genuine dispute of material fact. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 1356, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986); Torgerson v. City of Rochester, 643 F.3d 1031, 1042 (8th Cir. 2011) (en banc). A genuine dispute of material fact exists only if the evidence is sufficient to allow a reasonable jury to return a verdict in favor of the nonmoving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2510, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). The Court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and must give that party the benefit of all reasonable inferences that can be drawn from the record. Pedersen v. Bio-Med. Applications of Minn., 775 F.3d 1049, 1053 (8th Cir. 2015). If the nonmoving party fails to present evidence sufficient to establish an essential element of a claim on which that party bears the burden of proof, then the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Id.

         Terry has provided security to G4S clients at various locations. In early 2017, she began a permanent G4S security post at Manheim, a car auction company in Little Rock. G4S clients such as Manheim can request the removal of a security guard from the post at the client's site. In December 2017, Manheim's Security Manager received information that Terry had been rude and unhelpful to a transport driver at Manheim and then left her guard post uncovered. The Security Manager called the transport driver. He confirmed what had occurred. He then requested that Terry be removed, and G4S removed her from the Manheim post.

         G4S placed Terry on two days of administrative leave pending an investigation. Based on this investigation G4S concluded that Terry had not left her post, but it determined that she had been rude and unhelpful to the driver during the interaction. She was informed she would not be returning to the Manheim post. G4S next offered Terry a special events position. She accepted. Unlike her post at Manheim, however, the special events position does not provide a stable income because special events occur unpredictably. To this date G4S has not offered Terry another permanent position.

         Terry contends that G4S removed her from the Manheim post because of her sex in violation of Title VII. She also alleges that G4S removed her in retaliation for complaining about sex discrimination, and furthermore that G4S has refused to consider her for a permanent full-time position in retaliation for filing an EEOC charge and this lawsuit. Finally, Terry asserts a defamation claim under Arkansas law based on a G4S employee allegedly publicly accusing her of stealing, which was false.

         Title VII prohibits discrimination because of sex. 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(1). Discrimination “because of” sex occurs when sex is “a motivating factor for any employment practice.” Id. § 2000e-2(m). Absent direct evidence of discrimination, a plaintiff may survive summary judgment with evidence creating an inference of unlawful discrimination through the McDonnell Douglas burden-shifting framework. Torgerson v. City of Rochester, 643 F.3d 1031, 1044 (8th Cir. 2011) (en banc) (citing McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 93 S.Ct. 1817, 36 L.Ed.2d 668 (1973)).

         Under the McDonnell Douglas framework a plaintiff must first establish a prima facie case of discrimination. That is, she must put forth evidence that she was a member of a protected group, she was qualified to perform the job, she suffered an adverse employment action, and the circumstances permit an inference of discrimination. Tyler v. Univ. of. Ark. Bd. of Trs., 628 F.3d 980, 990 (8th Cir. 2011). If the plaintiff establishes a prima facie case the burden shifts to the employer to articulate a legitimate nondiscriminatory reason for the challenged action. Id. Finally, if the employer meets that burden, the plaintiff must demonstrate that the proffered reason was a pretext and that unlawful discrimination was a motivating factor in the adverse employment action. Id.; Torgerson, 643 F.3d at 1046.

         Terry bases her sex discrimination claim on the fact that one of her male supervisors at ¶ 4S, Tracy Parker, had previously made sexist comments to her. Parker was the Manheim site supervisor.

         As site supervisor his duties included overseeing monthly training, making the daily schedule, and handling minor disciplinary issues. Document #36-3 at 2.

         In her deposition Terry testified to the following facts. In April 2017, after Parker had a disagreement with his sister, he made comments like, “[w]omen disgust him, ” women “are hard to deal with, ” and he is “glad he only dates men.” Document #36-1 at 3-4. Terry took offense to these comments. Id. at 4. In September 2017 Terry informed G4S's human resources manager about these comments and also told her that she felt Parker “was partial to the male guards.” Id. G4S disputes that Terry mentioned Parker's comments about women or alleged any sex discrimination in this September meeting, see Document #36-2 at 3, but at this stage the Court takes Terry's version of the disputed facts as true.

         Terry further testified in deposition that Parker was “excited and happy, [and] in good spirits” when he was “around the guys, ” but his demeanor was different around her. Document #36-1 at 4-5. Parker commented to Terry in November 2017 that the “male guards” were “doing such a good job.” Id. at 5. He told her that she was not scanning correctly when she made her security rounds, and before G4S lost its contract with Manheim, he would “get rid of the problem guard.” Id. All these instances are why Terry felt Parker “has a problem with [her] because of [her] gender.” Id.

         The record reveals that in late December 2017 Terry had an incident with a Manheim driver. As site supervisor Parker handled minor disciplinary issues. Document #36-3 at 2. Parker emailed Manheim's Security Manager, Cory Knapp, several days after the incident. Document #36-1 at 54. He informed Knapp that the transport driver reported that Terry had been “very rude and disrespectful to him[, ] . . . rudely instructed him to leave without trying to assist him, ” and then left her guard post uncovered. Id. The driver left his contact information with Parker and requested to speak to someone about the incident. Id. Knapp, Manheim's Security Manager, then called the transport driver “and confirmed what had occurred.” Id. He asked G4S to remove Terry from her post at Manheim because this behavior was “unacceptable.” Id. This request prompted G4S's Branch Manager, Steven Willis, to remove Terry from her Manheim post and to offer her the special events position. Id. at 29-30; Document #36-2 at 3; Document #36-3 at 3.

         Even if the jury believed these facts and made all reasonable inferences in Terry's favor, G4S is entitled to summary ...

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