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Denn v. CSL Plasma Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Western Division

March 2, 2015

THOMAS DENN, Plaintiff,
CSL PLASMA INC., Defendant.


GREG KAYS, Chief District Judge.

This case involves an employment dispute. Plaintiff Thomas Denn ("Denn") alleges that Defendant CSL Plasma Incorporated ("CSL") discriminated and retaliated against him based upon his sex and his complaints of sex discrimination. Denn filed a two-count lawsuit in the Circuit Court of Jackson County, Missouri, alleging that CSL's actions violated the anti-discrimination and anti-retaliation provisions of the Missouri Human Rights Act ("MHRA"), Mo. Rev. Stat. ยงยง 213.055, 213.070. CSL removed to this Court.

Now before the Court are Denn's and CSL's cross-motions for summary judgment (Docs. 36, 41). Addressing CSL's motion first and finding no genuine dispute of material fact and that CSL is entitled to judgment as a matter of law, the Court GRANTS it summary judgment.

Statement of Facts

The following facts are uncontroverted unless otherwise noted.[1] CSL, a Boca Raton, Florida-based company, operates a number of blood plasma collection facilities around the country, including one in Kansas City, Missouri. Denn, a male, began working for CSL as a manager trainee at another facility on September 22, 2009. Sometime before the relevant incidents depicted below, Denn relocated to the Kansas City facility, where he worked as an assistant center manager until November 8, 2012.

During the early part of his tenure with CSL, Denn received several positive reviews. According to records spanning from July 2009 until June 2011, Denn received "good" and "strong" marks for his work as a manager trainee and assistant center manager. At some point during this time span, CSL sent Denn to other centers to assist with process improvement. Around September 2011, Denn received another "strong" rating from his then-supervisor Shane Kennedy ("Kennedy"), a male employee, and he also received an annual pay increase.

On November 28, 2011, Kennedy issued Denn a verbal warning for allegedly revealing confidential information. On December 1, 2011, Kennedy issued Denn a written warning for allegedly engaging in the same conduct despite being told not to do so. Denn vigorously disputes the bases for these reprimands, but does not deny that he was so disciplined.

In January 2012, Rebecca Heatherman ("Heatherman"), who currently works for CSL as a senior manager in Boca Raton, was promoted to center manager of the Kansas City facility. In this position, Heatherman supervised the two assistant center managers, Denn and Cristina Ceniceros ("Ceniceros"). As assistant center managers, Denn and Ceniceros shared many of the same duties and split the workload fairly evenly. From the time that Heatherman ascended to center manager until Denn's termination in November 2012, Denn received numerous verbal and written warnings for alleged performance deficiencies, while Ceniceros received no such discipline.[2]

Denn received his first discipline from Heatherman on February 13, 2012. This written warning, in relevant part, stated:

The Written Warning provide[s] numerous areas of required improvement' including: In November [Denn] received coaching from S Kennedy regarding [Denn's] presence in the production areas, at that time you were advised to spend at least 50% of your time in production - building relationships, interacting with staff, managing or monitoring work flow. I have not consistently seen this effort in the last 4 weeks. Time has been spent on the donor floor but not consistently driving or managing flow or building relationships.... Timely delivery of corrective actions not consistent with expectations (at next available shift) in the following examples, M Jones performance prepared 12/19/11 delivered 1/2/12 and J Reese attendance prepared 1/16/12 delivered 1/24/12. On 12/28/11, I provided you with information (from the AMQ position) regarding the need for C Tucker to receive a performance corrective action for setpoints, the corrective action was not prepared.

(Doc. 42-12 at 2-4). This written warning also required Denn to create a development plan aimed at improving his performance and stated that a failure to improve could result in additional corrective actions. He submitted the development plan on March 5, 2012.

From that date through August 2012, Heatherman had numerous conversations with Denn regarding his performance, including missing deadlines, interacting poorly with others, not elevating concerns, and not administering corrective actions. On one occasion during this time frame, Denn explained that he was encountering difficulties with time management and delegating tasks. Heatherman reminded him that during meetings he should inform her about resources he needs and specific tasks he would like reassigned. According to Denn, this inability to complete tasks arose solely from being overburdened with duties not imposed on other employees.

On June 5, 2012, Heatherman and Denn reviewed his progress towards his development plan goals. During this meeting, Heatherman highlighted assigned tasks that Denn failed to complete, but they both agreed that he had shown significant improvement since his initial development plan. Shortly thereafter, Denn submitted a second development plan. The plan included several goals for improvement, including: "sharing more detail about current issues and concerns. (Sending out daily/weekly updates.);" "utilizing staff to complete time sensitive tasks, and hold them accountable;" "learn to create more concrete deadlines and hold those involved more accountable;" "eliminate procrastination;" and "create consistent timeliness." (Doc. 42-17 at 3-4). The plan concluded with the statement, "[W]e have agreed that we have seen significant improvement from the first plan...." ( Id ).

On July 19, 2012, Heatherman sent an email to CSL Human Resources ("H.R.") manager Jan Cameron ("Cameron") seeking approval to proceed with a final written warning[3] against Denn. Also copied on the email was Brannon Brittain ("Brittain"), a male H.R. employee. The email stated recent events that supported the final written warning. (Doc. 42-18 at 2). After some modifications, Cameron and Brittain approved the final written warning between the end of July and the middle of August.

On August 17, 2012, Denn complained to H.R. about Heatherman, alleging, among other things, that she discriminated against him because of his sex. CSL H.R. employee Tricia Jackson ("Jackson") discussed the complaint with Denn on August 20, 2012. After an investigation, which included interviewing multiple employees and reviewing numerous documents, H.R. determined that Denn suffered no discrimination or unfair treatment.

On August 21, 2012, Heatherman presented Denn with his final written warning and development plan. This document noted numerous performance deficiencies and ordered Denn to work on: "Informing peer [Assistant Center Managers], supervisors[, ] and [Center Manager] of necessary updates.... Provid[ing] a daily or weekend updates sharing pertinent information to the manager on ...

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