United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Western Division
ORDER AND OPINION GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN
PART DEFENDANTS’ MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
D. SMITH, SENIOR JUDGE
is Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment. Doc. #34.
For the following reasons, the motion is granted in part and
denied in part.
Rachel Pete (“Plaintiff”) began working for
Defendant Walgreen Co. (“Walgreens”) in 2001.
Doc. #36, at 6. Plaintiff became a Store Manager in 2008.
Id. While a Store Manager, Plaintiff reported to the
District Manager, a position first held by Debra Miller
(“Miller”) and later by Defendant Carol Mier
(“Mier”) starting in May 2014. Doc. #36, at 7,
18. Defendant Scott Groves (“Groves”) served as a
Community Leader (“CL”) for Walgreens and was
assigned to Plaintiff’s store throughout her tenure as
a Store Manager. Doc. #36, at 7.
there is no indication of a poor relationship between
Plaintiff and Groves or Miller prior to July 2013, this
litigation is rooted in a July 2013 comment made by Groves.
While at a Walgreens district office, Plaintiff told another
manager she liked his new car, an Audi. Doc. #36, at 14.
Groves overheard the comment and stated, in the presence of
the other manager, Plaintiff had “a beer budget and
champagne taste.”Doc. #35-1, at 32. Plaintiff felt
disrespected and felt her gender played a role in Groves
making the comment because she was the only female manager
present when the comment was made. Doc. #36-1, at 15. Groves
and Plaintiff discussed the comment the following day, but
the parties dispute the extent to which an apology was made.
Doc. #35-1, at 38.
relationship with Groves deteriorated after the champagne
comment. In December 2013, Plaintiff complained to Miller
about Groves’s rearrangement of a store display that
Plaintiff believed posed a potential safety hazard. Doc.
#35-1, at 40. In March 2014, Groves visited Plaintiff’s
store at her request to discuss her concerns that Groves was
undermining her authority by assigning tasks to the Assistant
Store Manager rather than working directly with her. Doc.
#36-1, at 21. According to Plaintiff, Groves became angry and
threatened not to help her. Id. Following this
visit, Plaintiff complained to Miller about Groves’s
behavior. Id. at 22. Head of Loss Prevention, Joey
Jaramillo (“Jaramillo”), conducted an
investigation of: (1) Groves’s previous champagne
comment, (2) Groves’s behavior during his March 2014
visit to Plaintiff’s store, and (3) Plaintiff’s
belief that Groves was undermining her authority. Doc. #36-4,
at 7. Jaramillo did not consider Groves’s behavior
discriminatory, but did not file a report until roughly six
months later, on September 3, 2014. Id. at 12. In
April 2014, Miller met with Groves and Plaintiff to urge them
to work as a team. Doc. #35-1, at 54-55.
25, 2014, Plaintiff received a Record of Discussion
(“ROD”) from Groves for “14 overdue resets
and revisions, price changes.” Doc. #35-3, at 19. On
July 10, 2014, Mier conducted a “growth session”
with Plaintiff to discuss Mier’s belief that Plaintiff
blamed her team for store conditions, execution, and
results. Doc. #35-2, at 16-17. On July 17, 2014,
Groves conducted a pricing audit at Plaintiff’s store
following a customer complaint of incorrect prices. Doc.
#36-3, at 24; Doc. #36-10. On July 18, 2014, Plaintiff
received a ROD from Mier related to service standards and
execution of pricing. Doc. #36-9, at 4; Doc. #35-2, at 18.
August 13, 2014, Mier spoke to her supervisor about putting
Plaintiff on a Performance Improvement Plan
(“PIP”) due to her performance. Doc. #35-3, at 9.
On August 30, 2014, Plaintiff emailed Mier to express concern
regarding: (1) whether the two RODs were warranted, (2) her
belief that Groves documented her file due to her previous
complaints about his conduct, (3) her belief that Groves has
“a bias against blacks or women or both, ” and
(4) her dissatisfaction with the way her previous complaints
were handled. Doc. #35-3, at 10-11.
September 3, 2014, Mier placed Plaintiff on a PIP.
Id. at 19-20. Mier initiated the PIP “due to
store condition, counts, pricing, and
management/accountability of [Plaintiff’s]
staff.” Id. at 19. On September 14, 2014,
Plaintiff filed a charge of discrimination with the Missouri
Commission on Human Rights. Doc. #36-12. On September 17,
2014, Walgreens received a second customer complaint about
Plaintiff. Doc. #35-3, at 29-30. On September 18, 2014, Mier
contacted the Employee Relations Department to inquire
whether she must give Plaintiff the full thirty days before
proceeding with further disciplinary steps. Doc. #36-13, at
4-5. Mier was told to give Plaintiff the full thirty day
period and coach Plaintiff through the PIP process.
October 6, 2014, Mier continued the PIP. Doc. #35-3, at 5.
Groves visited Plaintiff’s store multiple times in
September and October, observing what he considered
unacceptable store conditions. Doc. #35-6, at 2-3. On October
8, 2014, Jaramillo visited Plaintiff’s store and
identified areas of Plaintiff’s store that were unsafe
in his opinion. Doc. #35-11, at 3. On November 4, 2014,
Plaintiff was discharged. Doc. #35-1, at 61-62.
subsequently brought suit against Defendants in the Circuit
Court of Clay County, Missouri. Doc. #1-1. Count I alleges
Plaintiff suffered unlawful gender discrimination and hostile
work environment in violation of the Missouri Human Rights
Act (“MHRA”). Count II alleges Plaintiff suffered
unlawful retaliation in violation of the MHRA by Defendants.
Defendants removed the action to this Court. Doc. #1.
Defendants now move for summary judgment on Plaintiff’s
claims for gender discrimination, hostile work environment,
and retaliatory discharge. Doc. #34.
moving party is entitled to summary judgment on a claim only
if there is a showing that “there is no genuine issue
as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled
to a judgment as a matter of law.” See Williams v.
City of St. Louis, 783 F.2d 114, 115 (8th Cir. 1986).
“[W]hile the materiality determination rests on the
substantive law, it is the substantive law’s
identification of which facts are critical and which facts
are irrelevant that governs.” Anderson v. Liberty
Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). Thus,
“[o]nly disputes over facts that might affect the
outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly
preclude the entry of summary judgment.” Wierman v.
Casey’s Gen. Stores, 638 F.3d 984, 993 (8th Cir.
2011) (quotation omitted). In applying this standard, the
Court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to
the non-moving party, giving that party the benefit of all
inferences that may be reasonably drawn from the evidence.
Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp.,
475 U.S. 574, 588-89 (1986); Tyler v. Harper, 744
F.2d 653, 655 (8th Cir. 1984). However, a party opposing a
motion for summary judgment “may not rest upon the mere
allegations or denials of the…pleadings, but…by
affidavits or as otherwise provided in [Rule 56], must set
forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue
for trial.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e).