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Grigsby v. Akal Security, Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, St. Joseph Division

June 21, 2018

HILARIA GRIGSBY, Plaintiff,
v.
AKAL SECURITY, INC., Defendant.

          ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          GREG KAYS, CHIEF JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

         This action arises out of Plaintiff Hilaria Grigsby's (“Grigsby”) employment with Defendant AKAL Security, Inc. (“AKAL”). Grigsby lost her position at AKAL after AKAL eliminated several positions in an effort to reduce costs. Grigsby claims AKAL discriminated against her based on her gender, race, and national origin when it selected her position to eliminate. Grigsby also claims she was paid less than a Caucasian male employee for the same job. Grigsby sued AKAL for violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., 42 U.S.C. § 1981, and the Equal Pay Act, 29 U.S.C. § 206(d).

         Now before the Court is Defendant's motion for summary judgment (Doc. 40). For the reasons set forth below, the Court GRANTS Defendant's motion.

         Undisputed Material Facts[1]

         AKAL provides security-screening services at the Kansas City International Airport (“MCI”) through a contract with the Transportation Security Administration (“TSA”). Prior to AKAL, FirstLine Transportation Security (“FirstLine”) had the contract with MCI.

         Grigsby is a black female of Dominican nationality. She worked for FirstLine from November 2002 to February 2015 in various positions. Effective February 1, 2015, she was hired by AKAL as a Terminal Manager. Jacob Sledd (“Sledd”), a Caucasian male, was also hired by AKAL in February 2015 as a Terminal Manager.

         AKAL took over the MCI contract effective March 1, 2015. The contract requires three essential positions be staffed at all times: Program Manager, Deputy Program Manager, and Training Manager. The Program Manager is the highest-ranking employee under the MCI contract and is responsible for all operations and management aspects of the contract. Under the MCI contract, AKAL has two groups of employees, operations and program management. Operations employees include various levels of security officers who work in the airport terminals and are responsible for passenger security screening work. Program management employees include the Program Manager, Deputy Program Manager, Training Manager, Terminal Managers, and other administrative and management positions. The office consisted of 22 people, 13 were female and at least two were African American. Grigsby notes that she was the only black female manager in the program management office. Creating and filling program management positions was left to AKAL's discretion after filling the three essential positions stated in the MCI contract.

         The operations employees' salaries are billable to the MCI contract and, in effect, are paid by the TSA because they had been negotiated under the MCI contract. The program management employees' salaries are billable to the MCI contract up to the amount negotiated for under the MCI contract. Relevant to this case, the number of program management staff and their salaries had exceeded what had been negotiated for under the MCI contract, which meant that the pay for each program management employee had become an expense to AKAL.

         When AKAL took over the MCI contract, Robert Ray (“Ray”) was the Program Manager. In May 2015, David Welliver (“Welliver”) was hired as the Deputy Program Manager. Welliver's salary was set through a negotiation with AKAL's president. Initially Welliver requested $90, 000, but after a series of counter-offers, the two decided on $87, 500 per year. The Deputy Program Manager before Welliver, a male, earned $80, 000 in the position.

         Ray created the position Director of Airport Operations, reporting to the Deputy Program Manager. Grigsby, who had been working as a Terminal Manager, applied for and received the Director of Airport Operations position. Ray offered Grigsby $65, 000 per year for the position, and Grigsby responded that she was “expecting more” but she did not request a specific salary or attempt to negotiate a higher salary. Ray told Grigsby that the position was capped at $65, 000 per year.

         In January 2016, Ray left his position and Welliver was promoted to Program Manager. The MCI contract required the Deputy Program Manager position to be filled, and so Ray and Welliver[2] chose Grigsby as the interim Deputy Program Manager. In February 2016, Grigsby applied for and received the permanent Deputy Program Manager position. Initially Grigsby had reservations about applying for the position but after conversations with Ray and Welliver, she applied. Grigsby interviewed for the position with Welliver, Brian Beckwith (“Beckwith”), and Angela Robeson. Welliver stated he believed Grigsby was the best qualified person for the job and recommended her for the position.

         Before she received the job offer from Beckwith, Welliver told Grigsby that she should think about a salary to ask for. He stated “You need to think about what you're going to ask for the position should you get it, you need to justify what you ask for the position should you get it, and make sure you don't overprice yourself.” Plaintiff decided to ask for $85, 000 after considering her salaries as a Terminal Manager and the Director of Airport Operations. She did not consult any industry publications to determine the market rate for the position. She did not know what Welliver had made in that position, nor the budgeted salary range. Grigsby stated that Welliver's advice not to “overprice herself” affected the salary she requested because she did not want to ask for more than what she should, however she also stated that she didn't feel Welliver's advice was problematic or concerning.

         Beckwith called Grigsby to tell her she had been selected for the Deputy Program Manager position and asked what her salary requirements were. Grigsby asked for $85, 000 and Beckwith accepted that offer. Grigsby earned $2, 500 less per year as the Deputy Program Manager than Welliver had earned in that position.

         With Grigsby in the Deputy Program Manager position, the Director of Airport Operations position was vacant. Sledd applied for and was selected as the Director of Airport Operations, effective April 10, 2016. Both Grigsby and Welliver interviewed Sledd for the position and both felt he was the most qualified person for the position. Sledd negotiated his salary for the Director of Airport Operations position with Welliver. Initially, Sledd asked for $75, 000, but through negotiations his salary was set at $73, 000. Sledd's salary was $8, 000 more than Grigsby's salary was when she was the Director of Airport Operations.

         Beginning in December 2016, Welliver began discussions with his supervisors about cost cutting measures within his department. While there was some focus on cost cutting in 2015, the conversations now turned to reducing payroll costs. Welliver announced to the senior management team of the MCI contract ...


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