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Tapper v. Jetro Holdings, LLC

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

September 10, 2018

SHIRLEY TAPPER, Plaintiff,
v.
JETRO HOLDINGS, LLC, ET AL. Defendants.

          RULING ON MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          MICHAEL P. SHEA, U.S.D.J.

         I. Introduction

         Plaintiff Shirley Tapper brings suit against defendants Jetro Holdings, LLC, RD America, LLC, and Restaurant Depot, LLC (collectively “Restaurant Depot”) for unlawfully terminating her employment in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, §§ 2000e et seq. (“Title VII”). She brings claims against the defendants under Title VII for: (i) race discrimination (Count One); (ii) hostile work environment based upon sexual harassment (Count Two); and (iii) retaliation (Count Three). Now before me is the defendants' motion for summary judgment. (ECF No. 32.) For the following reasons, the motion is denied.

         II. Background

         A. Factual Background

         The following facts, which are taken from the parties' Local Rule 56(a) Statements and the exhibits, are undisputed unless otherwise indicated. “Plaintiff Shirley Tapper . . . was hired by [Restaurant Depot] in August 2013 as a cashier.” (ECF No. 33, Defendants' Local Rule 56(a)1 Statement (“Def.'s L.R. 56(a)1 Stmt.”) at ¶ 1; ECF No. 36, Plaintiff's Local Rule 56(a)2 Statement (“Pl.'s L.R. 56(a)2 Stmt.”) at ¶ 1.) After her hiring, she received a series of Disciplinary Actions. “On August 25, 2013, Tapper received a Disciplinary Action for a $10 cash shortage.” (Def.'s L.R. 56(a)1 Stmt. at ¶ 2; Pl.'s L.R. 56(a)2 Stmt. at ¶ 2.) “On September 29, 2013, Tapper received a Disciplinary Action for an $89.95 cash shortage.” (Def.'s L.R. 56(a)1 Stmt. at ¶ 3; Pl.'s L.R. 56(a)2 Stmt. at ¶ 3.) “On November 2, 2013, Tapper received a Disciplinary Action for not scanning all of the items in customer carts. [She] denies memory of this incident and alleges that the signature on the Disciplinary Action Form was not her signature.” (Def.'s L.R. 56(a)1 Stmt. at ¶ 4; Pl.'s L.R. 56(a)2 Stmt. at ¶ 4.) “On January 15, 2014, Tapper received a written warning for $10.15 cash shortage.” (Def.'s L.R. 56(a)1 Stmt. at ¶ 5; Pl.'s L.R. 56(a)2 Stmt. at ¶ 5.)

         Ms. Tapper continued to receive Disciplinary Actions throughout the first half of 2014. “A Disciplinary Action Form dated February 1, 2014 reflects that Tapper was suspended for a $201.50 cash shortage. Tapper claims that she has no memory of the incident and that she was never suspended while working at Restaurant Depot.” (Def.'s L.R. 56(a)1 Stmt. at ¶ 6; Pl.'s L.R. 56(a)2 Stmt. at ¶ 6.) “A Disciplinary Action Form dated February 19, 2014 reflects that Tapper was suspended for a $95.15 cash shortage”; Ms. Tapper once again “claims that she has no memory of the incident and that she was never suspended while working at Restaurant Depot.” (Def.'s L.R. 56(a)1 Stmt. at ¶ 7; Pl.'s L.R. 56(a)2 Stmt. at ¶ 7.) “On April 15, 2014, Tapper received a final warning for a $19.03 cash shortage.” (Def.'s L.R. 56(a)1 Stmt. at ¶ 8; Pl.'s L.R. 56(a)2 Stmt. at ¶ 8.)

         Restaurant Depot terminated Ms. Tapper's employment on June 19, 2014, “after a $100.11 cash overage was discovered in her cash drawer.” (Def.'s L.R. 56(a)1 Stmt. at ¶ 9; Pl.'s L.R. 56(a)2 Stmt. at ¶ 9.) While Restaurant Depot claims that Ms. Tapper was “terminated for the disparities in her cash drawer pursuant to Restaurant Depot's Employee Performance Error Standard, ” Ms. Tapper denies this claim. (Def.'s L.R. 56(a)1 Stmt. at ¶ 10; Pl.'s L.R. 56(a)2 Stmt. at ¶ 10.) “Tapper alleges that another Caucasian or Hispanic employee, Sandy Gauman, was allowed to pay the cash register back after a $500 cash shortage.” (Def.'s L.R. 56(a)1 Stmt. at ¶ 12; Pl.'s L.R. 56(a)2 Stmt. at ¶ 12.) Ms. Tapper also “claims that she was told that she smiled too much.” (Def.'s L.R. 56(a)1 Stmt. at ¶ 14; Pl.'s L.R. 56(a)2 Stmt. at ¶ 14.)

         B. Ms. Tapper's Complaint

         Ms. Tapper subsequently filed suit against Restaurant Depot under Title VII. (See ECF No. 22 (“Complaint”).) Ms. Tapper contends that Restaurant Depot management created a hostile work environment by routinely commenting upon her appearance, accusing her of having intimate relationships with other Restaurant Depot employees, complaining that she “smiles too much” and flirted with customers, and “[p]ulling her into the office several times to request she fill[] out” paperwork indicating she was having a relationship with a coworker. (Id. at 3.) She brings a claim of a sex-based hostile work environment in violation of Title VII based upon these allegations. (Id. at 9.) Ms. Tapper also alleges that a Restaurant Depot manager would routinely violated company policy “by opening and counting the proceeds [of cash registers] outside the presence of [Ms. Tapper] and other African American cashiers.” (Id. at 5.) Ms. Tapper further charges that Restaurant Depot's policy providing for the automatic dismissal of employees with “shortages of $500 or more” was not enforced against “Caucasian and Hispanic cashiers.” (Id. at 6.) As such, she alleges a claim of race discrimination in violation of Title VII against Restaurant Depot in connection with her termination. (Id. at 8.) Finally, she also brings a claim for retaliation in violation of Title VII on the basis that Restaurant Depot terminated her employment after she complained she was being subjected to sexual harassment. (Id. at 9.)

         III. Legal Standard

         Summary judgment is appropriate only when the moving party “shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). “In making that determination, a court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the opposing party.” Tolan v. Cotton, 134 S.Ct. 1861, 1866 (2014) (internal quotation marks omitted). “A fact is material if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” McCarthy v. Dun & Bradstreet Corp., 482 F.3d 184, 202 (2d Cir. 2007) (internal quotation marks omitted). The moving party bears the burden “of showing that no genuine factual dispute exists . . ., and in assessing the record to determine whether there is a genuine issue as to any material fact, the court is required to resolve all ambiguities and draw all factual inferences” in favor of the non-moving party. Cronin v. Aetna Life Ins. Co., 46 F.3d 196, 203 (2d Cir. 1995).

         IV. Discussion

         A. Race ...


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