CLAY, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which JONES, J., joined. BATCHELDER, J. (pp. 578 - 587), delivered a separate dissenting opinion.
CLAY, Circuit Judge.
Plaintiff, Eileen Logan, f/k/a Eileen Clark, appeals from the district court's order granting summary judgment to Defendant, Denny's Inc., on Plaintiff's race discrimination claim brought under Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq. Because we believe that the district court erred in finding that Plaintiff failed to establish a prima facie case of race discrimination, and erred in concluding that no genuine issue of material fact remained as to whether Defendant's proffered reason for its disciplinary action was a pretext for discrimination, we
On June 9, 1998, Plaintiff, Eileen Logan, an African American female who had been employed by Defendant as a server for more than ten years, filed a seven-count complaint in the district court alleging, among other things, that Defendant violated her civil rights under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, by engaging in discriminatory treatment which led to Plaintiff's constructive discharge. On July 29, 1998, Defendant filed an answer in response to counts one, two, six, and part of count seven of Plaintiff's complaint; and filed a motion to dismiss as to counts three, four, five and part of count seven of the complaint. The district court thereafter granted Defendant's motion to dismiss these counts which included "Plaintiff's claims of discrimination in violation of Ohio Rev.Code § 4112 (barred by period of limitation), tortious interference with an employment contract, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and a superfluous claim for willful and wanton conduct." (J.A. at 17 n. 3). The district court's decision in this regard is not at issue on appeal.
Defendant filed a motion for summary judgment on April 19, 1999, with respect to the remaining counts. Defendant maintained that Plaintiff did not establish a prima facie case of discrimination under Title VII inasmuch as Plaintiff failed to demonstrate the elements of a constructive discharge, and therefore failed to establish that she suffered the requisite adverse employment action for a prima facie case. Plaintiff filed a memorandum in opposition to Defendant's motion for summary judgment;
On October 12, 1999, the district court issued its memorandum opinion and order granting Defendant's motion for summary judgment on the basis that Plaintiff failed to establish a prima facie case of race discrimination under Title VII. Specifically, the court found that Plaintiff failed to establish a constructive discharge for purposes of demonstrating an adverse employment action. The district court recognized that "[a] claim that the adverse employment action was accomplished via constructive discharge is cognizable under Title VII;" however, the court opined that Plaintiff failed to come forward with sufficient evidence to establish that she suffered a constructive discharge because she failed to show that the "working conditions were so difficult or unpleasant that a reasonable person in plaintiff's shoes would feel compelled to resign," or that "Defendant intended to cause the employee to resign or that [her] resignation was a reasonably foreseeable consequence of the Defendant's action." (J.A. at 25, 28.) The court added in a footnote that "[e]ven if Plaintiff could muster a prima facie case, she could not — based on the evidence in the record — show that Defendant's reason for changing her job classification (Plaintiff's work performance) was a pretext for intentional racial discrimination." (J.A. at 28 n. 9.) Regarding Plaintiff's remaining state law claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress, the district court found that no genuine issue of material fact remained for trial that Defendant's actions did not rise to the level of extreme and outrageous behavior for purposes of satisfying the requirements of this claim.
The district court entered its corresponding judgment granting Defendant's motion for summary judgment and dismissing Plaintiff's case, and it is from this judgment that Plaintiff now appeals challenging only the dismissal of her Title VII claim.
Plaintiff began working for Defendant in August of 1985 at its restaurant located in North Randall, Ohio. In 1995, Plaintiff transferred to Defendant's restaurant located in Highland Heights, Ohio because Defendant closed the North Randall facility. The record indicates that throughout Plaintiff's tenure at the North Randall location, all but one of her performance evaluations bears an overall rating of "AT STANDARDS — Performance is overall equal to or better than the standard required," or "ABOVE STANDARDS — Performance is noticeably better than required." (J.A. at 236-56.) The evaluation forms themselves are standardized forms which list various duties attendant to the respective job position, and require the reviewer to rate the employee's performance as to these duties as "Below Standards," "At Standards," or "Above Standards." At the end of the evaluation, the reviewer rates the employee's overall performance using the same rating scale. As indicated, only one of Plaintiff's eleven evaluations included in the joint appendix bears an overall rating of "BELOW STANDARDS," although at times she was rated below standards regarding various aspects of her job.
In addition to the standardized ratings, the evaluations also provide a space for the reviewer to include handwritten comments. For example, on what appears to be Plaintiff's six-month evaluation, dated February 24, 1986, the reviewer, Assistant Manager Timothy J. McGuire, rated Plaintiff as "AT STANDARDS" overall, and provided the following handwritten comments:
(J.A. at 239-40.)
Plaintiff's next evaluation, dated August 20, 1986, six months after the first evaluation, indicates that a different assistant manager rated Plaintiff's overall performance as "AT STANDARDS," and he provided the following handwritten comment:
(J.A. at 241-42.)
The next evaluation provided in the joint appendix is dated February of 1988; it is from the same assistant manager and rates Plaintiff as "AT STANDARDS" overall, but does not bear any handwritten comments. (J.A. at 243-44.) The following evaluation dated May 26, 1989 from Assistant Manager Michael A. Lewis, also rates Plaintiff as "AT STANDARDS" overall, and provides a handwritten comment indicating areas in which Plaintiff needed to improve as well as the comment: "You have a [sic] good customer relations; keep up the good service." (J.A. at 246.) Plaintiff's next evaluation dated October 1, 1989, from Assistant Manager Gina Hinde, rates Plaintiff as "ABOVE STANDARDS" overall, and provides suggested areas of improvement in the comments section along with the notation, "Overall you're doing great-Keep it up!" (J.A. at 248.) Similarly, Plaintiff's evaluation dated October of 1991, from a different assistant manager, rates Plaintiff as "ABOVE STANDARDS."
Plaintiff's next two evaluations dated August 26, 1992, and January 26, 1993, each rate Plaintiff's overall performance as "AT STANDARDS." Plaintiff's evaluation in August of 1993 from yet a different assistant manager rates Plaintiff as "AT STANDARDS," and is embellished with comments such as "Good Job!!" and "We need you more !!" in the margins of the evaluation, along with the following comment:
(J.A. at 256.) This evaluation also indicates that Plaintiff was receiving a pay increase from $2.68 per hour to $2.71 per hour. Finally, Plaintiff's evaluation from 1994 (apparently in September of 1994), indicates that she received an "AT STANDARDS" rating.
It was not until what appears to be Plaintiff's last evaluation at Defendant's North Randall facility, dated January 27, 1995, that she received a "BELOW STANDARDS" rating. For the first time on any of her evaluations, as provided in the joint appendix, Plaintiff wrote a comment in the "employee comments" section of the evaluation. Specifically, Plaintiff wrote as follows:
(J.A. at 143, 260.) The "Mr. Cross" to which Plaintiff makes reference in her comment is identified on the evaluation as the "Manager." Apparently, unlike in Plaintiff's previous evaluations, it was Manager Cross, and not the assistant manager who later signed the evaluation on March 25, 1995, who actually conducted the evaluation because Cross' signature bears the same date as that of the evaluation, January 27, 1995. Interestingly, however, both Plaintiff and the assistant manager, who at this point was Linda Taylor, did not sign the evaluation until March 25, 1995, despite the fact that the evaluation bears the January date as does Cross' signature.
In February of 1996, Plaintiff and the other employees of the North Randall facility were notified that Defendant was closing the facility permanently. Plaintiff and the other employees were given the option of transferring to another one of Defendant's restaurants in the district — the restaurant in Garfield Heights or the restaurant in Highland Heights
Shortly after beginning work at the Highland Heights facility however, Plaintiff contends that she began experiencing disparaging comments from her co-workers such as "We don't serve `grits' here;" "You're probably used to that `first of the month rush,'" implying that many of the customers from the facility where Plaintiff had been employed in North Randall were on public assistance; and "These must have been some of your people from Randall," in reference to some customers who did not want to pay for their breakfast. (J.A. at 196.) The latter comment was made by Plaintiff's manager, Greg Mallon. In addition, Plaintiff contends that the white servers were provided with more hours of employment than she was provided, and that the white servers continually told Plaintiff that their hours were not going to be cut because she was allowed to transfer to Highland Heights. Moreover, to the best of Plaintiff's knowledge, no white servers transferred to the Highland Heights facility from the North Randall facility. There was only one other black server besides Plaintiff at Highland Heights, and she was part-time.
Plaintiff complained to management, Greg Mallon and John Halasz, about always being assigned to the back stations of the restaurant because if no hostess was on duty, the servers with the front stations would get more customers. In response to Plaintiff's complaint, management began assigning work stations in a rotating fashion. However, in time this practice stopped. Plaintiff also recalled an incident in March of 1996 when, after driving twenty-five minutes to work in unseasonable weather, she realized upon arriving for duty that she had left the necktie that was part of her uniform at home. Plaintiff went to Mallon, explained what had happened, and asked if he had a spare tie that she could borrow for her shift. Mallon informed Plaintiff that he did not have a spare tie and that she would have to return home if she was not properly attired. Plaintiff remembered that she had an old tie in the trunk of her car, so she went outside, got the tie, and proceeded with her shift. About an hour later, Plaintiff noticed that a one of the other servers — who happened to be white — appeared from the back office with a brand new tie. The server came up to Plaintiff, and excitedly told Plaintiff that she had just gotten a new tie from Mallon. Plaintiff did not respond; however, she claims that her feelings were hurt, particularly when she realized that she could have missed a day's pay when, despite his assertions, Mallon had an extra tie all along.
Shortly after Plaintiff began experiencing these disparaging comments and incidents, what Defendant refers to as a "Mystery Shopper" arrived at the Highland Heights facility during Plaintiff's shift and sat in Plaintiff's section for service. Defendant claims that the Mystery Shopper Program is an external tool utilized by Defendant to monitor the quality of its business. The Mystery Shopper Program was developed and performed by the NPD Group, Inc. ("NDP"), which involved sending "shoppers" to Defendant's various facilities who would present themselves as guests, but were actually evaluating Defendant's services. The Mystery Shopper would complete a form based on his experience
The results of the Mystery Shopper's Report ("the Report") concerning the visit to Highland Heights during Plaintiff's shift indicated, according to Defendant, that Plaintiff's "service fell short of the requires [sic] standards in several areas." (J.A. at 145). The Report was provided to Randall Poplin, Defendant's Area Manager, and was posted in the employee section of the Highland Heights facility and bore handwritten comments made by management.
Poplin avers that because he had heard that management had received complaints about Plaintiff's work, he coincidentally appeared at Highland Heights to observe Plaintiff at about the same time that the Mystery Shopper appeared. In his affidavit, Poplin summarized his observations as follows:
(J.A. at 145.) Poplin further avers that as a result of the alleged complaints that management had received about Plaintiff's performance, his personal observations of Plaintiff, as well as the Mystery Shopper's Report, he decided that "corrective" measures needed to be taken as to Plaintiff's employment as a server.
Poplin claims that "[b]ecause Ms. Logan was a long-time employee, [he] decided that the most appropriate step to take would be to offer her an opportunity to move temporarily into a different position, perhaps as a Hostess of [sic] Service Assistant." (J.A. at 145.) Poplin justified his decision as follows:
(J.A. at 146.) Poplin claims that he then prepared an Employee Performance Record ("EPR") "in order to provide Ms. Logan with written notice of the options which were being provided to her." Poplin also claims that because he was unable to meet with Plaintiff at the restaurant during her next scheduled shift, he delivered the EPR to one of the managers at Highland Heights, "with instructions to issue the EPR to Ms. Logan when she reported to work. The EPR prepared stated that it was being issued due to service-related performance issues and that Ms. Logan was being given the option of moving into either a Hostess or a Service Assistant position." (J.A. at 146.)
In her affidavit, Mary Jane delaVega, the manager to whom Poplin assigned the task of reviewing the EPR with Plaintiff, provided an account of her meeting with Plaintiff. delaVega's affidavit is considerably shorter than Poplin's affidavit, and provides in relevant part:
(J.A. at 147.)
Plaintiff provides a much different account of what happened on April 28, 1996. Specifically, Plaintiff recounted in her deposition that on the day in question, she reported for work and checked the schedule to ascertain which station of the restaurant she had been assigned to work. Plaintiff noticed that the schedule read that she had been assigned to "station eight;" however, Plaintiff was confused by this assignment because to the best of her knowledge, there was no station eight at the restaurant. Because of this odd assignment, Plaintiff went to the manager's office—delaVega was on duty at the time; Plaintiff knocked on the door, and she said to delaVega, "Mary Jean, ... help me out here, ... where is station eight." (J.A. at 118.) According to Plaintiff, delaVega just shook her head and told Plaintiff to come into the office because she needed to talk to Plaintiff. Plaintiff did as delaVega requested and closed the door behind her.
delaVega then proceeded to ask Plaintiff if she had seen the Report from the Mystery Shopper on the board, to which Plaintiff replied that of course she had seen it, "you can't miss it." (J.A. at 119.) At that point, delaVega looked at Plaintiff, shook her head and said, "I just want you to know this is all Randy's [Poplin's] doings." (J.A. at 119.) delaVega then handed Plaintiff a one-page document, which Plaintiff referred to as a "confirmation confirmer" (the EPR as Poplin refers to it)
Plaintiff claims that after reading the document, the following events transpired:
(J.A. at 120.)
After further questioning from defense counsel, Plaintiff added that she asked delaVega if there were any other options to her remaining employed with the company other than becoming a busboy, to which delaVega allegedly responded that, "this is Randy's doing, this is the option right here." Plaintiff claims that she professed to delaVega that after being a server for eleven years, she did not want to wear rubber boots and be a busboy, particularly when the job entailed lifting dishes, the change was degrading, and there were no other female busboys. Plaintiff also claims to have asked delaVega if she could go through some training for her server position if Defendant found her performance lacking, or if she could train to become a hostess, to which delaVega reiterated that the only option was what was before Plaintiff — the service assistant position. Plaintiff stated that if delaVega had offered her a hostess position, she would have accepted the offer.
Plaintiff did not return to work at Highland Heights, and terminated her employment with Defendant after the April 28 incident. Having received a right to sue letter from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"), Plaintiff filed the present lawsuit.
We review a grant of summary judgment de novo. DePiero v. City of Macedonia, 180 F.3d 770, 776 (6th Cir.1999). Summary judgment is appropriate where "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show 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." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). As the party moving for summary judgment, Defendants bear the burden of showing the absence of a genuine issue of material fact as to at least one essential element of Plaintiff's claim. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). Once Defendant meets its burden of production, Plaintiff, as the nonmoving party, must by deposition, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file show specific facts that reveal a genuine issue for trial. Id. We must accept Plaintiff's evidence as true and draw all reasonable inferences in her favor, see Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986), viewing all facts and inferences drawn therefrom in the light most favorable to Plaintiff. DePiero, 180 F.3d at 776. This Court, like the district court, may not make credibility determinations nor weigh the evidence before it when determining whether an issue of fact remains for trial. See Ahlers v. Schebil, 188 F.3d 365, 369 (6th Cir.1999) (citing Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255, 106 S.Ct. 2505).
Plaintiff filed suit under section 2000e-2(a) of Title VII, which provides in relevant part:
42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(1). A plaintiff may establish a claim of discrimination either by introducing direct evidence of discrimination, or by proving circumstantial evidence which would support an inference of
Under the circumstantial evidence approach — the approach used in the matter at hand — the three-part test of McDonnell Douglas is employed. See McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 93 S.Ct. 1817, 36 L.Ed.2d 668 (1973), as later clarified by, Tex. Dep't of Community Affairs v. Burdine, 450 U.S. 248, 101 S.Ct. 1089, 67 L.Ed.2d 207 (1981). This paradigm first requires Plaintiff to establish a prima facie case of discrimination. See McDonnell Douglas, 411 U.S. at 802, 93 S.Ct. 1817. To establish a prima facie case of discrimination under Title VII, Plaintiff must show that 1) she is a member of a protected class; 2) she was qualified for the job and performed it satisfactorily; 3) despite her qualifications and performance, she suffered an adverse employment action; and 4) she was replaced by a person outside the protected class or was treated less favorably than a similarly situated individual outside her protected class. See id.; Mitchell v. Toledo Hosp., 964 F.2d 577, 582 (6th Cir.1992).
If Plaintiff is able to establish a prima facie case, then under the next step of the tripartite test, a mandatory presumption of discrimination is created and the burden shifts to Defendant to "articulate some legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for the employee's rejection." See 411 U.S. at 802, 93 S.Ct. 1817. Finally, under the third step, if Defendant carries its burden in articulating a nondiscriminatory reason for the action, then Plaintiff must prove that the proffered reason was actually a pretext for invidious discrimination. Id. Plaintiff may establish that the proffered reason was a mere pretext by showing that 1) the stated reason had no basis in fact; 2) the stated reason was not the actual reason; and 3) that the stated reason was insufficient to explain Defendant's action. See Wheeler v. McKinley Enters., 937 F.2d 1158, 1162 (6th Cir.1991). "A reason cannot be proved to be `a pretext for discrimination' unless it is shown both that the reason was false, and that discrimination was the real reason." St. Mary's Honor Ctr. v. Hicks, 509 U.S. 502, 515, 113 S.Ct. 2742, 125 L.Ed.2d 407 (1993).
Prima Facie Case of Discrimination Under 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2
The district court began its analysis by acknowledging that, as an African—American, Plaintiff was a member of a protected class. The court then focused on whether Plaintiff suffered an adverse employment action for purposes of satisfying the third element of a prima facie case of discrimination under Title VII. The court recognized that in order to satisfy this element, Plaintiff had to show that she suffered a materially adverse change in her employment, and noted that Plaintiff sought to do so here by claiming that she suffered a constructive discharge. The court also accurately recognized that in order to show that she suffered a constructive discharge, Plaintiff had to come forward with evidence to demonstrate that the working conditions under which she labored were so difficult that a reasonable person standing in her shoes would have felt compelled to resign; and that Defendant intended to cause Plaintiff to resign or that her resignation was a reasonably foreseeable consequence of Defendant's actions.
However, despite its accurate recitation of the law, the district court erred in its analysis because the district court failed to consider any evidence relating to the April 28 incident, which served as the impetus to Plaintiff's resignation. Instead,
Having pointed out these deficiencies and errors in the district court's memorandum opinion, we will now analyze Plaintiff's case in the proper light. As stated, under the circumstantial evidentiary pathway, Plaintiff must first establish prove a prima facie case of discrimination under Title VII. See Johnson v. Univ. of Cincinnati, 215 F.3d 561, 572 (6th Cir.2000). One of the elements she must demonstrate — the element which the district believed Plaintiff failed to establish and therefore found dispositive in granting summary judgment — is that Plaintiff suffered an adverse employment action. Id. Plaintiff may establish an adverse employment action by demonstrating that she was constructively discharged. See Kocsis v. Multi-Care Mgmt., 97 F.3d 876, 886-87 (6th Cir.1996). To demonstrate a constructive discharge, Plaintiff must adduce evidence to show that 1) "the employer ... deliberately create[d] intolerable working conditions, as perceived by a reasonable person," and 2) the employer did so "with the intention of forcing the employee to
The Fifth Circuit has set forth a number of factors that a court should consider for purposes of satisfying the first prong of the constructive discharge inquiry:
Brown v. Bunge Corp., 207 F.3d 776, 782 (5th Cir.2000) (alterations' omitted) (quoting Barrow v. New Orleans Steamship Ass'n, 10 F.3d 292, 297 (5th Cir.1994)). This Court has embraced some of the above-mentioned factors when reviewing a claim of constructive discharge, such as whether the transfer provided for the same duties, pay, and grade level, see Kocsis, 97 F.3d at 886; today, we expressly adopt the Fifth Circuit's approach and shall consider the various factors stated above when reviewing Plaintiff's claim.
Plaintiff contends that Defendant's disparate treatment, slanderous statements made to her by coworkers and managers, and Defendant's demotion of Plaintiff from server to busboy rendered Plaintiff's work environment intolerable for purposes of satisfying the first prong of the constructive discharge inquiry. We begin by focusing on the April 28 incident wherein Defendant changed Plaintiff's job classification because this incident appears to have been the event which ultimately precipitated Plaintiff's resignation. Plaintiff contends that the EPR prepared by Poplin and shown to her by delaVega only made reference to changing Plaintiff's job classification to service assistant. Plaintiff swore in her deposition testimony that Defendant did not offer her the option of becoming a hostess; and that delaVega told Plaintiff that the option before her — the busboy option — was her only choice. Defendant contends that the EPR offered Plaintiff the choice of becoming a hostess or a service assistant (busboy); however, Defendant has not produced the EPR and admitted at oral argument that the EPR has been lost or misplaced. As a result, Defendant supports its contention by way of affidavit from Poplin and delaVega wherein each makes reference to the EPR.
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e) states that affidavits supporting a motion for summary judgment "shall be made on personal knowledge, shall set forth such facts as would be admissible in evidence, and shall show affirmatively that the affiant is competent to testify to the matters stated therein." The rule also mandates that "[s]worn or certified copies of all papers
Here, because Defendant failed to attach or produce the EPR to which Poplin and delaVega make reference in their affidavits, the affidavits must be disregarded.
Accepting as we must that the only offer made to Plaintiff if she wished to remain employed by Defendant was that of service assistant, the inquiry becomes whether a reasonable employee standing in Plaintiff's shoes would have felt compelled to resign given this ultimatum. See Kocsis, 97 F.3d at 886; Brown, 207 F.3d at 782. This inquiry involves consideration of the non-exclusive list of factors noted above. The first factor to consider is whether a reasonable person would have viewed the job change as a demotion. See Brown, 207 F.3d at 782. Although delaVega stated in her deposition testimony that she did not believe that a job change from server to busboy was a demotion, Plaintiff testified in her deposition that she considered the change degrading. Common sense would lead a reasonable person to conclude that the job change was a demotion, because Defendant was allegedly changing Plaintiff's job classification as a disciplinary measure for her poor performance. It therefore logically follows that Defendant was not offering Plaintiff a better position or even a lateral position. At oral argument Defendant claimed that Plaintiff
Next, we consider whether Plaintiff would have taken a reduction in salary by transferring to the busboy position. DelaVega stated in her deposition testimony that service assistants started at minimum wage with the maximum hourly wage rising to $7.00 or $8.00; while servers began at about $2.00 per hour, and reached a maximum hourly rate of $3.00, plus tips. Because busboys were paid more per hour, delaVega believed the jobs were the same in terms of compensation. However, delaVega's averment is based on speculation inasmuch Defendant failed to marshal any evidence as to how much money Plaintiff made in tips in an average day, or how much money any server working for Defendant makes on the average. Because Plaintiff would lose the ability to make tips as a busboy, it is reasonable to conclude that she would have suffered a reduction in salary by changing to this job classification.
Similarly, a common sense understanding this type of restaurant would lead a reasonable person to believe that Plaintiff's job responsibilities were reduced by changing her job from that of server to busboy. As Plaintiff testified, the busboys wear rubber boots, mop floors, clear and lift heavy dishes, and clean-up after people; while the servers wait on customers and deliver food to them. Moreover, Defendant admitted that it was changing Plaintiff's job classification because of Defendant's alleged perception of Plaintiff not being able to satisfactorily perform as a server, and the duties of a busboy were less than those of a server.
Regarding the next factor, reassigning to menial or degrading work, we find that although working as a busboy from the outset may not be considered menial work by some, a reasonable person standing in Plaintiff's shoes may have found the job menial. Had Plaintiff accepted that busboy position, she would have gone from waiting on customers and serving meals — a job that she had successfully performed for over ten years — to mopping floors.
As to the next relevant factor, badgering, harassment, or humiliation by the employer calculated to encourage the employee's resignation, we conclude that not only was the job change in itself humiliating, but the manner in which Plaintiff was informed of this change was humiliating as well, and done in a way calculated to encourage Plaintiff to resign. For example, on the day in question, Plaintiff reported for work in the usual course, but when she looked on the schedule for her station assignment, she noticed that she was assigned to "station eight." Plaintiff found this odd because to the best of her knowledge, "station eight" did not exist at the restaurant. This discrepancy caused Plaintiff to go the manager's office where she was then informed by delaVega of the job classification change. We find Defendant's use of the term "station eight" as a mechanism to bring Plaintiff to the manager's office very suspect in that the term "section eight" is a well known military term meaning that an enlisted person had been discharged because of mental instability. See Cloth v. Hyman, 146 F.Supp. 185,
In addition, once in the office, Plaintiff was totally blind sided by what delaVega had to say. According to Plaintiff, usually servers were "written-up" for poor shopper reports, and she had never heard of any other server being demoted for such a report. Furthermore, delaVega did not explain that this job change was temporary, nor was delaVega receptive to Plaintiff's offer to get further training. Accepting Plaintiff's version of the events, as we must at this stage, we conclude that a reasonable person standing in Plaintiff's shoes would have felt embarrassed and humiliated at the prospect of having to bus tables for the servers with whom she once worked — particularly when all but one of the servers were Caucasian.
This leads to the final relevant factor, whether Defendant offered Plaintiff continued employment on terms less favorable than the employee's former status. Again, it is completely reasonable to conclude that clearing dishes, wiping booths and tables, mopping floors, and cleaning up after customers for minimum wage is a less favorable job than being a server for an hourly rate and tips. Accordingly, when viewing these factors in combination, we find that Defendant's act of conditioning Plaintiff's continued employment on her becoming a busboy created an intolerable work condition such that a reasonable person standing in Plaintiff's shoes would have felt compelled to resign. See Moore, 171 F.3d at 1080.
Although we believe that the April 28 incident was sufficient to meet the first prong of the constructive discharge inquiry, we are further persuaded in this regard inasmuch as the April 28 incident came on the heels of Plaintiff experiencing disparaging comments and alleged incidents of unfair treatment. See Jackson v. Quanex, 191 F.3d 647, 659 (6th Cir.1999) (noting that a claim for race discrimination must be viewed under the totality of the circumstances). As stated, shortly after transferring to Highland Heights, Plaintiff claims that she began experiencing comments from management and co-workers such as "We don't serve `grits' here;" "You're probably used to that `first of the month rush,'" implying that many of the customers from the facility where Plaintiff was employed in North Randall were on public assistance; and "These must have been some of your people from Randall," in reference to some customers who did not want to pay for their breakfast. (J.A. at 196.) Although Plaintiff testified in her deposition that the "your people" comment was made in reference to customers who refused to pay for their food, a practice that allegedly happened often at North Randall, evidence on the record indicates that the clientele at North Randall was of low economic means and that many may have been minority group members. Therefore, we find that this comment carries an inference of invidious discrimination sufficient to create a question of fact as to whether the comment was harassing and created an intolerable atmosphere. See Brown, 207 F.3d at 782. The same
In addition, during her deposition, Plaintiff related an incident wherein she asked her manager, Greg Mallon, if he had a spare tie for her to use for the evening because she had left her tie at home. Mallon informed Plaintiff that he did not have a spare tie and that she would have to go home if she was not properly attired. However, about an hour later, Mallon gave a new tie to a young white server who excitedly displayed the tie to Plaintiff. Plaintiff testified that her feelings were hurt by this incident. Like the disparaging comments made to Plaintiff, we find this incident to create an issue of fact as to whether a reasonable person would have felt badgered, harassed, or humiliated for purposes of creating an intolerable environment. See Moore, 171 F.3d at 1080 (finding that to determine whether there has been a constructive discharge, both the employee's objective feelings and the employer's intent must be examined); Brown, 207 F.3d at 782. The same may be said of Defendant's posting the Mystery Shopper Report in the employee section of the restaurant. Plaintiff admitted that she had seen other unfavorable reports posted in the past that did not involve her, but that she had not seen a report that bore comments such as those made by management on her Report.
In summary, Plaintiff adduced more than sufficient evidence to create an issue of fact as to whether Defendant deliberately created intolerable working conditions as perceived by a reasonable person, for purposes of meeting the first prong of the constructive discharge inquiry. See Moore, 171 F.3d at 1080. We also are persuaded that this evidence creates an issue of fact as to the second prong of the inquiry, whether Defendant created these conditions "with the intention of forcing [Plaintiff] to quit...." It is completely foreseeable that a reasonable person would have resigned under these circumstances. See id. (finding that the defendant's act of increasingly isolating the plaintiff and not communicating with him after the plaintiff filed an EEOC complaint was sufficient evidence for a jury to conclude that the defendant intended for the plaintiff to resign; "[d]ay after day, week after week of isolation ... would lead him to believe that he was no longer wanted"). Indeed, Defendant's comments to Plaintiff referring to customers from North Randall, as well as its act of treating other servers more favorably could lead Plaintiff to believe that she was not wanted at the Highland Heights facility, particularly when there was only one other African-American server, who was part-time. When these incidents are coupled with Defendant's conditioning Plaintiff's employment on her becoming a busboy, we conclude that Plaintiff marshaled copious evidence that a reasonable person standing in Plaintiff's shoes would have felt that compelled to resign, and that Defendant intended for Plaintiff to do so.
Plaintiff therefore adduced sufficient evidence of a constructive discharge for purposes of satisfying the adverse employment action element of her prima facie case. In addition, although not addressed by the district court in its abbreviated analysis, Plaintiff adduced sufficient evidence on the other elements of her prima facie case so as to survive summary judgment. Specifically, Plaintiff is African—American and therefore a member of a protected class; she adduced sufficient evidence through her numerous favorable performance appraisals over a more than ten-year period with Defendant that she was qualified to work as a server; she adduced evidence that she suffered a constructive discharge for purposes of demonstrating an adverse employment action;
Defendant argues extensively in its brief on appeal that Plaintiff failed to come forward with evidence to create a genuine issue of fact for trial that non-minority co-workers were treated more favorably than Plaintiff, inasmuch as the co-workers to whom Plaintiff makes reference were not servers who transferred from other facilities. We are not persuaded by Defendant's claim because once Plaintiff transferred to the Highland Heights facility, she bore the same job title and was required to perform the same duties for the same managers as the servers who had already worked there. See Ercegovich v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., 154 F.3d 344, 352 (6th Cir.1998) (cautioning that the "similarly situated" inquiry should not "invite a comparison between the employment status of the plaintiff and other employees in every single aspect of their employment;" rather, the inquiry should focus on whether the plaintiff's employment status is "similar in all of the relevant aspects"). In other words, once Plaintiff transferred to the Highland Heights facility, she was in the same position as her white counterparts; indeed, she was held to the same performance standards as her white counterparts. However, questions of fact remain as to whether she was treated less favorably than the non-minority servers.
For example, Plaintiff claims that in her more than ten years of employment with Defendant, although she had seen other servers "written up" for unfavorable Mystery Shopper Reports, she knew of no other servers who were required to become busboys if they wished to continue with their employment. In addition, aside from one other server who was employed part-time, Plaintiff was the only African-American server, and she claims that the white servers were given better hours and more favorable work stations. Although Plaintiff testified that Defendant attempted to correct the disparity in hours and work stations, Plaintiff also testified that Defendant did not continue to adhere to the corrective measures. Plaintiff also related the incident where she was denied the use of a tie for the evening based on her manager's representation that he did not have an extra tie, and yet the manager provided a white server a new tie (i.e., a tie in addition to the one she was wearing) about an hour after Plaintiff made her request. These incidents create a factual dispute for purposes of surviving summary judgment as to whether similarly situated non-minority servers were treated more favorably than Plaintiff. See Ercegovich, 154 F.3d at 352.
Because Plaintiff adduced sufficient evidence to establish a prima facie case of race discrimination under Title VII, the next step in the analysis is to determine whether Plaintiff came forward with evidence to show that Defendant's purported reason for its action — Plaintiff's alleged poor performance as a server — was a mere pretext for this alleged invidious discrimination. See Johnson, 215 F.3d at 578.
B. Pretext for Discrimination
As stated, a plaintiff may establish that the proffered reason was a mere pretext by showing that 1) the stated reason had no basis in fact; 2) the stated reason was not the actual reason; and 3) that the stated reason was insufficient to explain the defendant's action. See Wheeler, 937 F.2d at 1162. "A reason cannot be proved to be `a pretext for discrimination' unless it is shown both that the reason was false, and that discrimination was the real reasons."
Defendant contends that its disciplinary action taken against Plaintiff was necessary based on alleged complaints that it received from customers regarding Plaintiff's performance, the Report, and Poplin's observation of Plaintiff. However, like the EPR, Defendant has failed to produce any of these alleged customer complaints, or any evidence that Plaintiff was counseled about them before the April 28 incident. Plaintiff, on the other hand, has come forward with sufficient evidence to establish that Defendant's proffered reason for her discharge — her poor performance due to inability to work at a faster-paced facility — was a pretext for race discrimination. For example, Plaintiff adduced numerous favorable performance appraisals from the North Randall facility, as well as unrefuted testimony that her manager at North Randall encouraged Plaintiff to transfer to the Highland Heights facility because it was a faster-paced branch; and unrefuted testimony that the manager at Highland Heights, John Halasz, who at one time managed the North Randall facility, told Plaintiff that he would be honored to have her transfer to Highland Heights. She also adduced the unrefuted claim that she received a favorable performance review and pay increase shortly after arriving at Highland Heights. It was not until management and the other servers began making disparaging comments and made their feelings known that their hours were not going to be cut as a result of Plaintiff's employment, that Defendant began to allege that Plaintiff could not keep up with the pace. In addition, Plaintiff was the only black server to transfer to Highland Heights; only one other server at Highland Heights was black; and the other servers received better hours and sections than Plaintiff. Under these facts, a reasonable person could conclude that Defendant took calculated efforts to portray Plaintiff as being a poor server, and humiliated Plaintiff into resigning because she was a black server who was actually very good at her job and posed a threat to her white counterparts. See St. Mary's Honor Ctr., 509 U.S. at 515, 113 S.Ct. 2742.
We are further persuaded in this regard by the timing of the events in question. Specifically, it is undisputed that after ten successful years of employment with Defendant as a server, Plaintiff began working as a server at the Highland Heights facility on March 14, 1996, and that within two weeks she received an "above standards" performance evaluation and a pay increase. Yet, Defendant contends that by April 28, 1996, Plaintiff's performance was so poor that Defendant could no longer employ Plaintiff in this capacity. In another words, according to Defendant, in just two or three weeks Plaintiff went from being a server functioning at "above standards" capacity, to being a server who was no longer capable of performing her job. Defendant attributes Plaintiff's lack of success to the faster-paced environment of the Highland Heights restaurant. However, we find Defendant's contention illogical. If Plaintiff could not keep up with the pace, it is reasonable to believe that the most difficult period for Plaintiff would have been when she first arrived at Highland Heights, and that after she got accustomed to the faster pace, her performance would have improved. However, Defendant would have us believe the opposite to be true.
Defendant's theory is that Plaintiff was a poor server who could not keep up with the pace at Highland Heights, and that it benevolently offered to make Plaintiff a busboy as opposed to terminating Plaintiff because of her more than ten-year employment
However, when we reviewed Plaintiff's performance appraisals in the record, we were left with a much different impression of Plaintiff's skills. As illustrated in this opinion, these very same performance appraisals that Defendant characterizes as being "below standards" were, in some instances, glowing. Only one of the many performance appraisals provided in the appendix indicates an overall score of "below standards." The other performance appraisals indicate an overall score of "at standards" or "above standards," and several of the appraisals bear complimentary remarks as to Plaintiff's abilities such as Plaintiff "is not weak in any areas. She is competent in service, team work and other aspects of the job code, server." (J.A. at 239-40.) These comments also include statements such as, "Overall you're doing great — Keep it up!" (J.A. at 239-40), and "Good job!! We need you more!!" (J.A. at 250.) Defendant conspicuously fails to make mention of these favorable overall scores and comments in its brief, thereby misleading the Court as to Plaintiff's overall rating as a server while employed by Defendant.
Defendant continues to mischaracterize the record in an effort to support its contention that Plaintiff could not keep up with the faster pace at Highland Heights. Specifically, in its brief on appeal, Defendant states as follows:
Defendant's Brief on Appeal at 6 (citations to record and joint appendix omitted; emphasis added).
Basically, a review of the record cited by Defendant in support of its contentions regarding Plaintiff's abilities and decision to transfer to Highland Heights in no way represents what Defendant suggests. Rather, the record — which is undisputed — is in sharp contradistinction to Defendant's contentions. We find Defendant's mischaracterization of the record, which serves no useful purpose and simply misleads the court, to be unconscionable. This Court has found that misrepresentations of the record made by the appellant's counsel suggests bad faith, and will not be tolerated. See Cunningham v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., 854 F.2d 914, 916 (6th Cir.1988).
We are also troubled by the district court's apparent complacency regarding Defendant's misrepresentations as well as the district court's overall handling of the case. Defendant's past history of discriminatory conduct, both to its minority patrons and employees alike, is well known in the jurisprudence and public forums. Examples of highly publicized cases involving Defendant's discriminatory conduct include two 1994 class action suits alleging race discrimination under 42 U.S.C. § 2000a — Dyson v. Flagstar Corp., C.A. No. 93-1503 from the United States District Court in Maryland, and Ridgeway v. Flagstar Corp., Civ. No. 93-20202 from the United States District Court for the Northern
Although we recognize that Defendant's past record of discrimination is not at issue here, the fact remains that Defendant is no stranger to race discrimination suits, and the district court's failure to see through Defendant's tactics and recognize the many genuine issues of material fact in this case is disturbing.
The district court erred in granting Defendant's motion for summary judgment where Plaintiff established a prima facie case of discrimination under Title VII, and came forward with sufficient evidence to show that Defendant's alleged reason for its action was pretextual. We therefore
BATCHELDER, Circuit Judge, dissenting.
As the majority opinion emphasizes, this appeal concerns the propriety of the district court's grant of defendant Denny's motion for summary judgment on plaintiff Logan's Title VII claim of racial discrimination based upon alleged constructive discharge. Plaintiff does not challenge on appeal dismissal of her other claims, including state-law claims based upon the same set of facts asserted as a basis for her Title VII constructive-discharge allegation. The majority acknowledges that the district court:
Majority Op. at 567.
In this Title VII action, Eileen Logan claims that once she transferred into the Denny's Restaurant in Highland Heights, Denny's discriminated against her and subjected her to a hostile work environment because she is African-American, and that because of Denny's treatment of her, she could no longer work there and was, in fact, constructively discharged. The majority opinion holds that the district court erred in granting Denny's motion for summary judgment. Because I believe that the majority opinion is contrary to law in a number of significant and troubling respects, I must respectfully dissent.
An appellate court reviews de novo a district court's order granting summary judgment. Like the district court, we must view the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Because the district court may grant summary judgment only if it is clear that on the undisputed facts, or on the facts viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, the moving party is entitled to judgment, the district court may not weigh the evidence, or make credibility determinations or make any findings of fact in ruling on a motion for summary judgment. And this court may not do so either.
The review of this judgment undertaken by the majority opinion, however, is something other than the de novo review required by the Supreme Court and the precedent of this circuit. In coming to its conclusion that genuine issues of material fact remain for trial, the majority opinion takes judicial notice of "facts" not in evidence, excoriates the defendant for failing to present the evidence in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, holds inadmissible evidence never objected to by the plaintiff either before the district court or before this court, and makes findings of fact. Perhaps most unsettling, the majority opinion says that the district court was required to review the defendant's motion for summary judgment in light of Denny's "past history of discriminatory conduct, both to its minority patrons and employees alike, [which] is well known in the jurisprudence and public forums."
The standard of review of a grant of summary judgment requires that we view the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party; it does not permit us to exclude admissible evidence or that to which no objection was raised below. The majority holds that the affidavits of Randy Poplin and Mary Jean delaVega, the two Denny's employees with the most knowledge about Logan's claim of constructive discharge, are inadmissible in their entireties, because the Employment Performance Report ("EPR") prepared with regard to Logan and referred to in those affidavits was not produced. This report was central to Denny's articulated non-discriminatory reason for removing Logan from her position as a waitress. The record does not reflect, nor does Logan claim, that she raised any objection to that testimony before the trial court, either on the ground that the EPR had not been produced or on any other ground. Neither did she file a motion before the
There is no question that in reviewing a grant of summary judgment, we must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. The law does not, however, require the moving party to present its evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. The majority opinion points to no authority for its view that counsel for Denny's has acted "unconscionabl[y]" by presenting in its brief a list of the plaintiff's shortcomings as they are reflected in her performance reviews. And I find surprising the majority opinion's statement that "[r]eviewing Defendant's brief leads one to conclude that Plaintiff's overall performance as a server has been poor since she began her employment with Defendant." The table in that brief that the majority finds deliberately misleading is prefaced by these words:
Similarly, the majority reprimands Denny's counsel for misrepresenting the record with regard to the information given to Logan about transferring to the Highland Heights location, stating that the testimony pointed to in Denny's brief "in no way supports" Denny's contention that Logan was "warned" about the conditions at Highland Heights. Significantly, the majority opinion does not dispute any of the specific information to which Denny's brief refers; rather, the majority rests its criticism entirely on the fact that Denny's brief says that Logan was "warned" about these conditions, when the majority believes that, in fact, Logan was merely "advised" about them. But whether Logan was warned or advised, the record does reflect that Logan was told that she would find the working conditions at Highland Heights different from those at Randall. This requirement that Denny's present the evidence supporting its motion for summary judgment in the light most favorable to Logan, in my view, has no support in the established law.
The majority defends its finding of facts on appeal as merely bringing "to the fore" evidence that Logan adduced, and says that this comports with venerable precedent concerning summary-judgment review. "Bringing evidence to the fore" amounts to more than viewing the evidence in a light most favorable to the nonmovant, and the majority has gone beyond even that by providing an interpretation of that evidence which Logan has neither provided nor suggested. The majority has couched those interpretations in terms of that would appear to the average reader as making findings of fact.
With all due respect to my panel colleagues, viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to Logan does not permit us, as a reviewing court, to take judicial notice of facts of the type noticed by the majority. The majority opinion says that "we can take judicial notice that a busboy or `service assistant' as Defendant entitles it, is a job classification below that of a waiter or server, particularly at this type of restaurant." In my view, the exact status of a "service assistant" or "busboy" at this particular Denny's restaurant, or anywhere else, is not the kind of adjudicative fact of which judicial notice can be taken by this court under the requirements of the Federal Rules of Evidence.
Even more disturbing, however, is the majority opinion's reference to articles from the news media and the purported litigation history of Denny's restaurants to increase the burden upon defendants and to change the standard of review that the district court must use in reviewing the record on summary judgment.
Majority Op. at 577.
The opinion then cites several cases in which Denny's purportedly entered into consent decrees to settle claims of racial discrimination; the opinion also cites and discusses news articles with regard to discrimination claims made against Denny's. The opinion concludes this discussion thus: "Although we recognize that Defendant's past record of discrimination is not at issue here, the fact remains that Defendant is no stranger to race discrimination suits, and the district court's failure to see through Defendant's tactics and recognize the many genuine issues of material fact is disturbing." Majority Op. at 578. But Denny's record of past discrimination — which is not and cannot be at issue here — has been made a central issue in the majority opinion's criticism of the district court.
There is no evidence whatever that the district court had any actual knowledge of Denny's reputed iniquities beyond those alleged in this lawsuit. Even if it did, what I find disturbing is that in reviewing the district court's decision the majority relies upon outside-the-record hearsay evidence of prior bad acts of the defendant. The evidence that the district court is permitted to review on summary judgment is clearly delineated by Rule 56:
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). This court must adhere to the same standard. Affidavits, of course, must "be made on personal knowledge, shall set forth such facts as would be admissible in evidence, and shall show affirmatively that the affiant is competent to
The majority opinion makes numerous findings of fact in reaching its conclusion that the district court erred in granting summary judgment to Denny's. It finds, for example, that the job change offered to Logan was a demotion; that Logan would have suffered a reduction in salary in the new and lesser position; that the job change was humiliating; and that Denny's designation of Logan's assigned station on April 28 as "station eight" was likely intended to refer to the military term for mental instability and thus was intended to humiliate Logan.
Turning to the substance of Logan's complaint, I agree with the majority opinion that Logan presented sufficient evidence as to the first and second prongs of the prima facie case. I disagree with the majority opinion's reasoning and conclusions with regard to the third and fourth elements of Logan's prima facie case: that she suffered an adverse employment action and that she was treated less favorably than a similarly situated individual outside her protected class. See Kocsis v. Multi-Care Mgmt., Inc., 97 F.3d 876, 882 (6th Cir.1996). To begin with, this circuit has well-established precedent governing the determination of whether a Title VII plaintiff has satisfied the third prong when the plaintiff claims constructive discharge as the adverse employment action. In Wilson
And in Scott v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company, 160 F.3d 1121, 1127 (6th Cir.1998), we made it clear that "[i]n the typical discriminatory constructive discharge case, the employer does not overtly seek a discontinuation in the employment relationship but the employee claims to be subjected to intolerable working conditions due to discriminatory behavior." I see no reason to look to the law of the Fifth Circuit, as the majority does, to determine what constitutes a constructive discharge.
The majority opinion concludes — in part by taking judicial notice of the "fact" that the busboy position would necessarily be a demotion and by holding inadmissible all of the affidavit testimony of Denny's witnesses — that Logan has demonstrated that Denny's "conditioning Plaintiff's continued employment on her becoming a busboy created an intolerable work condition such that a reasonable person standing in Plaintiff's shoes would have felt compelled to resign." The claim of constructive discharge is bolstered, the opinion concludes, because the claimed constructive discharge occurred after Logan was subjected to "disparaging comments and alleged incidents of unfair treatment." But unless the intolerable work condition was shown to have been created because of Logan's race, the constructive discharge is not one for which Logan has any remedy under Title VII.
It is therefore important to examine the comments and incidents which Logan claims, and the majority finds, were racial in nature. I would hold that the district court did not err in determining that the record simply does not support such a conclusion, but even if it did, these comments do not rise to the level required to create a hostile work environment. In Faragher v. Boca Raton, 524 U.S. 775, 118 S.Ct. 2275, 141 L.Ed.2d 662 (1998), the Supreme Court made it clear that a hostile-work-environment claim must be supported by evidence of extreme conduct, and that the "standards of judging hostility are sufficiently demanding to ensure that Title VII does not become a `general civility code.' Properly applied, they will filter out complaints attacking `the ordinary tribulations of the workplace, such as the sporadic use of abusive language, gender-related jokes, and occasional teasing.'" Id. at 788, 118 S.Ct. 2275. Although Faragher was a sexual-harassment case, the Court explicitly relied on authorities raising other kinds of discrimination claims in arriving at its conclusions, including Rogers v. EEOC, 454 F.2d 234, 238 (5th Cir.1971) (holding that "mere utterance of an ethnic or racial epithet which engenders offensive feeling in an employee" does not rise to the level of a Title VII violation); and 1 B. Lindermann & P. Grossman,
None of the comments the majority characterizes as carrying the inference of invidious discrimination is overtly racial in character. The comment "we don't serve grits here," which even Logan admits was made in response to her question about the availability of various breakfast items, carries a racial overtone only if grits were food enjoyed only, or even primarily, by African-Americans.
The majority opinion's characterization of the "new tie" incident as racially motivated is similarly troubling. Logan's deposition clearly demonstrates that she has no idea what Denny's policy with regard to ties was or what the circumstances were with regard to this particular tie. Logan came to work without her tie. She was not provided a new one. A white employee came to work and was given a new tie. Logan admits that she does not know and did not inquire whether the white employee had earlier requested or been promised a new tie, but she does say that the white employee told her "I finally got a new tie." Nonetheless, Logan complains that if there was only one tie, Logan should have gotten it. The evidence in the record does not support a reasonable inference that Logan was denied a tie because of her race.
Finally, the majority opinion holds that Logan adduced "copious" evidence with regard to the second prong of the constructive discharge analysis: whether Denny's intended by its actions to force Logan to quit her job. The offensive comments referring to customers from Randall Park Mall, and Denny's treating other servers more favorably than Logan, when taken together with the change in position, the majority says, are more than sufficient to create a genuine issue of fact as to Denny's intent. But the comments, as I have explained, are not racial in nature, and Logan presented little evidence that Denny's in fact treated other servers better than it treated her.
The final element in the prima facie case is that Denny's treated similarly situated individuals more favorably than it treated Logan. Here again, the record does not support the majority opinion's conclusion that Logan presented sufficient evidence to create a genuine issue of fact with regard
Because I think that Logan failed to present sufficient evidence to make out a prima facie case, I would affirm the district court's grant of summary judgment to Denny's. However, I would also hold that Logan wholly failed to present evidence from which a jury could conclude that Denny's articulated non-discriminatory reason for its actions was pretextual. The majority opinion implies that Denny's did not even succeed in presenting such reasons because it did not produce the specific customer complaints or evidence that Logan was counseled about them. But Denny's, of course, was required only to produce some evidence to support its articulated non-discriminatory reason. See Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 142, 120 S.Ct. 2097, 2106, 147 L.Ed.2d 105 (2000). Denny's clearly did so. And the majority's conclusion is facilitated by its earlier mistaken holding that the evidence Denny's did produce would be disregarded. Logan's conclusory opinions that non-minority servers received better treatment than she are not sufficient to prove pretext, and the record simply does not contain factual support for the majority's conclusion that "a reasonable person could conclude that Defendant took calculated efforts to portray Plaintiff
In sum, Logan presented some evidence that the people at Denny's, including some in management, treated her poorly or insensitively. See Miles v. General Motors Corp., No. 85-3856, 1988 WL 27498, at *3 (6th Cir. Mar.31, 1988) ("The court appeared to rest on a general feeling that Miles had been treated shabbily, rather than on any evidence that would justify the conclusion that management's stated reasons were non-existent or pretextual."). But she was required to present evidence that she was constructively discharged because of her race. She did not carry that burden.
Even if the majority were correct that Logan carried her burden in resisting Denny's motion for summary judgment, that would not warrant the majority's harsh criticism of the district court judge and defendant's counsel. At most, the district court's judgment might constitute legal error, and Denny's counsel did nothing more than aggressively represent Denny's, which is precisely what professional ethics mandate that Denny's counsel do in our adversarial system.
For all of these reasons, I dissent.