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DANCY v. AMERICAN

July 25, 1997

ERNESTINE DANCY, Plaintiff,
v.
AMERICAN RED CROSS, Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: SPORKIN

 This matter is before the Court on Defendant's motion for summary judgment and Plaintiff's opposition thereto. The Court heard oral argument on July 1, 1997.

 Factual Background

 Plaintiff is a 41-year-old African-American woman. She was employed by Defendant for 24 years. For most of those years, she had an excellent employment record, consistently receiving favorable performance reviews and ultimately achieving the rank of Station Manager of the Kaiserslautern, Germany station.

 In November 1992, Plaintiff filed a complaint with the Defendant's EEO officer, alleging discriminatory hiring and promotion practices. She grew frustrated by what she claims was the slow pace of the investigation, and decided to go outside the chain of command by contacting Defendant's president, Ms. Elizabeth Dole. Meanwhile, while her complaint was under investigation, Plaintiff's relationship with the Defendant deteriorated. To resolve the situation, a conference call was scheduled for June 7, 1993. The participants in this call were the Plaintiff and all of her supervisors -- the very people against whom she had raised her allegations.

 It is undisputed that Plaintiff delayed this conference call unnecessarily by being 45 minutes late, and then offered a false reason for her lateness. Both parties also agree that the discussion grew heated and was generally unproductive. On June 11, 1993 Plaintiff's supervisor, Ms. Sue Richter, sent Plaintiff a letter criticizing her behavior during the June 7 conference call. In the letter, Ms. Richter informed Plaintiff that her behavior had "bordered" on insubordination and that "if there [was] a repeat of that type of behavior ... disciplinary action [would] be taken." Plaintiff responded the same day with a letter apologizing for her behavior.

 Shortly after this call and the ensuing exchange of letters, Ms. Richter discovered some improprieties in Plaintiff's personnel file. Specifically, Plaintiff had violated one of Defendant's policies by moving into a new apartment without providing Defendant with a copy of the lease. Citing this violation and her alleged insubordinate behavior at the June 7 conference call, Defendant terminated Plaintiff on July 7, 1993. *fn1" Plaintiff was not given a hearing to explain these issues, and was given less than 24 hours to leave. After being terminated, Plaintiff was replaced first by a Hispanic male and then a Caucasian female.

 Summary Judgment Standards

 Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c), summary judgment "shall be rendered forthwith if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Mere allegations or denials of the adverse party's pleadings are not enough to prevent issuance of summary judgment. The adverse party's response to the summary judgment motion must "set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e).

 The Supreme Court set forth the governing standards for issuance of summary judgment in Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 91 L. Ed. 2d 265, 106 S. Ct. 2548 (1986). In Celotex, the Supreme Court recognized the vital need for summary judgment motions to the fair and efficient functioning of the justice system:

 
Summary judgment procedure is properly regarded not as a disfavored procedural shortcut, but rather as an integral part of the Federal Rules as a whole, which are designed "to secure the just, speedy and inexpensive determination of every action." Fed. Rule Civ. P. 1....
 
Rule 56 must be construed with due regard not only for the rights of persons asserting claims and defenses that are adequately based in fact to have those claims and defenses tried to a jury, but also for the rights of persons opposing such claims and defenses to demonstrate in the manner provided by ...

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