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Holmes v. Branch Banking and Trust Co.

United States District Court, District of Columbia

December 9, 2016

Darrie Holmes, Plaintiff,
v.
Branch Banking and Trust Company, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Amit P. Mehta, United States District Judge

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff Darrie Holmes filed this lawsuit against her former employer, Defendant Branch Banking and Trust Company, alleging discriminatory treatment in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq. Plaintiff asserts that Defendant discriminated against her by terminating her employment on the basis of her gender and by failing to provide her equal compensation in comparison to younger, male employees. In response, Defendant claims that it fired Plaintiff, not based on her gender, but because she engaged in conduct that violated bank policies and that her salary was not discriminatory.

         This matter is before the court on Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment. Having reviewed the pleadings and evidence, the court finds that no reasonable factfinder could conclude (1) Defendant discriminated against Plaintiff when it terminated her employment or (2) it discriminated against her by paying her a lower salary on account of her age. However, the court finds that a reasonable jury could find in Plaintiff's favor on her gender-based wage discrimination claim. Accordingly, the court grants in part and denies in part Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment.

         II. BACKGROUND

         A. Factual Background

         In November 2004, Defendant Branch Banking and Trust Company (“BB&T”) hired Plaintiff to work as a Teller in its Metro Center branch in Washington, D.C., at a monthly salary of $1, 213.34. Def.'s Stmt. of Material Facts, ECF. No. 22 [hereinafter Def.'s Stmt], ¶ 17; Pl.'s Stmt. of Material Facts, ECF. No. 25 [hereinafter Pl.'s Stmt.], ¶ 17; Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J., ECF No. 22 [hereinafter Def.'s Mot.], Ex. 3, ECF No. 22-3 [hereinafter Bayly Decl.], at 23. Upon accepting employment with Defendant, Plaintiff acknowledged that she understood, and certified that she would follow throughout the course of her employment, Defendant's policies, including its Code of Ethics. Def.'s Stmt. ¶ 19; Pl.'s Stmt. ¶ 19.

         In February 2006, Defendant promoted Plaintiff from the position of Teller to the position of Relationship Banker I and increased her monthly salary to $1, 296.66. Def.'s Stmt. ¶ 21; Pl.'s Stmt. ¶ 21; Bayly Decl. at 23. Relationship Bankers are primarily responsible for interfacing with both new and existing clients, opening and closing client accounts, and managing client safe deposit boxes. Def.'s Stmt. ¶ 5; Pl.'s Stmt. ¶ 5. In addition to providing those client services, Relationship Bankers are also expected to make daily “cold calls” to both current and prospective clients in an effort to generate new client accounts. Def.'s Stmt. ¶ 7; Pl.'s Stmt. ¶ 7. Defendant awards incentive points for each new client account opened and takes into account the points accumulated when evaluating the employee's performance. Def.'s Stmt. ¶ 8; Pl.'s Stmt. ¶ 8.

         Upon her promotion, Plaintiff received training on her new job duties, as well as Defendant's policies and procedures governing the opening and servicing of client accounts. Def.'s Stmt. ¶¶ 22-23; Pl.'s Stmt. ¶¶ 22-23. Those procedures included the Client Identification Program (“CIP”), which requires, among other things, that to open an account a Relationship Banker must obtain and submit certain client identification and authorization documentation, including a client signature card. Def.'s Stmt. ¶¶ 11-14, 16; Pl.'s Stmt. ¶¶ 11-14, 16. At all times during her employment, Plaintiff understood that she was required to obtain such authorization documentation before opening a new account and that opening an account without client consent constituted grounds for termination. Def.'s Stmt. ¶¶ 24-25; Pl.'s Stmt. ¶¶ 24-25.

         In May 2006, Plaintiff was again promoted, this time to the position of Relationship Banker II, and received a salary increase to $1, 361.45 per month. Def.'s Stmt. ¶ 26; Pl.'s Stmt. ¶ 26. Relationship Banker Is and IIs share the same job responsibilities, but Relationship Banker IIs are typically paid a higher salary and are expected to generate a higher volume of new client accounts than Relationship Banker Is. Def.'s Stmt. ¶ 6; Pl.'s Stmt. ¶ 6. During her time as a Relationship Banker II, Plaintiff was responsible for training newly hired Relationship Banker Is at the Metro Center Branch. One of her trainees was David Arriola-a 26 year-old man-who was hired in June 2006 at a monthly salary of $1, 500.00. Pl.'s Counter-Stmt. of Material Facts, ECF. No. 22, ¶¶ 28, 33; Bayly Decl. at 25.

         In August 2006, three months after her promotion, Plaintiff was disciplined for violating both the CIP Policy and the BB&T Code of Ethics because she had failed to obtain the identification documents necessary to verify a client's identity at account opening. Def.'s Stmt. ¶ 27; Pl.'s Stmt. ¶ 27; Pl.'s Opp'n, Ex. 5, ECF. No. 25-5, at 21. Despite this violation, Plaintiff received another raise in November 2006, which increased her salary to $1, 436.45 per month. Bayly Decl. at 23.

         In July 2007, Defendant hired Richard Patterson as Financial Center Leader at the Metro Center Branch. Def.'s Stmt. ¶ 31; Pl.'s Stmt. ¶ 31. As the new Financial Center Leader, Patterson reported directly to Ouattra Daouda, the Sales and Service Leader; Daouda reported to Maria Salter, the Retail Banking Manager. Def.'s Stmt. ¶¶ 32-33; Pl.'s Stmt. ¶¶ 32-33. Plaintiff reported directly to Patterson. Def.'s Stmt. ¶ 18; Pl.'s Stmt. ¶ 18; Def.'s Mot., Ex. 8, ECF No. 22-8, at 2. Plaintiff and Patterson incidentally knew each other from Relationship Banker training and had maintained a friendly relationship after that training. Def.'s Stmt. ¶¶ 34-36; Pl.'s Stmt. ¶¶ 34-36. Plaintiff asserts, however, that Patterson became increasingly abusive towards her and other branch employees in the months after becoming supervisor. Def.'s Stmt. ¶¶ 76-80, 82-83; Pl.'s Stmt. ¶¶ 76-80, 82-83. Patterson nevertheless gave Plaintiff a highly favorable performance review in October 2007, and increased her monthly salary to $1, 666.66-an approximately 16 percent raise-in November 2007. Def.'s Stmt. ¶¶ 38-39; Pl.'s Stmt. ¶¶ 38-39; Bayly Decl. at 23.

         Shortly after authorizing that raise, Patterson received a complaint from one of Plaintiff's clients-K.K.-alleging that Plaintiff had opened an account in his name after he had expressly told her not to do so. Def.'s Stmt. ¶ 41.[1] Patterson immediately contacted the Regional Associate Relations Manager, Terrence Bayly, who instructed Patterson to verify and investigate K.K.'s complaint. Def.'s Stmt. ¶¶ 43-44; Pl.'s Stmt. ¶¶43-44. Patterson then obtained a list of all accountholders for whom Plaintiff had opened an account and for which a signature card was missing. Patterson contacted the accountholders and, upon doing so, discovered an additional six customers that had not authorized the opening of a new account. Def.'s Stmt. ¶¶ 45-47. Patterson obtained statements via email from each of those six clients verifying that he or she had not authorized the account opening. Def.'s Stmt. ¶¶ 48-50. None of those clients, however, identified Plaintiff by name. See Bayly Decl. at 28-39. One client, C.C., did report that the same “young lady” who had contacted her about opening a new account, and whom she had instructed not to open an account, also happened to be the person to whom she spoke to close the account. Id. at 33. C.C. recalled that, upon requesting to close the account, the bank employee “recommended that I keep the account open and advised that it wouldn't cost me anything.” Id.

         Patterson concluded that Plaintiff had opened the customer accounts in question without client consent. He reached that conclusion based on BB&T's internal records, which identified Plaintiff, through her employee identification number, as the bank employee associated with the accounts in question. Def.'s Stmt. ¶¶ 48-50; Def.'s Mot., Ex. 6, ECF No. 22-6 (records pertaining to customer accounts with missing signature cards); see also Bayly Decl. at 43-44 (summary bank record, generated for purposes of discovery, showing Plaintiff's employee number-“43010”- associated with client accounts at issue).

         After the investigation concluded on January 25, 2008, Plaintiff met with Patterson, Bayly, Daouda, and Salter to discuss the allegations lodged against her. Def.'s Stmt. ¶ 54; Pl.'s Stmt. ¶ 54. Plaintiff steadfastly denied opening any client accounts without authorization. Def.'s Stmt. ¶ 55; Pl.'s Stmt. ¶ 55. After that meeting, Patterson, Bayly, Daouda, and Salter met again and decided to terminate Plaintiff for violating the BB&T Code of Ethics by opening client accounts without consent. Def.'s Stmt. ¶ 60. Defendant officially terminated Plaintiff's employment that same day. Id.

         B. Procedural Background

         Plaintiff timely filed suit in this court on August 11, 2014, alleging discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”), 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq. See Compl., ECF No. 1, ¶ 38.[2] The crux of Plaintiff's claims is that Defendant (1) terminated her employment because of her gender (Count Two) and (2) provided her unequal compensation because of both her age and gender (Counts One and Four).

         Following discovery, Defendant filed a Motion for Summary Judgment, arguing that it had not discriminated against Plaintiff when setting her salary and had fired her for a legitimate non-discriminatory reason-she had opened several accounts without client permission in violation of bank policies and procedures. See Def.'s Mot. at 28-29. Plaintiff opposed Defendant's Motion, claiming that its proffered non-discriminatory reasons for both compensating her unequally and firing her were pretext for discrimination. See generally Pl.'s Opp'n.

         III. ...


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