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Jones v. Best Buy

United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Lynchburg Division

November 1, 2016

Ronetta W. Jones, Plaintiff,
Best Buy, Defendant.



         Judge Norman K. Moon Plaintiff was terminated by her employer, Best Buy, in March of 2014. Subsequently, she filed suit against Best Buy for violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, §§ 701 et seq., 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et seq. (“Title VII”), claiming that she was fired in retaliation for previously submitting an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charge against Best Buy. Construing Plaintiff's pro se complaint liberally, the Court also interprets Plaintiff as making a claim of racial discrimination under Title VII.

         Based on Plaintiff's own sworn statements and others in the record, the Court concludes that Plaintiff has failed to present evidence establishing a prima facie case under Title VII for either retaliation or racial discrimination. Accordingly, Defendant's motion for summary judgment will be granted and Plaintiff's case will be dismissed with prejudice.

         I. Background

         Plaintiff is a forty-nine-year-old African-American female who is proceeding pro se in this case. (Dkt. 18, Exhibit A at 13 [hereinafter “A13”])[1]. Best Buy hired Plaintiff on July 17, 2008 (A47-48) and she was later promoted to the “SWAT” position.[2] (Id.). Her employment with Best Buy was terminated on March 4, 2014. (A49).

         On November 12, 2013, almost four months before her termination, Plaintiff filed a charge with the EEOC. (A72, 74-75; B69-70; Exhibit L). The charge alleged that Plaintiff was being discriminated against on the basis of race and presented three specific grievances that: (1) three recent performance write-ups were unjustified, (2) a supervisor had made sexual remarks to her, and (3) a recent hire of a different race was being given training not available to her. (B69-70; Exhibit L). Taking into account the entirety of Plaintiff's evidence, the Commission found that there was insufficient evidence to establish a violation of the law and dismissed her charge. (B94-95; Exhibit L).

         Both parties agree that Plaintiff's termination was due at least in part to, and was certainly initiated by, a time editing incident that took place on February 3, 2014. (See A49-50, 71; B60-61). Normally, employees at Best Buy may not manually edit their start time back to an earlier time and instead receive credit only for time worked after they actually clock in. (A151). Sometimes, however, an employee is permitted to manually enter an earlier start time when the manager failed to open the store at the start of the shift, the rationale being that it is the manager and not the employee who is at fault for the employee's late start in such instances. (A151-152, 170-171; B8, 33). Such edits are only permitted when the employee is ready and waiting near the entrance to the store at the start of their shift and the only reason for delay is the manager's own tardiness. (Id.)

         On February 3, 2014, Plaintiff's shift was scheduled to start at 7:00 a.m., and she was present in her car in the parking lot at approximately 6:45 a.m., waiting for her manager to open the store. (B15, 17-18). However, Plaintiff “closed her eyes” for a few minutes and did not notice manager Brittany Bussert open the store at approximately 7:00 a.m. or shortly thereafter. (B17-18, 20). Another employee who entered the store with Bussert that morning was able to clock in at 7:04 a.m. (B18-20, 23-24; D, ¶4; Exhibit N). At 7:09 a.m., Bussert texted plaintiff “You good?” after which Plaintiff entered the store and eventually clocked in at 7:11 a.m. (Text message (B19-20, 21, 24-25, 28; Exhibit O); Time of entry (A71; B22, 30-31; Exhibit Q)). Plaintiff then manually edited her time back to reflect a 7:00 a.m. start time, thereby receiving compensation for time worked between 7 a.m. and 7:11 a.m. (A71; B30-31).

         Subsequently, another supervisor at Best Buy, Dylan Litchford, noticed Plaintiff's time edit when auditing the records and reported it to the Human Resource Support Center (HRSC). (B39-40; Exhibit D, ¶5). Litchford had a duty to report any such time edit discrepancies he encountered. (A152-153). The matter was referred to Nikhil Das at HRSC for evaluation. (E, ¶5). Plaintiff was informed on February 10, 2014 that her employment with Best Buy was suspended pending an investigation of the time edit. (B52-53). During the investigation, Das made several attempts to contact Plaintiff, but was unsuccessful. (B54-56). After receiving approval from HRSC, Plaintiff's manager Aaron Watson implemented her termination on March 4, 2014. (C, ¶6; E, ¶6; Exhibit S; A51-52). The sole reason given for Plaintiff's termination was her time edit violation. (B60-61; Exhibit S).

         On February 10, 2016, Plaintiff initiated the present complaint against Best Buy, alleging violations of Title VII. (Dkt. 1). On September 14, 2016, Defendants filed their motion for summary judgment. (Dkt. 18). Plaintiff, proceeding pro se, has not filed a response despite being given ample notice and opportunity to respond pursuant to Roseboro v. Garrison, 528 F.2d 309 (4th Cir. 1975).

         II. Standard of Review

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) provides that a court should grant summary judgment “if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” “As to materiality . . . [o]nly disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). In order to preclude summary judgment, the dispute about a material fact must be “‘genuine, ' that is, if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Id.; see also JKC Holding Co. v. Washington Sports Ventures, Inc., 264 F.3d 459, 465 (4th Cir. 2001). If, however, the evidence of a genuine issue of material fact “is merely colorable or is not significantly probative, summary judgment may be granted.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 250. In considering a motion for summary judgment under Rule 56, a court must view the record as a whole and draw all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. See, e.g., Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-24 (1986); Shaw v. Stroud, 13 F.3d 791, 798 (4th Cir. 1994).

         III. Discussion

         a. ...

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