United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION 
Robert S. Ballou United States Magistrate Judge
employment discrimination case, I GRANT summary judgment for
Defendant Salon Del Sol (“salon”) as to Plaintiff
Sarah Carroll's (“Carroll”) hostile work
environment claim and DENY summary judgment as to
Carroll's retaliation claim.
who is a Caucasian woman, began working in 2011 as a hair
stylist on a part-time basis for Salon Del Sol. Dkt. No.
29-1, p. 3-5. Carroll was enrolled as a full-time student at
Virginia Western Community College when she began at the
salon, which allowed her to adjust work hours to accommodate
her school schedule, including providing time to complete
continuing education requirements. Dkt. No. 29-1, p. 6.
Throughout the time Carroll worked at the salon, she was
involved in a long-term relationship with an African American
man. Dkt. No. 29-1, p. 25, 6, 14.
January 2013, Denise Vetsch (“Vetsch”, previously
“Denise Latham”), who also is Caucasian and a
co-owner of the salon, assumed company level management. She
sent an email to all employees on January 21, 2013, stating
that there would be a change in management and “[f]or
those who aren't able to accept the changes as they
happen, separation is necessary.” Dkt. No. 29-4, p. 1.
This email also stated: “We are no longer going to be
hampered by hostage management and everyone will be held
accountable for their actions, even if liberation is the best
solution, regardless of talent or revenue-making
abilities.” Dkt. No. 29-4, p. 1. Carroll responded to
Vetsch's email, expressing how happy she was to work for
the salon. Dkt. No. 29-1, p. 14-5.
spring of 2013, Vetsch hired Shawn Spencer
(“Spencer”) as manager of the salon and, thus,
Carroll's immediate supervisor. Dkt. No. 29-1, p. 18-19.
Spencer, who is African American, was responsible for
enforcing the Company's policies, which included
prohibiting employees from changing their schedules numerous
times. Dkt. No. 29-2, p. 13. Spencer made several changes to
Carroll's schedule this spring, which Carroll did not
like. Dkt. No. 29-1, p. 35. Spencer also made three separate
“racial comments” which offended Carroll.
See Dkt. No. 29-1, p. 22-9. Spencer told Carroll she
“would not hire Carroll's friend [an African
American] as a front desk receptionist because the
woman's ‘long fingernails and feather earrings
would scare the white people.'” Dkt. No. 29-1, p.
22-3. Spencer stated though that she was only repeating what
her Caucasian colleague had told her about this particular
candidate. Dkt. No. 29-2, p. 7-8. Spencer also told Carroll
in the lobby of the salon that she did not understand
No. 29-1, p. 22-3. Both Carroll and Spencer were involved in
inter-racial relationships at that time. Dkt. No. 29, p. 7.
Finally, Spencer told Carroll, “something to the effect
of ‘You white girls are made for black men because
you're curvy.'” Dkt. No. 29-1, p. 28. Carroll
also alleges that Spencer made “other comments about
dating black men”, including a “very intimidating
conversation” Spencer had with “another
co-worker, Kari Bagby, about her interracial relationship
with an African American male.” Dkt. No. 36-1, p. 9.
states other hair stylists were also offended by Spencer and
her racially-charged comments. Dkt. No. 36, p. 2.
12, 2013, Carroll sent an email to Spencer and Vetsch,
expressing her concerns about Spencer's behavior. Dkt.
No. 29-5, p. 3-4. In this email, Carroll stated to Spencer:
…I cannot hear one more racial comment come out of
your mouth. The comments you make about white women dating
black men is disgusting. My child is bi-racial so I take
serious offense to that. The night you and I had the
conversation about it, I was slightly offended but you
didn't approach me as aggressively and disrespectfully as
you did another employee. When I heard that you continued
with this issue, I was appalled. But the comments didn't
stop there. You have made comments about how we ‘white
girls are curvy and made for black men'. Its very
disturbing that my manager turns everything racial. Also I
sent you an amazing front desk prospect and your comment was
that you didn't want to ‘scare the white
people' because of her finger nails and earrings.
That's absolutely absurd.
Dkt. No. 29-5, p. 3. Carroll also raised her concerns about
the salon accommodating her school schedule, stating that
Spencer “has been very resistant and difficult when
adjusting my schedule.
frankly, I am tired of the attitude I receive when asking her
to do her job”, adding that “Salon del Sol has
lost several great employees over the past few weeks and I
believe it is, in large part, due to Shawn.” Dkt. No.
29-5, p. 4. Carroll then stated if her concerns
“don't drastically change very soon, you will loose
me as well. I finish school in August and I cannot work, as a
full time employee, under this kind of management.”
Dkt. No. 29-5, p. 4.
13, 2013, Vetsch responded, thanking Carroll for voicing her
concerns and asking to meet in person with Spencer present as
well to discuss the issues. Vetsch also stated she thought
Spencer was doing a great job and had no intention of
terminating her. Dkt. No. 29-5, p. 3. Carroll responded the
next day, telling Vetsch: “I never said I want Shawn to
leave the company. If you thought my email said that, you
might want to read it more thoroughly.” Dkt. No. 29-5,
p. 2. Carroll also expressed concern that Spencer told other
salon employees that Carroll had sent the earlier email.
Carroll then added that she could not meet on the proposed
date, but she would be in the salon on other days. Dkt. No.
29-5, p. 2. Three days later, on June 17, Vetsch responded to
Carroll, copying Spencer, stating:
It appears you are severely disgruntled and unhappy with your
employment with SDS [Salon Del Sol]. I believe if a service
provider is unhappy with their job then they are unable to
provide our guest the level of service we require. Therefore,
I think you should liberate yourself and find another company
that will better suit your needs.
Dkt. No. 29-5, p. 2. Carroll did not resign her employment;
Vetsch terminated her on June 17, ...