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Carroll v. Salon Del Sol, Inc.

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

December 29, 2016

SARAH CARROLL, Plaintiff,
v.
SALON DEL SOL, INC. Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION [1]

          Hon. Robert S. Ballou United States Magistrate Judge

         In this 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.[2]

         I.

         Carroll, 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.

         In 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.

         In the 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 “the whole ‘white-girl-dating-black-guy-thing.'” Dkt. 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.

         Carroll states other hair stylists were also offended by Spencer and her racially-charged comments. Dkt. No. 36, p. 2.

         On June 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.

         Quite 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.

         On June 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, ...


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