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Joyner-Pettway v. Cvent, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Alexandria Division

February 7, 2017

CVENT, INC., Defendant.


          Leonie M. Brinkema United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Stacie K. Joyner-Pettway ("Joyner-Pettway" or "plaintiff'), proceeding pro se, has filed a complaint alleging that her former employer, Cvent, Inc. ("Cvent" or "defendant") engaged in discrimination on the basis of race and sex in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq,, when it fired her on June 1, 2015. On January 10, 2017, defendant filed a Motion for Summary Judgment ("Motion") complete with a notice pursuant to Roseboro v. Garrison, 528 F.2d 309 (4th Cir. 1975), that the "Court could dismiss this action on the basis of Cvent's papers if [plaintiff did] not file a response" by February 3, 2017. As of February 6, 2017, plaintiff has not filed a response to defendant's Motion, nor has plaintiff filed a witness or exhibit list as required by this Court's scheduling order entered on August 25, 2016. Accordingly, the facts presented by defendant in its Motion and the attached exhibits are deemed admitted. On the basis of those facts, and for the reasons that follow, defendant's Motion will be granted.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff is a woman who is of black and Native American heritage. Def. Ex. 2 at 22:15-16. Cvent, a firm that designs software for event planners, hired plaintiff as a paralegal in its legal department on January 22, 2013. Def. Statement of Undisputed Material Facts ("SUMF"), [Dkt. 26] at ¶ 1-4. She was Cvent's only paralegal. Id. at ¶ 5. Her duties included maintaining corporate records and filing forms with various state and federal agencies. Id. at ¶ 6.

         During the period relevant to this lawsuit, plaintiffs direct supervisor was Lawrence Samuelson ("Samuelson"), Cvent's general counsel. Id. at ¶ 8. Every year, Samuelson prepared a performance review of plaintiff s work. Id. at ¶ 9. His first review was in the latter part of 2013, and was generally positive but also included some constructive feedback, encouraging plaintiff to "(1) Own projects; (2) Initiate projects based on your own analysis; [and] (3) Be dogmatic about deadlines." Id. at ¶ 10 (internal quotation marks omitted). His 2014 review was also positive, with the primary criticism being that plaintiff should "[c]ontinue to focus on detail and work[] towards a perfect work product[.]" Id. at ¶ 13 (internal quotation marks omitted). There is no evidence that plaintiff was ever disciplined before her termination.

         Plaintiff received the assignment that ultimately resulted in her termination on Friday, May 22, 2015. Id. at ¶ 16. Samuelson emailed plaintiff to let her know that Cvent would need to file "various financial benchmark surveys" with the United States Department of Commerce's Bureau of Economic Analysis ("BEA"). Id. According to that email, plaintiff was to be the 'team lead" for the BEA filing. Id. At her deposition, plaintiff agreed that it was her job "to make sure the filing got done on time." Def. Ex. 2 at 144:4-6.

         Samuelson told plaintiff that the filing was due to the BEA by Friday, May 29, 2015, and that "[p]enalties for not making the filing can be up to $25, 000 per violation." Def. SUMF at ¶¶ 16-18; Def. Ex. 5. Plaintiff received all the information required for the filing from the finance department by the close of business on Wednesday, May 27, 2015. Def. SUMF at ¶ 19. That same day, plaintiff assured Samuelson that she would review the forms and begin filing them electronically by the next morning. Id.

         On the afternoon of Thursday, May 28, 2015, plaintiff learned that Cvent was not permitted to file electronically as a first-time filer with the BEA. Id. at ¶ 21. The same day, one of Cvent's attorneys asked plaintiff if anyone needed to sign the BEA forms. Id. at ¶ 20. Plaintiff looked at the forms, but did not notice the required signature block on the first page. Id. It was not until later that evening that plaintiff realized a signature would be required by Peter Childs ("Childs"), Cvent's Chief Financial Officer. Id. at ¶ 22, 27.

         That evening, at 9:04 p.m., Samuelson emailed plaintiff to ask if she was going to file the forms with the BEA the next morning. Id. at 24. She replied that she was planning to file the paper copy the next day by hand delivery. Id. at ¶ 25. At 9:42 a.m. the next morning, Friday, May 29, Samuelson asked again if the filing was going to get done that day. Id. at ¶ 26. Plaintiff replied a few minutes later that she would complete the filing as soon as Childs could sign it, but that Childs was in a meeting. Id. at ¶ 27. Plaintiff was not able to give the forms to Childs until 11:00 a.m., which was the first time that Childs learned about them. Id. at ¶ 28. Childs asked to review the forms before he signed them. Id¶29. He did not return them to plaintiff until that afternoon. Id. at ¶ 30. Plaintiff never asked Samuelson or anyone else at Cvent for help in getting Childs to sign the forms more expeditiously. Id. at ¶ 38.

         When plaintiff received the signed forms from Childs, she made arrangements for the forms to be picked up by a courier and hand-delivered to the BEA. Id. at ¶ 31. At 3:00 p.m., before the courier arrived, plaintiff left the office because she was leaving town that evening and did not wish to miss her flight. Id. at ¶ 32. At 3:42 p.m., Samuelson emailed plaintiff asking for confirmation that the BEA filing had been submitted. Id. at ¶ 33. Plaintiff replied at 3:50 p.m., telling Samuelson that the courier had retrieved the forms but had not yet confirmed delivery. Id.

         By the time the courier arrived at the BEA, it had stopped accepting deliveries for the day. Id. at ¶ 34. Accordingly, the forms were not filed on Friday, May 29, 2016. Id. at ¶ 35. Plaintiff emailed Samuelson at 5:10 p.m. to report the failed delivery. Def. Ex. 9. She wrote that she

[g]ot a call from the courier that no one answered the door where he was directed by the guard to drop offhand deliveries. After going back and forth I was told the drop off closed at 4. I suspected this could be the case and communicated this to the courier when I arranged for the pick-up. The courier stated that he arrived shortly before 4. So I have directed the courier to return the package to Cvent and I have spoken with Brittany who will prepare a FedEx package so that it is at least sent with a May 29 shipment date. I sent an e-mail to the BEA yesterday and called inquiring if postmark dates are acceptable. The number I have for BEA does not provide option [sic] to speak with a live person. Both means of communication fell on deaf ears. I have asked the courier to provide me with documentation evidencing his arrival before 4 in case we need to appeal any late penalty [assessed] by the BEA. He said he can get me something. I will also reach out again to the BEA on this matter.


At 8:49 p.m., Samuelson ...

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