United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Alexandria Division
O'GRADY UNITED STALES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter comes before the Court on Defendant's Motion for
Summary Judgment. Dkt. No. 32. Plaintiffs complaint alleges
sex discrimination, harassment, hostile work environment,
retaliation, and pregnancy discrimination in violation of
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §
2000e et seq. For the reasons set forth below, the
Court GRANTS IN PART AND DENIES IN PART Defendant's
Sally Beauty, LLC, is a wholesale and retail distributor of
professional beauty products. SOF ¶ 1. The company is
based in Texas but operates internationally, including 77
stores in the Commonwealth of Virginia. SOF ¶ 1.
Defendant has an equal opportunity employee policy set forth
in the employee handbook. SOF ¶ 2. Defendant also
maintains a "Discrimination/Harassment Complaint
Procedure" under which employees are obligated to report
incidents of discrimination or harassment to the human
resource manager, vice president of human resources, or the
company president. SOF ¶ 3. The policy protects
whistleblowing employees and those who cooperate in an
investigation from retaliation. SOF ¶ 4. Defendant also
maintains a complaint resolution program which empowers
employees to publicly or anonymously express concerns about
company practices. SOF ¶ 5.
requires its hourly employees to clock in and out every time
they arrive or leave the store. SOF ¶ 6. While
Defendant's employees serve at-will, the company handbook
identifies infractions warranting "immediate
termination" including "[f]alsification of Company
records" such "time sheets/Time Clock
records." SOF ¶ 7.
Bianca Thorington, was hired on or about November 1, 2012 as
an assistant store manager with the Defendant at its
Woodbridge, Virginia store. SOF ¶ 10. On December 12,
2012, she was transferred to the Fredericksburg, Virginia
store as an assistant manager. SOF ¶ 11. Plaintiffs
direct supervisor in Fredericksburg was Store Manager, Julie
Cochran (now Julie Carey, hereafter "Carey"). SOF
¶ 12. Plaintiffs supervisor was District Manager Barbara
Lawter. SOF ¶ 12. Plaintiff received a performance
appraisal on March 18, 2013 and was given a perfect score by
Lawter and Carey. Dkt. No. 49, at 16, ¶ 14. She was
classified by Defendant as "distinguished."
30, 2013, suspecting that she may be pregnant, Plaintiff
contends that Carey sent her to a nearby store to purchase a
pregnancy test kit. Dkt. No. 49, at 7. Plaintiff took the
test in the employee bathroom while Carey waited outside the
door. Id. The test was positive, confirming
Plaintiffs suspicion that she was pregnant. SOF ¶ 13.
Carey found out about the pregnancy at the same time. SOF
¶ 13. Plaintiff avers that Carey called Lawter on June
4, 2013, in Plaintiffs presence, to inform Lawter of the
pregnancy. Dkt. No. 49, at 8.
weeks later, Plaintiff received a $0.75 per hour raise,
effective June 9, 2013. SOF ¶ 14. On August 10, 2013,
Plaintiff and Lawter met to discuss Plaintiffs role with
Defendant. Plaintiff avers that Lawter offered her an
ultimatum: step down as assistant manager and take part-time
status or transfer to another store 75 miles away. Dkt. No.
49, at 8. Plaintiff further avers that Lawter told her that
because the store was not making enough money it could no
longer afford a full-time assistant manager. Following the
meeting with Lawter, Plaintiffs role was changed from
full-time Assistant Store Manager to part-time Sales
Associate (20 hours a week), effective September 1, 2013. SOF
¶ 15. Her hourly rate remained unchanged. SOF ¶ 15.
On September 8, 2013, Defendant hired Teresa Shipman as the
new Assistant Store Manager in the Fredericksburg store at an
hourly rate of $10.00 per hour. Dkt. No. 33, Exh. 13.
August 30, 2013, Plaintiff was scheduled to work from noon to
8:30 p.m. SOF ¶ 16. The only other employee present
during her shift was a recent hire. SOF ¶ 16. During her
shift, Plaintiff left the store three times without clocking
out for a total of approximately two hours. SOF ¶ 16-18.
The departures were captured on security camera footage at
the store. SOF ¶ 17. Plaintiff also clocked out for one
break from 6:00 p.m. to 6:16 p.m. SOF ¶ 18. Plaintiff
testified during discovery that she did not recall the
reasons for any of her departures from the store that day but
that she only would have left without clocking out if she was
out on store business. SOF ¶ 29, Dkt. No. 49, ¶ 16.
She testified that she occasionally left the store for
legitimate business purposes including making change at a
nearby bank or purchasing supplies at nearby stores. SOF
¶ 29. Upon belief that Plaintiff had left the new
employee alone during the August 30, 2013 shift, Lawter and
Carey reviewed the security camera footage on September 23,
2013. SOF ¶ 17. On September 24, 2013, when Plaintiff
arrived for her shift, Carey and Shipman confronted her about
the video surveillance. SOF ¶ 19. Plaintiff was offered
an opportunity to write a statement explaining the reason for
her absence but she declined. SOF ¶ 20. The same day
Carey suspended the Plaintiff. SOF ¶ 20.
in the same day after the suspension, Plaintiff phoned Carey
and recorded the conversation. SOF ¶ 21. In the call,
Plaintiff questioned why she was not permitted to see the
video surveillance. Carey insisted that she could not share
the video because it was controlled by Defendant's
corporate office. Id. Sometime after the August 30
incident, Lawter met with Human Resources Business Partner
Tracy Advellas and they agreed to terminate Plaintiff's
employment. SOF ¶ 25. Defendant cited Plaintiffs
unwillingness to sign the statement on September 24 as a
contributing factor in terminating Plaintiffs employment.
first learned about her firing on September 26, 2013, when
she called the Fredericksburg store and spoke with Carey. SOF
¶ 26. Carey advised Plaintiff that she had been
terminated because of the video. Defendant contends that
Plaintiff did not contact Defendant's HR department or
Lawyer to discuss the termination. SOF ¶ 28. Plaintiff
avers that she attempted to report the incident to the Human
Resources Manager using the toll-free phone number. Dkt. No.
49, at 13. However, she never directly reached anyone on the
line despite leaving messages with the Manager and receiving
voicemails in response from the Human Resources department.
filed an intake questionnaire with the EEOC on July 9, 2014.
Dkt. No. 49, Exh. F. Plaintiff marked "Pregnancy"
as the reason for the claim of employment discrimination.
Id. at 2. The questionnaire protested Plaintiffs
termination and her being forced to work part time.
Id. at 2. On the last page of the questionnaire,
Plaintiff checked a box to affirm "I want to file a
charge of discrimination, and I authorize the EEOC to look
into the discrimination I described above. I understand that
the EEOC must give the employer... that I accuse of
discrimination information about the charge, including my
name." Id. at 4. ...