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Majure v. Primland, Ltd.

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

July 13, 2018

CARLA COOK MAJURE, Plaintiff,
v.
PRIMLAND, LTD, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          JACKSON L. KISER SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on Defendant Primland, LTD's Motion for Summary Judgment [ECF No. 124] and Motion for Partial Summary Judgment [ECF No. 129]. Both motions were fully briefed by the parties, and I heard oral argument on the motions on June 12, 2018. I have considered the evidence, arguments of the parties, and the applicable law. For the reasons stated herein, both motions will be denied.

         I. STATEMENT OF FACTS AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Pursuant to the appropriate standard of review, the facts are recounted in the light most favorable to Plaintiff, the party opposing summary judgment. See Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380 (2007).

         Plaintiff Carla Majure (“Plaintiff”) is a former spa owner with past employment history at both Sara Lee and Ralph Lauren making $300, 000 a year. In 2007, Plaintiff opened her own spa, Majure Skin Care, which, in addition to traditional spa services, offered services that could only be offered under the care of a physician.[1] Plaintiff served as general manager of Majure Skin Care and designed the building, hired and trained the staff, and ran the day-to-day operations of the spa. Under Plaintiff's leadership, Majure Skin Care grew from six employees to over fifty, achieved annual revenue of $1.2 million, and was named one of the Top 5 Best of the Best New Spas in the nation in 2008.

         After several years in the business, Plaintiff's husband began expanding his medical practice and, in 2013, the spa side of the business was closed to focus on the primary care aspect of the business. In 2015, the business was sold for $2.4 million.

         At some point in February or March of 2016, Plaintiff became aware of a job opening for the position of Spa Manager at Defendant Primland, LTD's (“Primland”) luxury resort in Meadows of Dan, Virginia, near the Blue Ridge Parkway. On March 14, Plaintiff applied for the position. Penny Morgan (“Morgan”), the Human Resources Director at Primland, received Plaintiff's application and passed it along to Mara Bouvier (“Bouvier”), Primland's General Manager. At Bouvier's direction, Morgan called Plaintiff on March 15 and they discussed the position and Plaintiff's qualifications. They also discussed the salary range for the position. Plaintiff thought the salary would be between $80, 000 and $120, 000, but Morgan did not confirm any salary range. Morgan told Plaintiff that, although the salary would not be that high, the position would come with benefits and flexibility. Morgan told Plaintiff: “[Y]ou could do this job in your sleep.” (Carla Majure Decl. ¶ 5, May 25, 2018 [ECF No. 140-44].)[2]

         Morgan scheduled an interview for Plaintiff and Bouvier. On the morning of the interview, Morgan called to cancel because of a scheduling conflict. The interview was rescheduled for March 23. According to Plaintiff, that interview was a disaster. She contends Bouvier had an immediate, visceral reaction the moment she laid eyes on Plaintiff. Plaintiff claims Bouvier was hostile, stood over her, and was confrontational. Plaintiff contends that Bouvier's “questions were all phrased in a negative way such as, ‘What makes you think you know anything about running a spa?'” (Carla Majure Dep. 163:18-20, Feb., 26, 2018 [ECF No. 140-1].) When Plaintiff spoke with Morgan after the interview and described Bouvier's demeanor, Morgan told Plaintiff that was not normal behavior for Bouvier. Although Plaintiff expressed her desire to withdraw her application (see Majure Decl. ¶ 6), Morgan convinced her to continue with the interview process.

         Additionally, during the interview, Bouvier told Plaintiff that she would be required to get spa treatments in order to continue the interview process; Plaintiff contends that Bouvier did not mention that Primland would pay for the services. When she discussed this requirement with Morgan after the interview, Morgan told Plaintiff that no candidate had ever been required to do that. Ultimately, Plaintiff was not charged for the services.

         After receiving the free spa treatments on April 1, Plaintiff contends she had to follow-up several times to schedule her second interview with Bouvier. Although Bouvier sat down during that interview, Plaintiff still describes the encounter as bad.[3] During their meeting, Plaintiff and Bouvier discussed Zack Groff, the interim spa manager. According to Plaintiff, Bouvier told her that “part of the reason she put Zack in that [spa manager] position was because he's male, and if she had her preference she would hire a male to control this mostly female staff.” (Majure Dep. 171:14-18.) When Plaintiff and Bouvier discussed salary, Bouvier told Plaintiff the salary range would be between $50, 000 and $55, 000 per year, plus bonus.

         After the second interview, Plaintiff spoke with Morgan again. Morgan confirmed that Bouvier wanted a young male for the position. (Majure Decl. ¶ 7.) Morgan told Plaintiff that, although Bouvier wanted a man and did not want her, Morgan felt Plaintiff was the most qualified for the position and Morgan was pushing internally for her to get the position.

         Bouvier next contacted Plaintiff and asked her to interview with Jean-Jacques Devaux, the Managing Director of PrimWest's Geneva office, the next week.[4] Plaintiff understood that it would be a remote interview. On the morning of the scheduled interview, Plaintiff emailed Bouvier and asked if she should expect a call, or if she should she call in. Bouvier responded that the meeting would be on-site at Primland. Bouvier ended the email: “Good thing you reached out.” While rushing to return to Primland to make the interview, Plaintiff called Morgan and told her she made a mistake and misunderstood how the interview would be conducted. Plaintiff claims Morgan told her she did not make a mistake; Bouvier misled her on purpose so that Plaintiff would not show for the interview. Nevertheless, Plaintiff arrived on time and the interview with Devaux went well.

         At her final interview on April 15, Bouvier told Plaintiff that, if she made her an offer, it would be for $48, 000 per year, below the salary range she previously quoted to Plaintiff. She also told Plaintiff she would be required to report to work from 8:30-6:00 daily, a condition Morgan told Plaintiff had never been imposed on a previous spa manager. This was at odds with Plaintiff's understanding from her conversations with Morgan, who told Plaintiff the job offered flexibility.[5] Bouvier also allegedly told Plaintiff there were daily issues with the female staff, and that she had told Steve Helms, the Vice President of Primland, she was going to tell Plaintiff all the bad things about the job so Plaintiff would reject any offer Bouvier made.

         Following that meeting, Plaintiff and Morgan spoke again. According to Plaintiff, Morgan told her that she would not be hired because Bouvier wanted a male for the position and that, even if Bouvier did hire Plaintiff, Bouvier would make her miserable so that she would quit. (Majure Decl. ¶ 18.)

         The next week, on April 19, Plaintiff received an offer letter from Primland.[6] The terms included a salary of $48, 000 per year, plus a maximum annual bonus of $5, 000.[7] There would also be a 90-day probationary period. Based on her past conversations Plaintiff with Bouvier and Morgan, Plaintiff felt unwanted and that she would be “run off” if she accepted the offer.

         In a phone call with Morgan after she received the offer, Morgan told Plaintiff that Primland had never capped the spa manager's bonus in the past. Although Plaintiff secretly recorded part of the conversation, she asserts that, after the recorder was turned off, Morgan threatened her life if she told anyone what Morgan had told her:

She told me that she was happy in her job and had finally bought a house. She said she is not going to let me or this thing with me make her lose her job or home. And threatened me that she had guns and knew where I lived because of my resume [sic]. I took Penny's threats seriously, and still do. Before we [hung] up, I stated that I would not accept the fake offer or communicate with anyone further at Primland about the job.

(Majure Decl. ¶ 23.)

         Despite what Morgan told her and what Plaintiff felt about Bouvier, Plaintiff emailed Bouvier after receiving the offer[8] and asked: (1) whether the bonus was capped; and (2) whether the first 90 days were considered a trial period of employment. Bouvier responded that the bonus program is a sliding scale and that additional payouts can occur if the goals are exceeded. Bouvier also offered to send Plaintiff the “bonus schematic” while she considered the offer. Plaintiff never responded to Bouvier's email or the offer letter.

         The next day following their phone conversation, Morgan followed up by text message and told Plaintiff that she had looked at the payroll and that bonuses were capped. Later that day, she followed up and inquired if Plaintiff had accepted the offer. Plaintiff told her, “I want to do it. Just concerned, since she [Bouvier] doesn't really want me.” Morgan responded: “Trust me, she wouldn't have sent the offer if she didn't.” (Id. ¶ 24.)

         Bouvier followed up with Plaintiff on April 23, 2016, four days after sending the offer letter, and asked whether Plaintiff had additional questions about the position:

Hello Carla, Just wondering if you have any more questions? Would you like to schedule a call or meeting? Hoping you don't have bad news for us.”

(Majure Dep. 277:12-278:21.) Plaintiff did not respond to that email.

         On April 26, Brenda Schwartz sent Plaintiff a Facebook message:

Hey, Carla, I don't know if you heard from Mara [Bouvier] or not, but I have a feeling she might offer you the manager's ...

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