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Graves v. Bank of America, N.A.

United States District Court, M.D. North Carolina

September 22, 2014

BANK OF AMERICA, N.A., Defendant

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Thomas D. Schroeder, United States District Judge.

In this employment action, Plaintiff Veronica Graves alleges discrimination and retaliation in violation of both the Americans with Disabilities Act (" ADA" ), 42 U.S.C. § 12111 et seq., and the North Carolina Equal Employment Practices Act, N.C. Gen. Stat. § 143-422.1 et seq. Before the court is Defendant's motion for summary judgment. (Doc. 25.) The motion is fully briefed and ready for decision. For the reasons set forth below, the motion will be granted and the case dismissed.


The undisputed facts, viewed in the light most favorable to Graves, as the non-moving party, are as follows:[1]

Graves began working for Bank of America in 2007 as a customer service and sales specialist at a Greensboro call center. (Doc. 26-1 at 4.) There, she responded to telephone calls, emails, and text messages from Bank of America customers. (Id. at 6.)

In 2009, Graves began seeking medical attention for stress, anxiety, and depression and was prescribed medication. (Doc. 28-1 at 12, 15, 19.) She was placed on medical leave in the spring of 2011 and returned to work in May 2011, at which time she requested a reduction in her work schedule from eight hours a day to four-to-six hours a day, per her doctor's orders. (Doc. 26-1 at 41, 43, 49; Doc. 28-3 at 2.) Although the bank inquired about the nature of her medical condition, Graves refused to provide that information.[2] (Doc. 26-1 at 41-42.) Bank of America nevertheless approved her request in June 2011. (Id. at 41, 43.) At some unspecified point thereafter during the summer of 2011, Graves was asked to participate in a " shift bid" that involved an eight-hour schedule, but she gave the scheduler " a chance to work on getting the schedule accommodated," which was resolved sometime in August 2011. (Id. at 42-45.) Graves remained on an abbreviated schedule, as she requested, from August 2011 until her doctor

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released her to return to work full-time in January 2012. (Id. at 43, 44.)

Following her return to work full-time, Graves filed several charges of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (" EEOC" ). Her first charge was filed on February 13, 2012, although its basis is not in the record.[3] (Id. at 57-58; Doc. 6 ¶ 6.) Unable to find a violation, the EEOC issued its right to sue letter on March 26, 2012. (Doc. 28-1 at 3.) Sometime in March 2012, Graves took another leave of absence and returned to work in around April 2012. (Doc. 28-3 at 2.) She filed another charge on May 29, 2012, alleging disability discrimination and retaliation in violation of the ADA. (Id. at 2.) This charge included her alleged failure to be accommodated from " [o]n or around the month of May 2011 . . . until the month of August 2011." (Id.) On November 30, 2012, the EEOC responded that it could not establish any violation but provided Graves with a notice of her right to sue. (Id. at 4.) According to Graves, only one Bank of America employee - Ebony Norway, as to which there is no evidence she was a decisionmaker - told her that they knew about her EEOC charges, but the EEOC had told Graves that her managers would learn of the charges. (Doc. 26-1 at 53-54.)

In November 2012, Graves' immediate supervisor -- Tomekia Friday -- notified Bank of America's Fraud Investigations Group (" Fraud Investigations" ) that she observed suspicious computer system screen-prints sent from Graves' work email account. (Doc. 26-2 ¶ ¶ 2-4.) In her position as a customer service associate, Graves had access to the bank's confidential customer information, including account numbers, telephone numbers, and addresses. (Doc. 26-1 at 6-8.) Bank of America's Code of Ethics Policy, of which Graves was aware and on which she had been trained, directed employees not to " access customer information or use customer information except for appropriate business purposes." (Id. at 15-16, 74.)

Based on Friday's alert, Bank of America's Cyber Forensics Department reviewed email sent from Graves' work account. (Doc. 26-2 ¶ 5.) The Cyber Forensics Department discovered that " [a] number of emails that Ms. Graves forwarded to her personal email account contained customer sensitive information, including customer names, account numbers, and addresses." (Id.) On December 6, 2012, Patrick Williams, an investigator with Fraud Investigations, met with Graves and informed her of the results of the Cyber Forensics Department's review. (Doc. 26-1 at 19, 25-26; Id. ¶ 7.) Graves admitted to forwarding confidential customer information from her work email account to her personal email account. (Doc. 26-1 at 21; Doc. 26-2 ¶ 8.)[4]

Given Graves' admission, Williams instructed her to delete all emails containing customer information and any hard copies of those emails. (Doc. 26-2 ¶ 10.) In accordance with the bank's procedures, Williams also asked that Graves provide a written statement of her actions and execute an affidavit confirming deletion of the forwarded emails. (Doc. 26-1 at 83-84; Doc. 26-2 ¶ 11.) The bank's Code of Ethics Policy required employees " to cooperate

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with all internal investigations into violations of Bank of America's Code of Ethics Policy." (Doc. 26-1 at 14, 73.) Graves responded that she would delete all emails and hard copies. (Id. at 25-27; Doc. 26-2 ¶ 12.) She refused, however, to sign the affidavit. (Doc. 26-1 at 27.)

On December 12, 2012, Williams followed up with Graves, requesting that she sign the affidavit. (Id. at 28-29, 87.) He informed her that mere verbal confirmation that she had deleted all the emails and hard copies was insufficient and that she had until December 17, 2012, to sign the affidavit. (Id. at 29-30, 86-87.) Again, Graves refused to sign the affidavit. (Id. at 29, 86.) Williams ...

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