United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Western Division
LACHANTAL W. RICKETTS, Plaintiff,
LOGICS, LLC, d/b/a LOGIC SOLUTIONS, Defendant.
C. DEVER, III, Chief United States District Judge.
February 24, 2017, defendant Logics, LLC, d/b/a Logics
Solutions ("Logics") moved for summary judgment
[D.E. 55] and filed a memorandum in support [D.E. 56], along
with a statement of material facts [D.E. 57]. On April 17,
2017, Lachantal Ricketts ("Ricketts" or
"plaintiff') responded in opposition [D.E. 62]. On
April 27, 2017, Logics replied [D.E. 63]. As explained below,
no rational jury could find that Logics violated Title VII of
the Civil Rights Act of 1964 or discharged Ricketts in
violation of North Carolina public policy. Thus, the court
grants Logics's motion for summary judgment.
employed Ricketts as a software trainer from April 2014 until
terminating her employment on June 17, 2014. Ricketts Dep.
[D.E. 57-3] 28. Ricketts's job duties included learning
Logics's proprietary software and training Logics's
customers to use the software. See Id. at
contends that her work environment was racially hostile. In
support, Ricketts notes that a diverse group of people
regularly gathered outside Logics's building everyday.
The people were visible from Logics's offices through
windows. The outside group regularly included African-
Americans, Caucasians, and Latinos. Id. at 48. On
April 30, 2014, Ricketts was inside her office and overheard
some coworkers who were outside her office refer to the
people gathered outside the office as "lowlifes"
and "crackheads." Id. at 47. Ricketts (an
African-American woman) was offended because she believed
that her coworkers were using the terms "lowlifes"
and "crackheads" to describe only the
African-Americans in the outside group. Id.
that day, Ricketts told her supervisor Adrian Thomas (an
African-American man) about her coworkers' comments.
Id. at 51-52. Thomas told her to ignore the
comments, which were "no big deal." Id.
6, 2014, Ricketts again was in her office and again overhead
some coworkers who were outside her office describe a group
of people gathered outside the building as
"lowlifes" and "crackheads." One coworker
stated that "where he was from, they would have... have
them do like office cleaning, janitorial work, and things of
that nature." Id. at 52-53. On that date,
Ricketts looked out the window of her office and observed
that the outside group did not include any Caucasians.
Id. at 53. Ricketts again complained to Thomas about
the comments, and Thomas again told her to ignore the
comments. Id. at 54.
7, 2014, Ricketts overheard a coworker refer to a group of
people from the neighboring building as "thugs."
Id. at 56-57. Ricketts stated that the group of
people from the neighboring building were "minorities,
mostly African-Americans." Id. Ricketts found
the term "thugs" racially offensive, but admits
that the comment did not interfere with her ability to
perform her job. Id. at 55. Ricketts did not
complain to Thomas or anyone else at Logics about her
coworker using the term "thugs." See id.
in May 2014, Ricketts asked two Caucasian coworkers for
advice about what clothes to wear to a client meeting.
Id. at 55. One coworker jokingly responded,
"whatever you do, just don't... wear any Daisy
Dukes." Id. at 56. "Daisy Dukes" is a
reference to short, cut-off denim short pants that a
Caucasian character on the television show Dukes of Hazzard
used to wear. Nonetheless, Ricketts connected the comment to
other coworkers' comments she had overheard about
"lowlifes, " "crackheads, " and
"thugs" and believed that her coworker was
stereotyping her due to her race. Id. Ricketts did
not complain to Thomas or anyone else at Logics about the
"Daisy Dukes" comment. Id. at 57.
also cites her interaction with Caucasian coworker Elizabeth
Fetherolf. According to Ricketts, Fetherolf repeatedly
demanded that Ricketts submit an accounting of her time, but
Ricketts claims that Thomas told Ricketts she did not need to
account for her time. Id. at 80. Moreover, on one
occasion, Fetherolf entered Ricketts's office and asked
Ricketts to pray with her. Id. at 59. Ricketts
prayed with Fetherolf for a few moments and then Fetherolf
left and went back to work. Id. at 59-60. Initially,
praying with Fetherolf did not offend Ricketts due to her own
self-described spiritual background and because she and
Fetherolf frequently discussed spirituality and religion at
lunch. Nonetheless, after Fetherolf left the office,
Fetherolf s prayer request offended Ricketts because
Fetherolf is Caucasian. See Id. at 79.
Ricketts did not complain to Thomas or anyone else at Logics
about Fetherolf. See Thomas Aff. [D.E. 57-1] ¶ 8.
17, 2014, Thomas met with Ricketts and terminated
Ricketts's employment. Ricketts claims that Thomas told
her that Logics was terminating her employment because
"accounts were low." Ricketts Dep. 36. Thomas
testified that he never told Ricketts that Logics was
terminating her employment due to a decrease in accounts. See
Thomas Aff. ¶ 11. Rather, Logics terminated
Ricketts's employment due to her poor performance,
including failing to grasp key technical aspects of her job
and haying "difficult communications with clients."
Id. After Logics terminated Ricketts's
employment, Logics had another African-American employee
perform Ricketts's job duties. See Id.
October 13, 2015, Ricketts sued Logics for race
discrimination and retaliation in violation of Title VII of
the Civil Rights Act of 1964. See [D.E. 6]. The
race-discrimination claim included both a claim concerning
Ricketts's termination and a hostile work environment
claim. Id. On July 27, 2016, the court granted
Logics's motion to dismiss the complaint for failure to
state a claim upon which relief can be granted, but permitted
Ricketts to file an amended complaint. See [D.E. 34]. On
September 8, 2016, Ricketts filed an amended complaint again
alleging race discrimination and retaliation in violation of
Title VII and also alleging wrongful termination in violation
of North Carolina public policy embodied in N.C. Gen. Stat.
§ 143-422.1. See Am. Compl. [D.E. 40] ¶¶
considering a motion for summary judgment, the court views
the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-movant
and applies well-established principles under Rule 56 of the
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. See, e.g., Fed.R.Civ.P. 56;
Scott v. Harris,550 U.S. 372, 378 (2007);
Celotex Corp. v. Catrett,477 U.S. 317, 325-26
(1986); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby. Inc.. 477 U.S.
242, 247-55 (1986); Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith
Radio Corp.,475 U.S. 574, 585-87 (1986). Summary
judgment is appropriate "if the movant shows that there
is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant
is entitled to judgment as a matter of law."
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); see Anderson, 477 U.S. at
247-48. The party seeking summary judgment must initially
demonstrate an absence of a genuine issue of material fact or
the absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's
case. Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 325. Once the
movant meets its burden, the nonmoving party then must
affirmatively demonstrate that there exists a genuine issue
of material fact for trial. See Matsushita, 475 U.S.
at 587. "[T]here is no issue for trial unless there is
sufficient evidence favoring the nonmoving party for a jury
to return a verdict for that party." Anderson,
477 U.S. at 249. Conjectural arguments or a "scintilla
of evidence" will not suffice. See id. at
249-52; Beale v. Hardy, 769 F.2d213, 214 (4th Cir.
1985) ("The nonmoving party... cannot create a genuine
issue of material fact through mere speculation or the
building of one inference upon another."). "[T]here
must be evidence on ...