United States District Court, M.D. North Carolina
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
CATHERINE C. EAGLES, DISTRICT JUDGE.
plaintiff, Jonathan Burrs, contends his employer, Walter
Kidde Portable Equipment, Inc., retaliated against him by
creating a hostile work environment leading to his
constructive discharge. The Court will grant Kidde's
motion for summary judgment because the evidence does not
show a hostile work environment or a causal connection
between the allegedly protected activity and the allegedly
retaliatory acts. Nor has Mr. Burrs rebutted Kidde's
evidence of legitimate, non-retaliatory reasons for its
summary judgment, the Court views the evidence in the light
most favorable to Mr. Burrs, the non-moving party. United
States v. Diebold, Inc., 369 U.S. 654, 655
(1962). Therefore, the Court will not recite
conflicting evidence supporting Kidde's view of the case,
unless helpful to provide context. The Court has included
Kidde's evidence that Mr. Burrs has not contradicted.
Burrs, a black man, was a business analyst in Kidde's
customer service department from May 2014 until November
2015. Doc. 53 at ¶¶ 3, 64, 122. In September 2014,
Karol Fritz, an IT Manager, denied Mr. Burrs access to a
“fat client software utility.” Doc. 50-2 at
16-21. Mr. Burrs emailed Ms. Fritz's boss, asserting that
Ms. Fritz had access to a fat client when she worked as a
business analyst and questioning why he was being treated
differently. Doc. 53 at ¶¶ 55-56. Mr. Burrs then
asked someone else in IT for access to the fat client. Doc.
50-19 at ¶¶ 6-7.
October 12, 2014 Ms. Fritz began an investigation into Mr.
Burrs for violating protocol. Doc. 53 at ¶ 60. The next
day, she berated him in a meeting. Id. at ¶ 61.
On October 14, Mr. Burrs told Human Resources Manager Curtis
Thornton that Ms. Fritz was treating him differently because
he was black. Doc. 50-2 at 32; Doc. 53 at ¶¶
November 2014, Mr. Burrs sent an email to the Human Resources
Director, Andrea Sirko-Delancey, in which he criticized the
professional abilities of Ms. Fritz and Mr. Thornton. Doc.
50-7 at 9; Doc. 50-2 at 52-54. In December, Mr. Burrs sent
another email to Ms. Sirko-Delancey criticizing IT
management. Doc. 50-7 at 5-8. He copied Jim Ward, the
Division President, and Nancy Davis, the Vice President and
Chief Information Officer, on the email. Id. at 5;
Doc. 50-2 at 58-60. He did not complain of gender or race
discrimination in either email. Doc. 50-7 at 5-9.
Sirko-Delancey and Suzanne Turner, Mr. Burrs' second line
supervisor, met with Mr. Burrs twice in January 2015 to
discuss the emails, Doc. 50-2 at 64; they criticized him as
“arrogant” and a poor communicator. Doc. 53 at
¶ 70. Mr. Burrs had an anxiety attack after the January
16 meeting and left work early. Id. at ¶ 74. On
January 27, Mr. Thornton sent Mr. Burrs an email addressing
his late arrival to work the day before and his early
departure on January 16. Doc. 50-8 at 6. Mr. Burrs admits he
was late to work on January 26 and left early on January 16.
Doc. 53 at ¶¶ 74-76.
February 2015, Ms. Turner gave Mr. Burrs a negative rating on
his 2014 performance evaluation. Doc. 50-2 at 71-72; Doc.
50-8 at 9-10. Later that month, Mr. Burrs filed an Ombudsman
complaint asserting that the bad performance review was in
retaliation for his reporting of Sarbanes Oxley violations.
Doc. 50-8 at 13-14; Doc. 50-19 at ¶ 3. In March, Mr.
Burrs complained of race and gender discrimination while
meeting with Ombudsman Investigator Stephanie Murphy. Doc. 53
at ¶¶ 89-90; Doc. 50-2 at 119.
late March 2015, Mr. Burrs applied for an “IT
Leader” position. Doc. 53 at ¶ 88. He was not
hired, but says that he was qualified. Id. at
¶¶ 88, 100. Mr. Ward made the hiring decision for
the position. Doc. 50-2 at 124.
August 18 and 19, 2015, Mr. Burrs again sent several emails
directly to Mr. Ward, the Division President. Doc. 50-9 at
3-6. Ms. Turner told Mr. Burrs that “sending emails and
copying folks who have no reference or context as to what you
are sending is not productive” and advised him to talk
with people who could help resolve the issues “rather
than launching grenades via email.” Id. at 6.
She also expressed “concern” that Mr. Burrs was
“reverting back to using ineffective forms of
communication that we addressed earlier this year.”
Id. When he again copied Mr. Ward on an email, Ms.
Turner instructed him to stop and said that she would meet
with him to discuss his poor judgment. Id. at 4. Mr.
Burrs left work after receiving her email, saying he was
suffering from anxiety. Id. at 3-4.
Burrs never returned to work, instead taking medical leave
from August 20 through late-October. Doc. 50-2 at 79, 112-14.
He resigned in early-November 2015. Doc. 50-9 at 2-3. He says
his resignation was “involuntary.” Id.
Burrs filed his EEOC charge on December 8, 2015, Doc. 21, and
this lawsuit followed in 2016. Doc. 1. In April 2017, this
Court granted Kidde's motion for judgment on the
pleadings as to all claims except the
retaliation-by-hostile-work-environment claim. Doc. 22. ...