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Leatrice Taylor v. Bnsf Railway Company

February 27, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Joan H. Lefkow


Leatrice Taylor filed suit against BNSF Railway Company, asserting claims of sex discrimination and retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. ("Title VII").*fn1 Before the court is BNSF's motion for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c). For the following reasons, the motion [#59] is granted in part and denied in part.*fn2


I. Taylor's Employment at BNSF Prior to 2002

BNSF is one of the largest freight railway companies in the United States. A small portion of BNSF's business is devoted to commuter passenger services, including one of the Metra lines in the Chicago area.

Two departments are involved in BNSF's daily operations: the Operating Department and the Intermodal (Marketing) Department. The Operating Department is responsible for the operation, movement, and maintenance of train locomotives and train cars in terminals and on cross-country tracks. Most of BNSF's employees work in the Operating Department. The Intermodal Department is responsible for loading and unloading freight cars in the terminals. The loading and unloading is performed by BNSF's service partners, who are managed by BNSF.

Taylor started working at BNSF in 1993, after receiving her high school diploma from Dunbar Vocational High School and serving in the Navy for approximately eleven months. Between 1993 and 2001, Taylor held several positions in the Operating Department. She started as Conductor and was subsequently promoted to Yardmaster, Locomotive Engineer, and finally to Terminal Trainmaster. The Terminal Trainmaster position is considered to be a first-level "management" position in the Operating Department. As Terminal Trainmaster, Taylor supervised conductors, yardmasters, engineers and locomotive train crews in the train terminal. David Davenport, who was Taylor's supervisor when she worked as Terminal Trainmaster from 1997 to 2001, testified that Taylor was a good Trainmaster and a "dependable, smart, [and] very good employee."

Taylor transferred to the Intermodal Department in May 2001 when she was promoted to Manager of Hub Operations, Grade Level 30, in BNSF's Corwith facility. She still holds this position. As Manager of Hub Operations, Taylor oversees the process of loading and unloading freight cars in the terminals. She manages the companies that contract with BNSF to load and unload the trains, repair tires, and keep the intermodal train facility running smoothly. Taylor also communicates with BNSF's trainmasters to let them know when trains will be ready and provides detailed reports regarding the type of freight that was on a train. She has experience with planning and development, safety, and customer support. Since 2004, all of Taylor's performance reviews have been overall "On Target," "Achieves," or "Exceeds." John Clement, Taylor's supervisor in the Intermodal Department, testified that Taylor has very strong technical, written and verbal skills and that she works closely with the Operating Department. Clement further testified that working as Hub Manager is an excellent midlevel position because it gives employees the opportunity to acquire leadership, management, and planning skills that will allow them to progress at BNSF.*fn4

II. Taylor's Post-2002 Job Applications

Taylor applied for twenty-four positions between 2002 and April 2007, including vacancies for Manager Hub Operations, seven postings for Terminal Managers, Assistant Locomotive Utilization, Superintendent Coal Operations, four postings for Manager Intermodal and Automotive Operations, Superintendent Corridor Operations, Manager Corridor Operations, and Assistant Manager/Manager Hub Operations. Taylor was not selected for any of these positions. Five were never filled, three were filled by women, and sixteen were filled by men.

In April 2007, Taylor applied for a Terminal Manager position in Memphis. The Terminal Manager is part of the Operating Department and plans, develops, and organizes the operation of locomotive and train cars in the train terminals. Promotion to the Terminal Manager position is not based on seniority or the number of years in a particular position but, rather, is based on an applicant's interview score. BNSF's job posting stated that the Terminal Manager's responsibilities would include supervising Trainmasters and TE&Y employees,*fn5 planning daily train and switching operations, holding investigations, and recommending discipline. (Taylor Dep. Ex. 15.) The posting stated that "terminal operations experience," supervisory experience, and "working knowledge of operating rules and schedule agreements applicable to the TE&Y crafts" are required. (Id.) Ryan Shoener, the Terminal Superintendent for Memphis, and Elaine Stewart, the HR Manager, were responsible for filling the position.

Taylor provided the following description of her duties as a Hub Manager in her application for the Terminal Manager position:

Monitor Intermodal Customer goals on shipments received or departing Cowith [sic] facility. Coordinate with IBU ops to ensure we have enough train [sic] symbols to protect our freight and/or consolidate trains when needed. I also have to ensure that our service partners comply with our (BNSF) safety policies and meet our designated standards. (Taylor Dep. Ex. 17.) She described her prior position of Terminal Trainmaster as follows:

Organize, coordinate and support terminal activities to achieve efficient, economical operations. Assisting in implementation of new policies and insuring compliance with safety and operating rules[,] equal employment policies, scheduled agreements and government regulations. (Id.) Fifty-nine BNSF employees applied for the position, and Stewart screened the applications to determine whether the applicants met minimum qualifications. Taylor was included in the group of thirty applicants who passed the initial screening. She was not, however, selected for an interview.

The ten applicants who were selected for interviews had recent experience in the Operating Department. Bret Witers was hired for the position. Witers had worked in the Operating Department at BNSF for three years, first as a Terminal Trainmaster and then as a Division Trainmaster for approximately two and one half years. As Division Trainmaster, Witers had been responsible for managing the train operations in an entire territory. Prior to working at BNSF, Witers had served in the Navy for 20 years. In 2002, he had graduated magna cum laude from Columbia College of Missouri with a B.A. in Business Administration, and he obtained a MBA from Columbia College in 2004 with a 3.5 GPA.

Schoener and Stewart both testified that Taylor was not selected because she did not have recent "daily train operations" experience. Shoener testified that, as a Hub Manager, Taylor would have "interacted" with the Operating Department but that she would not have been involved in "managing" or "overseeing" the operation of the trains. (Shoener Dep. at 38--39.) Shoener testified that the Intermodal Department "does not directly oversee scheduled employees in the field and also does not completely coordinate the overall train operations that a role of a trainmaster or a terminal manager does or a division trainmaster." (Id. at 41.) Shoener further testified that it was very important that a candidate have recent "operations experience" because the new Terminal Manager would have to hire and supervise two new trainmasters. In November 2007 (after Taylor filed her charge of discrimination), Stewart stated in an email that the ten candidates who were interviewed were all rated ...

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