United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
JAMES JONES, NICOLE STEELS, KAVON WARD, AND IONA TOLES, Plaintiffs,
NATIONAL COUNCIL OF YOUNG MEN'S CHRISTIAN ASSOCIATIONS OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA (" YMCA of the USA" ), an Illinois not-for-profit corporation, and ELINOR HITE, former Senior Vice President of YMCA of the USA, Defendants
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For James Jones, Nicole Steels, on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs: James Bryan Wood, LEAD ATTORNEY, The Law Office of J. Bryan Wood, Chicago, IL; Jessica Judith Fayerman, The Prinz Law Firm, P.C., Chicago, IL; Johanna J. Raimond, Law Offices of Johanna J. Raimond Ltd., Chicago, IL.
For Kavon Ward, Plaintiff: James Bryan Wood, LEAD ATTORNEY, The Law Office of J. Bryan Wood, Chicago, IL; Johanna J. Raimond, Law Offices of Johanna J. Raimond Ltd., Chicago, IL.
For Iona Toles, Plaintiff: Johanna J. Raimond, Law Offices of Johanna J. Raimond Ltd., Chicago, IL.
For National Council of Young Men's Christian Associations of the United States of America, (" YMCA of the USA" ) an Illinois not-for-profit corporation, Defendant: Richard Patrick McArdle, Seyfarth Shaw LLP, Chicago, IL.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
John J. Tharp, Jr., United States District Judge.
Plaintiffs James Jones, Nicole Steels, Kavon Ward, and Iona Toles have filed this suit on behalf of themselves and other similarly-situated employees of the National Council of Young Men's Christian Associations of the United States of America (the " Y" ), alleging claims of race discrimination and retaliation against the Y and Elinor Hite, the former director of the Y's human resources (" HR" ) department, pursuant to Section 1981 of the Civil Rights Act of 1866, 42 U.S.C. § 1981, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., the Illinois Human Rights Act (" IHRA" ), 775 ILCS 5/1-101 et seq., and the D.C. Human Rights Act (" DCHRA" ), D.C. Code § 2-1401.01 et seq. Now before the Court are the defendants' motions for summary judgment on the claims asserted by each plaintiff in the fourth amended complaint. For the reasons set forth below, the defendants' motions for summary judgment are granted in part and denied in part.
The following account of the facts is taken from the record and the parties' Local Rule 56.1 statements and responses. On a motion for summary judgment, the Court construes the facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, see Hanners v. Trent, 674 F.3d 683, 691 (7th Cir. 2012) (citing Coffman v. Indianapolis Fire Dep't, 578 F.3d 559, 563 (7th Cir. 2009)), and " gives [the plaintiffs] the benefit of conflicts in the admissible evidence and favorable inferences from that evidence." Smith v. Bray, 681 F.3d 888, 892 (7th Cir. 2012) (citing O'Leary v. Accretive Health, Inc., 657 F.3d 625, 630 (7th Cir. 2011)). However, the Court may only consider
" admissible evidence in assessing a motion for summary judgment." Gunville v. Walker, 583 F.3d 979, 985 (7th Cir. 2009) (citing Haywood v. Lucent Techs.., 323 F.3d 524, 533 (7th Cir. 2003) (inadmissible evidence will not overcome a motion for summary judgment)).
A. James Jones
Plaintiff James Jones was hired on or about August 25, 2004, by Steven Timmons, the Y's Strategic Director of HR at the time. Pl. 56.1 Resp., Dkt. 312 at 23, ¶ 29; Pl.'s Add'l Facts, Dkt. 312 at 62, ¶ 3. Jones was hired to assume the duties and responsibilities of Director of Training and Organizational Development (" OD" ), the position Jones held until his employment was terminated by the Y on or about October 15, 2007. Pl.'s 56.1 Resp., at 47, ¶ 62. As Director of Training and OD, Jones was responsible for " rolling out" and conducting training for Y employees. Defs. 56.1 Stmt., Dkt. 270 at 12, ¶ 29. Although Jones disputes that Timmons was solely responsible for hiring him because, as Jones contends, " all hires [had to] be approved by [the Y's] leadership team ... or CEO," Pl. 56.1 Resp., Dkt. 312 at 24 (response to ¶ 29), it is undisputed that Timmons was Jones' first supervisor. Defs. 56.1 Resp., Dkt. 375 at 4, ¶ 5.
Jones alleges that during his time at the Y he was subjected to racial discrimination (he is an African American) with respect to his level of compensation and the salary raises he received from the Y to bring his compensation in line with professionals in comparable positions (" equity salary increases" ), the Y's failure to promote him, the compensation he received for serving as the interim Director of HR, his annual performance evaluations and merit pay increases, and his termination in October of 2007. He also complains that the Y retaliated against him for engaging in protected activities, which generally involve the concerns he expressed to Hite about the Y's policies and culture negatively impacting minority employees.
1. Compensation, Performance Evaluations, and Merit Increases
Jones' starting salary was set at $80,016. Pl. 56.1 Resp., Dkt. 312 at 30, ¶ 40. Jones told Timmons, before and after he was hired, that he felt his starting salary was too low, potentially because he was African American. Defs. 56.1 Resp., Dkt. 375 at 5, ¶ 8. As evidence of the disparity in his starting salary, Jones points to two other Caucasian, director-level employees, who were earning higher salaries than him when he was hired and throughout his employment at the Y. First, Sharon Rakowski, a director in HR, was earning a salary of $93,672, when Jones was hired. Id. at 4, ¶ 6. Second, Kurt Kramer received a starting salary of $130,008, id. at 6, ¶ 10, and was hired into the " Y-University" department as Director of Program Leadership and National Training approximately one or two months before Jones was hired into HR. Id. at 5, ¶ 7.
In a memorandum dated April 12, 2005, Timmons recommended that Jones' salary be increased to $98,500. Pl. 56.1 Resp., Dkt. 312 at 32, ¶ 41; Pl. 56.1 App., Dkt.
326-39, Tab 85a (" Human Resources Equity Review and Adjustments" ). Timmons based his recommendation on a comparison of Jones' salary to internal and external data, and determined that the closest comparator to Jones' position, internally, was Kramer's position, Director of Program Leadership and Training. Defs. 56.1 Resp., Dkt. 375 at 6, ¶ 9. As a result, on May 1, 2005, Jones received an " equity raise," increasing his salary to $100,008, which Timmons was involved in securing. Pl. 56.1 Resp., Dkt. 312 at 32, ¶ 41.
That same year, Jones also received a " merit" salary increase. At the Y, annual merit increases were assigned as percentages of an employee's existing salary, based on a range correlated to the performance rating that the employee received for that year. Id. at 12-13, ¶ 17. The Y's 2005 fiscal year ran from July 1, 2004, to June 30, 2005. Id. Under the 2005 guidelines, the merit increase ranges were assigned to performance ratings as follows:
Far Exceeds [Expectations]....
5% - 6%
3.1% - 4.9%
1% - 3%
Id. at 13. In September 2005, Jones received a 3% merit increase, which corresponded to a " meets expectations" performance review, according to the 2005 guidelines. Pl. 56.1 Resp., Dkt. 312 at 32, ¶ 42.
Timmons resigned on or about June 3, 2005. Id. at 24, ¶ 30. Thereafter, Jones served as the interim director of HR until approximately August 15, 2005. Id. During his time as interim director, Jones sought a salary increase from Dan Nussbaum, the Strategic Director of Y-University, and Ken Gladish, the Y's CEO at the time, to compensate for his additional duties and responsibilities. Defs. 56.1 Resp., Dkt. 375 at 7, ¶ 12. Although Jones did not receive additional compensation while he was serving as the interim director, id., he did receive a one-time bonus of $7,616 on August 30, 2005. Pl. 56.1 Resp., Dkt. 312 at 38, ¶ 54. The parties do not dispute that the bonus Jones received was larger than the standard bonus awarded for serving in an interim position, but Jones alleges that his interim bonus was
discriminatory, in part, because of the delay in paying it. Id. at 39, ¶ 56. According to Jones, the Y's culture was one in which " a certain thing happens...without prompting or any begging...[for] one group and it happens when the other...group is kicking and screaming and jumping through hoops to get it done." Id.
On August 15, 2005, Elinor Hite assumed the full-time position of Director of HR and OD, and Jones resumed his duties as Director of Training and OD. From that point on, Jones reported to Hite. Id. at 24, ¶ 30. It is undisputed that Jones never pursued another position at the Y during his employment with the organization. Id. at 25, ¶ 31.
In mid-2005, before Hite took over as the director of HR, the Y's HR department conducted a compensation equity review. Id. at 17, ¶ 22. The equity review was conducted to address, among other concerns, a lack of established or formal guidelines relating to salary administration and equity among positions. Id. The review involved three stages. Id. at 17, ¶ 23. First, HR reviewed all job descriptions and identified fifty benchmark positions representing 70% of the organization. Id. Next, the Y hired an external consultant, Hewitt Associates, Inc., to perform a market study of the benchmark positions (" Hewitt Study" ). Id. at 17-18, ¶ 23. Finally, using the data from the market study, the Y established (1) salary bands and job grades; (2) job families and hierarchy; (3) policies and procedures for salary administration; (4) communication plans for all levels of the Company; and (5) training for managers. Id. at 18, ¶ 23.
In January 2006, as a result of the 2005 compensation study, Jones received a second equity increase, which brought his salary up to $115,008. Id. at 33, ¶ 43. Jones, however, complained that the equity increase he received was lower than the increase he should have received under the " Hewitt [S]tudy recommendations." Id. That same year, Jones continued to seek equity increases in an attempt to bring his salary in line with those he believed to be similarly-situated staff members. Defs. 56.1 Resp., Dkt. 375 at 7, ¶ 13. On or about July 2, 2006, Jones sent Hite a memorandum titled " Salary Adjustment--Director, Organizational Development," in which he requested a raise. Pl. 56.1 Resp., Dkt. 312 at 34, ¶ 45. In that memorandum, Jones provided " benchmarks" for his own salary, which consisted of external data from third-party sources and internal data relating to two Y directors: Laura Fortson and Kramer. Id.
Jones acknowledges that his request for an equity raise was granted, in part, through the merit increase he received for fiscal year 2006, in addition to a lump sum payment. Id. at 37, ¶ 51. Specifically, Jones received a 5.5% merit increase, the largest in HR for that year, and an additional $2,500. Id. at 37, ¶ 51. This raise increased Jones' salary to $123,844. Id. The Y's fiscal year for 2006 ran from July 1, 2005, to June 30, 2006. Id. at 13, ¶ 18. Under the guidelines for 2006, the following merit increase ranges were assigned to performance ratings as follows:
Far Exceeds [Expectations]....
5.5% - 7.0%
3.5% - 5.5%
0.5% - 3.5%
Id. at 13-14, ¶ 18. Approved increases were effective September 1, 2006. Id.
In September 2007, Jones received a 3% merit raise, which increased his salary to $127,704. Id. at 37, ¶ 52. The Y's fiscal year for 2007 ran from July 1, 2006 to June 30, 2007. Id. at 14, ¶ 19. Under the guidelines for 2007, the following merit increase ranges were assigned to performance ratings as follows:
Far Exceeds [Expectations]....
5.0% - 6.5%
3.25% - 5.25%
1.0% - 3.5%
Id. at 16, ¶ 20. Approved increases were effective September 1, 2007. Id.
2. Position Elimination
In late June 2006, Neil Nicoll took over as the Y's CEO. Defs. 56.1 Resp., Dkt. 375 at 8, ¶ 15. During his first 90 days on the job, Nicoll directed Hite to reduce the headcount in the HR department. Id. The defendants assert that during the first or second quarter of 2007, Hite informed Nicoll that she was going to eliminate Jones' position in order to reduce headcount, in accordance with Nicoll's directive. Pl. 56.1 Resp., Dkt. 312 at 43, ¶ 59. According to Hite, the position elimination was postponed, however, to allow Jones to take medical leave (approximately March 16 to June 22, 2007), then bereavement leave (October 1 to October 4, 2007), and finally, so that Jones could participate in an interview with Robert Casey (on October 10, 2007), an attorney with Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C. (" Ogletree" ), hired by the Y to investigate Steels' complaint of a hostile and intimidating work environment (explained below). Id. at 43, ¶ 59; at 45, ¶ 60; Def. Resp., Dkt. 375 at 12, ¶ 21. Jones' employment was terminated on October 15, 2007, five days after he was interviewed by the law firm. Pl. 56.1 Resp., Dkt. 312 at 47, ¶ 62.
Jones alleges that Hite's decision to eliminate his position, and thereby terminate his employment, was both discriminatory and in retaliation for the protected activities that he engaged in during the final months of his employment in 2007. Jones' retaliation claim hinges, in part, on the timing of Hite's decision--specifically, if the decision to eliminate his position was made prior to Jones' protected activities,
Hite's decision could not have been made in retaliation for those protected activities. To that end, Jones disputes the timing of Hite's decision to eliminate his position, citing evidence that suggests Hite did not make the decision to terminate his position until much later in the year, after he had raised concerns about the effect of the Y's policies on minority employees. For instance, at some point between January 2007, and April 2007, when Jones took medical leave, Hite discussed expanding Jones' job responsibilities to include training local YMCA branches and associations. Defs. 56.1 Resp., Dkt. 375 at 11, ¶ 20 (citing Jones Decl., Dkt. 325-30, Tab 30 at ¶ 9). After that initial discussion, however, Hite never mentioned the opportunity again. Id.
Hite also testified that, as of May 2007, she " had no intentional name in mind" for a further position elimination. Id. at 11-12, ¶ 21. Moreover, on May 12, 2007, while Jones was on medical leave, Hite drafted a chart detailing possible ways to reorganize the HR department. Id. (citing Pl. 56.1 App., Dkt. 326-4, Tab 54 (" Plaintiff's Deposition Exhibit 205" )). In a box on the chart titled " what if," Jones' initials (" JNJ" ) appear. Id. at 12, ¶ 23. Next to that box, under the title " concerns," Hite again wrote " JNJ" and " very solid OD skills HR generalist skills." Id. According to Jones, this is evidence that, at least at that point, Hite was considering keeping Jones, and had included him in her possible reorganization scenarios. Moreover, Jones contends that Hite noted the race of each employee next to their corresponding positions on the chart. For example, next to the draft organizational tree, under the title " staffing thoughts" at the top of the memo, Hite wrote " WF" and " BM" next to two positions. Id. According to Jones, these are abbreviations for " white female" and " black male," respectively. Id. Hite testified that she could not recall why she had written " WF" and " BM" on the chart. See Hite's Dep., Pl. App., Dkt. 362, Tab 8 at 465:7-12; see also id. at 465:7-12 (testimony that she was " not quite sure what [she] was doing there" with respect to writing " BM" on the chart).
Based on this evidence, Jones argues that a fact finder could infer that Hite did not decide to eliminate his position until September or October 2007. Resp., Dkt. 334 at 23. In a declaration attached to his response to summary judgment, however, Jones states that " [w]hen [he] met with Ms. Hite in late August 2007 to discuss [his] review, she did mention my position would be eliminated." Jones' Decl., Pl. App., Dkt. 325, Tab 30 at ¶ 16.
On or about October 15, 2007, Jones was terminated. Pl. 56.1 Resp., Dkt. 312 at 47, ¶ 62. Hite told Jones that his termination was in connection with the elimination of a position, and that the position elimination was part of a reorganization necessary for budget cuts. Id. at 49, ¶ 63; Defs. 56.1 Resp., Dkt. 375 at 19, ¶ 34. Moreover, Jones believed that the budget cuts were mandated by the CEO. Pl. 56.1 Resp., Dkt. 312 at 49, ¶ 63. At the time, Hite asked Jones if he had any questions, and Jones said he did not. Defs. 56.1 Resp., Dkt. 375 at 19, ¶ 34.
Jones contends that the justification for his termination is dubious, however, based on, among other things, the culture and environment in the HR department, the allegedly discriminatory performance evaluations and merit increases he had received, the allegedly discriminatory hiring decisions he had observed, and Steels' pending complaint of discrimination. Pl. 56.1 Resp., Dkt. 312 at 49-50, ¶ 64. Jones also questions the honesty of Hite's explanation based on the manner in which Hite purportedly investigated Maurice Horsey's
(an African American employee) 2006 complaint of harassment and racial discrimination against Jim Kauffman, Horsey's supervisor. Id. at 52, ¶ 65. Horsey told Hite that he felt his performance review was " very, very subjective," and that Kauffman had made " slurs and jokes" at his expense. Id. During the investigation, however, Hite relayed to Jones that Nicoll believed Horsey was a poor performer and lazy. Id. Moreover, Hite never inquired about Horsey's complaints of slurs and jokes, but only addressed the issues with Horsey's performance evaluations. Defs. 56.1 Resp., Dkt. 375 at 10, ¶ 18. According to Jones, he objected to the discriminatory manner in which he believed Horsey was being treated, and questioned whether Nicoll had ever worked with Horsey, and therefore, whether Nicoll was in a position to evaluate his work ethic. Id.
Jones also challenges the explanation he was given for his termination because he believed that Veronica Robertson had been given the same explanation for her termination, which, according to Jones, was not accurate. Pl. 56.1 Resp., Dkt. 312 at 53, ¶ 67. Robertson was purportedly terminated in connection with Nicoll's directive to reduce the budget and headcount in HR. However, after Robertson was terminated, Hite hired another employee, Emily Rutkowski (a white female), who assumed the same responsibilities as Robertson, meaning that neither the budget nor headcount were reduced. Id. at 54. Moreover, Rutkowski was paid a signing bonus because her start date was delayed while Robertson's termination was being effectuated. Id. Similarly, on October 25, 2007, after Jones' termination, Hite sent Steels an email about posting an opening for a Senior HR Generalist position, Defs. 56.1 Resp., Dkt. 375 at 22, ¶ 40, despite the fact that the justification for Jones' termination was to reduce headcount in HR. A few weeks later, Hite emailed Nicoll, notifying him that she had found " an excellent candidate" for that position, and stating that the candidate was " Hispanic." Id.
Jones also points to direct evidence that Hite improperly considered race while deciding how to reorganize the HR department. Specifically, sometime prior to Jones' termination, Hite also created an " HR/OD" chart that reflected Hite's " Desired State" for the department " effective" November 1, 2007. Defs. 56.1 Resp., Dkt. 375 at 19, ¶ 35 (citing Pl. 56.1 App., Dkt. 326-3, Tab 53 (" Plaintiff's Deposition Exhibit 204" )). In handwritten notes, under the portion of the reorganization chart depicting HR as it was " desired," Hite wrote a number of " issues" that she was considering. Id. These issues included " leave," " potential," " passion," " cost," and " effectiveness." Id. The first issue listed, however, was " race." Id. Moreover, in her deposition, Hite testified that she " always look[ed] at multiple factors whenever [she's] reorganizing...like job capabilities and race and gender." Id. Hite did not explain why she wrote " race" as an issue on the chart. Hite's Dep., Pl. App., Dkt. 362, Tab 8 at 494:20-25; 495:1-25.
The parties also dispute whether Jones' responsibilities were absorbed by employees not within his protected group (African American), which, as explained in detail below, is necessary to demonstrate racial discrimination in a claim involving a mini-reduction-in-force (" RIF" ). The defendants contend that after Jones was terminated, his duties were absorbed by the HR department generally. Pl. 56.1 Resp., Dkt. 312 at 47, ¶ 62. Jones disputes this, but fails to support his contention with relevant and admissible evidence, other than a single citation to testimony by Hite, in which she states that Jones' " functions could be re-designated or not done within
the HR department."  See id. at 48. The remainder of Jones' citations are irrelevant, referring generally to an open position for an HR generalist, and not to whether his duties were absorbed by HR, another department, or any other select number of employees not in his protected group. Id. at 48-49.
After his termination, Jones signed and filed an EEOC charge, alleging race discrimination, on June 6, 2008. Defs. 56.1 Resp., Dkt. 375 at 23, ¶ 42. The EEOC received the complaint on June 17, 2008. Id.
3. Protected Activities and Retaliation
Jones alleges that Hite and the Y retaliated against him for engaging in protected activities during his employment. In 2006, Jones questioned and called for an adverse impact review of the merit system and " interven[ed] to push for individual changes when questions were raised by individuals regarding their" merit increases. Pl. 56.1 Resp., Dkt. 312 at 56, ¶ 72. In 2007, Jones objected to the initial findings of Horsey's investigation (described above). Id. Jones also reviewed the merit increases for 2007, Defs. 56.1 Resp., Dkt. 375 at 16, ¶ 29, and on September 8, 2007, sent Steels an email titled " Merit Increases," in which he stated that he had received " a couple questions" from the staff regarding the increases (" September 8 email" ). Pl. 56.1 Resp., Dkt. 312 at 56-57, ¶ 73. In that email, Jones expressed a concern that upcoming " layoffs will probably impact minorities and older workers more than others" if the Y " follow[ed] their [then] current pattern," in addition to concerns he had with merit increases for that year. Defs. 56.1 Resp., Dkt. 375 at 16, ¶ 29. According to Jones, his email was meant to convey the message that " there seemed to be some glaring inequities and [they] need[ed] to follow up to determine whether there really [were] inequities or [whether] there [was] another explanation for those numbers." Id. Steels responded to this email, copying Hite, with data regarding the percentages of African Americans and the merit increases they had received. Pl. 56.1 Resp., Dkt. 312 at 57, ¶ 74.
Jones also claims he engaged in protected activity when he (1) had a conversation with Hite regarding the findings and data in the September 8 email, (2) had a conversation with Hite regarding racial tensions in HR, (3) opposed Emily Gondek's (a Caucasian Senior HR Generalist) proposed referral program, which, according to Jones would have disadvantaged minority employees, and (4) followed up on concerns in the strategic sourcing department regarding promotion and compensation issues that negatively impacted minorities. Id. at 58, ¶ 75.
According to Jones, he also discussed specific employee merit increases with Hite after the September 8 email. Defs. 56.1 Resp., Dkt. 375 at 17, ¶ 31. For example, Jones brought up a situation involving an African American woman, Phyllis Lee. Id. According to Jones, " even though...Lee's managers had approved a certain level [merit] increase...Hite refused to award it." Jones Decl., Dkt. 325, Tab 30 at ¶ 19. Jones told Hite that what happened to Lee was wrong, and that the incident could easily be considered racial discrimination, given how Lee had been treated. Defs. 56.1 Resp., Dkt. 375 at 17, ¶ 31. According to Jones, after this discussion, Hite accused him of encouraging people to sue the Y. Id. at 17, ¶ 31. Hite, however, denies making this statement. Id.
Furthermore, according to Jones, the conversation he had concerning racial tensions with Hite involved the way that Hite treated Steels and Yvonne Bibbs, another African American employee in HR. Id. at 13, ¶ 24. In particular, Jones believed that Hite treated Steels and Bibbs in a way that was based on stereotypes of African Americans. Id. at 13, ¶ 25. For instance, both Steels and Bibbs were single mothers, and Hite asked Jones whether all of Steels' children were from the same father and noted that neither woman was married. Id. According to Jones, Hite also appeared surprised when African Americans were articulate. Id.
Jones was also concerned because during a weekly meeting he had with Hite in August or September of 2007, Hite told him that there would be a change at the front desk, where Iona Toles, an African American woman, worked as a receptionist. Id. at 15, ¶ 28. Toles' nickname was " the voice of the Y," because even when she did not answer the phone, her voice was on the pre-recorded greeting. Id. Jones later discovered, after his termination, that Toles was replaced with a young Caucasian woman. Id. Finally, Jones claims that he engaged in protected activity when he took part in the Ogletree investigation of Steels' complaint on October 10, 2007. Id. at 18, ¶ 33; Pl. 56.1 Resp., Dkt. 312 at 58, ¶ 76.
Jones maintains that Hite retaliated against him for these actions during the six months prior to his termination. Pl. 56.1 Resp., Dkt. 312 at 59, ¶ 78. Examples of Hite's retaliation, as alleged by Jones, include: (1) accusing him of encouraging people to sue the Y; (2) instituting a " documentation campaign" designed to " set up discipline," but that did not actually result in discipline, (3) inhibiting Jones' ability to perform his job by restricting his contact with senior leadership, and (4) changing her level of supervision and telling the employees under Jones not to bring their issues to him. Id. Further, Jones believes that his final performance review and, as explained above, the eventual elimination of his position, were retaliatory. Id. at 60, ¶ 79. As evidence that his position elimination was retaliatory, Jones notes that, shortly after his termination, another individual was hired to fill a position substantially similar to his own. Id. at 60, ¶ 80.
As evidence of retaliatory motive, Jones also points to notes that Hite wrote in September 2007, describing Jones as " divisive," " insubordinate," and " argumentative." Defs. 56.1 Resp., Dkt. 375 at 17, ¶ 32. Hite contends that at least part of that feedback was from Dennis Cruckson, in the form of emails attached to the notes. Id. at 18, ¶ 32. Hite also asked Jones why African American employees approached him when they had problems, and then instructed Jones to go to her first before talking to Y leadership team members. Id.
B. Nicole Steels
Steels and Jones worked in the HR department during roughly the same period, and their claims derive from and rely on much of the same evidence. Steels worked at the Y from approximately November 1999 until October 2008, when she resigned. Defs. 56.1 Resp., Dkt. 381 at 3, ¶ 3. From November 29, 1999, until August 2001, Steels worked as a Benefits Administrator. Id. In August 2001, the Y promoted Steels to HR Generalist. Id.; Pl. 56.1 Resp., Dkt. 313 at 16, ¶ 24. She held that position until May 2005, when she was promoted to Senior HR Generalist. Pl. 56.1 Resp., Dkt. 313 at 16-17, ¶ 26. Overall, during her employment with the Y, Steels received two promotions. Id. at 31, ¶ 46. Additionally, Steels earned a master's degree in human resource management in 2002, was certified as a " Senior Professional in Human Resources" (" SPHR" ) prior to the end of her employment with the Y, and earned a SPHR certification in 2007. Defs. 56.1 Resp., Dkt. 381 at 3, ¶ 3.
Steels alleges that the Y discriminated against her based on her race with regard to compensation, performance evaluations, merit and equity increases, failure to promote, and a refusal, by Hite, to allow her to telecommute after her maternity leave. Steels also alleges that Hite created a " hostile and intimidating" work environment, id. at 4, ¶ 5, which, among other factors, ultimately resulted in the Y constructively discharging her and retaliating against her for engaging in protected activities.
1. Compensation, Performance Evaluations, and Merit Increases
Steels claims that the compensation, performance evaluations, and equity and merit increases she received as a Senior HR Generalist were discriminatory. See, e.g., Pl. 56.1 Resp., Dkt. 313 at 25, ¶ 38. In particular, Steels claims that her performance ratings and compensation were discriminatorily low when compared to the salaries and merit increases of Emily Gondek, Michelle VanDeventer, and Lourdes Durren, all of whom also worked in HR, as well as other unidentified Y employees who worked outside of HR. Id. More generally, Steels claims that Hite failed to timely complete and provide her with evaluations so that she was aware of Hite's expectations. See generally Defs. 56.1
Resp., Dkt. 381 at 11-12, ¶ 18; 12-13, ¶ 20; 14, ¶ 24.
As of January 2004, Steels was earning a salary of $48,696. Pl. 56.1 Resp., Dkt. 313 at 24, ¶ 35. After her promotion to Senior HR Generalist in May 2005, her salary was increased to $58,008. Id. Steels also received a 3% merit increase on September 1, 2005, which brought her salary to $59,760. Id. In comparison, Gondek was hired in November 2005 as a Senior HR Generalist at an annual salary of $70,000. Id. at 26, ¶ 40. VanDeventer began working in the HR department as a Project Coordinator at an annual salary of $42,500. Id. at 28, ¶ 41.
Around January 16, 2006, Steels received an equity salary increase, which brought her salary to $68,712. Id. at 24, ¶ 36. For fiscal year 2006, Steels received a performance rating of " meets expectations" and a merit increase of 2.9%. Id. at 20, ¶ 30; id. at 25, ¶ 36. That merit increase brought Steels' salary to $70,728. Id. at 25, ¶ 36. That same year, Gondek received a rating of " exceeds expectations," id. at 23, ¶ 33, and a merit increase of 4%. Id. at 26, ¶ 40. Moreover, VanDeventer received a 4.25% merit increase, which corresponded to a performance rating of " exceeds expectations." Id. at 28, 41. This raise increased VanDeventer's salary to $49,656. Id.
For 2007, Hite gave Steels a rating of " meets expectations" and a merit increase of 3.8%. Id. at 21, ¶ 31; id. at 25, ¶ 37. At that point, Steels' salary was $73,080. That year, Gondek received a 3.3% merit increase, which corresponded to a rating of " meets expectations." Id. at 23. In September 2007, VanDeventer received a rating of " exceeds expectations" in a review that was prepared by both Hite and Jones. Id. She also received a 4.5% merit increase, which increased her annual salary to $51,912. Id. at 28, ¶ 41.
In approximately April 2007, Gondek became a part-time employee and her salary was reduced by 80 percent. Id. at 26-28, ¶ 40. On approximately January 1, 2008, Hite hired Lourdes Durren, a Hispanic woman, as a Senior HR Generalist. Id. at 28, ¶ 42. Durren's starting salary was $78,000, which was higher than Steels' salary at the time ($73,080). Id. Durren worked for the Y for approximately four months and did not receive a salary increase during her time with the Y. Id. at 29, ¶ 43.
In March 2008, the Y posted another opening for a Senior HR Generalist, with a starting salary range of $75,000 to $92,000, which again, was higher than Steels was earning at the time. Id. at 30, ¶ 44. According to Steels, the Y placed this opening " on hold," and eventually withdrew it all together after Jones cited it as an example of discrimination in his EEOC charge, which he filed after his termination. Id. at 30, ¶ 44.
Steels also claims that the Y discriminated against her by failing to promote her, while promoting other employees in HR. For example, in May 2008, Hite promoted VanDeventer to the position of HR/OD System Supervisor. Pl. 56.1 Resp., Dkt. 313 at 32, ¶ 47. Along with the new position, VanDeventer's salary was increased to $57,800. Id. Steels claims that she was not aware of this position (though as discussed infra, it is not at all clear why Steels would have been interested
in pursuing this position, which paid substantially less than she was already making). Id. Similarly, after Hite's resignation, the Y hired Carolyn Creager, an African American woman, to act as interim director of HR in September 2008. Id. at 32, ¶ 48. At the time she was hired, however, Creager had approximately 25 years of HR experience. Id. Finally, Steels alleges that, in an attempt to remedy past discrimination, the Y gave her a retroactive 1% salary increase in early October 2008. Id. at 30, ¶ 45. According to Steels, however, this increase was too little too late, and was " nothing in comparison" to the salary she actually deserved. Id.
Steels alleges that Hite also discriminated against her by refusing to allow her to telecommute in 2007 and 2008, while allowing Gondek to telecommute from another state. Pl. 56.1 Resp., Dkt. 313 at 33, ¶ 49. It is undisputed, however, that shortly after Hite became Steels' supervisor in August 2005, she allowed Steels to work from home for an extended period (possibly as long as one year, though the record is not entirely clear). Id. at 34, ¶ 50. And after Steels returned from maternity leave in March 2007, Hite allowed her to work from home one day per week for two months. Id.
However, on April 30, 2007, Hite informed Steels that she needed to return to working in the office full time. Id. at 34, ¶ 51. In comparison, and as explained above, two weeks after returning from maternity leave, on April 1, 2007, Gondek became a part-time employee, earned only 20% of her annual salary, and was allowed to work from home one day per week. Id. at 34, ¶ 52. Then in August of the same year, Gondek moved to Philadelphia and began working remotely. Id. At that time, however, Gondek stopped acting as a Senior HR Generalist, and only worked on discrete projects. Id.
3. Constructive Discharge
On or about October 9, 2008, Steels submitted a letter of resignation to the Y. Pl. 56.1 Resp., Dkt. 313 at 47, ¶ 67. According to Steels, she resigned because the Y had left her with no choice but to do so. Id. Steels contends that she was constructively discharged based on Hite's treatment of her, the alleged discriminatory performance evaluations and merit increases she received, VanDeventer's May 2008 promotion, and Hite's lack of desire to correct the inequity in her overall base salary. Id. Moreover, Steels alleges that the Y was not dedicated to solving her issues or creating an environment in which she could be successful, particularly after she saw a presentation given to the Y's board that concluded that minorities were being disadvantaged in the Y. Id. Ultimately, Steels concluded that she had to leave the Y if she wanted to advance her career. See Defs. 56.1 Resp., Dkt. 381 at 29, ¶ 52.
Sometime in September 2008, Steels met with Karen Mitrenga, who was the Senior Director of HR at Wrightwood Capital. Pl. 56.1 Resp., Dkt. 313 at 48, ¶ 70. On or about September 26, 2008, Mitrenga offered Steels a job at Wrightwood. Id. Mitrenga then sent Steels a job offer on October 1, 2008, which Steels accepted. Id. Her starting salary at Wrightwood was $82,500. Id. at 49, ¶ 71. Steels requested a start date of October 27, 2008. Id. at 49, ¶ 70. Steels told Mitrenga that she did not want to start working at Wrightwood for another month so that she could make sure she was leaving the Y team " in good shape." Id. at 49, ¶ 71. Steels did not feel, however, that her move to Wrightwood Capital was a " step up" from her position at the Y, because her new job entailed less responsibility. Defs. 56.1 Resp., Dkt. 381 at 30, ¶ 54.
4. Protected Activities and Retaliation
Steels alleges that she was retaliated against for engaging in protected activities. Pl. 56.1 Resp., Dkt. 313 at 41, ¶ 56. In particular, Steels claims that she engaged in protected activity when she wrote a letter on September 21, 2007, to Nicoll (the Y's CEO), in which she complained about Hite's treatment of her. Id. Although the letter did not contain or mention the words " race," " color," or " discrimination," Steels contends that she was complaining about discrimination, id., and included words that she thought addressed that issue. Defs. 56.1 Resp., Dkt. 381 at 15, ¶ 25. Specifically, the letter complained about " inequities in treatment" concerning performance management training sessions, performance review assessments, staff projects, and telecommuting options. Pl. 56.1 Resp., Dkt. 313 at 41, ¶ 57. The letter also noted that Hite had made " offensive comments, [performed] acts of intimidation...and [demonstrated] a harassing nature towards some work assignments." Id. Steels also requested that " measures be taken to prevent any acts of retaliation against her." Id. The letter did not, however, mention any complaints about pay or promotions. Id.
On October 3, 2007, Steels met with Nicoll to discuss the letter. Id. at 42, ¶ 58. According to Steels, Nicoll spent very little time discussing her complaints during their meeting. Id. Instead, Nicoll focused on his overall concerns with HR, informed Steels that the Y needed to reevaluate the HR team, and discussed potential staff reductions. Id. Steels also claims that she told Nicoll she thought her letter was based on or related to race discrimination. Id.
At some point after her meeting with Nicoll, Steels also met with Amy Bateson, the Y's Assistant General Counsel, to discuss her letter. Id. at 42, ¶ 59; see also Steels' Dep., Pl. Appx., Dkt. 362, Tab 5 at 590:15-19. Bateson told Steels that the Y was planning an investigation of her complaint. Pl. 56.1 Resp., Dkt. 313 at 42, ¶ 59. The Y then hired a law firm, Ogletree, Deakins, Bash, Smoak & Stewart, to conduct an investigation. Id. at 43, ¶ 60. The Y also hired John Behr, an outside consultant, to serve as a coach and liaison between Steels and Hite to help solve their communication issues. Id. at 44, ¶ 62. Despite these measures, however, on December 21, 2007, Steels filed a discrimination charge with the EEOC. Id. at 44, ¶ 63. According to Steels, after she filed her EEOC charge, Behr became aggressive and argumentative with her. Id. at 45, ¶ 64.
Furthermore, after Hite learned about Steels' EEOC complaint, she made handwritten notes about Steels. Defs. 56.1 Resp., Dkt. 381 at 15, ¶ 27. Specifically, Hite noted her " attendance," " attitude," that she met with people behind closed doors, and that she " runs" to Jones with her issues. Id. Hite also wrote that it was " intrig[uing] [that] [Steels had] felt this way since 8/05," and described Steels as " insubordinate, subversive, and distrustful." Id. Steels claims that the Y retaliated against her for sending the September 2007 letter and filing an EEOC charge of discrimination by, among other things, failing to promote her, giving her an inadequate retroactive salary increase in October 2008, failing to adequately complete her performance reviews and assigning her discriminatorily low ratings and merit increases, and by constructively discharging
her. See, e.g., Pl. 56.1 Resp., Dkt. 313 at 45-46. Steels also contends that Hite's failure to assign her completed performance evaluations led to Steels being passed over for the interim director position. Defs. 56.1 Resp., Dkt. 381 at 26, ¶ 47.
C. Iona Toles
Plaintiff Iona Toles is an African American woman and, as far as can be discerned from the record, is currently employed by the Y as a Contact Center Representative. Toles alleges that the Y discriminated against her on the basis of her race. Specifically, she claims that the Y paid her less than Caucasian administrative employees, failed to place her in Pay Grade B despite her many years of experience and service at the Y, and failed to promote her on three different occasions because she is African American. See Pl. Resp., Dkt. 318 at 1, 6-7.
1. Compensation Claims
Toles began working at the Y's Chicago office on a temporary basis around 1989 or 1990. Pl. 56.1 Resp., Dkt. 311 at 21, ¶ 33. In 1991, she was hired as a full-time secretary at a starting salary of $18,000. Id. at 21-22, ¶ 33. Then in 1997, Toles applied for and received a promotion to Administrative Secretary and Receptionist for the Department of Association Advancement. See id. at 22, ¶ 34. As a result of the promotion, Toles' salary increased to $22,500. Id.
Throughout her time at the Y, Toles avers, she made contributions to the organization for which she never received recognition. For instance, while Toles was acting as the backup receptionist in the early 1990's, she arranged to have a computer placed at the reception desk so that she could perform secretarial work when time allowed. Defs. 56.1 Resp., Dkt. 378 at 12, ¶ 29. In 1997, after Toles had assumed the position of full-time front desk receptionist, she put together a handbook that explained the procedures for handling routine inquires and directing calls, so that any temporary worker could cover the front desk in her absence. Id. With the help of an unidentified coworker, Toles later drafted a proposal for a call center. Id.
In 2001, the Y created a " Contact Center" to handle the Y's calls. Id. at 12, ¶ 29; Pl. 56.1 Resp., Dkt. 311 at 22, ¶ 35. Toles contends that her proposal was the basis, at least in part, for the creation of the Contact Center. Defs. 56.1 Resp., Dkt. 378 at 12, ¶ 29. Toles then applied for and received a promotion to the position of Contact Center Analyst in the Internal Support Services Group. Pl. 56.1 Resp., Dkt. 311 at 22, ¶ 35. With that promotion, Toles' salary increased to $30,000. Id. Toles was also required to reapply for her position as the front desk receptionist, Defs. 56.1 Resp., Dkt. 378 at 2, ¶ 4, and was selected to continue in that position. Id.
The following presents an incomplete record of the performance ratings and merit increases that Toles received from Rick Snell, a Caucasian male, who took over as the manager of the Contact Center around May of 2003, Pl. 56.1 Resp., Dkt. 311, at 24, ¶ 38, as recounted in the parties' Local Rule 56.1 statement of facts and responses. Beginning in fiscal year 2003, Snell gave Toles an overall performance rating of " meets expectations." Id. Further, Snell gave Toles an overall rating of
66.3 in fiscal year 2004. Id. at 24, ¶ 39. Neither party has provided information on the merit increase and amount of compensation that Toles received for these years.
In September 2005, Toles received a 2.3% merit pay increase, which corresponds to a " meets expectations" performance rating for that year, bringing her annual salary to $35,208. Id. at 25, ¶ 40. Toles complained to Snell that the merit increase she received was inadequate. Id. at 26, ¶ 41. In 2006, Snell gave Toles a rating of 80.35 (out of 100) on her performance review. Id. at 27, ¶ 42. Toles also received a 2.9% merit pay increase that year, which brought her salary to $36,240. Id. Toles again complained about this increase and asked whether Snell could use the department's budget to provide additional increases to Toles and other employees in the Contact Center. Id. at 27, ¶ 43. Then in 2007, Toles received a performance rating of " 2.3," Defs. 56.1 Resp., Dkt. 378 at 22, ¶ 53, and a 2.7% merit increase, which brought her salary to $37,224. Pl. 56.1 Resp., Dkt. 311 at 28, ¶ 44. Toles also complained about the adequacy of this increase. Id.
For fiscal year 2008, Snell gave Toles a performance rating of " meets all requirements"  (or a rating of " 2" ). Id. at 33, ¶ 52. According to the plaintiff, Toles also received a 2.25% merit increase this year. See id. at 33-34. However, according to the plaintiff's statement of additional facts, Toles was earning the same salary in 2008 as she had in 2007-$37,224. See Defs. 56.1 Resp., Dkt. 378 at 10, ¶ 25. Given this discrepancy, it is unclear whether Toles actually received a merit pay increase for 2008 or if the record recites an incorrect salary for 2007.
In 2009, Snell gave Toles an overall rating of " meets expectations." Pl. 56.1 Resp., Dkt. 311 at 34, ¶ 53. Toles also a received a 3.4% merit increase in March of that year, bringing her salary to $38,480. Id. at 35, ¶ 54. This increase compensated Toles for her performance over the course of a year and a half and corresponded to a yearly increase of 2.2%. Id.; see also Defs. 56.1 Resp., Dkt. 378 at 20, ¶ 49. For fiscal year 2010, Snell gave Toles an overall performance rating of " meets expectations," which included ratings of " below expectations" in three categories of the review. Pl. 56.1 Resp., Dkt. 311 at 38, ¶ 61. Toles spoke with Angela Williams, who had recently taken over responsibility for the Contact Center, id. at 38, ¶ 60, about the review and to dispute the " below expectations" ratings. Id. Thereafter, Williams set up a meeting between Toles and Snell to discuss the scores that Toles had received. Id. at 38, ¶ 62.
In the meeting, Toles asked that her performance review reflect the fact that she was out of the office on medical leave for knee surgery and therapy for four months of the review period, and that her duties had been modified, subject to doctor's orders. Id. Due to restrictions prescribed by her doctor, Toles had to walk away from her desk for 15 minutes of each hour, which decreased her availability to answer phone calls. Id. at 38-39, ¶ 62. Following the meeting, Snell recalculated Toles' metrics based on the medical leave and accommodations she had received. Id.
Specifically, Snell changed the " below expectations" ratings to " meets expectations," and kept the overall rating of " meets expectations" the same. Id. at 39, ¶ 63. Toles, however, believes that Williams directed Snell to change the ratings just to keep her happy. Id. As a result, Toles' final performance rating for fiscal year 2010 was " meets expectations" and she received a 2.25% merit pay increase, which brought her salary to $39,346.21. Id. at 40, ¶ 64.
2. Failure-to-Promote Claims
Toles also alleges that she was denied promotions and that in one particular instance the Y concocted a plan to remove her from her position at the main reception desk and deny her a promotion because, as an African American, she did not fit the " right image" for the Y. Specifically, in March 2008, the Y posted a job opening for a Receptionist/Data Processing Clerk, stationed at the front desk on the fourteenth floor of the Y's offices as part of a " restructuring" of the front desk position to focus more heavily on data entry. Pl. 56.1 Resp., Dkt. 311 at 30, ¶ 47; Defs. 56.1 Resp., Dkt 378 at 3, ¶ 5. The fourteenth floor is where visitors to the Y are greeted, and where Toles had been stationed as a full-time receptionist at the time that position was " restructured." According to the Y, this new position required very strong typing, data entry, and software skills, and was classified in Pay Grade B--a step up from Toles' Pay Grade A. Pl. 56.1 Resp., Dkt. 311 at 30, ¶ 47.
Toles applied for the position and took a typing test. Id. Toles also interviewed with Snell and Jensen. Id. Johanna Pistell, who up to that point had been a temporary worker under Jensen, also applied and took the same typing test. Id. at 31, ¶ 48. Pistell outperformed Toles on the test and ultimately received the position in May 2008. Id.; Defs. 56.1 Resp., Dkt. 378 at 4, ¶ 8. However, the parties dispute whether the new position truly required data entry skills and additional responsibilities, with less of a focus on call center duties. Toles contends that the two positions were essentially the same. See, e.g., Pl. 56.1 Resp., Dkt. 311 at 31, ¶ 48.
Snell told Toles that she did not receive the promotion because she lacked the necessary " technical skills," and because Pistell performed better on the typing test. Defs. 56.1 Resp., Dkt. 378 at 8, ¶ 19. However, Toles remained a Contact Center employee, but acted as Pistell's backup--a claim that the Y disputes. Id. at 4, ¶ 9; Pl. Resp., Dkt. 311 at 31-32, ¶ 48.
As a result of the " restructuring" and Toles' failure to obtain the promotion, her desk was relocated from the main reception area on the fourteenth floor to the less busy fifteenth floor. According to Toles, Kent Johnson, the Y's Chief Operating Officer, stated that Toles did not fit the " right image" for the Y. Defs. 56.1 Resp., Dkt. 378 at 4, ¶ 8; Pl. 56.1 Resp., Dkt. 311 at 28-29, ¶ 45. As explained above, Toles believes that this is the actual reason a " new position" was created--as an excuse to remove her from the main reception area and keep her in Pay Grade A. Toles testified that she was removed from the front desk and that Jensen and Johnson were responsible. Pl. 56.1 Resp., Dkt. 311 at 28-29, ¶ 45.
On another occasion in 2010, the Y posted a position for a Contact Center Team lead. Pl. 56.1 Resp., Dkt. 311 at 35, ¶ 55. According to Toles, four internal candidates, all African American women, applied
for the position: Toles, Sylvia Purnell, Nancy Upke, and Nicole Bradley. Id. at 36, ¶ 55. However, none of the African American employees received the promotion. Id. Toles contends, and the Y disputes, that after a Caucasian man declined the position the Y decided not to fill it and withdrew the opening. Id.
That same year, the Y also posted two positions for Conference Center Coordinators. Pl. Resp., Dkt. 311 at 36, ¶ 56. According to Toles, these positions were stationed at the reception desk on the Y's newly renovated floor of conference rooms. Defs. 56.1 Resp., Dkt. 378 at 5, ¶ 11. The job posting stated that the position required experience in conference and event planning, in addition to computer proficiency and " highly refined customer service and interpersonal communication skills." Id. Further, the job description required applicants to have the " ability to perform cost analysis and projections, proficiency in Microsoft Office, excellent computer skills, and experience in webinar and equipment expectations." Pl. 56.1 Resp., Dkt. 311 at 36, ¶ 56. Toles contends that she had the required computer skills and could have learned the necessary software programs, had she been given the opportunity. Id.
However, Jim Mellor, the Director of Finance, promoted Nicole Bradley, an African American woman, out of the Contact Center, and hired Richard Marsoun, a Caucasian man, to fill those positions. Id. at 36, ¶ 56. According to the Y, Marsoun had prior Conference Center Coordinator experience at a local YMCA. Id. Bradley and Marsoun were given a starting salary of $41,300 and placed in Pay Grade C. Defs. 56.1 Resp., Dkt. 378 at 12, ¶ 28. Toles, however, remained in Pay Grade A, as she had throughout her time at the Y. Id. Toles also contends that she was asked to serve as a backup conference center coordinator, but the Y disputes this claim. Id. at 6, ¶ 14.
D. Kavon Ward
In September of 2008, Plaintiff Kavon Ward, an African American woman, was hired as the Y's " Public Policy Manager" at the Y's Government Relations Office in Washington, D.C. Pl. 56.1 Resp., Dkt. 310 at 10-12, ¶ ¶ 16, 20. According to the defendants, Ward was hired based on her experience with, and passion for, the Y's programs--almost all of which she participated in at the Harlem YMCA in her youth. See id. at 12, ¶ 19. Nevertheless, shortly after she was hired, Ward's professional relationship with the D.C. Y began to deteriorate. Indeed, according to the record before the Court, Ward's time at the Y's D.C. office was tense and marked by confrontations with her co-workers and supervisors, culminating in her termination. Ward alleges that her termination was racially discriminatory and retaliatory. She further contends that she received discriminatory compensation and performance reviews.
According to Ward, the atmosphere in the Y's D.C. office generally, and in the public policy department particularly, was loud and aggressive. The public policy team was led by Audrey Haynes, a Caucasian woman and the Y's Senior Vice President and Chief Government Affairs Officer, who reported directly to CEO Nicoll. Defs. 56.1 Resp., Dkt. 372 at 3, ¶ 3. Haynes was also a member of the Y's " Leadership Team," a group of senior executives to whom all employees at the Y reported. Id. Richard Bland, a Caucasian man and the Y's Director of Federal Government Relations, and Katie Adamson, a Caucasian woman and the Y's Director of Health Partnerships and Policy, were also lobbyists in the D.C. office who reported to Haynes. Id. at 3, ¶ 4; Pl. 56.1 Resp., Dkt. 310 at 11, 13, ¶ ¶ 18, 21.
Employees in the D.C. office described Haynes as a " demanding" boss with " high expectations." Defs. 56.1 Resp., Dkt. 372 at 3, ¶ 5. Bland also testified that Haynes used a raised voice at times, has been " harsh to almost everybody in the office," and once slammed a door in his face. Id. Another employee described Haynes as having a " very loud commanding presence" and that the public policy side of the D.C. office was generally loud. Id. Further, a former employee, Torrence Montgomery, recounted that Haynes had slammed books, doors, and pens in her interactions with other employees, and that nearly everyone in the office had had an encounter with Haynes in which she yelled or vented. Id. at 4, ¶ 6.
In September 2008, Ward applied for the position of Public Policy Manager. Pl. 56.1 Resp., Dkt. 310 at 10, ¶ 16. The Public Policy Manager represented the Y on children, youth, and family issues and also lobbied on behalf of the " Y movement" by promoting its legislative priorities and agenda on Capitol Hill. Id. at 11, ¶ 17. The job description the Y posted for the Public Policy Manager position states a salary range of $70,000 to $85,000 and a requirement of " 5-7 years [of] work experience on Capitol Hill." Id. (citing Defs. Appendix, Dkt. 262, Tab 27 at 1). Ward did not have the required work experience, but disputes that the experience was truly required by the Y as a condition of employment. See id. at 11. That said, when she applied, Ward did have some experience, having served as a fellow at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation in 2007. Defs. 56.1 Resp., Dkt. 372 at 2, ¶ 2; see also Ward's Dep., Pl. App., Dkt. 362, Tab 7 at 239:11-4.
After applying, Ward interviewed with Haynes and Bland. Pl. 56.1 Resp., Dkt. 310 at 11-12, ¶ 18. During that interview, Bland noted that while Ward did not have the requisite 5 to 7 years of work experience, he liked the fact that she had experience with the Harlem YMCA. Id. at 12, ¶ 19. Bland further noted that Ward spoke with passion about her experience at the Harlem YMCA and its programs and believed that passion would make her an excellent advocate for the Y. Id. The defendants contend that they hired Ward on that basis, despite her lack of experience. Id. Ward, however, contends that she was chosen because she was the best applicant from a pool of 50 candidates. Id. at 12.
Ward was hired on September 16, 2008, at a starting salary of $70,000--the lowest end of the salary range for the position. Id. at 12, ¶ 20. The defendants contend that Ward stated that her desired salary was $70,000 on her application. Id. at 10, ¶ 16. Ward, however, contends that she requested a starting salary of $80,000, but was told that the Y would only pay her $70,000. Id. at 10. Ward avers that the only reason she stated $70,000 as her desired salary was because she did not fill out the application until after she was informed she would be hired and that the Y would only pay her $70,000 as a starting salary. Id. at 10-11. It should also be noted that, pursuant to her offer letter, Ward was not eligible for a merit pay raise until 2010. Id. at 12, 20.
Once hired, Ward was the only African American employee on the public policy team, which included Haynes, Bland, and Adamson. Defs. 56.1 Resp., Dkt. 372 at 2, ¶ 2. She reported directly to Bland, who in turn reported to Haynes. Pl. 56.1 Resp., Dkt 310 at 12-13, ¶ 20. Ward also contends that at times she took direction directly from Haynes. Id. at 13.
For the period between January and June 2009, Ward received positive feedback from Bland, and was scored as " exceeding expectations" in six of nine subject
matters covered by her review. Defs. 56.1 Resp., Dkt. 372 at 8, ¶ 15. In the manager comment section of the review, Bland even noted that Ward " should be commended for working on developing the full range of skills required in her position in her first 10 months on the job." Id. However, based on the record, it does not appear that this review truly reflected the relationship between Ward and the other lobbyists in the D.C. office during this period of time.
Specifically, in January of 2009, and what would be the first of a series of clashes between Ward on one hand, and Bland and Haynes on the other, Bland attempted to coach Ward concerning her tone around the office. Id. at 4, ¶ 8; Pl. 56.1 Resp., Dkt. 310 at 13, ¶ 22. During this conversation, Bland commented that Ward should watch her tone, particularly around Haynes, because as an educated African American woman, she could be perceived as strident and aggressive (hereafter the " January 2009 Comment" ). Pl. 56.1 Resp., Dkt. 310 at 13-14, ¶ ¶ 22-23; Defs. 56.1 Resp., Dkt. 372 at 4, ¶ 8. Ward took the comment as Bland's " understanding of what...[Haynes] thought of [her]." Defs. 56.1 Resp., Dkt. 372 at 4, ¶ 8. Ward also contends that Caucasian lobbyists spoke aggressively to each other and that it was unfair to single her out for criticism based on her race. Id. According to the plaintiff, Bland then apologized for making the comment and asked Ward not to report him or tell anyone what he had said. Id. at 5, ¶ 8.
Despite Bland's purported request not to repeat what he had said, Ward reported the January 2009 Comment to HR Director Jackie Gordon (Hite had left the Y in October 2008), who worked in the Chicago office, stating that she thought the comment may have originated with Haynes or that Bland was repeating a sentiment that Haynes had expressed. Id. at 5, ¶ 9; Pl. 56.1 Resp., Dkt. 310 at 15, ¶ 24. In particular, Ward believed the comment may have originated with Haynes because, as Ward testified, Haynes cut her off during meetings, gave her directives that contradicted Bland's, and on occasion assumed that Ward was not doing her job or that she was " crazy." Defs. 56.1 Resp., Dkt. 372 at 6, ¶ 10; Pl. 56.1 Resp., Dkt. 310 at 16, ¶ 25.
Pursuant to Gordon's advice, Ward emailed Haynes on June 22, 2009, to schedule a meeting to discuss communication issues, as well as Haynes' professional expectations. Defs. 56.1 Resp., Dkt. 372 at 6, ¶ 11. If the meeting went well, Ward also planned to discuss the January 2009 Comment. Id. On June 23, 2009, Haynes told Ward, via email, that if she wanted to meet ...