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Frazier v. Whole Foods Market Rocky Mountain/Southwest, L.P.

United States District Court, D. Utah

June 13, 2017

KARILYN FRAZIER, Plaintiff,
v.
WHOLE FOODS MARKET ROCKY MOUNTAIN/SOUTHWEST, L.P., a Texas Limited Partnership, dba WHOLE FOODS MARKET, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR PARTIAL SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          Ted Stewart United States District Judge.

         This matter is before the Court on Defendant's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment. Defendant seeks summary judgment on Plaintiff's first cause of action. For the reasons discussed below, the Court will deny the Motion.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff began to work for Defendant in 2011 as a marketing specialist at Defendant's Park City store. In 2013, Plaintiff began working as a marketing specialist at Defendant's Trolley Square store. Plaintiff was promoted to the role of front-end team leader in April 2014. Plaintiff had never before worked in the front-end department and had not held a position similar to that of front-end team leader. However, she had been encouraged by others to move into a leadership position based on her relationships with the store's employees, the customers, and the community.

         Upon becoming the front-end team leader, Plaintiff was to be trained by her supervisor. However, soon after she started in this position, her supervisor passed away. As a result, Plaintiff received little training on how to perform certain job duties and had to rely on others who similarly lacked the requisite knowledge. Early in her tenure as front-end team leader, Plaintiff was the subject of a number of complaints from her subordinates. Those complaints were attributed to Plaintiff's lack of proper training.

         In September 2014, Beverly Stoddard became the Store Team Leader. Soon after she started, Ms. Stoddard received several complaints about Plaintiff. Plaintiff was suspended pending an investigation into these complaints. After the investigation concluded, Plaintiff was allowed to return to work and placed on final warning status.

         After Plaintiff returned, she was provided training at a store in Colorado. After receiving that training, things improved. Plaintiff was making progress and even those who were previously critical of her performance stated she was doing a good job. Both her supervisor, Ms. Stoddard, and her subordinate, Sean Rogan, confirmed that Plaintiff's performance was much improved after she received the proper training.

         Despite this improved performance, Plaintiff was terminated in January 2015 for her conduct during a gift card promotion that Defendant concluded “violates the integrity of our business.”[1]

         Plaintiff brought suit on January 25, 2016. Plaintiff brings claims of race discrimination and retaliation.

         II. SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD

         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.”[2] In considering whether a genuine dispute of material fact exists, the Court determines whether a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party in the face of all the evidence presented.[3] The Court is required to construe all facts and reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party.[4]

         III. DISCUSSION

         Plaintiff's first cause of action is a claim for race discrimination. Defendant's Motion focuses on that part of Plaintiff's claim related to her termination. Generally, to establish a prima facie case of termination on the basis of race, Plaintiff must demonstrate that: (1) she was a member of a protect class; (2) she was qualified and satisfactorily performing her job; and (3) she was terminated under circumstances giving rise to an inference of discrimination.[5] The burden imposed on Plaintiff at the prima facie stage is not onerous.[6]

         Defendant's Motion focuses on the second element. To meet this element, ...


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