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Woolley v. Anesta LLC

United States District Court, D. Utah, Central Division

March 29, 2019

AARON JASON WOOLLEY, Plaintiff,
v.
ANESTA LLC and TEVA PHARMACEUTICALS USA, INC., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

          PAUL M. WARNER CHIEF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         All parties in this case have consented to Chief Magistrate Judge Paul M. Warner conducting all proceedings, including entry of final judgment, with appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit.[1] See 28 U.S.C. § 636(c); Fed.R.Civ.P. 73. Before the court is Defendant Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, Inc.'s (“Teva”) motion for summary judgment.[2]

         PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Aaron Jason Woolley (“Woolley”) filed his complaint in this case on April 24, 2017, alleging violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 for retaliation, religious discrimination, racial discrimination, national origin discrimination, and breach of contract.[3]Teva and the other named Defendant in this case, Anesta, LLC, filed their answer to Woolley's complaint on June 16, 2017.[4] On November 14, 2017, in response to a stipulated motion for dismissal, [5] Defendant Anesta, LLC was dismissed from the case, [6] leaving Teva as the only remaining named Defendant.

         On May 17, 2018, Teva filed the motion for summary judgment currently before the court.[7] After briefing on that motion was complete, the court held oral argument.[8] At the hearing, Woolley was represented by Matthew R. Howell. Teva was represented by Larry J. Rappaport. After hearing the arguments of counsel, the court took the motion under advisement.

         In his response to Teva's motion for summary judgment, Woolley has indicated that he is not pursuing further his claims for religious, racial, or national origin discrimination. Accordingly, the only claims the court must address here are Woolley's remaining claims for retaliation and breach of contract.

         FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         1. In late-January or in early-February 2014, Woolley interviewed for a position at Teva's facility in Salt Lake City, Utah, with several individuals, including Habib Nasirullah (“Nasirullah”), to whom Woolley would eventually report.

         2. Teva offered Woolley the position on February 12, 2014, and his first day of work with Teva was March 3, 2014.

         3. In his position, Woolley had multiple responsibilities related to the manufacturing and packaging operations for the production of commercial products and clinical supplies produced by Teva's facility in Salt Lake City.

         4. In or around February 2015, Teva interviewed three employees for a vacant supervisor position.

         5. Woolley and three other Teva employees (“Hiring Panel”) participated in the selection process for the open position.

         6. The Hiring Panel's preferred candidate for the position was Shauntel Harrison (“Harrison”), a female employee.

         7. After the Hiring Panel completed its interviews, Nasirullah became involved and interviewed the three candidates himself. He then decided that another candidate, Steve Tanner (“Tanner”), a male employee, was a better fit for the position.

         8. Mark Castillo (“Castillo”), who was part of Teva's human resources department, testified that Tanner's strong technical skills were known at the facility and that Tanner was the go-to person with regard to equipment.

         9. Woolley shared with Nasirullah that the Hiring Panel preferred Harrison given her positive performance reviews and supervisory experience.

         10. Despite the Hiring Panel's preference, Nasirullah approached Tanner on the production floor and verbally offered him the vacant supervisor position.

         11. Nasirullah's verbal offer to Tanner was unexpected, and not the usual way in which Teva offers positions. Alpa Parker (“Parker”), who was a member of Teva's human resources department, testified that corporate sign-offs on offers of employment and/or promotions are usually required and that corporate had not signed off on an offer to Tanner.

         12. On April 24, 2015, shortly after Nasirullah verbally offered Tanner the position of Packaging Supervisor, Woolley filed a complaint with Teva's Office of Business Intergity (“OBI”), coded “Misconduct or Inappropriate Behavior” (“April 2015 Complaint”). The April 2015 Complaint alleged that Nasirullah disregarded Teva's policies and processes with respect to filling the vacant supervisor position and that Nasirullah did not “care for feedback from [Woolley]” with respect to restructuring the department.[9]

         13. The April 2015 Complaint specifically alleged:

On April 17, [Nasirullah] informed . . . Harrison, packaging support specialist, that she wouldn't get the job as a supervisor. [Nasirullah] informed . . . Tanner, line leader, that he had gotten the job as a supervisor. [Nasirullah] did not offer [Tanner] a formal job offer. [Nasirullah] provided employment promises to [Tanner]. [Nasirullah] was not following the company policies in regards to employment practices.
[Nasirullah] informed [Woolley] that [Tanner] had the mechanical capability to fill the position of supervisor. [Nasirullah] also told [Woolley] that [Harrison] was a nice woman, but she did not have the mechanical capability. [Nasirullah] insinuated that [Harrison] did not have the mechanical aptitude to fill the role.[10]
14. The April 2015 Complaint made additional allegations towards Nasirullah:
On April 15, [Woolley] had a meeting with [Nasirullah]. [Nasirullah] presented a restructuring of the department. [Nasirullah] was not interested in hearing [Woolley]'s feedback or contributions that [Woolley] could have potentially made to the restructure. [Nasirullah] made it clear that he wanted his plan followed, and that he did not care for feedback from [Woolley].
This is only a recent example of a series of events that show [Nasirullah] does not respect the policies process. [Woolley] states that [Nasirullah] is not following Teva's company values of collaboration, respect, and leadership. The value of respect defines that verbal acts that create a hostile work environment are not to be tolerated. [Woolley] believes that [Nasirullah] has created hostility and intimidation; therefore violating one of Teva's company values. Again, this only of [sic] many examples of the company values that [Nasirullah] is violating. [Woolley] states that [Nasirullah]'s actions are putting many employees into a position that compromises their personal values and Teva's values. [Nasirullah] is mandating that employees not follow the company values.[11]

         15. The April 2015 Complaint does not state that he believed Nasirullah promoted Tanner over Harrison because of Harrison's gender.

         16. Woolley claims that the April 2015 Complaint was made by way of a phone call in which he indicated that Harrison was being denied a promotion because of her gender. Woolley also claims that he made later statements indicating that Nasirullah discriminated against Harrison because of her gender.

         17. Woolley claims that because the April 2015 Complaint was drafted by someone else, he is not responsible for the failure to include in the complaint his allegations about gender discrimination by Nasirullah.

         18. None of Woolley's complaints about gender-based discrimination are included the April 2015 Complaint.

         19. On April 28, 2015, Harrison filed her own OBI complaint against Nasirullah alleging that Nasirullah had not “treated her fairly in the selection process” and that she felt his decision “was favoritism because he wanted . . . Tanner - Packaging Line Lead in the role.”[12]

         20. Harrison's OBI complaint likewise does not state that she felt discriminated against or harassed by Nasirullah, or anyone at Teva, based on her gender.

         21. Parker testified that she spoke with Harrison regarding Harrison's OBI complaint and that Harrison “said something about Tanner being more technical. I remember her saying that she thought [Nasirullah] didn't know anything about her, what she does or anything like that.”[13]

         22. OBI conducted formal investigations into both Woolley's and Harrison's complaints against Nasirullah. Leander Jones (“Jones”), who was part of Teva's human resources department in Virginia, led those investigations and prepared two detailed reports that memorialized his findings.

         23. As part of the investigation into the April 2015 Complaint filed by Woolley, Jones interviewed several Teva employees, including Nasirullah, Woolley, Patricia Kitchen (“Kitchen”), and Joel Childs (“Childs”).

         24. Jones' OBI report indicates that Nasirullah preferred Tanner over Harrison because Tanner provided better answers to Nasirullah's interview questions, and because Tanner had more experience.

         25. Nasirullah told Jones that “[Tanner] had the technical ability and knowledge to move the plant forward”; “[Harrison] on the other hand, did not have the technical ability for the role”; and Tanner had twelve years of experience.[14]

         26. Childs, who was on the Hiring Panel, reported to Jones that “at the end of the process [Childs] felt . . . Tanner had exhibited that he had the expertise and skill to fill the role”; that Harrison “did a good job in the interview, but [Childs] felt her strengths were more on the documentation side of the role”; and that Harrison “didn't appear to have the technical level of expertise that [Tanner] had.”[15]

         27. Kitchen, who was hired by Nasirullah, likewise told Jones that, although she did not participate in the interview process, she

conveyed to [Nasirullah] that when she has gone to the floor it's obvious to her that [Tanner] is well versed in the equipment and the processes associated with Packaging. Says she has seen [Harrison] involved in more of the batch records and other data management side of the process. Says [Harrison] does a very good job with this, but says [Harrison] does not seem to be involved that much in a lot of the technical troubleshooting and fixes in the area. Said [Tanner] is clearly more technically proficient on the equipment and process. Said she told [Nasirullah] that [Tanner] would be the best fit for the position and not [Harrison].[16]

         28. Neither of Jones' two comprehensive reports makes any mention of gender discrimination, gender stereotyping, or sexual harassment.

         29. Woolley claims that Jones' notes from his interview with Woolley show that Woolley's complaint included allegations of gender discrimination by Nasirullah.

         30. Jones did, however, partially substantiate some of the claims Woolley made against Nasirullah, including that Nasirullah did not follow the Hiring Panel's recommendation for the vacant supervisor position; that Nasirullah did not take Woolley's opinion into account when deciding whether and how to restructure the department; that Nasirullah did not follow proper procedures when he verbally offered the position to Tanner; and that Nasirullah did not follow company values of collaboration, respect, and leadership with respect to Nasirullah's issue of micro-managing his department.

         31. Jones' report noted that Woolley and Nasirullah's “relationship is not working well and has deteriorated to the extent that neither party seems willing to work through their difference[s], ” but that there “was no evidence to support that [Nasirullah] deliberately worked against the company values.”[17]

         32. Jones also investigated Harrison's complaint that “Nasirullah had not treated her fairly in the selection process” and that Nasirullah “did not listen to what she was sharing with him and did not take her background and experience into consideration when making a hiring decision.”[18]

         33. As part of his investigation into Harrison's complaint, Jones interviewed Nasirullah, Woolley, Castillo, and Parker. None of the individuals interviewed, including Harrison, told Jones that they felt as though Nasirullah's decision to promote Tanner over Harrison was because of Harrison's gender.

         34. Woolley claims that is contradicted by Jones' own notes.

         35. Tanner ultimately declined the position sometime after Woolley told Tanner that Woolley had rated other candidates higher than him and had a “very candid conversation about what [Tanner] ...


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