Saturday, January 20, 2007

Toulan v. DAP Products, Inc. (Maryland U.S.D.C.)(not approved for publication)

Signed January 17, 2007 -- Opinion by Judge Catherine C. Blake (not approved for publication)

Plaintiff Toulan brought suit against her employer, DAP Products, Inc. ("DAP"), alleging violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII") and the Equal Pay Act ("EPA"). Upon consideration of DAP's motion for summary judgment, the judge entered judgment in favor of the defendant and dismissed the case.

Toulan had alleged discrimination based upon her race (Caucasian), national origin (American) and gender (female) while working under a male supervisor of Asian Indian descent. Toulan's problems began in 2004 during a reorganization of her workplace, when she was assigned to work under the supervisor by the Vice President of Technology, also an Asian Indian male. Her initial objections were because her supervisor had the same job title, Chemist II, but Toulan and her supervisor did not work well together, and after a month she was reassigned to another supervisor. Toulan subsequently received several disciplinary warnings and negative comments, and was temporarily reassigned to another location, returning a few months later. Toulin continued to receive pay raises, and was not demoted or otherwise penalized in spite of the disciplinary actions.

Upon consideration, the judge found no direct evidence of employment discrimination, nor had Toulan established a prima facie case (a showing that 1) she is a member of a protected class, 2) she was performing her duties in a satisfactory manner, 3) she was subjected to an adverse employment action, and 4) circumstances surrounding the adverse employment action support an inference of discriminatory intent) sufficient to shift the burden to DAP to prove a non-discriminatory basis for the alleged discrimination, in that no sufficient adverse employment action was alleged.

Toulan's wage discrimination claims under Title VII and EPA also fell short, since her evidence did not amount to a showing that she received lower pay than her male co-workers for performing work substantially equal in skill, effort and responsibility under similar working conditions, since there was little evidence to support the similarity of, and evidence of a number of key differences between, the compared positions, and the ranges of compensation for male and female co-workers were co-extensive.

Toulan was also found to have failed to establish retaliatory action by DAP (in temporarily reassigning her to a less desirable location, giving her warnings and negative evaluations, requiring her to use unpaid leave after her paid leave was exhausted, and creating a hostile work environment), either by again failing to establish adverse employment actions even under the more relaxed standards applied to claims of retaliatory action, or by failing to rebut DAP's proffered non-discriminatory basis for those actions when found.

In concluding, the judge acknowledged that Toulan may have been correct in claiming the terms, conditions and privileged of her employment differed from other co-workers, but found that that such differences arose from personality differences rather than discrimination, and declined to sit as a "super-personnel department", citing Beall v. Abbott Labs.

The full opinion is available in PDF.

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