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Ramirez v. Mitel (Delaware) Inc.

United States District Court, D. Arizona

February 28, 2017

Vanessa Ramirez, Plaintiff,
Mitel (Delaware) Incorporated, et al., Defendants.


          David G. Campbell United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Vanessa Ramirez asserts claims against Mitel (Delaware) Inc., Mitel Communications, Inc., Mitel Cloud Services, Inc., and Mitel Business Systems, Inc. (collectively, “Mitel” or “Defendants”), for discrimination and retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et. seq. (“Title VII”), and 42 U.S.C. § 1981. Doc. 1. Mitel moves for summary judgment on all claims. Doc. 34. The motion is fully briefed. Docs. 34, 35, 37, 38, 43, 44. For the reasons that follow, Mitel's motion will be granted.[1]

         I. Background.

         Plaintiff began working for Mitel (then known as Inter-Tel Network Services) on May 24, 2004, as a Sales Analyst. Doc. 35, ¶ 1. In 2008, Plaintiff was selected for a job within Mitel as a Sales Administrator. Id., ¶ 2. In February 2009, Brenda Cordova became Plaintiff's manager. Id., ¶ 3. In March 2013, Plaintiff's sales administration department, located in Mesa, Arizona, merged with the order administration department, located in Reno, Nevada, and Plaintiff became a Sales/Order Administrator. Id., ¶ 4. The merged team consisted of eight members: Plaintiff, Cordova, Denise Ramos, and Tamara Benton in Mesa, and Barbara Scofield, Danielle Barraza, Melissa Hills, and Allison Dunmire in Reno. Id., ¶¶ 5, 7. Dunmire was the supervisor of the merged team, but Cordova continued as Plaintiff's manager until June 2014. Id., ¶ 5. Ramos is Plaintiff's aunt. Id., ¶ 6.

         Immediately following the merger, Plaintiff and Dunmire “began having issues.” Id., ¶ 8. Plaintiff alleges several instances of disparate treatment by Dunmire against her and her Hispanic co-workers with regard to hours, vacation, pay, overtime, training, and one instance involving a racially charged comment. See Doc. 1, ¶¶ 16-22; Doc. 35-3 at 36. In November 2014, Plaintiff applied for a transfer out of Dunmire's department. Doc. 1, ¶ 26. Her application was denied because Plaintiff's mother already worked in the department Plaintiff applied for, and, according to Defendants, allowing Plaintiff's transfer “would violate company policy against relatives working together.” Id.; Doc. 35, ¶¶ 39-42.[2]

         Plaintiff alleges that she reported Dunmire's disparate treatment on numerous occasions to Human Resources, but nothing was done. Doc. 1, ¶ 27. On December 1, 2014, Plaintiff resigned, claiming that she “had no other choice[.]” Doc. 37 at 6; Doc. 35-15 at 2-3. Soon thereafter, Plaintiff filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (Doc. 35-15), as well as applications for government health/nutrition benefits (Doc. 37 at 6) and unemployment benefits with the Arizona Department of Economic Security (Doc. 35-18 at 2). Upon review of Plaintiff's application for unemployment benefits, an agency deputy determined that “[Plaintiff] voluntarily left work without good cause in connection with [her] employment[, ]” and denied her application. Id. On appeal, an Administrative Law Judge affirmed the deputy's decision and reasoning. Doc. 35-11.

         On January 6, 2016, Plaintiff filed this lawsuit. Defendants now move for summary judgment on all counts. Doc. 34.

         II. Legal Standard.

         A party seeking summary judgment “bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of [the record] which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). Summary judgment is appropriate if the evidence, viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, shows “that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). Summary judgment is also appropriate against a party who “fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial.” Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322. Only disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit will preclude the entry of summary judgment, and the disputed evidence must be “such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).

         III. Analysis.

         A. Discrimination.

         Title VII provides that an employer may not “discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual's race, color, . . . or national origin.” 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(1). “Similarly, § 1981 prohibits [race] discrimination in the ‘benefits, privileges, terms and conditions' of employment.” Surrell v. Cal. Water Serv. Co., 518 F.3d 1097, 1103 (9th Cir. 2008) (quoting 42 U.S.C. § 1981(b)). A plaintiff may establish a violation of Title VII or § 1981 by proving that discrimination created a hostile work environment. See, e.g., Meritor Sav. Bank, FSB v. Vinson, 477 U.S. 57, 66 (1986) (Title VII); Manatt v. Bank of America, NA, 339 F.3d 792, 797 (9th Cir. 2003) (§ 1981). To prevail on her hostile work environment claim, Plaintiff must show that (1) she was subjected to verbal or physical conduct because of her race or national origin, (2) the conduct was unwelcome, and (3) the conduct was sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of her employment and create an abusive work environment. Kang v. U. Lim America, Inc., 296 F.3d 810, 817 (9th Cir. 2002) (internal quotations omitted); Gregory v. Widnall, 153 F.3d 1071, 1074 (9th Cir. 1998).

         Plaintiff was represented by counsel when this case was filed, but her counsel later withdrew. Doc. 20. Plaintiff's pro se filings in response to Defendant's motion for summary judgment contain a somewhat rambling and disorganized discussion (Docs. 37, 38), but the Court has reviewed them with care to identify Plaintiff's specific factual assertions and the evidence she provides in support. The Court has identified thirteen factual assertions Plaintiff makes in support of her hostile work environment claim. The Court will summarize each assertion and the evidence, if any, provided to support it.

         (1) Dunmire “was constantly questioning Plaintiff's whereabouts and work performance through email, phone calls and with other coworkers on the team, even when Plaintiff was present at work and available via email and desk phone.” Doc. 37 at 2 (citing Ex. 8 (email exchange between Plaintiff and Dunmire in which Dunmire states she contacted Plaintiff's coworkers looking for Plaintiff after failing to reach her by other means)).

         (2) Dunmire would question Plaintiff's hours worked during the day, as well as any and all overtime, and would require a detailed email from Plaintiff accounting for her hours and the orders on which she worked. Id. at 3. No evidence is cited in support.

         (3) Dunmire initiated a policy requiring that overtime be preapproved. Id. (citing Ex. 6 (email from Dunmire to her team stating, “[o]vertime within the company is approved on an as needed basis when ...

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