United States District Court, D. Arizona
G. Campbell, United States District Judge
Dale Langford filed a complaint against Defendant Bell Motors
LLC 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”). Doc. 1-1. Defendant moves
for summary judgment on all claims (Doc. 37), and Plaintiff
moves for summary judgment on Defendant's
Faragher/Ellerth affirmative defense (Doc.
39). The motions are fully briefed, and no party requests
oral argument. For the reasons that follow, the Court will
deny both motions.
worked as a car salesman at Defendant's dealership from
February to October 2013. Doc. 46-1 at 20. This position
required him to “[p]rospect on a day-today basis by
phone[.]” Doc. 38 at 6. In practice, supervisors asked
salesmen to contact prospective customers approximately every
three days. Doc. 46-1 at 13.
is a Baptist who believes that Sunday is a day of rest for
all people. Doc. 46 at 6. Plaintiff chose to work on Sunday
because of his financial need, but believed he should not
interrupt others' observance of the day of rest. Doc.
46-2 at 2-3. For that reason, Plaintiff refused to make
unsolicited sales calls on Sundays, although he would place
calls to persons who requested them. Doc. 38 at 29.
Sunday, September 1, 2013, desk manager Neil Lyons told
Plaintiff and other salesmen to make unsolicited calls to
prospective customers. Doc. 38 at 1-2; Doc. 46 at 6-7.
Plaintiff protested that he would not “harass”
people on a Sunday. Doc. 46-1 at 24-27. Mr. Lyons
expressed frustration and left to get the general sales
manager, Frank Stevens. Doc. 46 at 7. Minutes later, Mr.
Stevens arrived and stated something to the effect of
“I do not give a f--- about your religion. Get on the
phones, or you are fired.” Doc. 38 at 18; Doc. 46-1 at
27. Plaintiff continued to refuse. Doc. 38 at 19. Intending
to file a complaint, Plaintiff called Human Resources
specialist Janice Jordan later that day. Doc. 46 at 7. He
left a voicemail requesting a call back about an interaction
with his supervisor that morning. Doc. 46-4 at 3-4. Another
salesman who joined in Plaintiff's protest left a
voicemail for Human Resources as well. Doc. 40-4 at 25-27.
times relevant to this case, Defendant had an
anti-discrimination policy that provided multiple avenues to
report harassment and required Human Resources to investigate
complaints. Doc. 44-1 at 40-73. This policy required Human
Resources to treat complaints as confidential to the extent
reasonably possible. Doc. 40-4 at 19-20. And it provided for
different methods of resolution depending on the nature and
severity of the complaint. Id. at 17-18, 22. For
routine personnel conflicts, Human Resources could rely on
local management to resolve the issue. Id. But for
more severe complaints of discrimination, a Human Resources
specialist would escalate the complaint to her own
management. Id. In those cases, Human Resources
would encourage the complainant to report any acts of
retaliation for his complaint. Id. at 45.
Jordan never returned the calls of Plaintiff or his co-worker
to determine the nature of their complaints, their severity,
or the need for confidentiality. Doc. 40-4 at 34-35; Doc.
46-4 at 5. She did alert general manager Eric Zimmerman about
the voicemails. Doc. 40-4 at 30. On Tuesday, September 3, Mr.
Zimmerman and Mr. Stevens met with Plaintiff to discuss his
call to Human Resources. Doc. 46 at 7. They directed
Plaintiff to raise any future issues with them, not Human
Resources. Id.; Doc. 38 at 13, 26-27. When Ms.
Jordan visited the dealership later that day, Mr. Zimmerman
told her that he had handled the situation. Doc. 40-4 at
31-32. She did not follow up with Plaintiff to encourage him
to report any acts of retaliation. Id. at 46.
after the September 3 meeting, Mr. Stevens allegedly
belittled Plaintiff, in front of a co-worker, for
Plaintiff's assertion that his Associate's and
Bachelor's degrees in theology qualified him to be an
ordained minister. Doc. 46 at 7-8; Doc. 46-5 at 18.
that month, Plaintiff helped a prospective customer who
wanted to trade his 2012 Jeep for a 2007 Audi, which would
have been a favorable deal for Defendant. Doc. 46-2 at 7. Yet
Mr. Stevens refused to approve the deal when Plaintiff sought
his authorization. Doc. 46-5 at 10. Approximately two days
later, the same customer initiated and closed the same deal
with the internet sales team. Id. Although it was
customary for sales representatives to share commissions with
those who helped work a deal, Plaintiff did not receive - nor
did he request - a share in the commission. Doc. 38 at 3;
Doc. 46 at 8; Doc. 46-2 at 16-17.
September 24, 2013, Plaintiff was helping a first-time car
buyer who was interested in purchasing a truck for an
advertised sale price of $9, 392. Doc. 46-5 at 12. Plaintiff
sought Mr. Stevens's approval of the deal, but Mr.
Stevens directed Plaintiff to make an offer of $14, 177.82
instead. Id.; Doc. 46 at 9. The increased price
reflected some reasonable dealership fees, but also included
two charges that Plaintiff characterizes as inflated: (1) the
base price was set at $9, 991, not the sale price; and (2)
the fee for a tracking device was set at $1, 999, but
Plaintiff usually sold this device for $299 or $399. Doc.
46-2 at 19-29. When Plaintiff protested, Mr. Stevens
admonished him to “get out and do your job.” Doc.
46-5 at 12. When Plaintiff communicated the adjusted price,
the buyer laughed and rejected it. Doc. 46-2 at 26-27. The
buyer offered to purchase the truck for the sale price, but
asked that the tracking device and window tint (valued at
$299) be removed. Id. at 24, 27-29. Even without
those features, Mr. Stevens refused to reduce the price from
$14, 177.82. Id. at 28-29. The buyer left the
dealership without making a deal. Id. at 29.
September 28, 2013, Mr. Stevens asked Plaintiff to come to
his office to meet with him and Plaintiff's direct
supervisor, Floyd Brown. Doc. 46-5 at 12, 18. Mr. Stevens
accused Plaintiff of attempting to persuade one of
Defendant's customers to purchase a vehicle from a
competing dealership where Plaintiff would soon work. Doc.
46-5 at 12-13. Mr. Stevens presented Plaintiff with a
resignation letter and insisted that he sign it before the
end of the day. Doc. 46-5 at 13, 18. Although Plaintiff
admitted to searching for other work, he denied the
accusations and refused to resign. Id.
October 1, 2013, Plaintiff informed Mr. Stevens over the
telephone that he quit. Doc. 46-2 at 5. Mr. Stevens allegedly
threatened to withhold Plaintiff's last paycheck if he
did not come to the dealership to sign a resignation letter.
Id. Plaintiff resigned his position on October 1,
2013. Doc. 46-1 at 20.
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).
alleges three Title VII discrimination claims against
Defendant: failure to accommodate, hostile work environment,
and constructive discharge. Doc. 1-1 at 10-13. Plaintiff also
asserts a Title VII retaliation claim. Id.
Plaintiff's Discrimination Claims.
Ninth Circuit analyzes Title VII discrimination claims under
a two-part framework:
Under the first part, [Plaintiff] must establish a prima
facie case by showing that: (1) he had a bona fide religious
belief, the practice of which conflicted with his employment
duties . . .; (2) he informed [Defendant] of his beliefs and
the conflict; and (3) [Defendant] threatened him with or
subjected him to discriminatory treatment, including
discharge, because of his inability to fulfill the job
requirements. Once an employee establishes a prima facie
case, the burden of proof then shifts to the employer under
the second part of the framework to establish that it
initiated good faith efforts to accommodate the
employee's religious practices or that it could not
reasonably accommodate the employee without undue hardship.
Lawson v. Washington, 296 F.3d 799, 804 (9th Cir.
2002) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted);
see also Berry v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 447 F.3d