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Cox v. U.S. Postal Service Federal Federal Credit Union

United States District Court, D. Maryland

June 27, 2016

LORETTA ELIANA COX, Plaintiff,
v.
U.S. POSTAL SERVICE FEDERAL FEDERAL CREDIT UNION, ET AL, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          PAULA XINIS United States District Judge.

         Pending before the court are cross motions for summary judgment. ECF Nos. 37 & 39. Plaintiff Loretta Cox (“Cox”) filed suit against her former employer, the U.S. Postal Service Federal Credit Union (“the Credit Union”), alleging violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-3, in connection with her termination from employment. In a previous ruling, the Court dismissed all but Cox’s retaliation claim under Title VII against the Credit Union. ECF No. 22. With regard to the retaliation claim, discovery has closed, and the parties have fully briefed the issues. The court now rules pursuant to Local Rule 105.6 because no hearing is necessary. For the reasons stated below, the Credit Union’s motion will be GRANTED and Cox’s motion will be DENIED.

         I. Undisputed Material Facts

         The following facts are undisputed and material to the Court’s determination. Cox, an African-American woman, was employed by the Credit Union, a financial cooperative that provides loans and other financial services to employees of the United States Postal Service. The Credit Union hired Cox as a “Personal Service Representative I” in 2007. See ECF No. 18-9; ECF No. 42-6 at 6-7. By the time of her discharge, she had been promoted to Personal Service Representative II, and was trained to counsel members of the Credit Union, research accounts, and process new loans. ECF No. 42-6 at 7.

         The Credit Union requires employees who are also members of the Credit Union to maintain their accounts in accordance with the Credit Union’s policies and procedures. ECF No. 37-3 at 21; ECF No. 42-6 at 14-17. These policies prohibit any fraud or dishonesty on the part of employees, manipulation of loan accounts or records, and “check kiting.” ECF No. 37-3 at 30. The mechanics of check kiting are the writing of a check on an account without adequate funds, then depositing the check and withdrawing funds before the check has “cleared.” Checks are, in other words, misused as a form of unauthorized credit or “float.”

         The Credit Union is a member of the National Credit Union Administration, which “requires bond coverage be maintained on all employees of a federal credit union.” ECF No. 42-5 at 5; ECF No. 37-3 at 3. CUNA Mutual Group (“CUNA Mutual”), as the issuer of the bond for the Credit Union, requires that the Credit Union notify CUNA Mutual of any dishonest or fraudulent act committed by an employee such as Cox. CUNA Mutual then determines whether it will maintain fidelity bond coverage for the employee in question. Pursuant to the National Credit Union Administration’s Rules and Regulations, all Credit Union employees must maintain fidelity bond eligibility as a condition of employment. ECF No. 37-3 at 3; ECF No. 39-7.

         The Credit Union routinely audits employee financial accounts at random, and Cox’s personal financial account was selected for this review in December of 2012. ECF No. 37-4 at 2. During this audit, the Credit Union uncovered evidence of suspected check kiting. Id. at 2, 7-23. The Credit Union then more fully investigated Cox’s suspicious transactions during the months of January and February 2013.

         During this investigation, Senior Credit Union staff met with Cox twice on February 12 and 13, 2013, and requested that Cox provide the Credit Union with her financial account statements to demonstrate that she had sufficient funds in her accounts and thus had not engaged in check kiting. ECF No. 37-6 at 40-48; ECF No. 37-3 at 52-54. Cox refused to produce her financial statements both times. Id.

         On February 6, 2013, Cox participated in a sales and service meeting with other Personal Representative I and II employees at the Credit Union. At some point during this meeting, Steve Cimino, the Credit Union’s Executive Vice President, stated that he would like the Personal Representatives to generate more loans. Cox responded that the Credit Union could generate more loans if it allowed more Credit Union officers to approve the loans. At that time, of the three available loan officers, only one, an African American woman, was actually approving loans. ECF No. 37-6 at 25-26. Cox testified at her deposition that she told those at the meeting “I know we need more people to approve loans. You have Rita and Sue that are able to approve loans, but you only have Connie approving loans.” ECF No. 37-6 at 25. However, Cox admitted that she never mentioned the race of any loan officers at all during this meeting. ECF No. 37-6 at 32. Also, those responsible for investigating Cox’s suspected check kiting did not attend the February 6 meeting and were unaware of the comments Cox made during that meeting. ECF No. 37-4 at 4.

         A little more than a week later, on February 14, 2013, the Credit Union placed Cox on paid administrative leave and reported Cox’s financial activity to CUNA Mutual as required under the terms of its fidelity bond agreement. ECF No. 37-3 at 64. On March 4, 2013, CUNA Mutual terminated Cox’s fidelity bond coverage. No. 37-3 at 79-81. Cox appealed CUNA Mutual’s decision twice, submitting information that, in her view, demonstrated she was not check kiting. CUNA Mutual denied Cox’s appeals and refused to reinstate her under the fidelity bond. ECF No. 37-3 at 123-69. The Credit Union then terminated Cox on April 17, 2013 pursuant its bond agreement with CUNA Mutual and National Credit Union Administration requirements. See ECF No. 37-3 at 171-72.

         Cox filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) on June 20, 2013, and was issued a right to sue letter on August 29, 2014. She subsequently filed her Complaint in this Court on November 26, 2014. ECF No. 1.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         A court may enter summary judgment only if there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986); Emmett v. Johnson, 532 F.3d 291, 297 (4th Cir. 2008). Summary judgment is inappropriate if any material factual issue “may reasonably be resolved in favor of either party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986); JKC Holding Co. LLC v. Washington Sports Ventures, Inc., 264 F.3d 459, 465 (4th Cir. 2001).

         “A party opposing a properly supported motion for summary judgment ‘may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials of [his] pleadings, ’ but rather must ‘set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.’” Bouchat v. Baltimore Ravens Football Club, Inc., 346 F.3d 514, 522 (4th Cir. 2003) (quoting former Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)). “A mere scintilla of proof . . . will not suffice to prevent summary judgment.” Peters v. Jenney, 327 F.3d 307, 314 (4th Cir. 2003). “If the evidence is merely colorable, or is not significantly probative, summary judgment may be granted.” Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. at 249-50 (citations omitted). At the ...


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