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Johnson v. Edward Jones & Co., L.P.

United States District Court, D. Maryland

October 25, 2018



          Catherine C. Blake United States District Judge.

         This is an employment discrimination case. On January 13, 2017, the plaintiff, Charlene Johnson, sued the defendant, Edward D. Jones & Company, L.P. ("Edward Jones"), seeking compensatory and punitive damages as well as attorney's fees for Edward Jones' alleged violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This matter is before the court on Edward Jones' motion for summary judgment. For the reasons stated below, the court will grant the motion.

         Factual and Procedural Background

          This case has a lengthy factual and procedural history, only the relevant portions of which will be recited here. Ms. Johnson is an African-American woman. On December 19, 2005, Edward Jones hired Ms. Johnson as a branch office assistant ("BOA") trainee at its Prince Frederick, Maryland branch office. On June 1, 2006, Edward Jones promoted Ms. Johnson to a BOA and, in June 2011, to a senior BOA.[1] Ms. Johnson reported to Jeffrey Quesenberry, the branch office's financial advisor. Ms. Johnson worked with Duffy Mavilia, a white BOA at the branch office.

         From January to November 2015, Ms. Johnson observed scratches on-her vehicle on four separate occasions while it was parked during work hours. Upon discovering the first scratches' in January 2015, Ms. Johnson notified Mr. Quesenberry of the damage. Ms. Johnson also informed Mr, Quesenberry that it appeared that the scratches had been painted over in red paint, and showed him red fingernail polish that was sitting on Ms. Mavilia's desk.

         Ms. Johnson observed scratches on her car on three additional occasions in 2015, prompting Mr. Quesenberry to suggest that Ms. Johnson install security cameras to monitor the vehicle during work hours.

         On November 20, 2015, after again discovering scratches on her vehicle, Ms. Johnson called Edward Jones' global security department. During the call, Ms. Johnson stated that she suspected that Ms. Mavilia was scratching the vehicle and that she thus was seeking advice for securing the vehicle.[2] Ms. Johnson reported that Ms. Mavilia at times would suggest Ms. Johnson check her vehicle, and that she had not reported the incidents to the police. After Ms. Johnson identified Ms. Mavilia as the suspected vandal, Ms. Johnson was asked, "[i]s this another BOA that's doing this?" to which she responded "[y]es." ECF 30-4 at p. 37.

         That same day, Ms. Johnson spoke by telephone with Donna Hinton and Mark Henke, from Edward Jones' associate relations[3] ("AR") and global security departments, respectively, regarding her suspicions, . Ms. Hinton assigned Colleen Welch, a senior resolutions specialist who reports to Ms. Hinton, to follow up on Ms. Johnson's concerns.

         Ms. Welch called Ms. Johnson on November 30, 2015, at which time Ms. Johnson expressed that she had not intended to involve AR and requested that AR cease its investigation. Ms. Welch informed Ms. Johnson that AR's involvement was necessary due to the seriousness of Ms. Johnson's allegations.

         On December 3, 2015, Ms. Johnson repeated, this time to Mr. Quesenberry, that she did not want AR to continue in its investigation. The following day, Ms. Welch informed Mr. Quesenberry that -she was concerned regarding Ms. Johnson's requests to terminate the investigation.

         During a January 8, 2016, conference call with Ms. Johnson and Mr. Quesenberry, Ms. Welch noted her concerns with Ms. Johnson's apparent wavering in her accusations against Ms. Mavilia, signified by Ms. Johnson's requests to terminate the investigation. Ms. Johnson reiterated her suspicion of Ms. Mavilia.

         During a January 21, 2016, meeting with Ms. Welch, Mr. Quesenberry, and Ms. Mavilia, Ms. Johnson wavered significantly on the frequency of the damage to her vehicle, and clarified that, while she was suspicious of Ms. Mavilia, she did not wish to accuse her of vandalism and had never accused her of such. Ms. Mavilia denied damaging Ms. Johnson's car. Ms. Welch reminded Ms. Johnson that she had affirmed that another BOA was damaging her vehicle during the November 20, 2015, call with global security. Nonetheless, Ms. Johnson maintained that she had never accused Ms. Mavilia of vandalizing the vehicle.

         On January 28, 2016, Ms. Welch notified Ms. Johnson that she was at risk of termination. Ms. Welch indicated that she believed that Ms. Johnson had been untruthful during the investigation, due in large part to Ms. Johnson's denial of ever having accused Ms. Mavilia.

         On January 29, 2016, Ms. Johnson provided a letter to Ms. Welch, Mr. Quesenberry, and AR generally, wherein Ms. Johnson indicated that she felt her race was influencing the investigation into her allegations. Later that same day, Ms. Welch confirmed Ms. Johnson's November 20, 2015, accusation during a conference call with Mr. Quesenberry and Ms. Johnson. Ms. Johnson disagreed with Ms. Welch's assessment that Ms. Johnson had accused Ms. Mavilia of damaging her vehicle. At the end of the meeting, Ms. Welch informed Ms. Johnson that she did not credit Ms. Johnson's claims due to, inter alia, Ms. Johnson's attempts to retract her accusation and suspicions, as well as Ms. Welch's conclusion that the scratches looked like normal wear and tear rather than intentional damage and Ms. Johnson's failure to provide to AR supporting documentation regarding the scratches as had been requested previously.

         On February 5, 2016, Edward Jones terminated Ms. Johnson. Ms. Welch made the ultimate decision to terminate Ms. Johnson and informed her of that decision. Ms. Johnson filed a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity ...

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