Argued: May 9, 2019
from the United States District Court for the District of
South Carolina, at Columbia. J. Michelle Childs, District
Shannon Marie Polvi, CROMER BABB PORTER & HICKS, LLC,
Columbia, South Carolina, for Appellant.
Kristin Starnes Gray, FORD & HARRISON LLP, Spartanburg,
South Carolina, for Appellee.
Matthew J. Gilley, FORD & HARRISON LLP, Spartanburg,
South Carolina, for Appellee.
NIEMEYER, KEENAN, and QUATTLEBAUM, Circuit Judges.
QUATTLEBAUM, CIRCUIT JUDGE
gender and race discrimination, Deanna Evans brought claims
against International Paper Company ("IPC") under
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1965, 42 U.S.C.
§§ 2000e, et seq., ("Title VII")
and the Equal Pay Act of 1963, 29 U.S.C. § 206(d)
("EPA"). Evans alleged: (1) hostile work
environment based on race discrimination, (2) hostile work
environment based on gender discrimination, (3) retaliation
and (4) pay discrimination. After discovery, IPC moved for
summary judgment. The district court concluded that Evans
failed to create a genuine issue of material fact as to each
of her claims. Evans now appeals that order granting summary
judgment. After a de novo review of the record, we affirm.
2007, Evans, an African American female with a chemical
engineering degree and a masters in business administration,
began work for IPC as a process engineer in its Mississippi
plant. Evans received several promotions and recognitions
while at IPC. In 2008, IPC promoted Evans to level two
engineer. In 2009, Evans transferred to IPC's paper mill
in Eastover, South Carolina (the "Eastover
Mill"). In 2010, IPC promoted Evans to process
manager. In 2013, IPC again promoted Evans, this time to a
technical quality leader position.
addition to her promotions, IPC selected Evans to lead its
successful effort to achieve ISO certifications for the
Eastover Mill. Paul Varadi, the manager of the department
that sponsored the ISO projects, and others praised Evans for
her role in helping the mill obtain the ISO certifications.
Varadi also thanked Evans for her good work throughout her
employment at IPC.
January 2014, Evans received a "result exceeded
commitment," the highest possible evaluation rating.
Only a small percentage of Eastover employees received an
also received two prestigious awards during her time at IPC.
After being recommended by Varadi and others in IPC's
management, IPC's Chief Executive Officer awarded Evans
the prestigious Chairman's Coin award. Also, upon
Varadi's recommendation, Evans received the Key Driver
Award for extraordinary performance. IPC rarely gives these
awards to employees early in their careers. IPC identified
Evans as a potential leader in the company.
despite her successes, Evans experienced problems at IPC that
she attributes to race and gender. A review of the record
reveals these problems fall into two broad categories. First,
Evans alleges she was mistreated in comparison to white, male
employees. Second, she claims white, male co-workers made
racially insensitive and offensive comments to her.
begin with the allegations of mistreatment. Shortly after her
transfer to Eastover, Evans heard two employees say that they
did not want her in Eastover and were forced to take her.
After Evans returned from maternity leave, she learned from
her supervisor at the time, Gary Nyman, that certain white,
male employees had said they thought that they had run her
also claims Nyman criticized her managerial decisions and
yelled at her on several occasions. Nyman's
communications, Evans asserts, were always negative. Evans
testified Nyman did not engage with her or give her
leadership roles like he did with white, male employees. She
also said Nyman frequently did not respond to her questions
and proposals, and he helped white, male co-workers more than
African American employees. When Evans told Nyman about
mistreatment by other managers, he took no action despite
acknowledging Evans was being targeted.
2014, one of IPC's customers under Evans'
responsibility visited the Eastover Mill. Varadi, who was by
this time Evans' supervisor, asked a white, male employee
who reported to Evans, rather than Evans, to facilitate
meetings with the customer and arrange for a group dinner.
When Evans asked Varadi why she was not facilitating the
visit, Varadi said he thought she was not available. After
Evans raised her concerns, Varadi gave Evans a role in the
meeting with the customer.
early 2015, Evans received her 2014 annual evaluation. In it,
she received a "results met commitment" rating, the
second-highest rating. Evans acknowledged that rating was
considered "good" and understood that employees
rarely received back to back "results exceeds"
ratings. But she disagreed with Varadi's comment that
"Deanna needs to continue to develop her interfacing and
technical skills to be viewed as a reliable troubleshooting
resource by the FP team" because Varadi did not
provide specific examples. J.A. 380-81.
next to the complaints about racially insensitive comments,
in 2012, a white, male employee said during a performance
review meeting in which Evans participated that another
African American female employee acted like she was
"from a shoot em up, bang bang neighborhood." J.A.
163. Evans, offended by the comment, complained about the
incident to Nyman, but he did nothing about it. Evans also
spoke with IPC's human resources representative, Audrey
Bright, about Nyman. Bright encouraged Evans to advise Nyman
about her concerns and to contact her if she needed support.
2015, a white co-employee told Evans that her natural
hairstyle was unprofessional and nicknamed her Angela Davis,
after the civil rights and Black Panther activist who he
thought had a similar hairstyle to Evans. When Evans inquired
about the nickname, the employee told her that Davis stirred
up a lot of trouble. Varadi also said her hairstyle was not
an appropriate hairstyle for the office. And another white
co-employee "said many comments about my hair texture.
When I would wear my hair in different styles, as far as in
braids, when I had to cut my hair, any style I had with my
hair, he always had something to say, so it was continuous
every hairstyle that I had." J.A. ...