United States District Court, D. Maryland
David Copperthite, United States Magistrate Judge.
American Signature, Inc. moves this Court for summary
judgment (the "Motion") (ECF No. 32). Defendant
seeks a ruling from the Court that it did not discriminate
against pro se Plaintiff Carrie Holmes-McCleave in
violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 or
defame her relating to her termination. Plaintiff filed an
opposition to Defendant's Motion (ECF No. 42), and
Defendant replied and filed a Motion to Strike certain
Plaintiffs exhibits attached to her response as improper
summary judgment evidence (ECF No. 45).
considering the Motion and responses thereto, the Court finds
that no hearing is necessary. See Loc.R. 105.6
(D.Md. 2018). In addition, having reviewed the pleadings of
record and all competent and admissible evidence submitted by
the parties, the Court finds there are no genuine issues of
material fact as to any of the claims. Accordingly, the Court
will GRANT Defendant's Motion (ECF No. 32). The Court
will also DENY Defendant's Motion to Strike certain
Plaintiff s exhibits as moot (ECF No. 45).
American Signature, Inc. operates over one hundred retail
furniture stores under the names "Value City
Furniture" or "American Signature stores." ECF
No. 32-1 at 5. Defendant employs Home Furnishing
Consultants ("HFCs") to assist customers selecting
furniture pieces on the sales floor. Id. at 6.
Defendant compensates HFCs with both an hourly wage and
commissions on customer purchases. Id. at 7. To
assure that customers are fairly allocated among the HFCs,
Defendant uses what it calls the "Up System."
Id. at 6. According to Defendant's HFC Training
Guide, the "Up System" keeps track of the available
HFCs and the order in which they are assigned customers. ECF
No. 32-6 at 2. The "Up System" is rotational and
has many procedures in place to assure that HFCs are
receiving equal customer opportunities and that HFCs are
properly prepared to assist customers. See Id. at
addition to utilizing the "Up System" for HFCs,
Defendant also has rules in place that prohibit HFCs from
infringing on each other's sales opportunities. If an HFC
is with a customer, another HFC is prohibited from
interrupting the first HFC's consultation, which is known
as "crashing" a sale. Id. at 5.
Furthermore, Defendant has a procedure in place for
situations in which multiple HFCs assist the same customer on
different days. This scenario is referred to as a "split
sale" and allows multiple HFCs to receive commissions
for assisting the same customer. Id. at 7. Customers
are identified by name, address, and phone number in
Defendant's internal system so that HFCs can check
whether a customer has a preexisting quote generated by
another HFC. ECF No. 32-1 at 7. If the customer has an
existing quote in the system, the two HFCs assisting the
customer on separate occasions will split the sale if a
customer ultimately makes a purchase, and both HFCs'
names will go on the quote that later becomes a customer
invoice. Id. When an HFC attempts to take full
credit for a sale that should be a split sale, Defendant
refers to this as "stealing" a sale and considers
it a form of theft. Id. Defendant's Team Member
Handbook, of which all HFCs receive a copy, states that theft
is an offense for which an employee can be fired
"without any prior Corrective Action taking place."
ECF No. 32-4 at 4.
hired Plaintiff, an African American woman, as an HFC in May
2015 at its Value City Furniture location in White Marsh,
Maryland. ECF No. 32-1 at 5; ECF No. 32-2 at 8, 11. During
her time working for Defendant, Plaintiff alleges she was a
"million dollar writer," which is "an HFC who
sells at least a million dollars' worth of furniture
annually." ECF No. 32-1 at 10 n.56. Million dollar
writers are given special business cards denoting their
status as well as a plaque in the employees' lunch room.
ECF No. 32-2 at 42. Plaintiff received neither the special
business cards nor the plaque. Id. at 42-43. When
Plaintiff did receive her regular business cards, they listed
her legal name, Carrie Holmes-McCleave, as opposed to her
preferred name, Carrie Holmes. Id. at 45. Plaintiff
s name on all employment-related documents listed her name as
Carrie Holmes-McCleave for the entire duration of her
employment with Defendant. Id. at 46-47.
March 25, 2016, a customer visited the White Marsh Value City
Furniture and specifically asked for an HFC named Chris. ECF
No. 32-7 at 1. Instead of paging Chris to let him know a
customer was asking for him, Plaintiff told the customer he
was busy and that she could assist the customer. Id.
Because she failed to abide by store policy by declining to
alert HFC Chris to his customer, Plaintiff received a formal
Corrective Action Report for attempting to "steal"
a sale on March 30, 2016. Id.; 32-1 at 7.
September 2017, Plaintiff was planning on purchasing some
furniture from Defendant, and she was entitled to an employee
discount. ECF No. 32-2 at 47. When Plaintiff took the
purchase slip to the managers' office, the manager who
rang up her order did not initially apply the employee
discount to the delivery fee. Id. When she went back
to the office and alerted the manager to the mistake, the
store manager Tony Bill instructed assistant manager Faydonia
Millings (who seemingly processed the purchase slip
initially) to apply the discount to the delivery fee.
Id. Because Plaintiff had to ask the managers to
apply the employee discount to which she was entitled,
Plaintiff ultimately did not complete the purchase.
Id. at 47-48.
October 3, 2017, HFC Will Lewis served a customer named Kumar
Karki and created a quote for approximately $10, 000 of
various furniture pieces. ECF No. 32-8 at 3-4. The next day,
on October 4, 2017, Plaintiff created a separate quote in her
name for Mr. Karki-using the same address and phone
number-for the exact same furniture pieces listed on Mr.
Lewis's quote. Compare Id. at 1-2 (Plaintiffs
quote listing the names and colors of the furniture pieces,
as well as a total transaction charge of $10, 720.20 after
tax), with Id. at 3-4 (Mr. Lewis's quote listing
the names and colors of the furniture pieces, as well as a
total transaction charge of $10, 729.20 after tax). On
October 6, 2017, an invoice was generated for Kalpana Karki
(using the same address as Mr. Karki) listing Plaintiff as
the sole salesperson for many of the same furniture pieces
that appear on Plaintiffs and Mr. Lewis's prior quotes.
Id. at 5-6. Plaintiff acknowledges that there was no
ticket that contained both hers and Mr. Lewis's names.
ECF No. 32-2 at 28. Plaintiff also acknowledges that a split
sale would have been appropriate in this situation.
Id. at 35 ("Q[:] . .. Then some form of split
sale would have been appropriate?" "A[:] Yes,
ma'am. It would have been appropriate.").
the sale to the Karkis was complete, Anton Sanders, the
store's sales manager, and Ms. Millings investigated the
transaction. ECF No. 32-1 at 8. They determined that
Plaintiff had been dishonest in creating a separate quote
from Mr. Lewis's and that she had done so to retain the
full commission instead of splitting it with Mr. Lewis.
Id. at 8-9. Mr. Sanders forwarded the investigation
to Defendant's Director of Human Resources, Kristen Bell,
who accepted Mr. Sanders' recommendation that Plaintiff
be terminated. Id. at 9; ECF No. 32-3 at 2.
Plaintiff was terminated on October 11, 2017. ECF No. 1 at 6.
time of her termination, Plaintiff reported to assistant
manager Ms. Millings, an African American woman, sales
manager Mr. Sanders, an African American man, and store
manager Mr. Bill, a white man. ECF No. 32-1 at 6; ECF No.
32-2 at 9, 18. Plaintiff alleges that Ms. Millings would
"target" her because of her gender, but also states
she "was nasty to more than one person," including
Plaintiff, of various races and genders. ECF No. 32-2 at
24-25. She similarly alleges that Mr. Sanders discriminated
against her based on her gender, but she "do[es] not
have any factual basis" to support this allegation other
than her feeling. Id. at 22-23. Finally, she alleges
that Mr. Bill treated her differently based on how she was
dressed and whether she did or did not wear makeup.
Id. at 4. Plaintiff was unaware that Ms. Bell was
involved in the decision to terminate her. See Id.
her termination, on October 18, 2017, Plaintiff filed an
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC")
charge of discrimination alleging race and sex
discrimination. ECF No. 32-9 at 1. She received a Right to
Sue letter from the EEOC on March 26, 2018. ECF No. 1-1 at 1.