Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Mother of 5 Terminated After Two Weeks Cannot Make Sex Discrimination Claim Under Title VII

Plaintiff Julie Gingras ("Gingras") is a female who maintained primary care responsibilities and duties for her five (5) children.  During the interview and hiring process for an Educator Coordinator position with the Milwaukee County Behavioral Health Division ("BHD"), Gingras discussed her child care obligations and how those obligations would affect her work schedule.  Gingras also acknowledges that prior to the time she was hired by Milwaukee County, one of the interviewers, Mary Kay Bultman ("Bultman"), knew that she was female and that she had young children.

Prior to Gingras being hired, Bultman spoke to her, via telephone, about Gingras' start date when Gingras informed Bultman that she likely would not be able to find any child care for all of her children on sch short notice and that she could not begin her employment with the defendant on the date specified.  As a result, Bultman pushed back Gingras' start date.  Gingras then told Bultman that she would begin the process of securing child care after she received a written offer of employment, which Bultman said she would try and procure from defendant's Human Resources Department.  The offer Gingras eventually received specified that Gingras' start date was July 15, 2013, that her work hours were "the AM SHIFT (8:00am-4:30pm)," and that if she had any questions about her hours, she needed to address those with her supervisor.  Gingras maintained that at no time prior to receiving this offer of employment was she informed that her days and hours would be the "AM SHIFT."  Gingras contended that the defendant encouraged flexibility regarding her work schedule and hours.

Gingras began her employment on or about July 15, 2013 and was subject to a 6-month probationary period.  Much of the opinion then describes how Gingras took off of work to care for her children and what appeared to be big communication disconnect between her and Bultman, ultimately leading to Gingras' termination on July 30, 2013, less than two (2) weeks after she began her employment, after Gingras missed an entire day of work when Bultman thought she only needed to miss the morning portion.  Bultman told Gingras that she was not "a good fit" and refused to elaborate on what they meant.  Gingras was then replaced by another female.

Title VII Sex Discrimination

The defendant argued on summary judgment that Gingras could not maintain a sex discrimination claim under Title VII because no facts existed to support the assertion that gender played any part in her termination.  The Court agreed.

As the Court notes in their discussion, though the evidence may have allowed a jury to infer that Gingras was terminated in part because of her family responsibilities, there was nothing in the record to suggest that she was fired because she was a female.  The Court took care to mention that Title Vii does not prohibit discrimination on the basis of family responsibilities alone, but rather on the basis of family responsibilities plus gender (sex plus).

The Court noted that the defendant hired Gingras fully aware that she was a female with five (5) children and reality dictated that she would have family responsibilities and that Title VII is not a "get out of work free" card for parents with young children--whether male or female.  Despite the fact Bultman may have made comments about dissatisfaction with employees taking time off per FMLA and the collective bargaining agreement, the Court concluded that these comments were about female employees taking leave as opposed to male employees.

The plaintiff also failed to present any comparators (indeed, for some unusual reason, she presented two other female employees as comparators of disparate treatment) and likewise failed in showing pretext because she was replaced by another female.

The case is Julie Gingras v. Milwaukee County, Case No. 13-CV-1368-JPS (E.D. Wis.)

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