On December 28, 2018, the United States District Court for the District of Maryland issued an opinion denying an employer's summary judgment motion on a Title VII discrimination claim.
In Randolph v. Sentry Management, Inc., the plaintiff sued her former employer for race and age discrimination after she was fired. Her former employer, a homeowner and condominium association management company, filed for summary judgment, arguing that her termination was not based on her race or her age, but rather on her poor performance and failure to follow orders.
Ms. Randolph, the plaintiff, was an Assistant Division Manager for the defendant, Sentry Management. She started to receive complaints from employees that her supervisor was discriminating against other employees based on their race and that he wanted to get rid of older workers.
Ms. Randolph, pursuant to Sentry's policy encouraging employees to report concerns about discrimination, emailed Sentry's upper management about what she had heard about her supervisor. The company investigated and determined that while there had been some "unfortunate" comments made, the supervisor was "not a racist." The company also determined that Ms. Randolph's conversations with the other employees were undermining the supervisor, and instructed her not to have any more independent discussions with employees about the alleged discrimination.
Soon after, Ms. Randolph received a positive annual performance evaluation. But the month after the performance evaluation, after learning that Ms. Randolph had continued to have conversations about the alleged discrimination with other employees, Sentry terminated Ms. Randolph.
In it's Position Statement to the EEOC, Sentry stated that it based the decision to terminate Ms. Randolph on “poor work performance and violations of the company harassment policy, as well as a reorganization of the Maryland office."
The problem for Sentry was that ALL of Ms. Randolph's performance reviews had been positive, and she had continuously received pay raises. It was only after Ms. Randolph raised issues regarding potential discrimination taking place at the company that Sentry started articulating concerns about her performance, and those concerns were never made part of a performance evaluation.
The court took issue with Sentry's argument that Ms. Randolph's work performance provided a legitimate, non-retaliatory reason for her termination, stating “where a defendant articulates poor work performance as its legitimate reason for taking an adverse employment action, a conflict between performance reviews and testimony [in the litigation] may serve as evidence of pretext.”
The court denied summary judgment, allowing the case to proceed to trial.