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Worker didn't prove discrimination, retaliation

November 20, 2009

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court ruling that a company's elimination of a worker's position, along with not rehiring her after restructuring, didn't constitute retaliation or a hostile work environment.

In Dayna L. Scruggs v. Garst Seed Co., No. 07-2266, Dayna Scruggs appealed the District Court's ruling, believing she was a victim of retaliation by Garst Seed Co. because after she filed a discrimination charge, her position as research technician at a seed breeding research facility was eliminated.

Scruggs' supervisor, Curtis Beazer, often made derogatory comments toward Scruggs and other employees. Some of those comments had to do with her intelligence, gender, or ability. She complained to Beazer's supervisor about the treatment.

Shortly thereafter, another company bought a majority interest in Garst Seed in September 2004. As part of restructuring, Scruggs' position was eliminated. She didn't learn about it until several months later because she was out on medical leave and claimed she didn't receive a message about the changes.

She filed a discrimination charge in December 2004. After that, Garst was hiring under the restructured system and Scruggs applied for a research assistant position, but the company hired someone else who had a college degree and experience in the field. Scruggs then filed her second discrimination charge claiming retaliation.

The District Court granted summary judgment in favor of Garst on Scruggs' claims of retaliation, hostile work environment, and gender discrimination.

Because the company-wide restructuring plan eliminated Scruggs' position before she even filed her first charge of discrimination, the company didn't fire her for retaliation, wrote Judge Ann Claire Williams. Garst also didn't retaliate by not hiring her for the research assistant position because she didn't have the qualifications necessary for the job. She didn't have a college degree or the required experience to be the research assistant.

Scruggs also failed to prove her claim of hostile work environment because while Beazer did make inappropriate comments toward her, most of them related to Scruggs' work habits or alleged lack of sophistication, the same types of comments he made to other male and female employees, wrote the judge.

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