Are you 'Old' or 'Black'? Better read this case!

Summarized and presented here for your reading pleasure is The Interesting and Secret Case of

TARGET, Defendant.

Cause: Civil Rights/Job Discrimination (Race)

Filed 6/25/07 in the

Case #1:07-cv-0814-DFH-TAB

(also see: http://www.insd.uscourts.gov/Opinions/AQ8140O2.pdf)

(* ie: Target's Motion)

Clifton Stephney was employed as an Executive Team Leader (“ETL”) of Logistics at the Target store in Bloomington, Indiana. Despite good to excellent performance reviews, Stephney was fired on November 17, 2006.

The decision was made by store manager Jennifer Mayer. Her stated reason was that Stephney was condoning off-the-clock work by an hourly employee. Stephney is a forty-two year old African-American who has now brought claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act.

Target has moved for summary judgment, arguing that Stephney’s off-the clock conversations with an hourly employee were its sole grounds for termination.

Its motion is denied. Stephney has come forth with sufficient evidence that Mayer and Target were attempting to eliminate older and African-American employees and that off-the-clock communications, despite written policies banning them, were widespread and part of the company culture.

The Record for Summary Judgment
Target complains that Stephney’s statement of material facts in dispute does not comply with Local Rule 56.1 and that his reliance on certain affidavit statements is inappropriate. . .. Target’s assertion that Stephney’s fact statements “misrepresent the evidence” is simply unfounded. Stephney is free to highlight the facts in a light most favorable to him.

Turning to the facts
Stephney was first employed by Target in 2002 as an ETL of Replenishment in California. He left Target in 2003. After relocating to Bloomington, he was hired again in December 2003 in the same position at a new store. In September 2005, he was promoted to ETL of Logistics. The ETL of Logistics is a salaried supervisory position that reports to the store manager. In this position, Stephney worked overnights. He was in charge of the merchandise stocking process, which occurs after hours when no customers are present.

Stephney’s performance reviews at the Bloomington store were all good to excellent. He was reviewed twice annually. His annual reviews for 2004 and 2005 were both “exceptional.” He also “met expectations,” the higher of two possible designations, on all of his mid-year reviews. He received his last mid-year review on October 9, 2006. The mid-year review stated: “Mr. Clifton [–] wow [–] what a outstanding growth year for you. You successfully took the logistics score to 100%, developed a solid team and have produced some outstanding results . . . I am proud of your accomplishment.”

Mayer became Stephney’s official supervisor on September 1, 2006. Both Mayer and Bontekoe are Caucasians. Mayer was born in 1973. The entire time Stephney was employed at the Bloomington Target, he was the only African-American ETL in Bloomington.

Target has hired one African-American ETL in Bloomington since Stephney’s termination.

After Mayer became store manager, she made Heronemus co-ETL of Logistics with Stephney.
Don Price, a Caucasian born in 1975, was later put in charge of the dayside Logistics staff, a responsibility previously held by Stephney. Both Stephney and Heronemus worked nights.

Stephney was formerly the only head of Logistics, but after Mayer’s appointment and Heronemus’ promotion, he began to feel that his instructions to Logistics team members were being undermined by Heronemus or Price. He complained about the lack of authority to Mayer, who told him that decisions should be made by majority rule among Stephney, Price, and Heronemus.

On November 1, 2006, Stephney complained to Mayer about Price and Heronemus
undermining his decisions. Mayer responded that they were younger and could relate to each other, while Stephney was older with a family and might not be able to relate to them.

Mayer’s reference to Stephney’s age on November 1, 2006 was not the first time the subject had come up in her short time as Stephney’s supervisor. Around the time that she took over as store manager, she saw a picture of Stephney’s family on his desk and asked how old he was. When he told her he was forty, she commented that he was older than she was. Although that last comment was obviously innocuous by itself, Mayer had also terminated Bobette Mucherheide, an employee over fifty years old whom Stephney had supervised. Mayer told
Stephney that Mucherheide was “too old and slow to be a team leader.”

Mayer also made a comment about race that is relevant here. In October 2006, Mayer asked Stephney what the word on the floor was about her. Stephney told her that team members were concerned Target was getting rid of minorities and older employees. Mayer responded that Target did not have to have minorities in leadership positions, merely in some capacity in the store.

Stephney was terminated on November 17, 2006. The official reason given was “Gross misconduct – condoning unauthorized work – knowingly permitting a team member to perform work off the clock, whether on or off company premises.”

Target’s motion for summary judgment is denied. The final pretrial conference remains set for March 6, 2009 with trial scheduled for March 16, 2009.

So ordered. January 8, 2009


So Target's attempt to have the case tossed out was unsuccessful and it was ordered to trial. It was a trial that was never to take place:

ORDER on 2/6/09, Settlement Conference: Parties appeared in person and by counsel.

Settlement discussions were held, and this case is now settled. Therefore, any pending motions are denied as moot, and all previously ordered dates relating to discovery, filings, schedules, conferences and trial, if any, are vacated. Parties shall file a stipulation of dismissal w/i 30 days. Signed by Magistrate Judge Tim A. Baker on 2/6/09.(SWM) (Entered: 02/09/2009)

Tarbutt knows a losing case when it stares them in the face, they also know what bad publicity is particularly when both Racial and Age Discrimination are involved. Hopefully Clifton Stephney is now living in a Chateau in Southern France and enjoying life. Good for you Clifton!

For the entire case see it on Pacer and for just the Courts ruling on Tarbutts motion for summary judgment see: http://www.insd.uscourts.gov/Opinions/AQ8140O2.pdf