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Phillips v. Spireon Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Shreveport Division

June 20, 2019

ZANITA PHILLIPS
v.
SPIREON, INC.

          MARK L. HORNSBY Judge.

          RULING

          TERRY A. DOUGHTY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Zanita Phillips (“Phillips”) sued her former employer, Spireon, Inc. (“Spireon”) alleging she suffered wage discrimination because of her gender, was sexually harassed by a supervisor, and was subjected to retaliation and constructively discharged after reporting the harassment. Pending here is Spireon's Motion for Summary Judgment [Doc. No. 27] seeking dismissal of Phillips' claims. Phillips has filed an Opposition [Doc. Nos. 29, 34]. Spireon has filed a Reply [Doc. No. 35].

         For the following reasons, the Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED.

         I. FACTS

         Spireon provides GPS systems that allow customers to track, manage, and protect vehicles and other mobile assets. In October 2015 Spireon acquired Position Plus GPS, a competitor for whom Phillips had served as an independent sales contractor for two years. Following the acquisition, Phillips accepted a job as a Regional Sales Director for Spireon with a base salary of $36, 000, the opportunity to earn commissions on sales, and certain other benefits.

         Working as an independent sales contractor for Position Plus GPS had allowed Phillips to set her own hours and work when she wanted. However, as a Regional Sales Director with Spireon, Phillips became a salaried employee. As such, she was expected to meet minimum sales quotas, was assigned exclusive geographic regions, and had to comply with company policies.

         Phillips' date of hire was October 29, 2015, but she did not actually begin working for Spireon until December 2015 or January 2016. She was assigned Andy Seckinger (“Seckinger”) as her direct supervisor. Seckinger in turn reported to Dave Boekholder (“Boekholder”), Vice President for Sales.

         Shortly after starting work, Phillips complained to Seckinger that her starting salary of $36, 000 was too low. Seckinger approached Boekholder on her behalf, and through their efforts, her salary was increased to $50, 000, effective January 1, 2016. Phillips testified in her deposition, that, once her salary was increased, she no longer considered it to be too low, or based on her gender. [Doc. No. 27-4, p. 140].

         Phillips, who is married, alleges that in January of 2016 Seckinger began a campaign of repeated and unwanted sexual harassment by phone calls and text messages. She alleges that he told her he wanted her, that he did not want to see her with another man, and that he would take care of her. She states that in February 2016 he called and said he was jealous and did not like her working with Boekholder. He also asked her to pick him up from an airport in Dallas and drive him to Oklahoma City, which she refused to do. She further alleges that he called her at home and stated he wanted to have sex with her. On one occasion in Little Rock, Arkansas, he tried to get her into his hotel room and expressed the wish that she would stay in the same hotel.

         Phillips alleges that around February 16 through 19, 2016, she told Boekholder of the harassment by Secklinger and was told that it would be taken care of. Seckinger took a personal leave from February 8 until March 8, 2016. Boekholder transferred Phillips to Michelle Jackson (“Jackson”), who remained her supervisor until Phillips's resignation.

         Phillips alleges that the management of Spireon retaliated against her for making the complaint of sexual harassment by doubling her sales quotas for the second quarter of 2016, denying her commissions she had earned, taking accounts from her, and delaying orders she placed for customers. She states that, as a result of this harassment and retaliation, she resigned her position as of June 1, 2016. She contends she was, in effect, constructively terminated by the retaliatory treatment she received after complaining of sexual harassment.

         On September 23, 2016, Phillips filed a charge of discrimination with the EEOC, and on March 7, 2017, the EEOC issued Phillips a Notice of Right to Sue [Doc. No. 1-1]. Phillips filed this suit on June 16, 2017, alleging discrimination in pay based on her gender, sexual harassment by a supervisor, retaliaton for complaining of sexual harassment, and that she was constructively discharged after reporting the harassment. [Doc. No. 1].

         On May 9, 2019, Spireon filed this Motion for Summary Judgment seeking the dismissal of all of Phillips' claims. Spireon asserts that Phillips resigned her position with Spireon because she did not enjoy the work and was not succeeding at it. She went from selling GPS units when, where and how she wanted as an independent contractor with Position Plus GPS to working as an employee of a company with policies and procedures she did not like and refused to follow.

         The motion is fully briefed, and the Court is prepared to rule.

         II. ...


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