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Nguyen v. Boeing Co.

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle

March 30, 2018




         This matter comes before the Court on Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment. Dkt. # 100. Plaintiff opposes the Motion. Dkt. # 102. For the reasons that follow, the Court DENIES Defendant's Motion. Dkt. # 100.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Minhnga Nguyen is a Vietnamese woman and a resident of the State of Washington. Dkt. # 104 ¶¶ 1, 3. Plaintiff was hired by Defendant, the Boeing Company (“Boeing), in 1991. Id. at ¶ 3. Nguyen worked at Boeing as an Electrical Engineer until she was laid off from her job in 2009. Id. at ¶¶ 3-5. From April 26, 2010 through December of 2011, Nguyen worked for Boeing as a Contract Engineer. Id. at ¶ 6. In 2011, Boeing hired Nguyen back as a Level 3 System Engineer. Id. at ¶ 7.

         Pursuant to Boeing's Administration of Employee Corrective Action Policy, an Employee Corrective Action (“ECA”) will be taken when an employee engages in a practice that is inconsistent with the Boeing Code of Conduct, Expected Behaviors for Boeing Employees, U.S. Government security, regulatory and contractual requirements, or ordinary, reasonable, common sense rules of conduct. Dkt. # 101-1 at 68-76. When an employee has an active corrective action on file, it is typically handled using progressive corrective action. Id. The corrective action process does not necessarily include every step, and can begin with any level and proceed to more severe measures for similar subsequent violations. Id. After an investigation and review, an ECA is issued at one of the following escalating levels: (1) verbal warning; (2) written warning; (3) time off from work; and (4) discharge. Id. Written warnings, time off from work, and discharge require preparation and issuance of a Corrective Action Memo (“CAM”). Id. After the ECA is issued, employee behavior is routinely monitored for compliance. Id. If a CAM is in active status, it must be the basis for progressive corrective action if the employee engages in behavior that is the same or similar to the behavior in the active CAM. Id. The standard duration of an active CAM is twelve (12) months unless additional violations for the same or similar type of offense have occurred. Id. If such an additional violation occurs, the previous active CAM's expiration date will be extended to match that of the subsequent CAM. Id.

         On March 14, 2014, Plaintiff received a CAM from her supervisor at the time, Dorothy Todd, for failure to comply with management direction. Dkt. # 103 Ex. A. Prior to that date, Plaintiff alleges that she complained about Todd not treating her equally to other employees. Dkt. # 104 ¶ 9. Plaintiff responded to this CAM and stated that her supervisor, Dorothy Todd, and James Michael Todd were retaliating against her for reporting James Michael Todd's actions. Dkt. # 103 Ex. A. It is unclear what these actions were, or why Todd and James Michael Todd would be retaliating against Plaintiff for reporting them. Id.

         In April of 2014, Todd was transferred to a different group and Gary Weber became Plaintiff's supervisor. Dkt. # 104 ¶ 12. Keith Sellers became Plaintiff's senior manager, and Kim Conner became her Human Resources generalist. Id. at ¶ 13. In August of 2014, Plaintiff received a second CAM for failing to comply with management direction. The CAM states that Plaintiff failed to notify management that she was out of the office on July 21, 2014 and that she failed to report her time accurately. Dkt. # 103 Ex. B.

         Plaintiff's manager, Weber, was on vacation at that time, and Plaintiff alleges that she sent her acting manager, Jeff Vick, an email on July 18, 2014, informing him that she was ill and that she would be absent the following Monday. Dkt. # 104 ¶ 16. On July 21, 2014, Sellers called Plaintiff's home twice, but Plaintiff did not answer his calls. Id. Sellers directed Plaintiff to change her time entry for July 21, 2014 to time off without pay, but Plaintiff did not do so. Dkt. # 101-1. The parties disagree on whether Vick or Sellers was Plaintiff's acting manager while Weber was on vacation. Dkt. ## 100, 104. Plaintiff received time off from work without pay for this CAM. Dkt. # 103 Ex. B. The Expected Behavior Category Violation (“EBCV”) for both the March 2014 and August 2014 CAMs was “Produce, design, and support our products and services”. Dkt. # 103 Exs. A, B. On August 15, 2014, Plaintiff contacted Director of Engineering, Rich Horigan, complained about her suspension, and asked him for assistance. Dkt. # 104 ¶ 21.

         On September 9, 2014, Plaintiff received a parking ticket and her car was towed. Dkt. # 101-1. On October 14, 2014, Plaintiff received a third CAM for failing to comply with site parking regulations. The EBCV for this CAM was “Adhere to company agreements, policies, and procedures”. Dkt. # 101-1 at 81. On October 17, 2014, Plaintiff filed a discrimination complaint with Boeing's EEO department. Dkt. # 104 ¶ 24. Plaintiff requested Human Resources Manager Heather Frasier's help filing the complaint. Id; Dkt. # 101 Ex. 3. On that same day, Weber emailed Kim Conner asking to meet to “talk over an employee issue and how to move forward.” Dkt. # 103 Ex. D.

         On October 20, 2014, Conner sent herself two emails detailing her meeting with Weber. Id. The emails state that Weber's concern “is regarding Mihngna Nguyen [sic] and her continuing to fail to follow directions.” The emails also state that Plaintiff “continues to do some work that takes a significant amount of time away from the expected work packages, ” that Plaintiff would not use a common spreadsheet to log information despite being asked to do so, that there were “other issues”, and that Weber had given her “sufficient time and repeated requests to comply with the direction, but she fails to do as requested.” Id. The emails also note that Conner informed Frasier, since Frasier received emails from Plaintiff on “01/16/2014 [sic] and 01/17/2014 [sic] . . . regarding the corrective action she has received and feeling singled out, ” and that Weber stated that Plaintiff was not being singled out. Id.

         On or about October 27, 2014, Conner met with Plaintiff to discuss the issues raised by Weber. Dkt. # 101 Ex. 3. Conner followed up with Plaintiff in writing, asking for her view of the situation. Dkt. # 101-1 at 79-80. The email detailed four examples of situations where Weber asked Plaintiff to do something, and Plaintiff did not follow his directions. Id. Plaintiff responded to Conner's email and Conner then reviewed Plaintiff's response with Weber. Dkt. # 101 Ex. 3. In Plaintiff's response, she indicated that felt she was being treated differently than other employees in the same group, and that she was concerned that Conner and Weber were working together to give her CAMs and suspensions, and that she was being targeted for termination. Dkt. # 101-1 at 79-80. After reviewing Plaintiff's responses, Weber made the decision to discharge Plaintiff. Conner testified that decision to terminate Plaintiff was made on or around October 28 or 29, 2014. Id.

         On November 4, 2014, Frasier submitted Plaintiff's complaint to David Wuerch in Boeing's EEO department. Dkt. # 101 Ex. 4. Wuerch and Frasier exchanged emails regarding the content of the complaint and Frasier indicated that she met with Plaintiff in order to “try to understand the basis of her complaint, ” and noted that Plaintiff incorporated some additional information. Dkt. # 101 Ex. 3. On November 13, 2014, Wuerch wrote to Frasier that he did not see any “EEO issues” and that they could proceed with Plaintiff's termination. Id.

         On November 20, 2014, Sellers informed Plaintiff that she was being issued two additional CAMs. Dkt. # 101 Ex. 5; Dkt. # 104. The first was issued because Plaintiff received another parking violation. The EBCV for this CAM was “Adhere to company agreements, policies and procedures. Dkt. # 101-1 at 82. The second was issued for failure to comply with management direction. Specifically, for Plaintiff's failure to obtain manager approval to flex her schedule, failure to stop doing a specific process and derivative work statement when requested by her manager, and failure to start using a common process when requested by her manager. Dkt. # 101-1 at 83. The EBCV for this CAM was “Produce, design, and support our products and services.” This was Plaintiff's third CAM issued for this EBCV. Id. Sellers then informed Plaintiff that he was terminating her employment with Boeing for failure to follow employer directives. Dkt. # 104.

         Plaintiff filed a Complaint against Boeing on May 20, 2015. Plaintiff alleged harassment and discrimination based on her race, national origin, and sex, and termination in retaliation for complaining about the alleged harassment and discrimination. Dkt. # 1. Plaintiff has since amended her complaint three times in response to three motions to dismiss. Dkt. ## 25, 29, 43. On December 20, 2016, the Court ...

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