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Haile v. HMS Host

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

April 20, 2015

Yordanos Haile, Plaintiff,
HMS Host, Defendant

Michael A. Fondungallah, Fondungallah & Kingham, LLC, St. Paul, Minnesota, for Plaintiff.

Jennifer L. Cornell, Joseph G. Schmitt, Nilan Johnson Lewis PA, Minneapolis, Minnesota, for Defendant.


RICHARD H. KYLE, United States District Judge.


Plaintiff Yordanos Haile alleges in this action that her former employer, HMS Host, (1) discriminated against her on the basis of race and national origin, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (" Title VII" ), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a), and the Minnesota Human Rights Act (MHRA), Minn. Stat. § 363A.08, subd. 2; (2) retaliated against her after she complained about how she and others were paid and treated, in violation of Title VII and the MHRA; and (3) failed to accommodate her pregnancy, in violation of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 (PDA) amendment to Title VII, § 42 U.S.C. 2000e(k). HMS Host now moves for summary judgment on all claims. For the following reasons, summary judgment will be granted.


The following facts are recited in the light most favorable to Haile:

Haile is an Ethiopian woman who, in 2001, began working as a cashier in the retail division of HMS Host at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport. (Pl. Ex. 1, 23, 27, 33.) HMS Host is a company that provides food and beverage services in airports and, at the time of Haile's employment, also operated a retail division. (Risch Decl. ¶ 2.) Haile was promoted to lead sales associate within a year of beginning her employment. (Pl. Ex. 1, 33.) In that role, in addition to her cashier duties, she distributed keys and money to associates at the beginning of shifts and collected money and dropped it in a cash room at the end of shifts. (Id., 35-38.) She continued to work as a lead associate until September 2011, when her employment was terminated. (Pl. Ex. 10.)

The standard work procedures at HMS Host were as follows: Each associate at HMS Host was assigned a cash register to use during her shift, which was accessed with a " Micros" electronic key card that tracked the register's transactions. (Pl. Ex. 3; Risch Decl. ¶ 4.) If a supervisor needed access to the register to void a transaction, the associate swiped her Micros card to unassign the register and the supervisor swiped her card to assign it to herself, reversing the process when done. (Risch Decl. ¶ ¶ 6-7.) At the end of a shift, the associate sealed everything from her register in a tamper-evident bag. (Pl. Ex. 4.) The lead associate dropped the bag in the cash room, where staff placed its contents in a counting machine. (Vanyo Decl. ¶ 3.) The machine printed a receipt of the associate's identification number, the time, and the amount of cash in the bag. (Id. ¶ 4.)

If the company found a variance after comparing the amount of cash in an associate's bag to the sales recorded on the register, HMS Host policy directed that within three days of discovery the company should issue a Funds Discrepancy Notice to the employee. (Pl. Ex. 8.) If the total amount of the discrepancy was greater than $50, the employee would be suspended pending investigation. (Id.) An employee found to be at fault could be disciplined or have her employment terminated. (Id.) Additionally, the collective bargaining agreement between Haile's union, the Metal Shop, Warehousemen, and Helpers Union Local 970, and HMS Host provided that " within five working days after cash and sales receive[d] their final review, employees [would] be notified of a shortage or overage; otherwise such notice [would] be considered untimely." (Pl. Ex. 9, 18.)

On September 11, 2011, Haile's cash bag from the previous day was counted. (Cornell Decl., Ex. C, Ex. 29.) Four days later, an HMS Host employee compared her cash bag receipts to her register transactions (Vanyo Decl. ¶ 6) and discovered her cash bag for September 10 had $50.02 more than her register transactions indicated it should have had (Cornell Decl., Ex. D, Ex. 8). A Funds Discrepancy Notice was prepared that day, September 15. (Id., Ex. D, Ex. 8.) According to Jennifer Risch, Haile's manager, she investigated the discrepancy as soon as she learned of it. She confirmed all voids had been performed correctly and there was no off-set with another associate that day, and she ran a journal of all of Haile's transactions. (Id., Ex. D, 49-50.) She could not identify a source of the overage. (Id., Ex. D, 50.)

On September 17, Risch gave Haile a Corrective Action Written Warning Notice informing her that she had an overage and was suspended. (Cornell Decl., Ex. C, Ex. 27.) Sometime in the next four days, Haile met with HMS Host representatives to talk about the overage. During that meeting, Haile mentioned that her coworker, Eyob, had told her Risch was at her register when she was on break on September 10. (Pl. Ex. 1, 202-03.) Haile asked the HMS Host representatives to review video of her register to check if that were true. (Id., 203.) They informed her there was no video to watch because the camera was not working, and, according to Haile, no one from the company asked Eyob about the incident. (Id., 203-04.)

On September 21, 2011, Haile's employment at HMS Host was terminated. (Pl. Ex. 10.) The termination notice cited her $50.02 overage as well as her failure to sign out cash bags and keys on September 17, 2011, concluding that HMS Host was terminating her employment " for violating the HMS Host cash handling policy." (Id.) Haile filed a charge with the EEOC on October 18, 2011, ultimately receiving a right-to-sue letter. (Pl. Ex. 1, 183; Cornell Decl., Ex. C, Ex. 2.) She commenced this action on February 12, 2014, alleging eight counts against HMS Host. She later agreed to dismiss several; the remaining are claims of race and national-origin discrimination under Title VII (Count I) and the MHRA (Count II); retaliation under Title VII (Count III) and reprisal under the MHRA (Count IV); and sex ...

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