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Morison v. Hannaford Bros. Co.

Superior Court of Maine, Cumberland

March 13, 2014

SANDRA J. MORISON, Plaintiff
v.
HANNAFORD BROS. CO., Defendant

ORDER ON MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

Joyce A. Wheeler, Justice, Superior Court.

Defendant Hannaford Brothers Co. moves the Court for summary judgment on both counts of plaintiff Sandra Morison's complaint for employment discrimination. For the following reasons the motion is denied.

BACKGROUND

The following facts are presented in a light most favorable to Morison, the non-moving party. In June 2009, Morison applied for a cashier position at the Hannaford in Gorham, Maine and was hired on August 8, 2009. (Add. S.M.F. ¶ 1; Supp. S.M.F. ¶ 3.) According to Morison, she requested in her application to have every Sunday off for the entire day so she could attend church.[1] (Add. S.M.F. ¶ ¶ 1-2.) Morison notified Audrey Laskey, the Associate Relations Manager for the store, who informed Amanda Brown, [2] Morison's supervisor, of the requested accommodation. (Add. S.M.F. ¶ ¶ 1, 4.) Brown was responsible for scheduling and placing accommodations into the automated Kronos work scheduler, which tracks employee availability. (Add. S.M.F. ¶ ¶ 5-7.)

Despite Morison's alleged request to have Sundays off, over time, Hannaford started scheduling Morison to work on Sundays. (Add. S.M.F. ¶ 21.) Hannaford scheduled her to work a total of 18 Sundays over the course of her employment, including several Sunday mornings. (Add. S.M.F. ¶ 22; Supp. S.M.F. ¶ 8; Opp. S.M.F. ¶ 8.) Morison was scheduled to work on Sunday May 15, 2011. (Add. S.M.F. ¶ 23.) Morison asked her supervisors Mallory Roubo and Brown whether she could have Sundays off for church, but they did not address her requests.[3] (Add. S.M.F. ¶ 24; Morison Dep. 137:1-2.) On May 22, 2011, Morison contacted Ken Kierstead of corporate human resources about Hartnaford's failure to accommodate her request to not work on Sundays. (Add. S.M.F. ¶ ¶ 25-26.) Morison authorized Kierstead to use her name to discuss the issue with local management, but stated, " as for my name, the only worry I have is I may lose my job..." (Add. S.M.F. ¶ 27.)

Kierstead emailed Laskey and told her to look into the accommodation. (Add. S.M.F. ¶ 30.) In the email, Kierstead wrote, " She is very worried that they will retaliate against her, so remind them not to take any punitive action against her for bringing this up. That would violate the policy and the law!" (Add. S.M.F. ¶ 31.) Laskey told Brown about Morison's complaints to Kierstead. (Add. S.M.F. ¶ 31.) Brown told Laskey that Morison had been talking with other co-workers " about how she is being scheduled on Sundays and it is not fair after she has brought this up numerous times to management." (Add. S.M.F. ¶ 33.) Laskey warned Brown not to confront Morison about the comments " because it would look like retaliation and we do not want to go create that perception." (Add. S.M.F. ¶ 34.)

After Morison emailed Kierstead in May 2011, Morison claims local management began to harass her. (Add. S.M.F. ¶ 35.) She claims her managers issued baseless disciplinary warnings, which they forced her to sign, changed her schedule without warning, and instructed a co-worker not to speak with her.[4] (Add. S.M.F. ¶ ¶ 37-38.) Morison also claims that Laskey and Brown referred to Morison as " too old" and a " holy Christian" or " holy roller." (Add. S.M.F. ¶ 39; Morison Dep. 98, 118-123.) Morison repeatedly complained to Kierstead that she was being treated unfairly. (Add. S.M.F. ¶ ¶ 45, 49-52, 61, 71-73, 75, 107-110.)

Defendant claims the evidence shows that Morison simply progressed through Hannaford's normal disciplinary process until she was fired. On August 8, 2009, Morison received a copy of Hannaford's tobacco sales policy, and on October 6, 2009 she received an updated policy on employee meal and rest breaks. (Supp. S.M.F. ¶ ¶ 26-27.) Hannaford's " Performance Counseling" policy outlines the following progressive disciplinary plan:

o Coaching and Feedback
o Step One: Verbal Warning
o Step Two: First Written Notice,
o Step Three: Final Written Notice
o Step Four: Final Disciplinary action up to and ...

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