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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:On April 10, 2000, Juanita DeHart, an African-American, began working as a design drafter in the multilateral engineering group of Baker Hughes Oilfield Operations Inc. (Baker Hughes). Doug Murray hired DeHart and was her supervisor at the time. Beginning in October 2000 and continuing for three and a half years until Baker Hughes terminated DeHart on April 19, 2004, DeHart complained of air quality problems. DeHart’s first complaints came in October 2000 when she complained about dust and the smell of fresh glue and paint from a construction area inside the building. She requested to be moved to a different area, and Baker Hughes complied. That next year, she received a favorable 2001 annual review. In January and February 2002, DeHart took a one-month leave of absence, complaining of breathing difficulties at work. During the leave, she requested that Baker Hughes move her again and provide her with a HEPA air filter. Baker Hughes complied. Later that year, in July 2002, DeHart allegedly met with Murray’s boss, Brent Emerson, and claimed racial discrimination against herself and an African-American co-worker Ron Sinnette. According to Baker Hughes, the conversation never occurred. In August 2002, DeHart’s 2002 annual review was again favorable but noted strained communication between DeHart and her supervisor Cliff Mills stemming from the air quality problems reported by DeHart. In March 2003, DeHart complained about the smell of diesel fumes and requested a negative ionizer purification system air filter, and Baker Hughes complied. Several months later, DeHart left work on May 1, 2003 to take a leave of absence, during which she saw two physicians. During her leave, Baker Hughes mailed DeHart a letter requesting information regarding her medical condition, diagnosis and workplace limitations. That same month, Baker Hughes terminated Sinnette pursuant to a workforce reduction. Sinnette later filed an EEOC charge alleging discrimination, which the EEOC eventually dismissed. DeHart returned to work on May 28 but did not stay long. On her first day back, DeHart complained about the smell of a co-worker’s cologne. On June 8, Murray told DeHart she would not receive a pay raise in 2003, and the next day, she left work again due to air quality problems. On June 11, Murray e-mailed DeHart at home and warned her that she would be terminated if she remained off work after June 16 without medical authorization. Nevertheless, when DeHart remained off work after June 16 without medical authorization, Baker Hughes did not terminate her. Instead, it sent her a letter requesting information about her medical condition, to which her physician responded that DeHart had “moderately severe reactive airway disease,” but that the physician’s testing of DeHart was “unrevealing.” DeHart returned to work on June 23. On July 14, 2003, DeHart received her 2003 annual review. Her performance development plan rated DeHart as “development needed” in every category in which it rated her. The accompanying written memorandum criticized DeHart for an allegedly bad attitude and allegedly poor attendance. In the meeting, Baker Hughes accused DeHart of “bad mouthing” management, which she denied. During the meeting, DeHart alluded to allegations of sex and race discrimination against her but failed to provide evidence or details when an HR representative later asked DeHart for specific evidence and details supporting her claims. Beginning in late July 2003, Baker Hughes denied DeHart’s subsequent requests to have her workstation moved, despite requests from her physicians. On the morning of Aug. 15, 2003, according to DeHart, an EEOC investigator called her at home and questioned her regarding Sinnette’s racial discrimination claim. According to DeHart, she promptly told Emerson about the phone call when she arrived at work that morning. Baker Hughes denies these allegations. Later that day, Baker Hughes issued DeHart a written warning for insubordination, for being argumentative and for excessive absenteeism. On Sept. 2, 2003, DeHart filed an EEOC charge against Baker Hughes alleging that she received her poor 2003 annual review and the Aug. 15 written warning in retaliation for having participated in Sinnette’s EEOC investigation. DeHart met numerous times with Baker Hughes’ management and HR department to discuss the alleged discrimination. On Feb. 4, 2004, Baker Hughes dismissed her allegations as without merit. A few weeks later on Feb. 25, the EEOC followed suit, issuing a Dismissal and Notice of Rights to DeHart. On April 19, 2004, Baker Hughes terminated DeHart for this stated reason: “Disruptive/Inability to work harmoniously with other employees.” In May 2004, DeHart filed suit in state court. Baker Hughes and Murray removed the case to federal district court, which granted summary judgment for Baker Hughes and Murray. DeHart appealed the dismissal of her retaliation claim. HOLDING:Affirmed. To establish a prima facie case for retaliation, the court stated, an employee must show that 1. She engaged in a protected activity; 2. An adverse employment action occurred; and 3. A causal link existed between the protected activity and the adverse action. If an employee does not establish a prima facie case, the court stated that it must dismiss the retaliation claims as a matter of law. DeHart first argued that because she was “closely related to or associated with” Sinnette, she may share in Sinnette’s protected activity of filing an EEOC racial discrimination charge. This alleged protected activity, according to DeHart, related to two alleged adverse employment actions: Baker Hughes’ denial of DeHart’s request for sick leave and Baker Hughes’ opening an “investigative” file against DeHart. But the court dismissed this argument, stating that DeHart cannot claim Sinnette’s protected activity as her own. DeHart next argued that her participation in Sinnette’s EEOC investigation was a protected activity casually linked to two alleged adverse employment actions: Baker Hughes’ written discipline warning issued to DeHart on Aug. 15, 2003, and the denial of a pay raise to DeHart on June 8, 2003. But the court found that because the written warning did not constitute an “adverse employment action,” another of DeHart’s retaliation claims failed. As to the denial of a pay raise, regardless of whether this is an adverse employment action, the court noted that Murray told DeHart on June 8, 2003 that she would not receive a pay raise that year. This warning occurred over two months before DeHart allegedly participated in Sinnette’s EEOC investigation and supposedly told Emerson about her participation, which was on Aug. 15. Therefore, the court found no link between the denial of the raise and any alleged retaliation and another of DeHart’s retaliation claims thus failed. DeHart finally argued that the filing of her EEOC charge was a protected activity casually linked to her termination. To determine the existence of a casual link between the filing of the EEOC charge and alleged retaliation, the court examined three factors: 1. the employee’s past disciplinary record; 2. employer compliance with its typical policy and procedures in terminating the employee; and 3. the temporal proximity between the employee’s conduct and termination. The court noted that DeHart’s past disciplinary record was not “stellar.” The court also found that Baker Hughes followed its usual policies and procedures in terminating DeHart. With respect to the temporal proximity between the day DeHart filed her EEOC charge, Sept. 2, 2003, and the day Baker Hughes terminated her, April 19, 2004, the court noted that about seven and a half months lapsed in between the two events. The court cited its prior case law that similar lapses of time, by themselves, are insufficient to show a causal link. Considering all three factors together, the court held as a matter of law that DeHart failed to establish a casual link between filing her EEOC charge and her termination. Finally, the court held that DeHart failed to demonstrate a prima facie case of retaliation by Baker Hughes. OPINION:Per curiam; Jolly, Higginbotham and Dennis, J.J.

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