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Vaghela v. Huntington Bancshares, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. West Virginia, Charleston Division

April 30, 2018

VARSHA VAGHELA, Plaintiff,
v.
HUNTINGTON BANCSHARES, INCORPORATED, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          THOMAS E. JOHNSTON, CHIEF JUDGE.

         Pending before the Court is Defendant Huntington Bancshares, Inc.'s motion for summary judgment.[1] (ECF No. 24.) For the reasons discussed more fully below, the Court GRANTS IN PART and DENIES IN PART Defendant's motion. (ECF No. 24.)

         I. BACKGROUND

         Beginning in May 2011, Plaintiff was employed at Defendant's West Side Branch in Charleston, West Virginia, first as a Personal Banker, then as an Interim Branch Manager, and, most recently, as a Branch Manager. (See ECF No. 1 at ¶¶ 5-7 (Compl.).) Plaintiff consistently had high performance reviews that led to these successive promotions. (See ECF No. 26 at 9.)

         On or about September 21, 2015, Plaintiff informed her District Manager, Tom Dixon (“Dixon”), that she had compliance concerns about fellow banker Michael Mullins (“Mullins”). (See ECF No. 25 at 2.) Specifically, Plaintiff complained to Dixon that Mullins had approached her a month previously and informed her that he had prepared a loan for disbursement without providing the borrower three days to rescind their decision to borrow as required by state and federal consumer protection statutes. (See ECF No. 26 at 2.) Plaintiff also states that she requested that Defendant rectify the error. (See Id. at 9.)

         As a result, the Branch Manager at Defendant's Downtown Branch, Jonathan Roop (“Roop”), conducted an investigation into Plaintiff's complaint. (See ECF No. 26 at 4.) Defendant states that during Roop's investigation he uncovered that Plaintiff notarized a deed without the customer being present and backdated a deed. (See ECF No. 25 at 2-3.) This was in violation of Defendant's policy and the West Virginia Notary Handbook. (See Id. at 4.) As such, Plaintiff was subject to disciplinary action. (See id.)

         Following the investigation, Dixon and Roop held a disciplinary meeting with Plaintiff and Mullins. (See id.) Plaintiff asserts that during the meeting Dixon said he did not believe the notarization issue was a major concern, but instead was a good learning opportunity. (See id.) However, on October 13, 2015, Defendant notified Plaintiff that her employment was being terminated. (ECF No. 26 at 5.)

         Plaintiff filed this action on January 9, 2017 against Defendant alleging discriminatory termination in violation of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 (“Dodd-Frank Act”) (Count I) and discriminatory discharge for reporting illegal disbursement of loan proceeds (Count II). Defendant subsequently filed the present motion for summary judgment. (ECF No. 25.) Plaintiff filed a timely response, (ECF No. 26), and Defendant filed a timely reply. (ECF No. 29.) As such, Defendant's motion is fully briefed and ripe for adjudication.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure governs motions for summary judgment. That rule provides, in relevant part, that summary judgment should be granted if “there is no genuine issue as to any material fact.” Summary judgment is inappropriate, however, if there exist factual issues that reasonably may be resolved in favor of either party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986). “Facts are ‘material' when they might affect the outcome of the case, and a ‘genuine issue' exists when the evidence would allow a reasonable jury to return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” The News & Observer Publ. Co. v. Raleigh-Durham Airport Auth., 597 F.3d 570, 576 (4th Cir. 2010). When construing such factual issues, the Court must view the evidence “in the light most favorable to the [party opposing summary judgment].” Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 157 (1970).

         The moving party may meet its burden of showing that no genuine issue of fact exists by use of “depositions, answers to interrogatories, answers to requests for admission, and various documents submitted under request for production.” Barwick v. Celotex Corp., 736 F.2d 946, 958 (4th Cir. 1984). Once the moving party has met its burden, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party to “make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). If a party fails to make a sufficient showing on one element of that party's case, the failure of proof “necessarily renders all other facts immaterial.” Id. at 323.

         “[A] party opposing a properly supported motion for summary judgment may not rest upon mere allegation or denials of his pleading, but must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. at 256. “The mere existence of a scintilla of evidence” in support of the nonmoving party is not enough to withstand summary judgment; the judge must ask whether “the jury could reasonably find for the plaintiff.” Id. at 252.

         III. DISCUSSION

         As stated above, Plaintiff alleges claims for retaliatory discharge under Dodd-Frank and state law in her Complaint. Defendant seeks summary judgment on both of these claims. Therefore, the Court will address these ...


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