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Linson v. Lockheed Martin Energy Systems

June 29, 2006


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Thomas W. Phillips United States District Judge



Plaintiff Johnny Linson has sued his former employers, Lockheed Martin Energy Systems, Inc. and BWXT Y-12, L.L.C. (BWXT), alleging systemic racial discrimination in employment through discriminatory selection, promotion, compensation, and disciplinary policies, practices and procedures, discriminatory terms and conditions of employment, and the existence and perpetuation of a racially hostile work environment in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq., (Title VII) and 42 U.S.C. § 1981 as amended. Defendant BWXT has moved for summary judgment asserting that there are no genuine issues as to material facts, and that BWXT is entitled to judgment as a matter of law on all of plaintiff's claims. For the reasons which follow, defendant's motion for summary judgment will be granted, and this action will be dismissed against BWXT.

Factual Background

Beginning April 1, 1984, pursuant to a contract with the Department of Energy, LMES managed, operated and maintained the Y-12 facility in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. LMES' contract for operating the Y-12 facility ended on October 31, 2000, and BWXT assumed management and operation on November 1, 2000. Linson was employed by LMES and the predecessor government contractors at Y-12 from April 14, 1969 until October 31, 2000. Linson was employed by BWXT from November 1, 2000 until February 28, 2001, at which time he retired by going on long term disability related to chronic depression, heart problems, and chronic beryllium disease. Linson served in the Utilities Department throughout his tenure at Y-12.

During Linson's employment at Y-12, he was a member of the Operating Engineers Union, Local 900. The terms and conditions of his employment were governed by contracts between the respective government contractors and the Atomic Trades and Labor Council (ATLC). The contracts between the government contractors and the ATLC governed the utility operators' rate of pay and included a provision prohibiting racial discrimination.

Linson's general supervisor was David Harvey. Harvey reported to Charles Krull, the manager of the Utilities Department.

In the mid-1990s, the Utilities Department adopted new safety procedures as part of its "Conduct of Operations." The new Conduct of Operations required utility operators to record the temperatures of various equipment within one hour of the time specified on a log called a "round sheet." If an unforeseen circumstance arose, operators could take readings outside of the one-hour period as long as they explained why in the narrative section of the round sheet. This procedure was designed to help operators detect abnormal conditions that could damage equipment or create an unsafe work environment.

In October 2000, Wayne Hensley, Shift Operations Advisor in the Utilities Department, discovered that Linson had incorrectly recorded readings on a number of different round sheets. Hensley reported the incorrect readings to Janet Sexton, Human Resources representative. Hensley reported that Linson had taken several readings over an hour-and-a-half early and others over one hour late, and he had failed to explain the untimely entries in the narrative section of the round sheets.

Sexton immediately began an investigation. On October 25, 2000, she met with Linson, a union steward, Linson's supervisor and another Human Resources representative. At the meeting, Linson admitted that he had made mistakes on the round sheets, but stated that he had forgotten the "new" procedure.*fn1 Sexton emphasized the importance of recording the readings on the round sheets within the proper time frame, and Linson acknowledged that he understood the procedure.

Following the meeting with Linson, Sexton reviewed the company's discipline records and discovered that two white employees had been disciplined for round sheet violations. The first incident occurred in March 1998. A chemical operator named Roy Boone was given decision-making leave because he had recorded false data on a round sheet. The second incident occurred in May 1998. A utility operator named Don Hastings had recorded that a machine was operational on a round sheet, but it was later discovered that the machine had been shut down before the readings were taken. During an investigation conducted by Human Resources, Hastings admitted that he did not take the readings; rather, he copied previously recorded readings on the round sheet because he was in a hurry. At the time of the investigation, Hastings was on probation for failing to wear proper protective equipment. He retired in lieu of discharge.

Sexton discussed the findings of her investigation with her superior, Olga Henley. They determined that Linson had recorded readings outside of the prescribed time period on several different occasions. Sexton and Henley decided that an oral reminder would be sufficient discipline because Linson had received no prior reprimands. Charles Krull and David Harvey agreed, and Linson received an oral reminder on November 21, 2000.*fn2

Less than three months later, Wayne Hensley reported that Linson had falsified a reading on a round sheet. Hensley stated that the temperature Linson recorded on a round sheet was impossible given the time the reading was taken. Linson had recorded that the machine's temperature was 410° at 8:50 a.m. Hensley checked the machine after Linson at about 8:55 a.m., and the temperature was 380°. Hensley determined that the reading Linson entered could not have been correct because a machine's temperature rises the longer it operates. Hensley concluded that Linson never actually took a reading and entered a false reading on the round sheet.

Hensley again contacted Janet Sexton, who began a second investigation. Sexton met with Linson, his direct supervisor, David Harvey, and Jim Barnes, BWXT's Diversity Manager. When Sexton questioned Linson about his entry, Linson admitted that he had taken the reading outside the required time period (between 7:30 and 7:45). He also acknowledged that he should have explained the reason for taking the reading over an hour early in the ...

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