The opinion of the court was delivered by: Chief Judge Curtis L. Collier
Before the Court is Defendant Chattanooga City Wide Service Department's ("Defendant") motion for summary judgment (Court File No. 122) and accompanying memorandum (Court File No. 128). Pro se plaintiff Ronald L. Madden ("Plaintiff") filed a response (Court File No. 135), to which Defendant filed a reply (Court File No. 137). For the following reasons, Defendant's motion for summary judgment will be GRANTED-IN-PART and DENIED-IN-PART.
I. RELEVANT FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Plaintiff worked for Defendant as a "crew worker senior" from November 2003 until he was terminated in March 2006 (Court File No. 123, p. 5; Court File No. 124, p. 1). He alleges he was fired because of his race, black. Defendant asserts Plaintiff was fired because he set off a firecracker while working. Plaintiff admits setting off a firecracker (Court File No. 123, p. 10). He claims he did so to scare off a stray dog so as not to be bitten (id. at p. 28-29), and asserts it is common practice for firecrackers to be kept on Defendant's work trucks to scare away animals (id. at p. 18).
Another employee, Christopher Dossett, identified two white employees of Defendant who "engaged in horseplay and the use of fireworks and/or explosives during work hours" and were not terminated (Court File No. 135-2). These incidents occurred "in plain view of management and other employees for an extended period of time" and during the time Plaintiff worked for Defendant (id.). Another employee, Alonzo Lewis, has witnessed "on more than one occasion, white employees using firecrackers in front of" Defendant supervisors and no one was fired as a result (Court File No. 135-3). Plaintiff contends another black employee, Travis Bell, also set off firecrackers at the same location and same day as him but was not terminated (id.). Plaintiff also says he once saw "somebody" throw "some firecrackers" while he "was coming out of the yard," but he does not know who threw the firecrackers or when it happened (id. at p. 22).
Salem Templin, a crew supervisor employed by Defendant, heard fireworks being set off while working, and Plaintiff admitted he set them off (Court File No. 126-2). Steven C. Leach, who works for Defendant as Administrator of the Department of Public Works, learned that Plaintiff had set off a firecracker in the workplace, which is not authorized (Court File No. 124, ¶ 3). James H. Templeton, who works for Defendant as Director of the Department of Public Works City-Wide Services, recommended Plaintiff be terminated for horse play after learning Plaintiff had set off a firecracker (id., ¶ 4; Court File No. 126, ¶ 3). Tony Boyd, who works for Defendant as Superintendent of Street Construction, also learned Plaintiff set off a firecracker at work (Court File No. 127, ¶ 8).
Plaintiff believes a warning would have been sufficient (Court File No. 123 at p. 29). He believes his termination was unfair discipline. He also believes he has suffered other indignities at work, such as being unfairly disciplined for being late to work (id.). Crew workers have to report to work by 7:30 a.m. and leave with their work crews in their work vehicles by 7:45 a.m. (Court File No. 125, ¶¶ 8-9). Employees who fail to leave with their work crews are disciplined, and Plaintiff repeatedly failed to leave with his work crew (id., ¶¶ 10-12). Plaintiff also believes two managers told other employees to report on Plaintiff's "anything and everything" Plaintiff did while working, such as minor mistakes in his work (Court File No. 123, pp. 13 & 25-26).
Throughout Plaintiff's employment, his job title remained the same but his job assignments were changed (id., p. 20). He considers himself to have been demoted by being transferred to a position not involving heavy equipment and then again when he was moved to an all-white crew outside his specialty area, and then transferred again to a different work area (id., p. 19). Supervisors employed by Defendant state Plaintiff was never demoted but was transferred at various times to make sure job assignments were completed and at other times at Plaintiff's request (Court File No. 125, ¶¶ 3 & 5; Court File No. 127, ¶ 3).
Plaintiff also alleges he experienced a hostile work environment and states he was called "n-----" (id., p. 14). Plaintiff heard the leader of another work crew say, "Let me have that N-word for a week and I will break him" (id., p. 23).*fn1
Plaintiff filed grievances and complaints alleging discrimination with the City and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and alleges Defendant retaliated against him for filing those grievances. Leach and Templeton deny Plaintiff was fired for filing grievances or complaints (Court File No. 124, ¶ 6; Court File No. 126, ¶ 7). Twice in his deposition Plaintiff was asked how he connects his complaints alleging discrimination to his termination. The first time, Plaintiff responded by saying he was a new employee and other employees had longer relationships which caused supervisors to believe negative things (Court File No. 123, pp. 17-18). The second time, he responded by talking generally about other employees' behavior and saying a warning would have been a sufficient response to him setting off a firecracker (id., pp. 28-29).
Plaintiff filed this case against the Defendant, various city employees, and an EEOC investigator (Court File No. 3). The Court previously dismissed all claims except those against the Defendant (Court File No. 80).
Summary judgment is proper where "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). Initially, the burden rests on the moving party to conclusively show no genuine issue of material fact exists. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986); Leary v. Daeschner, 349 F.3d 888, 897 (6th Cir. 2003). The Court views the evidence, including all reasonable inferences, in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587-88 (1986); Nat'l Satellite Sports, Inc. v. Eliadis, Inc., 253 F.3d 900, 907 (6th Cir. 2001). The moving party must demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact, but the non-movant is not entitled to a trial solely on the basis of its allegations. The non-movant must submit significant probative evidence to support its claim, and from which a jury could find for the ...