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Madden v. Chattanooga City Wide Service Department

December 20, 2007

RONALD L. MADDEN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CHATTANOOGA CITY WIDE SERVICE DEPARTMENT, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Curtis L. Collier Chief United States District Judge

Chief Judge Curtis L. Collier

MEMORANDUM & ORDER

The Court held a bench trial on November 13, 2007 and December 17, 2007 on pro se plaintiff Ronald L. Madden's ("Plaintiff") claim he was unlawfully terminated by his former employer, defendant Chattanooga City Wide Service Department ("Defendant").*fn1

Plaintiff alleged he was fired based on his race in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2, and the Tennessee Human Rights Act ("THRA"), Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 4-21-101, et. seq. The Court heard testimony from Plaintiff and fourteen other witnesses: William Brown, Christopher Dossett, Alonzo Lewis, Donna Kelly, Johnny Holloway, Berlinda Deleon, Wanda Benton, Donald L. Norris, Wayne Wilkerson, Keith Templin, Dana Young, Tony Boyd, James Templeton, and Steven Leach. Having reviewed the testimony of the witnesses, considered the exhibits introduced at trial, the arguments and pleadings of counsel, and the applicable law, the Court, pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 52, now enters the following findings of fact and conclusions of law.

FINDINGS OF FACT

1. Subject matter jurisdiction in this case exists pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331.

2. Venue is proper pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1391(a) because a substantial part of the events or omissions giving rise to the claim occurred in this district.

3. Plaintiff, who is African-American, worked for Defendant, which is a division of the City of Chattanooga, Tennessee, public works department. Plaintiff worked as a crew worker senior, starting November 25, 2003.

4. On March 22, 2006, Plaintiff set off a firecracker while working. Plaintiff's supervisor, Keith Templin, heard the firecracker, walked over, and asked who had set it off. Plaintiff acknowledged setting it off. Templin notified a superior, Tony Boyd, and Plaintiff was sent home from work as a result. Plaintiff was terminated the next day.

5. At other times, white employees of Defendant set off firecrackers or similar devices without facing discipline. This evidence was established from testimony by William Brown, a former employee of Defendant who voluntarily left that employment for a better opportunity; Christopher Dossett, an employee of Defendant for almost 16 years; Alonzo Lewis, an employee of Defendant for four years; and the testimony of Plaintiff himself.

6. The evidence established that Dana Young, an employee of Defendant, threw firecrackers during work hours during the week of July 4, 2005. This occurred next to the building housing Defendant's administrators, and Templin, a supervisor, witnessed the incident.

7. There was also evidence Templin himself set off firecrackers. Templin did not report the incident to any higher-ups. Young and Templin are white. While the incident was going on, Wayne Wilkerson, who manages Defendant's street construction division and is white, came out of the administration building and said to "knock off the horseplay." Wilkerson did not see who threw the firecrackers, nor did he investigate further. From Wilkerson's reaction, it does not appear such behavior was a matter for discipline; rather, it was mere horseplay that should be discouraged.

8. The evidence also established there was an incident where a white employee threw a firecracker into a moving work truck carrying African-American employees, causing them to jump out of the truck. Wilkerson and other employees were present when this happened, and no one was disciplined as a result. Based on the reaction of Wilkerson and other employees, the incident was viewed as humorous and not one warranting discipline. Since a moving motor vehicle was involved and employees jumped from the moving vehicle, this incident presented a clear case of a dangerous circumstances where a white employee was not disciplined.

9. From the testimony of the witnesses the Court concludes such incidents were not uncommon on Plaintiff's job. The Court reaches this conclusion from the description of the incidents by the witnesses, the described reactions of the participants in the incidents and ...


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