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McGee v. Food Warming Equipment, Inc.

United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division

February 14, 2017

DARTANION A. MCGEE Plaintiff
v.
FOOD WARMING EQUIPMENT, INC., et al. Defendants

          MEMORANDUM

          WAVERLY D. CRENSHAW, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Pending before the Court is Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 38). For the reasons stated herein, Defendants' Motion is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.

         INTRODUCTION

         Dartanion A. McGee, a former employee of Food Warming Equipment, Inc. (“FWE”), brought this action against FWE and four of its employees for employment discrimination in violation of 42 U.S.C. §2000e, et seq. (“Title VII”); 42 U.S.C. § 1981 (“Section 1981); and Tenn. Code Ann. § 4-21-311, et seq. (“THRA”).

         Plaintiff alleges that FWE discriminated against Plaintiff because of his race, resulting in a constructive discharge from his employment. Plaintiff also alleges claims against FWE for retaliation and a racially hostile work environment. The Complaint (Doc. No. 1) alleges state law claims against the individual Defendants for aiding and abetting under the THRA and intentional infliction of emotional distress, but Plaintiff has abandoned those claims against the individual Defendants (Doc. No. 48, p.2). Therefore, all claims against the individual Defendants (Gates, Pilkington, Coddington and Ohlson) are DISMISSED with prejudice.

         SUMMARY JUDGMENT

         Summary judgment is appropriate where there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); Pennington v. State Farm Mut. Automobile Ins. Co., 553 F.3d 447, 450 (6th Cir. 2009). The party bringing the summary judgment motion has the initial burden of informing the Court of the basis for its motion and identifying portions of the record that demonstrate the absence of a genuine dispute over material facts. Rodgers v. Banks, 344 F.3d 587, 595 (6th Cir. 2003). The moving party may satisfy this burden by presenting affirmative evidence that negates an element of the non-moving party's claim or by demonstrating an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case. Id.

         In deciding a motion for summary judgment, the Court must review all the evidence, facts and inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Van Gorder v. Grand Trunk Western Railroad, Inc., 509 F.3d 265, 268 (6th Cir. 2007). The Court does not, however, weigh the evidence, judge the credibility of witnesses, or determine the truth of the matter. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986). The Court determines whether sufficient evidence has been presented to make the issue of fact a proper jury question. Id. The mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the nonmoving party's position will be insufficient to survive summary judgment; rather, there must be evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the nonmoving party. Rodgers, 344 F.3d at 595.

         RACE DISCRIMINATION

         Plaintiff alleges that FWE discriminated against him because of his race[1] by failing to promote him and by failing to grant him raises as frequently and as high as those of Caucasian employees. Plaintiff may establish his race discrimination claims by presenting either direct or circumstantial evidence. Hopson v. DaimlerChrysler Corp., 306 F.3d 427, 433 (6th Cir. 2002). Direct Evidence.

         Direct evidence is evidence that, if believed, requires the conclusion that unlawful discrimination was at least a motivating factor in the employer's actions. DiCarlo v. Potter, 358 F.3d 408, 415 (6th Cir. 2004) (overruled on other grounds by Gross v. FBL Financial Servs., Inc., 557 U.S. 167 (2009)).[2] To survive summary judgment through the assertion of direct evidence, the plaintiff must raise a disputed issue of fact as to whether the employer was predisposed to discriminate on the basis of race and as to whether the employer acted on that predisposition. Fite v. Comtide Nashville, LLC, 686 F.Supp.2d 735, 750-51 (M.D. Tenn. 2010).

         Here, Plaintiff contends that his supervisors and managers made offensive, racially-derogatory statements to Plaintiff on a daily basis. For example, Plaintiff asserts that Coddington told Plaintiff that, for Black History Month, he hires African-Americans and then fires them for Christmas. For example, Plaintiff claims that Pilkington repeatedly made offensive race-related statements in the workplace and repeatedly used “the N word” in stories and jokes on a regular basis. For example, Plaintiff alleges that Ohlson stated to Plaintiff that “white people are here, ” with his hand by his head, and “black people are here, ” with his hand near his groin area. Plaintiff alleges a pattern of many other offensive, racially-derogatory statements by supervisors. See, e.g., Doc. No. 54, ¶¶ 2-10, 13-15, 17-21, 26 and 28-32. This evidence, combined with all the other allegations in the Complaint related to racial animus and insensitivity, is sufficient to raise fact issues as to whether Plaintiff's supervisors were predisposed to discriminate on the basis of race.

         The next question, whether Plaintiff's supervisors acted on their predispositions in denying Plaintiff promotions or failing to give him equal raises also involves issues of material fact. For example, Plaintiff claims he repeatedly expressed his interest in advancing at FWE to his supervisors. Defendant FWE denies that claim. Plaintiff argues that Defendant promoted only non-African Americans, including employees Wells, Vanderlee and Demaree, with less seniority and experience than Plaintiff. Defendant denies that any promotion decisions were made because of an employee's race. Plaintiff asserts that he was denied two positions in favor of Wells, a Caucasian, because Defendant did not allow Plaintiff to apply, which Defendant denies. Doc. No. 54, ¶¶ 37, 40 and 41.

         Defendant contends that it denied Plaintiff these promotions because he refused to work overtime or on second shift. Plaintiff denies that he was ever unwilling to work overtime, on Saturdays, or on second shift. Doc. No. 54, ¶¶ 46-49. Plaintiff alleges that he did not receive pay raises with the same frequency or in the same amounts as non-African-American co-workers, and Defendant denies that fact. Doc. No. 54, ¶¶ 54-57. Plaintiff argues that the supervisors who ...


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