United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division
JAMES R. CALLENDER, JR., Plaintiff,
TYSON FRESH MEATS, INC., Defendant.
WAVERLY D. CRENSHAW CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
before the Court is Tyson Fresh Meats, Inc.'s
(“Tysdon”) Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. No.
51), to which James R. Callender Jr. has responded in
opposition (Doc. No. 58) and Tyson has replied (Doc. Nos. 65,
71). For the reason that follow, the Motion will be granted
in part and denied in part.
working for three years as a Processing Supervisor at
Tyson's Carthage, Texas plant, Callender applied for an
open position at Tyson's Goodlettsville, Tennessee plant.
(SOF ¶¶ 1-3). He was interviewed, and his transfer
was approved by Gary Denton, the Goodlettsville's Complex
Human Resources Manager, and by Doug Griffin, the Operations
Manager of that facility. (Id. ¶ 4).
started working at the Goodlettsville plant on December 13,
2009 as a Production Supervisor on the B-Shift in the Beef
Department. In November 2012, he transferred to an open
Production Supervisor position in the Beef Department on
A-Shift and started reporting to A-Shift General Supervisor
Ken Jenkins. Jenkins, in turn, reported to Griffin.
(Id. ¶ 21, 23).
2013, Griffin supervised the A-Shift Beef Department while
Jenkins was on vacation. On June 20, 2013, Griffin issued
Callender a written warning after he allegedly failed to
follow his directions for three consecutive days.
(Id. ¶ 25). Griffin met with Callender on June 20,
2013 to discuss the written warning, which stated:
“[Callender] is receiving a written warning for failure
to follow directions. Reed will also be placed on an action
plan.” When Jenkins returned from vacation, Griffin
told him about the written warning and instructed Jenkins to
prepare a Performance Improvement Plan or PIP. (Id.
¶¶ 27, 28).
from Jenkins covered three performance deficiencies: (1)
Management and Communication Skills, (2) Efficiencies, and
(3) Yields. With respect to “Management and
Communication Skills, ” Tyson expected Callender to
follow management's instructions, improve his
communication with subordinates, and ensure that his team was
implementing the processes required to achieve production
goals. As for “Efficiencies, ” Tyson expected
Callender to run a minimum of 104% efficient on all
primals on his production line. Finally, with
regard to “Yields, ” Callender was expected to
monitor his yields and identify which yield category he was
not achieving. (Id. ¶¶ 31-34).
does not dispute the existence of the PIP, or that he signed
it on July 8, 2013. (Id. ¶ 35). Nor does he
dispute knowing that his failure to improve and achieve the
goals outlined in the PIP would result in discipline, up to
and including termination. (Id. ¶¶35, 36).
He claims, however, that the “[i]ntent of the Action
Plan was to harass plaintiff and retaliate against him for
complaining about Ken Jenkins.” (Id. ¶
34). In this regard, Callender asserts that, after meeting
with Jenkins on July 1, 2013 to discuss the PIP, he refused
to sign it and then took it to Denton and complained that
Jenkins was holding him to a higher standard than other
Production Supervisors because of his race and age. Callender
also claims that, after meeting with Denton, he was called to
a meeting with Griffin, Jenkins and Denton and was
essentially told he “needed to get on board with the
Action Plan or be fired.” (Doc. No. 60, Callender Aff.
¶ 16). It was then that Callender signed the PIP, and
Jenkins changed the date from July 1 to July 8. Callender
also claims that once Jenkins learned he had complained,
Jenkins scoring of his performance was “way out of
line.” (Id. ¶¶ 38, 39).
and Jenkins met twice to discuss Callender's progress,
and on August 8, 2013, they met a third time to review the
final results. Jenkins determined that Callender had achieved
only 32.5 percent of the goals listed in his PIP, and Jenkins
had documented 10 occurrences of Callender's alleged
failure to follow or give instructions.
was terminated from employment on August 9, 2013. He filed
suit in this Court on April 10, 2015, alleging race
discrimination in violation of Title VII, 42 U.S.C. §
2000e et seq. and the Tennessee Human Rights Act
(“THRA”), Tenn. Code Ann. § 4-21-101 et
seq.; age discrimination in violation of the Age
Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”), 29
U.S.C. § 621 et seq. and the THRA; and
retaliation in violation of Title VII and the THRA. Tyson
moves for summary judgment on all claims.
Standard of Review
standards governing summary judgment have been restated on
countless occasions and are well known. It suffices to note:
(1) summary judgment is only 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(a);
(2) the facts and inferences must be construed in favor of
the nonmoving party Van Gorder v. Grand Trunk W. R.R.,
Inc., 509 F.3d 265, 268 (6th Cir. 2007); (3) the Court
does not weigh the evidence, or judge the credibility of
witnesses when ruling on the motion, Anderson v. Liberty
Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986); and (4) the mere
existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the
nonmoving party's position is insufficient to survive
summary judgment, Rodgers v. Banks, 344 F.3d 587,
595 (6th Cir. 2003).
Race and Age Discrimination
response to Tyson's Motion for Summary Judgment,
Callender asserts that, while his “Complaint also
contained a cause of action for discrimination . . . at this
stage of the proceedings, [he] has elected not to respond to
Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment in this
regard.” (Doc. No. 59 at 2 n.2). Callender, therefore,
has abandoned his claims for age and race discrimination and
summary judgment will be granted on those claims. See
Clark v. City of Dublin, 178 Fed. App'x 522, 524-25
(6th Cir. 2006) (finding district court did not err when
granting summary judgment on claims that were not properly
responded to); Conner v. Hardee's Food Sys.,
Inc., 65 Fed. App'x 19 (6th Cir. 2003) (finding
plaintiffs had abandoned their claim “[b]ecause [they]
failed to brief the issue before the district court”).
704(a) of Title VII makes it “an unlawful employment
practice of an employer to discriminate against any of his
employees or applicants for employment . . . because he has
opposed any practice made an unlawful employment practice by
this subchapter, or because he has made a charge, testified,
assisted, or participated in any manner in an investigation,
proceeding or hearing under this subchapter.” 42 U.S.C.
§ 2000e-3(a). Similarly, the THRA makes it “a
discriminatory practice” for an employer to
“[r]etaliate or discriminate in any manner against a
person because such person has opposed a practice declared
discriminatory by [the THRA] or because such person has made
a charge, filed a complaint, testified, assisted or
participated in any manner in any investigation, proceeding
or hearing under [the THRA].” Tenn. Code Ann. §
4-21-301(a)(1). “Retaliation claims under the THRA
follow federal law, ” Wade v. Automation Pers.
Servs., Inc., 612 F. App'x 291, 300 (6th Cir. 2015),
and, therefore, “a retaliation claim under both
statutes follows the same analysis, ” Arendale v.
City of Memphis, 519 F.3d 587, 606 (6th Cir. 2008);
see Phillips v. Interstate Hotels Corp., 974 S.W.2d
680, 683 (Tenn. 1998) (Tennessee Supreme Court observing
that, “[a]lthough the language differs slightly, it is
clear that the legislature intended the THRA to be
coextensive with federal law.”).
as here, a plaintiff presents no direct evidence of
discrimination or retaliation, his claims are analyzed under
the familiar McDonnell
Douglas/Burdine burden-shifting framework.
“To establish a prima facie case of retaliation, [a
plaintiff] must show ‘(1) that [he] engaged in a
protected activity; (2) that the defendant had knowledge of
[his] protected conduct; (3) that the defendant took an
adverse employment action towards [him]; and (4) that there
was a causal connection between the protected activity and
the adverse employment action.'” Mickey v.
Zeidler Tool & Die Co., 516 F.3d 516, 523 (6th Cir.
2008) (brackets in original) (quoting Weigel v. Baptist
Hosp. of E. Tenn., 302 F.3d 367, 381 (6th Cir. 2002)).
“If the plaintiff satisfies [his] prima facie showing,
the burden shifts to the defendant to offer evidence of a
legitimate, non-retaliatory reason for the adverse employment
action.” Id. ...