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Toles v. Miller Veneers, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

February 3, 2014

WAYNE TOLES, Plaintiff,
v.
MILLER VENEERS, INC., Defendant.

ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (Dkt. No. 27)

SARAH EVANS BARKER, District Judge.

This case arises out of Plaintiff's employment with Defendant for a period of approximately one month. Plaintiff claims that he was discriminated against, and ultimately terminated, because of his race. Now before the Court is Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment.

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Plaintiff filed this pro se action on May 23, 2012, and amended his complaint shortly thereafter. His Amended Complaint avers: "I was discrnade [sic] by Vickie Thompson and other menagers [sic] at Miller Veneers, Inc. I believe that my race was the reason they wanted me to quit. I did not. I was fired. I was harass [sic] by my supervisor Vickie Thompson. My race playde [sic] a part of that. I am suiing [sic] Meller [sic] Veneers [sic] discrimination for my race." [Plaintiff's Amended Complaint at p. 2 (Dkt. No. 5) (underline in original).]

Defendant denied the allegations in Plaintiff's Amended Complaint and filed its Motion for Summary Judgment. Plaintiff's response to Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment was due on September 12, 2013, but Plaintiff did not respond by that deadline. Recognizing Plaintiff's status as a pro se litigant, the Court, sua sponte, granted him an extension of time through and including October 11, 2013, but Plaintiff did not respond by that deadline, either. In fact, Plaintiff has filed nothing in this case since July 8, 2013, on which date he notified the Court that he was "currently an inmate at [sic] Hamilton County Jail due to a misunderstanding with his vehicle and the person responsible for repairs." [Plaintiff's Motion for Continuance (Dkt. No. 25).]

FACTS[1]

In the spring of 2011, Defendant, a company engaged in the manufacture of hardwood veneers, decided to experiment with a new production method. To that end, it hired six new employees, including Plaintiff (a black male), Matt Jordan (a white male), Bethany Marell (a white female), Byron Ravanales (a Hispanic male), Keith Rhodes (a white male) and Lennell Moore (a black male). All six new employees began work on May 23, 2011. For the first six months of their employment, these new employees, like all of Defendant's new hires, were considered to be probationary employees subject to termination for any non-discriminatory reason. After the first six months of employment, the relationship between Defendant and its employees, including the terms upon which employees could be terminated, was governed by Defendant's collective bargaining agreement with Local 2918 of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers Union.

Almost immediately after adding the six new employees to its workforce, Defendant realized that it had over-hired, was over-staffed, and needed to lay off one person. Under the terms of the applicable collective bargaining agreement, Defendant was required to lay off all probationary employees before it could lay off any union members. Although Defendant considered Plaintiff's job performance to be satisfactory, it also observed that his performance was the weakest relative to the five other new hires and, because Plaintiff was the weakest performing probationary employee at that point in time, Defendant decided to let him go. Plaintiff's employment with Defendant thus ended on or about June 24, 2011. Defendant moved a union Hispanic worker into Plaintiff's position and another position with the manufacturing facility was eliminated.

In the summer of 2011, Defendant determined that the new production method was not working out and would have to be discontinued. The discontinuation of said production line and the jobs on that line resulted in additional lay offs, and, by October of 2011, Defendant had let go all but one of the six persons who began working for the company on May, 23, 2011 - i.e., the day that Plaintiff hired on. The only person who hired on with the company on May 23, 2011 that was not laid off as a result of Defendant's over-hiring in connection with the failed production line was Lennell Moore (a black male). Moore is still employed with Defendant and has since been promoted to a management position.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Summary judgment is appropriate when the record shows that there is "no genuine issue as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett , 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). If the moving party supports its motion for summary judgment with affidavits or other materials, the burden shifts to the non-moving prty to show that an issue of material fact exists. Kaszuk v. Bakery & Confectionery Union & Indus. Int'l Pension Fund , 791 F.2d 548, 588 (7th Cir. 1986).

DISCUSSION

Although Plaintiff's Amended Complaint asserts that Defendant discriminated against him because of his race in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and 42 U.S.C. ยง 1981, Plaintiff has not come forward with any evidence in support of his claims. In contrast, Defendant has come forward with credible evidence explaining why Plaintiff was laid off - evidence that has nothing to do with Plaintiff's race, but rather Defendant's experimentation with the new, but ultimately unsuccessful, production line that required fewer workers than Defendant had on its staff at the time, requiring the reduction resulting in Plaintiff's termination. Defendant has also come forward with credible evidence that it employs a relatively diverse workforce and has promoted African American individuals to management positions. Most persuasive, however, Defendant has come forward with Plaintiff's own words, which defeat Plaintiff's claims in this action.

A. Employment Discrimination Based on Race

Although Plaintiff contends that he was terminated because of his race, his deposition testimony disproves that ...


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