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Stepp v. Rexnord Industries, Inc.

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

December 9, 2014

DAMON P. STEPP, Plaintiff,
v.
REXNORD INDUSTRIES, INC., Defendant.

ENTRY ON DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT AND PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR LEAVE TO FILE BELATED REQUESTS

TANYA WALTON PRATT, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on Defendant Rexnord Industries, Inc.'s ("Rexnord") Motion for Summary Judgment (Filing No. 107). After failing to receive an offer of employment from Rexnord, Plaintiff Damon P. Stepp ("Mr. Stepp") filed a charge of race discrimination against Rexnord with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). The EEOC conducted an investigation, dismissed the charge, and notified Mr. Stepp of his right to sue. Mr. Stepp then initiated this lawsuit. Rexnord moves for summary judgment, asserting that Mr. Stepp cannot show race discrimination in Rexnord's decision not to hire him.

Also before the Court is Mr. Stepp's "Motion to Seek Leave of Court for Filing Belated Request(s)" (Filing No. 127). For the following reasons, Rexnord's Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED, and Mr. Stepp's Motion to File "Belated Requests" is DENIED.

I. BACKGROUND

As the summary judgment standard requires, the undisputed facts and disputed evidence are presented in the light reasonably most favorable to Mr. Stepp as the non-moving party. See Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Products, Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 150 (2000).

Rexnord is a worldwide industrial company that designs and manufactures bearings, couplings, gear drives, and a variety of other products for the automotive, mining, energy, and other industries. In the fall of 2011, Rexnord's Indianapolis facility had approximately 400 employees, of which approximately 280 were hourly workers. Most of these hourly employees worked as computer numerically controlled (CNC) machinist, or in assembly or grinding; while some worked in inspection, maintenance, shipping and receiving, or the tool room.

In the fall of 2011, Rexnord's management decided to increase production of bearings by over thirty percent in its Indianapolis facility. The human resource and other department managers were tasked with determining how to meet these new production goals as quickly as possible. They decided to quickly hire five new employees in the assembly department. Because of its need to quickly hire additional employees, management decided to accept referrals from current employees as well as accept applications from external candidates. Amanda Bright ("Ms. Bright"), a current employee of Rexnord, submitted a referral for Mr. Stepp. Rexnord also received dozens of other referrals for the five assembly positions.

Mr. Stepp graduated from high school and attended Indiana State University but did not graduate. Following high school, he worked as a mover for a moving and storage company and worked for several temporary employment agencies. In 2005, Mr. Stepp was hired by Major Tool & Machine, Inc. ("Major Tool"). His first period of employment with Major Tool ended in 2006 when he had to leave town to help care for his newborn son's health issues. Mr. Stepp began working again at Major Tool in 2007 and was employed there for approximately two years. In 2009 his employment with Major Tool was terminated. Mr. Stepp was told his employment with Major Tool was terminated because someone informed a manager that he was seen drinking alcohol on his lunch break and he had violated the company's drug/alcohol policy. Subsequently, Mr. Stepp filed a lawsuit alleging his termination was done out of retaliation for complaining about OSHA violations and racial discrimination. The lawsuit was settled.

After being referred by Ms. Bright, Mr. Stepp completed an employment application, which he submitted to Rexnord. On the application, Mr. Stepp indicated that he left his employment with Major Tool in 2009 for a "personal" reason even though he had been terminated. By signing the application, Mr. Stepp "certif[ied] that all information in this Application is correct and that [he had] not omitted any information." He also acknowledged that he "underst[ood] that falsification of any information or omission of any material information, whenever discovered shall be grounds for termination of employment."

Mr. Stepp was interviewed by Ginger Nicholson, one of Rexnord's human resource coordinators, who then forwarded his application materials to the assembly department supervisor for further consideration. The supervisor had some concerns about Mr. Stepp's responses on his application, so Ms. Nicholson called Mr. Stepp to seek clarification.

During the follow-up telephone call with Ms. Nicholson, Mr. Stepp again did not disclose that his employment with Major Tool had been terminated. Mr. Stepp intentionally avoided disclosing to Rexnord why he was no longer employed by Major Tool. After conducting the follow-up call with Mr. Stepp, Ms. Nicholson reported to the assembly department supervisor that she thought Mr. Stepp was not being forthright in his answers about his job history. Because it appeared Mr. Stepp was being evasive about his prior employment, and in light of the large number of other applicants under consideration, Rexnord decided not to offer employment to Mr. Stepp.

At the end of the interview process in the fall of 2011, Rexnord hired five applicants for the assembly position. Rexnord hired Abigail Bell, Paula Collins, Kenneth Mark Hankins II, Frank Kratoska, and DeWayne Thomas. Of these successful applicants, Mr. Thomas, like Mr. Stepp, is an African American male. Rexnord chose to hire these applicants based on their experience, skills, and qualifications and on a belief that they were self-motivated, detail-oriented, team players, and problem solvers.

Each of the five successful applicants were forthright about their prior work history during their interviews. Mr. Stepp was one of dozens of applicants who were not given job offers in the fall of 2011 for the open assembly positions.

II. SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 provides that summary judgment is appropriate if "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 that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Hemsworth v. Quotesmith.com, Inc., 476 F.3d 487, 489-90 (7th Cir. 2007). In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the court reviews "the record in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and draw[s] all reasonable inferences in that party's favor." Zerante v. DeLuca, 555 F.3d 582, 584 (7th Cir. 2009) (citation omitted). However, "[a] party who bears the burden of proof on a particular issue may not rest on its pleadings, but must affirmatively demonstrate, by specific factual allegations, that there is a genuine issue of material fact that requires trial." Hemsworth, 476 F.3d at 490 (citation omitted). "In much the same way that a court is not required to scour the record in search of evidence to defeat a motion for summary judgment, nor is it permitted to conduct a paper trial on the merits of [the] claim." Ritchie v. Glidden Co., 242 F.3d 713, 723 (7th Cir. 2001) (internal citations and quotation marks omitted). Finally, ...


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