United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division
ENTRY ON MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
WALTON PRATT, JUDGE
matter is before the Court on a Motion for Summary Judgment
filed pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 by
Defendant Envirotech Extrusion, Inc.
(“Envirotech”) (Filing No. 16). After
being terminated from his position as an assistant operator
and grinder for Envirotech, pro se Plaintiff Kenneth
Carter (“Carter”) initiated this lawsuit alleging
discrimination based on race. Envirotech moved for summary
judgment on the bases that Carter cannot establish a
prima facie case for his claim of discrimination and
that it had a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for
terminating him. For the following reasons, the Court
GRANTS Envirotech's Motion for Summary
following material facts are not necessarily objectively
true; but, as required by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56,
both the undisputed and disputed facts are presented in the
light most favorable to Carter as the non-moving party.
See Zerante v. DeLuca, 555 F.3d 582, 584 (7th Cir.
2009); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S.
242, 255 (1986).
is an Indiana corporation located in Richmond, Indiana, and
is in the business of manufacturing recycled rubber products.
Carter was hired as an assistant operator and grinder on
November 14, 2012, and continued working there until he was
terminated on August 29, 2014. Assistant operators and
grinders perform duties that include ensuring that there are
no problems with materials as they are processed down a
conveyor belt and running scrap rubber through a grinder. An
assistant operator is also referred to as a
“stacker” since the position requires the
employee to stack the finished rubber after a shear cuts the
rubber into pieces of a desired size. On occasion, Carter
would sometimes operate a tow motor.
is an African-American male and during his time at
Envirotech, he was the only African-American employee. His
immediate supervisor was Joe Thompson, the second shift
foreman. (Filing No. 1-1 at 4.) Envirotech's
revised handbook provides that lay-offs are determined by
“length of employment with the company, ”-and
that seniority brings with it, “certain privileges and
benefits including bumping opportunities”. (Filing
No. 1-3 at 2.) During the course of his employment at
Envirotech, Carter was laid off, along with other employees,
on two separate occasions. Carter was first laid off on
August 12, 2013 and brought back to work just two weeks
later. (Filing No. 1-1 at 4.) The second time he was
laid off was on April 9, 2014 and he was brought back again
to work on June 30, 2014. Id. While he was still
laid off, other people were hired. Id. After being
laid off the second time, Carter filed a discrimination claim
with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
(“EEOC”). Once he made his filing with the EEOC,
his employer called him back to work. Id.
three month employment evaluation, Envirotech noted that
Carter was doing well, and they were pleased with his ability
to pay attention, remain efficient and calm, help others, and
learn quickly. (Filing No. 18-2 at p. 1-4.) Sometime
after this evaluation, Carter began to get negative marks on
his employment record. On October 21, 2013, Carter was
advised, by a Personnel Action Notice, that missing
additional work days could result in termination because he
had exceeded the maximum amount of personal leave.
(Filing No. 18-5.) On his one year review in
November of 2013, Carter received a mixed review, and was
rated an “average employee.” (Filing No.
18-18.) The evaluator acknowledged that Carter learns
fairly quickly, remains calm and had improved at checking
quality when stacking sheets; but also indicated that Carter
texted too much, needed to help others and stop leaning on
the table, stop going so fast on the forklift, and needed to
watch his attendance. Id.
November 2013, Carter complained to his supervisor that he
had been subjected to racist comments by two of his
co-workers. Specifically, co-workers Tyler Farley
(“Farley”) and Luke Rudicil
(“Rudicil”) called him the “N” word
and kept talking about “nigger this, nigger
that”. (Filing No. 18-17 at p. 8.) Supervisor
Tony Martin (“Martin”) talked to the men and both
admitted they had made the racist comments. Martin and the
assistant supervisor, Bob Parrish told Carter that they would
not put up with the discrimination. (Filing No. 18-17 at
10.) Martin gave Carter the opportunity to agree to a
punishment for the men, which included termination. Carter
declined to participate in the reprimand. Farley and Rudicil
were issued a written warning which stated “…
this sort of harassment will not be tolerated. The
next complaint will result in immediate termination.
Final Warning.” (Filing No. 18-19)
(emphasis in original). At his deposition, Carter testified
that he was satisfied with the way the situation was handled.
After this incident, Carter never brought any other incidents
of racial comments to the attention of Martin or any other
supervisors. (Filing No. 18-1 at p.4 ¶18.)
January 6, 2014, Carter received another Personnel Action
Notice because he had again exceeded the allotted days of
personal leave for the six month period. (Filing No.
18-7.) On July 7, 2014, Carter put his tow motor in
reverse and crashed into and damaged some of Envirotech's
product. He was given a verbal warning after this incident.
(Filing No. 18-10.) On July 28, 2014, Carter drove
his tow motor into a pole which caused damage to the pole and
guard. (Filing No. 18-11.) Three days later, Carter
mishandled the forklift and the forks went through a blower,
damaging the motor of the blower. (Filing No. 12.)
Finally, on August 29, 2014, Carter was operating Pressure
Sensitive Adhesive. He was supposed to be making a scrap roll
from the material, instead he chopped them into smaller
pieces. (Filing No. 18-13.) After he put the
materials in the trash, he was told to retrieve it all.
Carter refused to do so unless someone helped him.
Id. He refused the order three or four times before
he was finally told to leave Envirotech. Id. Carter
was told that he was being terminated for insubordination,
destruction of company property and attendance issues.
(Filing 18-45 at p. 45.)
testified that he filed a charge of discrimination with the
EEOC in June 2014 during the period of time when he was laid
off for the second time. (Filing No. 18-17 at p.6). He
was terminated on August 29, 2014. Martin filed an amended
answer to the EEOC charge on March 20, 2015. (Filing No.
18-16). On March 31, 2015, Carter received a right to
sue letter. On June 18, 2015, Carter filed his Complaint in
this Court, alleging that Envirotech had violated his rights
as protected by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as
amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq.
(“Title VII”). He asserted a claim of racial
discrimination and retaliation under Title VII. (Filing
No. 1-1). He argues that he was never written up or had
any problems until after he filed his EEOC claim. He asserts
that he suffered discrimination at Envirotech when he was
harassed by his co-workers and contends that he was laid off
twice because he was African-American, since Caucasian
employees with less seniority were allowed to keep their
jobs. A co-worker that worked there for many years informed
Carter that Envirotech would never make an African-American
an operator and he believes the company discriminated against
him due to his race by not advancing his career. (Filing
No. 1-1 at 3.) Carter admits to missing the amount of
days alleged by Envirotech, except for one day. (Filing
No. 18-17 at p. 18.) He also admits to damaging the
products and property. (Filing No. 20.)
filed its Answer and Defenses on August 18, 2015 (Filing
No. 12), and its Motion for Summary Judgment was filed
on January 19, 2016.
SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD
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, 555 F.3d at
584 (citation omitted). “However, inferences that are
supported by only speculation or conjecture will not defeat a
summary judgment motion.” Dorsey v. Morgan
Stanley, 507 F.3d 624, 627 (7th Cir. 2007) (citation and
quotation marks omitted). Additionally, “[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).
“The opposing party cannot meet this burden with
conclusory statements or speculation but only with
appropriate citations to relevant admissible evidence.”
Sink v. Knox County Hosp., 900 F.Supp. 1065, 1072
(S.D. Ind. 1995) (citations omitted).
“[a] document filed pro se is to be liberally
construed, and a pro se complaint, however
inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards
than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.” Erickson