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Dunn v. Pratt Industries (U.S.A.), Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana

December 5, 2016

CALVIN DUNN, Plaintiff,
v.
PRATT INDUSTRIES (U.S.A.), INC., Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          THERESA L. SPRINGMANN UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT.

         This matter comes before the Court on Defendant Pratt Industries (U.S.A.) Inc.'s Motion for Summary Judgment [ECF No. 67]. The Plaintiff, Calvin Dunn, filed a Complaint [ECF No. 1] on July 13, 2012, alleging race discrimination and retaliation, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 2000, Title VII, and to 42 U.S.C. § 1981. This matter is fully briefed and ripe for the Court's review.

         FACTS OF THE CASE

         Unless otherwise specified, the following material facts are not in dispute. The Plaintiff, an African American man, applied to work as a truck driver for the Defendant, a paper and packaging company, on December 29, 2010. (Overstreet Decl. ¶ 3 & Attach. 2, ECF No. 72-1.) The Plaintiff had prior experience as a truck driver with multiple companies. (Attach. 2 at 2.) As part of the application process, the Plaintiff submitted a paper application and was scheduled for an in-person interview with Rebecca Lockwin, the Defendant's representative.

         The parties dispute the interim steps between the Plaintiff's submission of his application and the scheduling of his interview. The Plaintiff asserts that the Defendant's internal policy required pre-approval of job applicants for an in-person interview, which included a satisfactory motor vehicle record (“MVR”) and a background check. (Pl.'s Opp'n 6-7, ECF No. 80.) The Defendant argues that a “clean” MVR was required for hiring (Overstreet Decl. ¶ 12).[1]Additionally, the Defendant disputes that this internal policy was followed in the Plaintiff's case, as his interview was expedited before review of his MVR or a background check. (Lockwin Dep. 18:6-20:2, 22:1-22:22, ECF No. 72-4.)

         Lockwin interviewed the Plaintiff on January 6, 2011, but the parties dispute how it concluded. The Defendant argues that Lockwin did not offer the Plaintiff the position, as it was conditional upon the completion of its MVR review. (Id. 27:13-27:16, 30:11-30:25.) The Plaintiff argues that Lockwin told him the job was his, asked how soon he could start, and scheduled him for orientation the following Monday. (Dunn Dep. 72:10-72:22, ECF No. 79-1.) The Defendant's internal review of the Plaintiff's application was completed on January 7, 2011, which came back adversely as to both his MVR and background check (Overstreet Decl. ¶ 8.) Shortly thereafter, Lockwin notified the Plaintiff that he would not be hired as a truck driver. (Lockwin Dep. 43:17-44:16, ECF No. 72-5.)

         After his rejection, the Plaintiff obtained a trucking job with Perez Trucking in early 2011. (Lockwin Dep. 53:11-56:13.) Esteban Perez owns and operates Perez Trucking, which contracts with the Defendant to do runs from its Valparaiso facility. (Id. 51:3-52:4.) Through his employment with Perez Trucking, the Plaintiff worked on the Defendant's premises, and on September 13, 2011, he emailed the Defendant's corporate offices and claimed that he “was lied to and discriminated against” when it rejected his job application that January. (Id. Ex. B.)

         In his email, the Plaintiff alleged that “over 10 new drivers have been hired” after he was rejected “and they all have one similarity, they are all [Caucasian].” (Id.) Additionally, he claimed that another applicant without proper qualifications was hired because he was a friend of a facility dispatcher. Finally, the Plaintiff said that he was “writing down everything that will strengthen my case.” (Id.) The Defendant conducted an internal investigation of the Plaintiff's claims and, two days after receiving the email, banned the Plaintiff from its property and asked Perez Trucking to assign a different driver to Valparaiso. (Req. for Admis. Nos. 8, 10, ECF No. 69-8.) Although Perez Trucking did not formally terminate the Plaintiff's employment, reassignment of the Plaintiff led to his separation from the company because Perez Trucking only had two truck drivers, Perez and the Plaintiff. (Interrog. No. 5, ECF No. 79-4.)

         COMPLAINT ALLEGATIONS AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         In his Complaint, the Plaintiff alleged race discrimination against the Defendant under Title VII and 42 U.S.C. § 1981 for failing to hire him and then banning him from its property, and retaliation under Title VII and 42 U.S.C. § 1981 based on the Defendant's response to the Plaintiff's September 13 email. The Plaintiff timely filed a discrimination charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which issued a final agency decision that was adverse to his claims. (Answer ¶ 7, ECF No. 11; Compl. ¶ 7, ECF No. 1.) On July 13, 2012, the Plaintiff filed his Complaint [ECF No. 1] with this Court. The Defendant filed its Answer and Affirmative Defenses [ECF No. 11] on September 18, 2012. Additionally, the Defendant filed a Third-Party Complaint [ECF No. 18] against Third-Party Defendant Perez Trucking on February 27, 2013, and Perez Trucking filed its Answer [ECF No. 24] on June 3, 2013. After the close of discovery, the Defendant and Perez Trucking jointly stipulated to dismissal of the Third-Party Complaint [ECF No. 57], which was granted on December 15, 2015 [ECF No. 58]. The Defendant moved for Summary Judgment on April 4, 2016 [ECF No. 67]. The Plaintiff filed his Opposition [ECF No. 80] on July 8, 2016. The Defendant's Reply [ECF No. 87] was entered on September 2, 2016.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Summary judgment is warranted when “the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). Summary judgment is the moment in litigation where the nonmoving party is required to marshal and present the court with evidence on which a reasonable jury could rely to find in that party's favor. Goodman v. Nat'l Sec. Agency, Inc., 621 F.3d 651, 654 (7th Cir. 2010). A court should only deny a motion for summary judgment when the nonmoving party presents admissible evidence that creates a genuine issue of material fact. Luster v. Ill. Dep't of Corrs., 652 F.3d 726, 731 (7th Cir. 2011) (first citing United States v. 5443 Suffield Terrace, 607 F.3d 504, 510 (7th Cir. 2010); then citing Swearnigen-El v. Cook Cnty. Sheriff's Dep't, 602 F.3d 852, 859 (7th Cir. 2010)). A court's role in deciding a motion for summary judgment “is not to sift through the evidence, pondering the nuances and inconsistencies, and decide whom to believe. [A] court has one task and one task only: to decide, based on the evidence of record, whether there is any material dispute of fact that requires a trial.” Waldridge v. Am. Heochst Corp., 24 F.3d 918, 920 (7th Cir. 1994). Material facts are those that are outcome determinative under the applicable law. Smith v. Severn, 129 F.3d 419, 427 (7th Cir. 1997). Although a bare contention that an issue of material fact exists is insufficient to create a factual dispute, a court must construe all facts in a light most favorable to the nonmoving party, view all reasonable inferences in that party's favor, see Bellaver v. Quanex Corp., 200 F.3d 485, 491-92 (7th Cir. 2000), and avoid “the temptation to decide which party's version of the facts is more likely true, ” Payne v. Pauley, 337 F.3d 767, 770 (7th Cir. 2003).

         DISCUSSION

         The Plaintiff “does not proceed upon Counts I and II of his Complaint, which allege race discrimination under Title VII and 42 U.S.C. § 1981.” (Opp'n 1 n.1, ECF No. 80.) Accordingly, the Court deems the Plaintiff's race discrimination claims abandoned. Palmer v. Marion Cnty., 327 F.3d 588, 597 (7th Cir. 2003). The Court directs its attention to the Plaintiff's claims for retaliation under Title VII and 42 U.S.C. ยง 1981, as the ...


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