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Ennin v. CNH Industrial America LLC

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

May 22, 2017




         Plaintiff, Abdullah Ennin, is a former supervisory-level employee of Defendant, CNH Industrial America, LLC (“CNHi”). He was driving to work on a cold November day when his car suddenly broke down. Since he was only a few minutes away from the facility at that point, he called one of his hourly employees and asked for help. That worker left without clocking out and came to Ennin's aid. They purchased fuel for Ennin's vehicle and arrived at CNHi approximately 45 minutes later. When they entered the facility, Ennin did not make the hourly employee swipe his badge at the door.

         CNHi ultimately terminated Ennin's employment because of this incident. It maintains that this decision was warranted because Ennin asked an employee to leave work in order to help him with a personal matter, and he violated building security rules, among other reasons. Ennin, on the other hand, alleges that he is the victim of unlawful discrimination. He advances what the court construes as nine claims: (1) racial discrimination, in violation of both Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., and 42 U.S.C. § 1981; (2) national origin discrimination, in violation of both Title VII and Section 1981; (3) disability discrimination, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq.; (4) failure to accommodate, in violation of the ADA; (5) interference, in violation of the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”), 29 U.S.C. § 2601 et seq.; (6) retaliation, in violation of the FMLA; (7) conspiracy to deprive civil rights, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1985(3); (8) neglect to prevent a conspiracy to deprive civil rights, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1986; and (9) negligent supervision in violation of Indiana law.

         CNHi now moves for summary judgment on all counts. Because a reasonable jury could not return a verdict for Ennin on any of his claims, CNHi's motion must be GRANTED.

         I. Evidentiary Objections

         Before reviewing the material facts of this case, the court considers the evidentiary objections CNHi lodged in its reply brief. These objections, which are essentially motions to strike, must be resolved first because they have a substantial impact on what materials the court is able to consider in making its findings of fact.

         CNHi asks the court to strike Ennin's exhibits 4, 5, 6, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 19, 21, and 22. It argues that these exhibits are inadmissible for many reasons, including lack of authentication and hearsay. Because these objections were first advanced in a reply, Ennin could have filed a surreply and disputed CNHi's arguments. The court's Local Rules expressly authorize a litigant to file an additional brief under these circumstances. See S.D. Ind. L.R. 56-1(d). For whatever reason, Ennin opted not to respond. He has therefore waived any objection. See Bonte v. U.S. Bank, N.A., 624 F.3d 461, 466 (7th Cir. 2010) (“Failure to respond to an argument . . . results in waiver.”). Having reviewed the record, the court now summarily grants CNHi's motions to strike. The court has not considered these stricken materials in resolving the request for summary judgment.

         II. Background

         A. Ennin's Employment with CNHi

         CNHi is an import/export facility. (Filing No. 30-1, Declaration of Stacy Darlin ¶ 17). Ennin, who is black and Ghanaian, began working as an Export Second Shift Operations Supervisor at CNHi's Lebanon, Indiana facility on January 3, 2012. (Id. ¶ 4; Filing No. 36-1, Deposition of Abdullah Ennin 234:24-235:3). During the relevant time period, he was the only black supervisor at that facility. (Ennin Dep. 235:4-19). Ennin's shift started at 2:00 p.m. and ended at 10:30 p.m. (Darlin Dec. ¶ 5). Michael Lewis was the Export Operations Manager and Ennin's direct supervisor. (Filing No. 30-3, Declaration of Michael Lewis ¶¶ 2, 4). Lewis reported to Stephen Lincoln who was the Manager, Master Depot. (Id. ¶ 4).

         B. Ennin is Cited for Exercising Poor Judgment

         In May 2014, Ennin received a written warning for misconduct. (Id. ¶¶ 7-8; Ex. A to Lewis Dec.). According to CNHi, Ennin got into a “verbal altercation” with a third shift supervisor “regarding the turning off of a radio.” (Ex. A to Lewis Dec.). Ennin's “inappropriate behavior” was allegedly witnessed by three hourly employees, including two of his second shift employees. (Id.). The warning provides, in relevant part, “You are in a leadership position and behavior like this is not acceptable. . . . [Y]ou must set an example for your employees.” (Id.). Ennin and Lewis both signed the warning.[1]

         C. Ennin's Medical Condition and First Request for Leave

         Ennin suffers from painful hemorrhoids. He planned to undergo surgery for this condition on November 7, 2014. (Ennin Dep. 186:5-8). He had contacted Prudential, CNHi's third party leave administrator, and requested leave for the procedure. (Id.; Darlin Dec. ¶ 14). That request was approved. (Ennin Dep. 186:6-8). But after a consultation, he learned that his hemorrhoids might reappear even after surgery. (Id. 186:9-14). He therefore cancelled the operation in order to explore the possibility of alternative treatment. (Id. 187:20-25). He notified Prudential that he would not be taking leave as planned. (Id. 188:1-9).

         D. Ennin Has Car Trouble and Asks an Hourly Employee for Help

         On Monday, November 17, 2014, at 1:43 p.m., Lewis received a phone call from Ennin. (Lewis Dec. ¶ 9). Ennin told Lewis that his car had broken down on the way to work, and he would therefore be running late. (Id.). At the time, Ennin was approximately five minutes away from CNHi. (Ennin Dep. 138:2-6). At 2:53 p.m., Ennin advised Lewis that he was at work. (Lewis Dec. ¶ 10).

         On Tuesday, November 18, Stacy Darlin, Human Resources Manager, received a report that, the day before, Ennin called Gonzalo Chavez, an hourly second shift employee, and asked him to leave work and bring Ennin some gas but to stay on the clock. (Darlin Dec. ¶ 7). Chavez was the “team lead” on second shift and reported directly to Ennin. (Id.). Darlin investigated this report. (Id. ¶ 8). She confirmed that Chavez had clocked in at 1:44 p.m. on November 17. (Id.). He then swiped out of the employee entrance[2] at 2:00 p.m. but did not clock out. (Id.). Chavez did not use his badge to get back into the building. (Id.). Instead, security camera video showed Ennin and Chavez entering the front salary employee entrance at 2:46 p.m. (Id.). Ennin swiped his badge through the security entrance and allowed Chavez to walk behind him, through the front door, without swiping his badge. (Id.).

         Darlin also checked CNHi's timekeeping system, eTime, and found that it had not been corrected to show Chavez's time away from work. (Id. ¶ 9). It was Ennin's responsibility to make all appropriate adjustments to the eTime system at the end of every shift. (Id.). Based on this information, there were approximately 45 minutes where Chavez was paid for working when he was not even on the premises. (Id.).

         E. Ennin Meets with Supervisors

         On Wednesday, November 19, Lincoln, Lewis, and Darlin met with Ennin and gave him an opportunity to explain the situation. (Id. ¶ 10). He provided his version of the events and the reasoning behind his decisions. As to why he allowed an hourly employee to enter the facility without swiping his own badge, Ennin asserted, “Everybody does it. I do it all the time.” (Ennin Dep. 174:16-19). There are three possible scenarios for Chavez' temporary absence, and which option is true determines whether there is a timecard problem: (1) he had not yet arrived at work when Ennin called, meaning he was not clocked in, (2) he was at work, and he clocked out when he left to help Ennin, or (3) he was at work, and remained clocked in when he left to help Ennin. During the meeting, Ennin essentially claimed that while he did not know for sure which scenario had actually occurred, he thought it was the first based on calls he had made to other employees. (Darlin Dec. ¶ 10; Ennin Dep. 172:14-24, 178:1-8).

         Even after walking through the series of events, Ennin did not take responsibility or even acknowledge the seriousness of his actions. (Darlin Dec. ¶ 11). Lewis explained to Ennin that telling an hourly employee to leave the building without anyone's knowledge or approval was not acceptable. (Lewis Dec. ¶ 13). His actions left the shift unattended by both the supervisor and the department lead. (Id.). Ennin was told that he placed the employee and CNHi at risk. (Id.). Lewis also advised Ennin that allowing an employee ...

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