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Lamothe v. Federal Express Corporation

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

November 15, 2018

YVES L. LAMOTHE, Plaintiff,
v.
FEDERAL EXPRESS CORPORATION, Defendant.

          ORDER

          HON. JANE MAGNUS-STINSON, CHIEF JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT.

         Plaintiff Yves Lamothe, an African-American male who was born in 1968, worked for Defendant Federal Express Corporation (“FedEx”) for over eighteen years. During his tenure, Mr. Lamothe initially worked as a part-time handler, before becoming a lead aircraft technician. After FedEx terminated Mr. Lamothe's employment, he brought this lawsuit alleging race discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and age discrimination under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. FedEx moved for summary judgment, [Filing No. 53], and that motion is now ripe for the Court's review.

         I. Standard of Review

         A motion for summary judgment asks the Court to find that a trial is unnecessary because there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and, instead, the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). As the current version of Rule 56 makes clear, whether a party asserts that a fact is undisputed or genuinely disputed, the party must support the asserted fact by citing to particular parts of the record, including depositions, documents, or affidavits. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(A). A party can also support a fact by showing that the materials cited do not establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute or that the adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(B). Affidavits or declarations must be made on personal knowledge, set out facts that would be admissible in evidence, and show that the affiant is competent to testify on matters stated. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(4). Failure to properly support a fact in opposition to a movant's factual assertion can result in the movant's fact being considered undisputed, and potentially in the grant of summary judgment. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e).

         In deciding a motion for summary judgment, the Court need only consider disputed facts that are material to the decision. A disputed fact is material if it might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law. Hampton v. Ford Motor Co., 561 F.3d 709, 713 (7th Cir. 2009). In other words, while there may be facts that are in dispute, summary judgment is appropriate if those facts are not outcome determinative. Harper v. Vigilant Ins. Co., 433 F.3d 521, 525 (7th Cir. 2005). Fact disputes that are irrelevant to the legal question will not be considered. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).

         On summary judgment, a party must show the Court what evidence it has that would convince a trier of fact to accept its version of the events. Johnson v. Cambridge Indus., 325 F.3d 892, 901 (7th Cir. 2003). The moving party is entitled to summary judgment if no reasonable fact-finder could return a verdict for the non-moving party. Nelson v. Miller, 570 F.3d 868, 875 (7th Cir. 2009). The Court views the record in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and draws all reasonable inferences in that party's favor. Darst v. Interstate Brands Corp., 512 F.3d 903, 907 (7th Cir. 2008). It cannot weigh evidence or make credibility determinations on summary judgment because those tasks are left to the fact-finder. O'Leary v. Accretive Health, Inc., 657 F.3d 625, 630 (7th Cir. 2011). The Court need only consider the cited materials, Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(3), and the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has “repeatedly assured the district courts that they are not required to scour every inch of the record for evidence that is potentially relevant to the summary judgment motion before them, ” Johnson, 325 F.3d at 898. Any doubt as to the existence of a genuine issue for trial is resolved against the moving party. Ponsetti v. GE Pension Plan, 614 F.3d 684, 691 (7th Cir. 2010).

         II. Statement of Facts

         The following factual background is set forth pursuant to the standards detailed in Part I. The facts stated are not necessarily objectively true, but as the summary judgment standard requires, the undisputed facts and the disputed evidence are presented in the light most favorable to “the party against whom the motion under consideration is made.” Premcor USA, Inc. v. American Home Assurance Co., 400 F.3d 523, 526-27 (7th Cir. 2005).

         A. Mr. Lamothe's Employment at FedEx from 1988 through 2016

         From 1988 until 2016, Yves Lamothe was employed by FedEx in various capacities. [Filing No. 53-1 at 13-15.] Mr. Lamothe began working for FedEx in Los Angeles, California in 1988 as a part-time handler or clerk/sorter. [Filing No. 53-1 at 13.] At the time, he was finishing work on his Bachelor of Science degree in aerospace engineering technology, which he received from Northrop University in 1990. [Filing No. 53-1 at 12.] In June 1991, Mr. Lamothe moved to Memphis, Tennessee to start the maintenance training program at FedEx. [Filing No. 53-1 at 13.] After a year, he returned to Los Angeles to complete the maintenance training program. [Filing No. 53-1 at 13.] ¶ 1993, Mr. Lamothe became a junior aircraft technician, first in Los Angeles and then in New York City. [Filing No. 53-1 at 14.] ¶ 1996, Mr. Lamothe was transferred to Indianapolis, Indiana, where he became a senior aircraft technician. [Filing No. 53-1 at 14.] After a two-year job in Atlanta, Georgia as a senior technician from 1998 to 2000, Mr. Lamothe returned to Indianapolis, Indiana where he worked as lead of aircraft maintenance from 2000 until 2016. [Filing No. 53-1 at 14-15.]

         As part of his job as a lead of aircraft maintenance, Mr. Lamothe would assign tasks to a crew of 15 to 20 technicians and would monitor those tasks, but he was not a manager. [Filing No. 53-1 at 16; [Filing No. 53-1 at 67.] During the relevant period of time, he worked the day shift, which began at 5:00 a.m. and ended at 3:30 p.m. [Filing No. 53-1 at 16.] During the day shift, lunch was from 11:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., the first break of the day was from 8:00 a.m. to 8:15 a.m., and the second and final break of the day was at 2:00 p.m. [Filing No. 61-4 at 5.]

         FedEx used a program for clocking in and clocking out called Meteor, which stands for “Maintenance Enhanced Time Entry and Online Reporting.” [Filing No. 53-1 at 19; [Filing No. 53-3 at 2.] To clock in using Meteor, an employee would swipe his or her ID card when arriving at work. [Filing No. 53-1 at 20-21.] If Meteor did not show that an employee had clocked in or out, the employee would fill out a Meteor exception form on a computer. [Filing No. 53-1 at 21.] Employees also filled out Meteor exception forms to request time off or to leave early. [Filing No. 53-1 at 24.] In order to request leave, an employee would ask his or her manager verbally, and then the employee would put it in Meteor. [Filing No. 61-4 at 6.] Employees did not clock in or out if they were eating lunch on the premises or taking breaks during the day. [Filing No. 53-1 at 25-26; [Filing No. 62-1 at 2.]

         Mr. Lamothe's managers during the relevant time period were Clarence Craig, Harvey Jinks, Sal Ramos, and Mark Vontrager. [Filing No. 53-1 at 27-28.] Mr. Craig was Mr. Lamothe's manager for one week while Mr. Jinks was on assignment elsewhere. [Filing No. 61-4 at 6-7.] Gary Lyons was a senior manager. [Filing No. 53-1 at 93.]

         During his employment with FedEx, Mr. Lamothe received copies of the employee handbook and the People Manual. [Filing No. 53-1 at 15; [Filing No. 53-4 at 2.] He was also familiar with FedEx's Acceptable Conduct Policy and understood that a violation of that policy could result in immediate termination. [Filing No. 53-1 at 95.] Section 2-5 of FedEx's People Manual contains the Acceptable Conduct Policy, which provides that the following “may result in severe disciplinary action up to and including termination for employees:”

         (Image Omitted)

         [Filing No. 53-7 at 18.] In addition, the People Manual also states that “an employee normally would be dismissed upon completion of an investigation confirming violations related to” falsification of company documents and records “if falsification was for personal gain or benefit.” [Filing No. 53-7 at 20.] The People Manual gave the following example:

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         [Filing No. 53-7 at 20.]

         B. Conversation between Mr. Craig and Mr. Iozzio

         Sometime in the first half of 2015, while he was in the locker room, Mr. Lamothe overheard Jeffrey Iozzio say to Mr. Craig, “I'm going to get that f---ing n----r.” [Filing No. 53-1 at 69.] Mr. Lamothe did not hear Mr. Craig say anything in response. [Filing No. 53-1 at 69.] Mr. Craig was not a manager at the time - he was a senior technician. [Filing No. 53-1 at 66.] Mr. Craig became a manager sometime in early 2016. [Filing No. 53-1 at 86.] Mr. Lamothe did not say anything to Mr. Iozzio, a manager, or human resources at that time. [Filing No. 53-1 at 69-70.] Mr. Lamothe never heard Mr. Craig say anything inappropriate about him, his race, [Filing No. 53-1 at 70], or his age, [Filing No. 53-1 at 93].

         C. Mr. Lamothe's Early Departure from Work on August 27, 2016 and the Termination of his Employment at FedEx

         On August 27, 2016, Mr. Lamothe requested an hour of personal time off at the end of the work day and requested to leave at 2:30 p.m. rather than 3:30 p.m. [Filing No. 53-1 at 31; [Filing No. 53-3 at 2.] His request was approved in Meteor by Mr. Craig. [Filing No. 53-4 at 5; [Filing No. 53-5 at 2.] He did not let a manager know on August 27, 2016 that he was leaving early. [Filing No. 53-1 at 36.]

         Mr. Craig researched footage from the video system in the facility and discovered that Mr. Lamothe had exited the facility on foot at 2:10 p.m. and drove away from the facility at 2:12 p.m. [Filing No. 53-4 at 6; [Filing No. 53-5 at 2.]

         The next time Mr. Lamothe came to work - August 30, 2016 - he was told to go to a conference room. [Filing No. 53-1 at 34.] There, Mr. Craig asked Mr. Lamothe what time he had left work on August 27, 2016, and Mr. Lamothe replied that he had worked his “regular time.” [Filing No. 53-1 at 35.] While in the conference room, Mr. Lamothe produced a written document in which he stated that he “did not [leave] on the 27th of August 2016 . . . . On the 27th of August we had an extended 3:10 pm meeting. I did not [leave] early.” [Filing No. 53-2 at 1; [Filing No. 53-1 at 36.] Mr. Lamothe was then informed that he was suspended with pay pending an investigation of the potential violation of FedEx's acceptable conduct policy. [Filing No. 53-1 at 35; [Filing No. 53-2 at 3.] During the meeting Mr. Lamothe did not tell anyone that he felt like he was being singled out for discipline or that his suspension was wrong. [Filing No. 53-1 at 42.] He signed a letter of suspension the same day. [Filing No. 53-2 at 3.] The letter instructed Mr. Lamothe to “stay in town and [be] accessible by phone during normal operational hours.” [Filing No. 53-2 at 3.]

         Upon returning to his home, Mr. Lamothe called Joe Trimpe and Sam Ramos, both of whom instructed Mr. Lamothe to contact Mr. Craig. [Filing No. 53-1 at 35.] ¶ 6:10 A.M. that morning, Mr. Lamothe sent Mr. Craig a message that read as follows:

         (Image Omitted)

         [Filing ...


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