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Goodman v. Cummins, Inc.

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

September 27, 2019

HUBERT GOODMAN, Plaintiff,
v.
CUMMINS, INC., Defendant.

          ORDER ON SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          JAMES R. SWEENEY II, JUDGE

         Plaintiff Hubert Goodman sued his former employer, Defendant Cummins, Inc., alleging that Cummins subjected him to disparate treatment, a hostile-work environment, and constructive discharge on account of Goodman’s race and nationality. Goodman brings claims under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment under 42 U.S.C. § 1981 and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. Cummins has moved for summary judgment on all claims. The Court decides as follows:

         I. Factual Background

         Plaintiff Hubert Goodman began working for Defendant Cummins, Inc. in May 1997 and he has held a number of positions during his tenure with Cummins. Cummins operates worldwide and places certain high-potential employees in temporary assignments in another country for a term of six months to three years, known as “expatriate” assignments. (Linda Shi Decl. ¶ 3, ECF No. 60-3; Lisa Eckelkamp Dep. 10–12, ECF No. 60-4.) These expatriate assignments are viewed as an investment in Cummins employees. (Shi Decl. ¶ 3, ECF No. 60-3.) From 2010 to 2013, Goodman held an expatriate assignment in Singapore. From 2013 to 2016, he held an expatriate assignment in Vietnam, working as a Managing Director for a joint venture between Cummins and the Swiss-based company DKSH. (Goodman Dep. 21, ECF No. 60-1; Jensen-Muir Decl. ¶ 3, ECF No. 60-2.) Goodman’s general responsibilities in that position were sales, service, and support, including people management, profit and loss responsibility, and being part of the leadership team for Asia Pacific. (Goodman Dep. 79, ECF No. 60-1.) He reported to the Executive Managing Director of Asia Pacific, Peter Jensen-Muir, and the Board of Directors for the joint venture. (Goodman Dep. 15, ECF No. 60-1; Jensen-Muir Dep. 6, ECF No. 60-2.) Goodman ultimately resigned from Cummins effective September 30, 2016. He claims he was constructively discharged.

         During the time that Goodman was on his expatriate assignment in Vietnam, he received satisfactory performance evaluations. (Jensen-Muir Decl. ¶ 11, ECF No. 60-2.) He received raises and bonuses. He never received an unsatisfactory evaluation or a warning about his job performance. And Goodman was never advised by anyone at Cummins that his job was in jeopardy. (Goodman Dep. 282, ECF No. 60-1.)

         The expiration of his expatriate assignment in Vietnam required Goodman to find another role at Cummins. (Shi Decl. ¶ 6, ECF No. 60-3.) Cummins does not hold a particular job open in an employee’s home country when the employee accepts an expatriate position. (Shi Decl. ¶ 4, ECF No. 60-3.) Instead, an employee must network with other Cummins employees to identify a potential role. (Satterthwaite Dep. 110, 116, ECF No. 60-8.) Goodman understood that he could return to the United States without having a role and Cummins would allow him to find a role upon his return. (Goodman Dep. 160, ECF No. 60-1.)

         In July 2015, Goodman requested from Jensen-Muir information on relocating back to the United States and on a one-way move to Asia (i.e, working in a localized role without expecting to repatriate). (Jensen-Muir Decl. ¶ 9, ECF No. 60-2.) Jensen-Muir committed to working with Goodman to find a role in the United States and supporting his business travel to the United States to facilitate his search. (Id.) Jen-sen-Muir confirmed in subsequent communications with Goodman that Cummins would repatriate him. (Id.) In late 2015, President of the Distribution Business Unit Tony Satterthwaite informed Jensen-Muir that Goodman had requested consideration for “localizing”-transitioning to local employment status without the expectation of repatriation back to the home country- in Vietnam. (Id.; Shi Decl. ¶ 5, ECF No. 60-3.) But by then the joint venture board was already interviewing candidates for Goodman’s replacement. (Jensen-Muir Decl. ¶ 13, ECF No. 60-3.)

         In December 2015, Goodman explored an opportunity with the joint venture rather than returning to the United States. (Goodman Dep. 113–14, ECF No. 60-1.) Goodman understood that the board had decided they would probably bring in a new person, but he asked for consideration anyway. (Goodman Dep. 116, ECF No. 60-1.) The board concluded that another candidate, Milind Madani, was the superior candidate for the position. (Jensen-Muir Decl. ¶ 18, ECF No. 60-2.) In April 2016, Jensen-Muir again contacted Satterthwaite and the Executive Director of Human Resources for Distribution to reiterate his support for repatriating Goodman to the United States. (Jensen-Muir Decl. ¶ 19, ECF No. 60-2.)

         In early April 2016, Goodman filed a complaint through Cummins’ Ethics Point website, complaining about certain interactions with Jensen-Muir. (Goodman Dep. 167 & Ex. 13, ECF No. 60-1; Shi Decl. ¶ 8, ECF No. 60-3.) Then in mid-May, Goodman emailed the President of the Distribution Business Unit, Tony Satterthwaite, claiming that Jensen-Muir had been “badmouthing” him. (Shi Decl. ¶ 8 & Ex. 7, ECF No. 60-3.) Satterthwaite responded that he was unaware of any such “badmouthing, ” but he would ask Shi to initiate an investigation. (Satterthwaite Dep. 123–24, & Ex. 20; ECF No. 60-8.) Both matters were referred to Right Environment Manager for Asia Pacific, Stacey Gard, for investigation. (Shi Decl. ¶ 8 & Ex. 8; ECF No. 60-3.) In the course of her investigation, Gard tried several times to contact Goodman, but he failed to respond. (Shi Decl. Ex. 8, ECF No. 60-3 at 145.) At the end of her investigation, which included interviewing three witnesses identified by Goodman, Gard concluded that Goodman’s complaints were unsubstantiated. (Shi Decl. Ex. 8, ECF No. 60-3 at 138, 144.)

         In June 2016, while Goodman was in the United States, Jensen-Muir offered to extend Goodman’s expatriate assignment to allow him more time to find a U.S. role. (Goodman Dep. 199, ECF No. 60-1; Jensen-Muir Decl. ¶ 21, ECF No. 60-2.) Jensen-Muir understood that Goodman wanted to consider the offer and wait until the week of July 4, 2016 to respond. (Jensen-Muir Decl. ¶ 21, ECF No. 60-2.) Goodman accepted the three-month extension, making his Vietnam assignment end date October 15, 2016. (Goodman Dep. 202, ECF No. 60-1.) Goodman understood that he could return to the U.S., that is, repatriate, without having a role and find a role upon his return. (Goodman Dep. 160, ECF No. 60-1.)

         On July 11, 2016, Goodman sent an email to Vice President - Chief Human Resources Officer Jill Cook, notifying Cummins that he had “been subjected to illegal discrimination on the basis of national origin, additionally age and race.” (Goodman Dep. 235–36 & Ex. 25, ECF No. 60-1; Shi Decl. ¶ 12, ECF No. 60-3.) Goodman’s email did not provide any detailed information about the alleged discrimination. The complaint was referred to Director of Human Resources – Service Functional Talent Management, Larry Williams, for investigation. (Shi Decl. ¶ 12, ECF No. 60-3.) Williams interviewed several witnesses, including Goodman, and in mid-August 2016, determined that the complaint was unsubstantiated. (Shi Decl. Ex. 10, ECF No. 60-3 at 156.)

         Before Goodman’s expatriate assignment ended, Cummins presented him with several employment opportunities, but he decided not to pursue them. (Compl. ¶¶ 106–07, ECF No. 1.) First, Robert Enright, General Manager of New and ReCon Parts in Cummins’ Supply Chain Organization, emailed Goodman on June 1, 2016, and spoke with him around June 8, about a potential relationship manager role in his organization, with a potentially higher salary grade level than his current level. Goodman stated that he would get back to Enright in early July about his interest in the role. (Enright Decl. ¶ 4, ECF No. 60-10.) However, Goodman failed to respond throughout July and in late August emailed Enright, declining to be considered for the position in favor of “wait[ing] till my return before committing to a role.” (Goodman Dep. 222–23, 225, 226, ECF No. 60-1; Enright Decl. ¶¶ 4-6 & Ex. 1, ECF No. 60-10.) By that time, Enright had started moving forward and asked Goodman to advise if he would like to be included in the process. (Enright Decl. ¶¶ 5-6 & Ex. 1, ECF No. 60-10.) Goodman advised Enright that he did not have an interest in being included in the selection process for the role. (Id.) Enright ultimately hired Patrick Wolf for the position, and as of the date of Enright’s declaration at the end of October 2018, Wolf was still in that role. (Enright Decl. ¶ 8, ECF No. 60-10.)

         Second, around August 15, 2016, Norbert Nusterer, President of the Power Systems Business Unit, contacted Goodman about potential project manager roles in his business unit. Nusterer said that he did not actually have a job, but was willing to find something for Goodman. (Goodman Dep. 244–46, ECF No. 60-1; Nusterer Dep. 49 & 99, ECF No. 60-9 at 4.) At first Goodman was interested, but the next day he told Nusterer that he preferred not to pursue any opportunities in the Power Systems space and that he had lost all trust in Cummins. (Goodman Dep. 246–47, ECF No. 60-1; Nusterer Dep. 49 & Ex. 99, ECF No. 60-9 at 5.)

         In addition, during Goodman’s June 2016 visit, Bill Haley, the Supply Chain Leader (and part of the distribution leadership team) said to Goodman that if he could not find a role, Haley would give him a job. (Goodman ...


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