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Dominguez v. Trinidad Drilling, L.P.

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Shreveport Division

March 23, 2015

LEOPOLDO V. DOMINGUEZ
v.
TRINIDAD DRILLING, L.P.

MEMORANDUM RULING

ELIZABETH ERNY FOOTE, District Judge.

Before the Court is a Motion For Summary Judgment filed by Defendant, Trinidad Drilling, L.P. ("Trinidad") against Plaintiff, Leopoldo V. Dominguez ("Dominguez").[1] Dominguez opposed the motion, and the Defendant replied.[2] For the reasons that follow, the Defendant's motion is hereby GRANTED.

BACKGROUND FACTS

Dominguez is an American citizen of Hispanic descent.[3] He began work at Trinidad on December 12, 2007 as a derrickhand.[4] His job duties required him to work for twelve hour shifts each day for two weeks, followed by two weeks off duty.[5] While working at Trinidad, a driller at the company and his immediate supervisor, named Jonathan "Gabe" Beird ("Gabe"), referred to Dominguez as "Mexican, " rather than using his name.[6] After Dominguez threatened to report Gabe to management, Gabe stopped the name-calling.[7] Dominguez never reported this incident to management.[8]

On June 9, 2010, Dominguez reported to Gabe that he had hurt his back while working.[9] He told Gabe that he was taking Tylenol and was doing okay.[10] On June 16, 2010, Dominguez and Gabe had an argument, during which Gabe called Dominguez a "stupid wetback" and a "f****ing Mexican."[11] On July 16, 2010, Dominguez contacted Trinidad's human resources personnel and reported the incident in which Gabe had called him inappropriate names.[12] Trinidad investigated the incident and issued a disciplinary warning to Gabe.[13]

On June 30, 2010, after feeling back pain, Dominguez went to his personal physician, who released him to work without restrictions.[14] On July 7, 2010, after his two week off period, Dominguez returned to work.[15] On July 14, 2010, Dominguez reported to his tool "pusher, " Wade Seacrest that he was injured.[16] Seacrest reported the injury to Trinidad, and a safetyman named Gary Rivers ("Rivers") told Dominguez not to work any more that evening.[17] The next day, Dominguez was examined at the Tyler Omega Clinic, where he was seen by a physician's assistant.[18] Dominguez was told he would have to come back to the clinic at a later time to see a doctor. While he was waiting for his appointment with the doctor at the clinic, he reported to Trinidad's Shreveport facility and worked "light duty" in the yard.[19]

On July 19, 2010, a Trinidad safetyman named Ian Young ("Young") took Dominguez to his doctor's appointment at the clinic.[20] The doctor examined Dominguez, took x-rays, and recommended light duty work for him.[21] Young asked the doctor not to give Dominguez light duty because he was only one day away from his two week off period. During the one day he had left to work, Dominguez did not do any actual work.[22] On August 2, 2010, during his two weeks off, Dominguez returned to his primary care physician, who examined him and recommended he return to full duty work.[23] Dominguez returned to work in the Shreveport facility yard.[24] While working there, Dominguez came into contact with an employee called "Bubba." Dominguez states that Bubba greeted him by saying, "Hey, Mexican, " and one time said, "I will never get another damn Mexican to work on my tractor."[25] Dominguez told Bubba to stop calling him such names, but he never reported the incident to Trinidad.[26]

On September 3, 2010, while working on the oil rig, Dominguez reported a back injury.[27] Trinidad again assigned Dominguez to work in the yard at the Shreveport facility, a light duty assignment.[28] On September 9, 2010, Dominguez, along with Trinidad personnel, returned to the doctor, where he was given a MRI.[29] Dominguez returned to work in the yard until the results of his MRI were obtained on September 13, 2010.[30] Those results indicated that he had a bulging disc in his back, and Dominguez was told that he would not be able to return to work.[31] Beginning September 14, 2010, Dominguez was placed on a worker's compensation leave of absence, and on November 30, 2010, he was placed on a Family and Medical Leave Act ("FMLA") leave of absence.[32] When his FMLA leave was exhausted, Dominguez's job was terminated because he was unable to return to work.[33]

Before he was fired from his job, Dominguez filed an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") complaint on October 20, 2010. After he was fired from his job, Dominguez filed a Louisiana state worker's compensation claim against Trinidad. Dominguez's EEOC complaint, dated October 20, 2010, lists several claims and causes of action against Trinidad, including a Title VII hostile work environment claim.[34] Dominguez also stated in his EEOC complaint that "I was required to continue working after being injured while Anglo employees were immediately placed on light duty. Additionally, my supervisors were discharged when they failed to properly handle injury claims for Anglo employees, but no actions were taken when my injuries were not address [sic] properly."[35]

On January 12, 2014, Dominguez signed a Compromise Settlement, Receipt and Release (the "settlement agreement") with Trinidad, which settled his worker's compensation claim.[36] A section of the settlement agreement entitled "Release and Discharge" includes the following language:

In consideration of the payments called for herein, EMPLOYEE completely releases and forever discharges EMPLOYER... of and from any and all past, present, or future claims, demands, obligations, causes of action, wrongful death claims, damages, costs, losses of service... whether based on tort, contract, statute, or other theory of recovery, which EMPLOYEE now has, or may hereafter accrue... on account of, or in any way growing out of, or which are the subject of that certain injury which EMPLOYEE sustained... in the course and scope of his employment when EMPLOYEE sustained an injury to his back/neck, as well as claims for any work related injuries incurred before the settlement is approved, and anything else that occurred while EMPLOYEE was employed by EMPLOYER.[37] (Emphasis added.)

The settlement agreement also states that "EMPLOYEE'S claims and causes of action arising out of the EEOC complaint against the employer are specifically reserved to EMPLOYEE."[38]On October 22, 2013, Dominguez filed this lawsuit against Trinidad, attaching his right to sue letter from the EEOC.[39] Trinidad then filed this motion for summary judgment.[40]

LEGAL STANDARD

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) directs that a court "shall grant summary judgment if 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." Summary judgment is appropriate when the pleadings, answers to interrogatories, admissions, depositions and affidavits on file indicate that there is no genuine issue of material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). When the burden at trial will rest on the non-moving party, the moving party need not ...


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