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Hamilton v. Coastal Bridge Company, LLC

United States District Court, Middle District of Louisiana

April 2, 2015

DWAYNE A. HAMILTON
v.
COASTAL BRIDGE COMPANY, LLC

RULING ON MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

JUDGE JAMES J. BRADY UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

Defendant, Coastal Bridge Company, LLC (“Coastal Bridge”), moves for this Court to grant summary judgment in its favor, dismissing the claims of discrimination, hostile work environment, and retaliation brought by Plaintiff, Dwayne Hamilton, against Coastal Bridge with prejudice. (Doc. 9). Oral Argument is not necessary.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff is an African American male. He was selected and hired by Pete Aranyosi, a white Coastal Bridge foreman, as a laborer and concrete finisher on March 10, 2010. (Doc. 4, p. 3). On or about August 22, 2012, Aranyosi, Plaintiff’s supervisor, noticed an oxygen bottle missing from the job site where contractors from other companies worked in addition to the Coastal Bridge crew. (Doc. 9-2, p. 4). Later that day, during a break, Aranyosi began making a noose. (Doc. 4, p. 3). As he fashioned the noose, Aranyosi spoke about how thieves were treated in the “horse thieving days.” (Doc. 9-1, p. 2). Joseph Bass, a white Coastal Bridge employee, recorded some of this incident on his cell phone. Id. Bass reported to Defendant that this act was directed towards him. Id. Defendant obtained statements from several employees who were present at the scene, including Plaintiff. Defendant suspended Aranyosi for one week without pay and circulated a memorandum to Coastal Bridge’s supervisors regarding the incident. Bass requested to be moved to another crew, and Defendant granted his request. Additionally, Plaintiff states he felt threatened when he was told by other co-workers that his managers and other employees would say the N-word. (Doc. 4, p. 2). Plaintiff mentions that Aranyosi had a gun in his vehicle that he showed Plaintiff at one time. (Doc. 14-2, p. 11).

Plaintiff was terminated on October 13, 2012. (Doc. 9-1, p. 4). On October 17, 2012, Plaintiff filed a Charge of Discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”). (Doc. 1-2, p. 2). On July 18, 2013, the EEOC issued its Notice of Right to Sue to Plaintiff. (Doc. 1-2, p. 4) Accordingly, Plaintiff has exhausted all administrative remedies with the EEOC.

Plaintiff filed his original petition on July 2, 2013. Plaintiff claims that (1) he was subject to racial discrimination by a managerial employee of Coastal Bridge, (2) he was subject to a hostile work environment, and (3) Defendant terminated Plaintiff’s employment in retaliation for reporting the noose incident. (Doc. 1-2).

II. LAW AND ANALYSIS

A motion for summary judgment should be granted when the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, show that there is no genuine dispute of material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A factual dispute is genuine when “the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc. 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). Rule 56(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure mandates the granting of summary judgment in any case where a party fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party’s case and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986).

i. Racial Discrimination Claim

To establish a prima facie case of racial discrimination, the Plaintiff must show he (1) is a member of a protected class, (2) was qualified for his position, (3) was subject to an adverse employment action, and (4) was replaced by someone outside of the protected class, in cases of discriminatory discharge, or, in cases of disparate treatment, that others similarly situated were treated more favorably. Franklin v. City of Slidell, 936 F.Supp.2d 691, 704, n. 14 (E.D. La. 2013). Furthermore, to establish a claim for race discrimination, Plaintiff must establish that his “workplace is permeated with discriminatory intimidation, ridicule, and insult, that is sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of the victim’s employment and create an abusive working environment.” Nat’l Passenger R.R. Co. v. Morgan, 536 U.S. 101, 116 (2002).

Plaintiff has sufficiently established that he is a member of a protected class, African American, and that he was qualified for his position as a concrete finisher. (Docs. 1-2, p. 1; 9-3, p. 6; 9-2, p. 5-6). Plaintiff also established the third element of adverse employment action by way of his termination October 13, 2012. However, it is the fourth element of the race discrimination claim that is not satisfied.

Plaintiff fails to allege how other employees were treated more favorably. Plaintiff indicted in his written statement to Defendant that the noose was directed towards a white Coastal Bridge employee. (Doc. 9-7). Also, Plaintiff indicated later in his deposition that he felt the noose was not directed towards anyone in particular. (Doc. 9-3, p. 15-16). Furthermore, Plaintiff does not provide other facts or circumstances to meet this last element of racial discrimination. Therefore, the last element is not met and the Plaintiff has not sufficiently established a prima facie case of racial discrimination.

ii. Hostile Work Environment Claim

Plaintiff also alleges a hostile work environment. (Doc. 1-2). In order to establish a hostile environment claim one “must show that the discriminatory conduct was severe or pervasive enough to create an objectively hostile or abusive working environment.” Stewart v. May Dep’t Stores, 294 F.Supp.2d 841, 846-47 (M.D. La. 2003). To establish a prima facie case of a hostile work environment, a plaintiff must show (1) he is a member of a protected class, (2) he was the victim of unwanted harassment, (3) that harassment was based on that protected characteristic, (4) the harassment affected a term or condition of his employment, and (5) the employer knew or should have known about the harassment but failed to take prompt remedial action. Thorne v. Leroy Danos Maintenance ...


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