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Williams v. Ei Du Pont De Nemours and Co.

United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana

July 8, 2015



JOHN W. deGRAVELLES, District Judge.

Before the Court is E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Company's Motion for Partial Dismissal, or in the Alternative, Motion for Partial Summary Judgment ("Motion for Partial Dismissal"). (Doc. 9). Plaintiff opposes the motion. (Doc. 15). The Court has jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 & 1343 and 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(f)(3). Oral argument is not necessary.

After carefully considering the law, facts, and arguments of the parties, Defendant's Motion for Partial Dismissal is granted in part and denied in part. Defendants' motion is granted in that, as a matter of law, Plaintiff's § 1981 claims that arose prior to June 20, 2010 are time barred by the four year statute of limitations under 28 U.S.C. § 1658(a). Defendants' motion is granted in that, as a matter of law, Plaintiff's Title VII claims that arose prior to 2010 are not actionable as discrete discriminatory acts because Plaintiff failed to administratively exhaust these claims.

Furthermore, to the extent that DuPont's motion was intended to reach a hostile work environment claim, DuPont's Motion for Partial Dismissal is denied without prejudice. DuPont is granted leave to file a motion to dismiss on this issue. In all other respects Defendant's motion is denied.

I. Relevant Factual and Procedural Background

A. Introduction

This case arises out of Defendant's, E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Company ("DuPont"), alleged unlawful employment practices. Plaintiff, Allen Williams ("Williams"), brought suit pursuant to Title VII, 42 U.S.C, §2220e-5(e) and §2000e-5(f) alleging racial discrimination and retaliation. (Doc. 1, p. 18). Further, Williams amended his complaint to assert that DuPont is liable under 42 U.S.C. § 1981. (Doc. 13, p. 3). DuPont is seeking partial dismissal of Williams' claims or partial summary judgment.

As a preliminary matter, DuPont has withdrawn its request for dismissal of paragraphs 47 and 56-64 of Williams' Complaint. (Doc. 25, p. 1 n. 2). These paragraphs concern the events that occurred in and after December 2010. As these events are no longer at issue for this motion, the Court will only briefly summarize these allegations below.

B. Plaintiff's Allegations

1. Williams' Allegations Regarding his Early Years at DuPont

Williams alleges that he has worked at DuPont Burnside plant since 2000, when he was initially hired as a "Tank Car Loader." (Complaint, Doc. 1, p. 2 ¶ 6). Williams asserts that "[r]acial discrimination has been an ongoing problem at the Burnside plant since 2002[.]" Id. at ¶ 7. Williams claims that in 2002 "George Valentine ("Valentine"), a white male, manipulated his way to the position of Operations Supervisor, ousting Percy Bell ("Bell"), a black man, who had been tapped for and had begun training for the position." Id.

Williams contends that Valentine "often refers to African American employees as the brothers' and to Caucasian employees as buddy, ' bud' or bubba.'" Id. at ¶ 8. Williams asserts that "Valentine encouraged an environment that treated Caucasians more favorably than African-Americans." (Doc. 1, p. 3 ¶ 9). Williams asserts that Valentine "would assign African-Americans to perform the more physically demanding tasks and instruct Caucasians who held the same position to leave that type of work for the brothers.'" Id.

Williams alleges that "[w]hile he was a railcar loader, he frequently loaded eight to ten railcars per day while Caucasian employees only were required to load two to three cars per day." (Doc. 1, p. 3 ¶ 10). Williams asserts that Bell, a 35-year employee of DuPont, has previously testified that "the railcar job is the hardest job on the plant, and [Valentine] used that as, like, his strap you know." Id. ¶ 11. DuPont admits that the testimony was given, but denies the conclusion drawn from it by Plaintiff. (Doc. 10, p. 3 ¶ 11).

Williams alleges that Valentine would order him to move cars that had already been loaded or that he would create other work for him and other African American workers. (Doc. 1, p. 3 ¶ 10). Williams contends that "Caucasian employees were not required to do such extra work; instead Caucasian employees were allowed to sit in the control room, joking and clowning around during those times." Id.

Williams alleges that "African American employees were required to do work that required wearing an acid suit... when their Caucasian counter parts with less seniority were not required to do that work." (Doc. 1, p. 3, ¶ 13). Williams asserts that this "was oppressive." Id. Williams further alleges that Valentine "aggressively supervised and monitored African-American employees to watch for mistakes and imposed discipline on them when Caucasian employees would not receive discipline for the same conduct." (Doc. 1, p. 4, ¶ 14).

Williams alleges that Valentine previously testified that if he based a decision he made on race, that it would be a racist decision. (Doc. 1, p. 4, ¶ 15). DuPont admits that Valentine gave the testimony. (Doc. 10, p. 3, ¶ 15). Williams further asserts that in 2002, Ryan Becnel, a Caucasian, and Bryan Geasan, an African American, were hired as tank car loaders. (Doc. 1, p. 4, ¶ 16). Williams contends that Geasan worked with him on a twelve hour shift, from 11:00 a.m. until 11:00 p.m., while Becnel worked a twelve hour shift from 5:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. Id. at ¶ 17 Williams asserts that Valentine "told [Becnel]... to leave the work for the brothers, '" when Becnel left work at 1:00 p.m. Id.

Williams alleges that "[t]hroughout his employment at DuPont, [he] has felt the need to stay out of the way of [Valentine], working in fear of what Valentine may do to him or encourage others (who cooperate with Valentine including Plant Managers) to do to him." (Doc. 1, pp. 45 ¶ 18). Williams claims that he was fearful of complaining because he did not want to get in trouble or lose his job. Id.

Williams contends that in 2007, two positions in operations became available. (Doc. 1, p. 5 ¶ 19). Williams asserts that he overheard a white male coworker, Ivy Alberes, say that Becnel should be put in operations over Geasan because "there were enough colored people in operations." Id. Williams alleges that Alberes was "in good graces with [Valentine] and [was] known to be one of the good ole boys.'" Id. Williams alleges that he was moved into operations along with Becnel, while Geasan, who was more senior than Becnel, was terminated. Id. at ¶ 19-20.

Williams alleges that when he was initially assigned to work in operations, his senior shift partner, as well as mentor and trainer, was Jeff Simoneaux. (Doc. 1, p. 5 ¶ 22). Williams alleges that after he became an operator in 2007, "he was communicating over the plant-wide radio system, and [Valentine] came on the plant-wide radio, after [him], and corrected [his] grammar, telling [him] how he was supposed to pronounce the words he was using." (Doc. 1, p. 5 ¶ 21). Williams asserts that other employees heard Valentine and "commented on it which was hurtful and embarrassing to [him]." Id.

2. The Alleged Shift Change

Williams alleges that in December 2009 he heard rumors of a pending shift change that would affect him. (Doc. 1, p. 6 ¶ 24). Williams contends that on January 20, 2010[1] at 8:56 a.m., Valentine sent an email to all of management, to him, and to others, which stated that he and Nathaniel Rapp would be assigned to new shifts. Id. at ¶ 25. Williams asserts that he and Rapp were the two African Americans on "the shift."[2] Id. Williams claims that Valentine reassigned him to a shift with Rapp because Rapp was "considered at the plant to work haphazardly and in a disorganized fashion." Id. Williams alleges that the reassignment "would make it easier for [Valentine] to find errors made by [him] and would hinder his growth as an operator." Id.

Williams asserts that the January 20, 2010 email stated that the changes would strengthen the shift. (Doc. 1, p. 6 ¶ 26). Williams claims that this implied that he and Rapp were not performing well in their current positions. Id. Williams alleges that his "reputation was damaged by this email and his chances of receiving promotions diminished as a result." Id. Further, Williams claims that he "was never approached privately regarding the email or its contents." Id.

Williams contends that Simoneaux sent an email to Valentine and other DuPont managers on January 20, 2010, "expressing his concerns about the apparent discrimination and harassment of his African American co-workers, including [Williams], and requested a meeting." (Doc. 1, pp. 6-7 ¶ 27). Williams alleges that he and Simoneaux "each met with the plant manager, Don Janezic, regarding their concerns over the shift change." (Doc. 1, p. 7 ¶ 28). Williams claims that Janezic "said they would have to deal with [Valentine]." Id.

Williams alleges that on January 21, 2010, "Simoneaux sent an email to [Valentine] on behalf of himself, [Williams] and others affected by the shift change, invoking the formal grievance procedure pursuant to plant policy." (Doc. 1, p. 7 ¶ 29). Williams contends that on January 25, 2010, "[he], [Simoneaux] and [Rapp], the other African American affected by the shift change, drafted a document regarding the racial discrimination at DuPont and their intent to file a grievance." (Doc. 1, p. 7 ¶ 30). Williams further claims that on the morning of January 26, 2010, "[Valentine] directed [Simoneaux] to come into his office." (Doc. 1, p. 7 ¶ 31). Williams asserts that "[Simoneaux] told [Valentine] that his two co-workers, including [Williams], felt that Valentine was discriminating against them and asked to have a meeting, pursuant to Plant procedure, with [Valentine], [Williams] and the other shift-workers affected by the shift change." Id.

Williams asserts that Simoneaux "delivered the document to [Valentine] on January 26, 2010 and referred to the grievance procedure which allowed the workers involved to meet with the Plant Manager to discuss the situation." (Doc. 1, pp. 7-8 ¶ 32). Williams alleges that Valentine "grabbed the procedure book out of Simoneaux's hand and threw it across the room and said, I don't give a S-H-I-T what it says in the book, I'm not meeting with y'all, and that's it.'" (Doc. 1, p. 8 ¶ 32). Williams claims that Simoneaux contacted Human Recourses ("HR"), and that over the next several months he and others involved met with various members of HR as part of an investigation that began. (Doc. 1, p. 8 ¶ 33).

Williams alleges that during the Spring of 2010, "Caucasian employees made derogatory comments about [Williams], [Rapp], [Simoneaux] and Leo Scott because they met with DuPont's [HR] department about the discriminatory actions of [Valentine]." (Doc. 1, p. 8 ¶ 34). Williams contends that "by April 1, 2010, notes had already been prepared by [HR] detailing statements to [HR] that had been taken from employees, including [Williams]." (Doc. 1, p. 8 ¶ 35).

3. The Alleged Retaliation

Williams claims that on April 6, 2010, he received a write-up, a form of discipline. (Doc. 1, p. 8 ¶ 36). This was the first in his career at DuPont. Id. Williams contends that while he was working loading trucks, a truck "came in with the unloading hose still hooked up; however, the hose was lying secured in the hose tray." (Doc. 1, pp. 8-9 ¶ 36). Williams alleges that the truck "was properly loaded, seals were placed on the dome and the rear outlet valve was secured, but the hose was still connected in the rear." (Doc. 1, p. 9 ¶ 36). Williams claims that "DuPont's safety coordinator, T. J. Ozbun, noticed the attached hose but did not mention anything to the truck driver." Id. Williams asserts that Ozbun went to the control room to find out who was loading the trucks. Id.

Williams alleges that when Ozbun found out he was the one loading trucks, "Ozbun then said that he had seen the end of a hose attached to the back of a trailer and that he was going to tell [Valentine]." Id. Williams claims that "Valentine called Plaintiff over the radio and ordered him into his office and gave him a write-up." Williams alleges that Ozbun is part of Valentine's "good ole boy network." Id.

Williams claims that he "was accused of violating a procedure, but there was no procedure saying that one could not load a truck that was hooked to a hose, as long as it was flanged at the end." (Doc. 1, p. 9 ¶ 37). Williams alleges that "[n]o such procedure was cited in the write up." Id. Williams contends that he "wrote his objections on the bottom of the write-up and stated that he had just met with [HR] prior to the write-up." Id. Williams asserts that writing on the bottom of the write-up "indicate[d] his belief that the write-up was retaliatory." Id. Further, Williams claims that he immediately went "to the plant manager's office and complained, but the plant manager took no action and said not to worry about it." Id.

Williams alleges that he returned to Valentine's office at a later time and requested a copy of the write-up. (Doc. 1, p. 9 ¶ 38). Williams asserts that "Valentine had the write-up on his desk and picked it up and threw it at [him]." Id. Williams claims that he picked up the write-up, went and made a copy, and "[w]hen he returned with the original, Valentine snatched it out of his hand and slammed it on his desk." Id. Williams alleges that he "was extremely hurt by this conduct" and that "he had never broken any rules or had a write-up before." Id. Williams contends that this "treatment was retaliation for his recent meetings with [HR]." Id.

Williams claims that "[s]hortly after the incident regarding the fuel hose, it was determined that the truck was legal by plant standards." (Doc. 1, p. 9-10 ¶ 39). Williams asserts that even though the truck was determined to be legal, he "still had a write-up in his file." (Doc. 1, p. 10 ¶ 39). Williams alleges that "DuPont management enforced rules against [him] that had not previously been enforced and created rules to deprive him of his federally protected rights." (Doc. 1, p. 10 ¶ 40). Williams contends that "DuPont supervisors intentionally tried to find a rule that they could say [he] broke in order to retaliate against him for talking to [HR] about racial discrimination at the plant." Id.

Williams alleges that "Caucasian workers were not written up for such things." (Doc. 1, p. 10 ¶ 41). Williams claims that during his employment, "three Caucasian employees melted down the SO3 unit, which could have had disastrous effects on their coworkers and the community." Id. Williams contends that "these three employees were not sent home and did not receive write-ups or notes to file." Id.

Williams further claims that "Damon Babin, another Caucasian employee, violated a life saving rule by removing a hose from the SO3 manifold without wearing proper protective gear." (Doc. 1, p. 10 ¶ 42). Williams alleges that this violation "was committed in front of the Plant Manager, Tom Miller." Id. Williams contends that "Babin was not sent home and did not receive a write up or note to file." Id.

Williams asserts that he "timely filed a Charge of Discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission... in accordance with Title VII, 42 U.S.C. §2000e-5(e)." (Doc. 1, p. 18). However, Williams is not specific as to the date he filed the charge. Even so, DuPont attaches his charge to their motion, which shows that his charge was filed withe EEOC on September 13, 2010. (Doc. 9-2, p. 1).

4. Events In and After December 2010

As the events after the alleged retaliation are not at issue in this motion, they can be quickly summarized. Williams alleges that he was subject to heightened job scrutiny after the shift change and write up. (Doc. 9-2 p. 10). Williams asserts that he was out of work for extended periods of time after these events in 2010 as well as 2012 and 2013. Id. at pp. 10-15. Williams contends that he was docked two hours pay in 2013 because he was denied permission to make up hours. Id. at 16. Williams alleges this denial was inconsistent with DuPont Policy. Id. Further, Williams asserts that on January 24, 2014 he was required to take twelve hours of vacation time when he was unable to get to work because of icy roads. (Doc. 1, p. 16). Williams asserts that a Caucasian co-worker was not required to take vacation time for the same events. Id.

Williams asserts that DuPont violated Title VII by racially discriminating against him and retaliating against him. Williams also asserts in his amended complaint ...

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