United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana
ORDER AND REASONS
J. BARBIER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
the Court is a Motion for Summary Judgment (Rec.
Doc. 19) filed by Leson Chevrolet Company, Inc
(“Defendant”), an opposition thereto filed by
Terry Gibson (“Plaintiff”) (Rec. Doc. 25), a
reply filed by Defendant (Rec. Doc. 26), and a sur-reply
(Rec. Doc. 30) filed by Plaintiff. Having considered the
motion and legal memoranda, the record, and the applicable
law, the Court finds that the motion should be GRANTED in
part and DENIED in part.
AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
case arises from an employment dispute between Plaintiff, an
African American male, and Defendant, a company that operates
a car dealership. Plaintiff began working for Defendant as a
sales representative in January 2012. (Rec. Doc. 1 at 2.) He
alleges that during the course of his employment, management
at the dealership exhibited preferential treatment to
Caucasian sales representatives. For example, Plaintiff
alleges that Defendant prohibited African American
representatives from congregating on the sales floor to wait
on customers but allowed Caucasian representatives to do so.
(Rec. Doc. 1 at 2.) On November 24, 2012, Plaintiff resigned
his employment. (Rec. Doc. 19-2 at 2.) Plaintiff asserts that
he resigned because of the disparate treatment that he and
other African American employees received on the job. (Rec.
Doc. 25 at 2.)
6, 2013, Plaintiff returned to work for Defendant as a sales
representative. (Rec. Doc. 19-2 at 2.) Plaintiff alleges that
during this second stint of employment he was routinely
passed over for promotions. (See Rec. Doc. 1 at
2-3.) On November 6, 2014, after being passed over for a
promotion to the finance manager position, Plaintiff
complained to Michael Brenner, Defendant's general sales
manager. Plaintiff avers that he told Brenner that he
believed Defendant failed to promote him because of his
African American race and informed Brenner that he was going
to resign his employment. (Rec. Doc. 1 at 3.) That same day,
Brenner and Lisa Rebowe, the dealer and owner of the
dealership, decided to promote Plaintiff to the finance
manager position, and Plaintiff accepted the position. (Rec.
Doc. 25 at 3.)
contends that his job performance as finance manager was
excellent and that he never received any reprimand from his
supervisors, either written or otherwise. (Rec. Doc. 1 at 3.)
Defendant, however, argues that shortly after the promotion,
Plaintiff failed to perform duties that were expected of
finance managers. (Rec. Doc. 19-1 at 3.) Additionally,
Defendant asserts that on several occasions during
Plaintiff's tenure as finance manager, the finance
companies charged back amounts on sales handled by Plaintiff.
Id. at 3-4. According to Defendant, these charge
backs were often the result of mistakes made by Plaintiff.
Id. at 4. Defendant also asserts that Plaintiff
would periodically re-allocate the amount of revenue from the
sale of a vehicle in a way that would benefit Plaintiff, but
not necessarily the dealership. (Rec. Doc. 19-1 at 4.) Defendant
states that Plaintiff did not have the unilateral authority
to shift the revenue in this way. Id.
asserts that in January 2015, Brenner verbally instructed
Plaintiff to stop re-allocating the revenue for the sale of
vehicles, but that Plaintiff continued this practice. (Rec.
Doc. 19-1 at 5.) Defendant further contends that because the
verbal counseling seemed to be ineffective, Brenner prepared
a written warning notice. (Rec. Doc. 19-1 at 5; Rec. Doc.
19-2 at 3.) It is undisputed that Plaintiff did not sign the
warning notice. (Rec. Doc. 19-2 at 4.) The notice, which is
dated January 22, 2015, includes a handwritten notation
stating that “Employee refused to sign.” (Rec.
Doc. 19-8.) Although the “Supervisor Signature”
line is signed by Brenner, the “Employee
Signature” line is blank. Id. Another line,
titled “Next level of supervision or witness
signature” is also blank. Id.
“categorically denie[s] receiving any verbal or written
counseling during his entire tenure as finance manager,
including any such written warning from Brenner.” (Rec.
Doc. 25 at 3.) Defendant, on the other hand, contends that
Brenner presented the notice to Plaintiff, who refused to
sign it. (Rec. Doc. 19-1 at 5.) Defendant further contends
that Plaintiff's refusal to sign the warning notice
resulted in Brenner and Rebowe determining that Plaintiff was
insubordinate. Id. at 4. Defendant argues that at
that time, Brenner and Rebowe decided to replace Plaintiff as
finance manager and began searching for another qualified
person. Id. at 5-6. In May 2015, Defendant hired
Ronea Wood, a Caucasian female, to replace Plaintiff as
finance manager. Id. at 4. Defendant terminated
Plaintiff's employment on May 5, 2015, after hiring Ronea
Wood. (Rec. Doc. 19-1 at 6.)
about August 22, 2015, Plaintiff filed a Charge of
Discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity
Commission (“EEOC”). (Rec. Doc. 1 at 2.) The EEOC
issued a Right to Sue on or around February 24, 2016, and
Plaintiff filed this lawsuit on April 6, 2016. Id.
The complaint alleges that Defendant intentionally
discriminated against him on the basis of race and retaliated
against him in connection with the termination of his
employment in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act
of 1964 (“Title VII”), as amended, 42 U.S.C.
2000e et seq., 42 U.S.C. § 1981, and the
Louisiana Employment Discrimination Law. (Rec. Doc. 1.) On
February 14, 2017, Defendant filed the instant motion for
summary judgment which is now before the Court.
argues that it is entitled to summary judgment on
Plaintiff's claims of race discrimination and
retaliation. (Rec. Doc. 19-1.) Defendant argues that it
terminated Plaintiff's employment for insubordination
after Plaintiff refused to sign the written disciplinary
notice on January 22, 2015. Defendant further argues that
this is a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for the
termination, and that Plaintiff has failed to demonstrate
that it was pretextual. Defendant also argues that
Plaintiff's retaliation claim should be dismissed because
Plaintiff cannot prove a causal connection between his
complaint of discrimination on November 6, 2014 and his
termination nearly six months later. Even if Plaintiff could
establish a prima face claim of discrimination, Defendant
asserts that it is still entitled to summary judgment because
it had a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for
opposition, Plaintiff argues that Defendant's proffered
reason for Plaintiff's termination is false, unworthy of
credence, and pretextual. Plaintiff argues that he never
received any written or verbal disciplinary notice regarding
his job performance while he was finance manager. Thus, he
argues that he could not have been insubordinate for failing
to sign the disciplinary notice. Plaintiff also argues that
Defendant terminated his employment because he complained to
Brenner about racial discrimination at the workplace.