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Trotter v. Lauren Engineers & Constructors, Inc.

United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana

July 21, 2017




         Before the Court is the Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 25) filed by Lauren Engineers & Constructors, Inc. ("Defendant"). In its motion, Defendant requests that the Court dismiss this action pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure ("Rule") 56. Christopher Trotter, Michael Collins, Patrick Sanders, Charles F. Trotter, Leo Mitchell, Timothy Sallins, and Isaac West (collectively "Plaintiffs") filed a memorandum in opposition, (Doc. 32), and Defendant filed a reply, (Doc. 34). The Court has jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331. Oral argument is not necessary. For the reasons that follow, Defendant's motion is GRANTED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiffs filed the instant action on December 4, 2015, in the Twenty-Third Judicial District Court, Parish of Ascension, State of Louisiana, alleging that while under Defendant's employ, Defendant created a hostile work environment in which they were subjected to discriminatory comments in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII).[1] Specifically, Plaintiffs assert that on two separate occasions-July 25, 2015, and September 22, 2015-Brad Hanson, the Mechanical Superintendent for Defendant, used racially inappropriate language and referred to Plaintiffs as "monkeys." (See Doc. 1-2).

         The undisputed facts show that on July 25, 2015, Mr. Hanson held a meeting with several project supervisors, including Plaintiff Timothy Sallins, an African-American man, and Raymond Williams, a Caucasian man. (Docs. 25-13 at p. 3; 33 at p. 1). At the meeting, Mr. Hanson allegedly commented to Mr. Williams that his crewmembers, a predominantly black group known as the "Grout Crew, " "looked like a bunch of monkeys f**ing a football." (Id.). Other than Timothy Sallins, no Plaintiff was present at the meeting. Shortly thereafter, members of the Grout Crew learned about Mr. Hanson's comment. (Docs. 25-13 at p. 4; 33 at p. 1).

         Thereafter, on October 28, 2015, Plaintiff Timothy Sallins sent a fax to Lauren complaining about the comment Mr. Hanson made on July 25, 2015. (Doc. 25-13 at p. 6). On that same day, Plaintiffs Patrick Sanders and Robert Sallins each sent a fax to Defendant complaining about the comment made by Mr. Hanson on July 25, 2015, and also stating that Mr. Hanson commented on September 22, 2015: "I can't wait until you monkeys get off my job site." (Id.; Doc. 33 at p. 1).

         On the basis of these two comments, Plaintiffs allege that Defendant violated Title VII by having a workplace "that is permeated with discriminatory actions, intimidation, ridicule, and insult that was sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of the plaintiffs' employment and created an abusive workplace environment." (See Doc. 1-2). Defendant timely removed the matter to this Court, asserting federal jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331. (See Doc. 1).

         In its motion, Defendant argues that Plaintiffs cannot establish claims for racial harassment under Title VII because (1) many of the individual Plaintiffs involved in this litigation were not personally subject to the alleged unwelcome harassment, (2) any alleged harassment was not severe or pervasive enough to warrant the requested relief, and, alternatively, (3) any harassment claims are barred by the Faragher/Ellerth defense. (Doc. 25-1 at p. 8). Plaintiffs filed a memorandum in opposition to the summary judgment motion, reiterating many of the same allegations as stated in their Petition. (Doc. 32).



         Summary judgment is appropriate "if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A party asserting that a fact cannot be genuinely disputed must support the assertion by citing materials in the record, including "depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations (including those made for purposes of the motion only), admissions, [and] interrogatory answers" or that an adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the presence of a genuine dispute. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c).

         "[W]hen a properly supported motion for summary judgment is made, the adverse party must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986) (quotation marks and footnote omitted). "This burden is not satisfied with some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts, by conclusory allegations, by unsubstantiated assertions, or by only a scintilla of evidence." Little v. Liquid Air Corp., 37 F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th Cir. 1994) (quotation marks and citations omitted). In determining whether the movant is entitled to summary judgment, the Court "view[s] facts in the light most favorable to the non-movant and draw[s] all reasonable inferences in her favor." Coleman v. Houston Indep. Sch. Dist., 113 F.3d 528, 533 (5th Cir. 1997).

         In sum, summary judgment is appropriate if, "after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, [the non-movant] 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, 322 (1986).

         B. ...

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