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Kern v. Ingevity Corp.

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Lake Charles Division

October 16, 2017

RON KERN
v.
INGEVITY CORP. f/k/a MWV SPECIALTY CHEMICALS CO.

          MEMORANDUM RULING

          KATHLEEN KAY, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Before the court is a Motion for Summary Judgment [doc. 55] filed pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure by Ingevity Corp., formerly known as MWV Specialty Chemicals Co. (“MWV, ” “defendant”), the sole remaining defendant in this action. The plaintiff, Ron Kern, opposes the motion. Doc. 74. The defendant's Motion for Oral Argument [doc. 64] was granted, and this matter was heard on October 12, 2017, at 11:00 am. Doc. 65.

         For the following reasons, the Motion for Summary Judgment [doc. 55] will be GRANTED, and the action DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE by accompanying judgment, each party to bear its own costs.

         I.

         Background

         Kern was employed at MWV[1] as a full-time lead process chemist at that company's facility in DeRidder, Louisiana, from August 2011 until October 2014. Doc. 55, atts. 3, 33. He received a poor performance review in December of 2013 and expressed his disagreement with same. Doc. 55, att. 7; doc. 55, att. 8, pp. 7, 11. In February 2014 plaintiff was diagnosed with shingles. See doc. 55, att. 10. Though he attempted to return to work on a few occasions, he largely remained on leave from February 21, 2014, onward. Id.; see doc. 55, atts. 12-14, 16; see doc. 74, att. 2, pp. 3-4; doc. 55, att. 33.

         During this time Kern continued to express disagreement with his 2013 performance review to his manager and sent a request for assistance to the MWV ethics line on March 23, 2014. Doc. 55, atts. 15-17. On March 26, 2014, Kern sent another email to the MWV ethics line, stating that he “fear[ed] the worst” as he had heard nothing to date and that, as he was “a 59 year old male with ongoing medical issues, ” he had contacted the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) for assistance. Doc. 55, att. 22. He completed an EEOC intake questionnaire that same date, alleging discrimination on the basis of age and disability based on his 2013 performance review and the resulting performance improvement plan. Doc. 55, att. 29. This questionnaire resulted in a discrimination charge (“2014 EEOC charge”), to which MWV responded. See doc. 55, atts. 30, 31. On July 15, 2014, the EEOC dismissed the charge and informed Kern of his right to file suit within ninety days. Doc. 55, att. 32.

         On September 26, 2014, a human resources representative from MWV sent a letter to Kern, informing him that a recent medical release, allowing him to begin working part-time, was insufficient for his full-time position and pointing out that he would run out of his short-term leave allowance on October 10, 2014. Doc. 55, att. 33. Accordingly, she stated, his employment at MWV would end once his leave was exhausted. Id. On that same date, a termination request was processed by MWV, effective October 10, 2014. Doc. 74, att. 1, p. 29. In December 2014 Kern applied for another position with the defendant but the position was never filled due to a reduction in force. Doc. 74, att. 2, p. 12; doc. 55, att. 23, pp. 19-20.

         On March 2, 2015, Kern submitted another intake questionnaire to the EEOC, alleging retaliation for his 2014 EEOC charge and discrimination on the basis of age and disability. Doc. 55, att. 38. His case was recommended for closure after he failed to provide a required signature within the allotted time. Doc. 55, att. 40. The EEOC issued a dismissal and notice of suit rights on June 3, 2015. Doc. 55, att. 41. Kern filed suit in the 36th Judicial District, Beauregard Parish, Louisiana, on September 1, 2015, alleging that defendant had violated federal statutes forbidding retaliation, and discrimination on the basis of age and disability, as well as Louisiana statutes forbidding same. Doc. 1, att. 1, pp. 4-9. In relief he seeks compensatory and exemplary damages, as well as an award of attorney's fees. Id. at 8-9.

         Defendant now moves for summary judgment on all claims, asserting that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact on Kern's claims of discrimination and retaliation and that the defendant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law and dismissal of this action at plaintiff's cost. Specifically, it maintains that Kern failed to exhaust the claims raised in the 2015 EEOC charge and that the claims raised in the 2014 EEOC charge have prescribed. Doc. 62. Should this court disagree on either front, defendant asserts that plaintiff does not show a right to relief on the merits. Id. Kern opposes the motion. Doc. 74.

         II.

         Summary Judgment Standard

         A court should grant a motion for summary judgment when the pleadings, including the opposing party's affidavits, “show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 2553 (1986). The party moving for summary judgment is initially responsible for demonstrating the reasons justifying the motion for summary judgment by identifying portions of pleadings and discovery that show the lack of a genuine issue of material fact for trial. Tubacex, Inc. v. M/V Risan, 45 F.3d 951, 954 (5th Cir. 1995). The court must deny the moving party's motion for summary judgment if the movant fails to meet this burden. Id.

         Once the movant makes this showing, the burden then shifts to the non-moving party to set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2510 (1986). The burden requires more than mere allegations or denials of the adverse party's pleadings. The non-moving party must demonstrate by way of affidavit or other admissible evidence that there are genuine issues of material fact or law. Celotex, 106 S.Ct. at 2553. There is no genuine issue of material fact if, viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, no reasonable trier of fact could find for the non-moving party. Tolan v. Cotton, 134 S.Ct. 1861, 1866 (2014). Furthermore, a court may not make credibility determinations or weigh the evidence in ruling on a motion for summary judgment. Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., Inc., 120 S.Ct. 2097, 2110 (2000). However, the nonmovant must submit ‚Äúsignificant ...


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