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Jackson v. UPS Ground Freight, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

December 12, 2017

JULIAN JACKSON
v.
UPS GROUND FREIGHT, INC.

          SECTION: "A" (2)

          ORDER AND REASONS

          JAY C. ZAINEY, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the Court is a Motion for Summary Judgment (Rec. Doc. 31) filed by defendant UPS Ground Freight, Inc. Plaintiff Julian Jackson opposes the motion. The motion, noticed for submission on November 15, 2017, is before the Court on the briefs without oral argument. For the reasons that follow, the motion is GRANTED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Julian Jackson filed this action against UPS Ground Freight, Inc., his former employer, asserting claims of racial discrimination (African American) and retaliation under Title VII and state law.[1] Jackson began his employment with UPS in April 2006, when he was hired as a driver.

         In July 2012, Jackson was terminated by his then-supervisor, Mike Lee (Caucasian).[2] Jackson filed a grievance with the union and a charge of discrimination with the EEOC (“the 2012 EEOC charge”).[3] (Rec. Doc. 31-6 at 46). The labor union resolved the claim in Jackson's favor; he was reinstated on October 1, 2012, with back pay. Jackson declined to pursue legal action pertaining to the 2012 EEOC charge even after receiving the right to sue letter.[4]

         Jackson contends that after he returned to work in October 2012, he was subjected to constant harassment.

         UPS terminated Jackson a second time on December 9, 2014, for insubordination. Jackson filed a charge of discrimination on September 29, 2015, claiming that he had been terminated in violation of Title VII because of his race and in retaliation for the 2012 EEOC charge. (Rec. Doc. 1-2 at 5). The 2015 charge also refers to disparate treatment in favor of white coworkers who were not terminated even after they had acted belligerently and cursed management. Even though Jackson's Complaint is devoted in large part to “constant harassment” allegedly occurring from October 2012 (when he was reinstated) to the date of his termination, the EEOC charge does not refer to problems with a hostile work environment. The EEOC declined the 2015 charge and issued a right to sue letter on May 4, 2016. (Rec. Doc. 1-2 at 1). Jackson filed this lawsuit on August 2, 2016.

         UPS moves for summary judgment arguing that Jackson cannot demonstrate that race played any role in his termination, that he was subjected to a racially hostile work environment, or that UPS terminated him in retaliation for his prior (2012) EEOC charge.[5]

         A jury trial is scheduled to commence on January 29, 2018.

         II. DISCUSSION

         Summary judgment is appropriate only if "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, " when viewed in the light most favorable to the non-movant, "show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact." TIG Ins. Co. v. Sedgwick James, 276 F.3d 754, 759 (5th Cir. 2002) (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249-50 (1986)). A dispute about a material fact is "genuine" if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party. Id. (citing Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248). The court must draw all justifiable inferences in favor of the non-moving party. Id. (citing Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255). Once the moving party has initially shown "that there is an absence of evidence to support the non-moving party's cause, " Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325 (1986), the non-movant must come forward with "specific facts" showing a genuine factual issue for trial. Id. (citing Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e); Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio, 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986)). Conclusional allegations and denials, speculation, improbable inferences, unsubstantiated assertions, and legalistic argumentation do not adequately substitute for specific facts showing a genuine issue for trial. Id. (citing SEC v. Recile, 10 F.3d 1093, 1097 (5th Cir. 1993)).

         When faced with a well-supported motion for summary judgment, Rule 56 places the burden on the non-movant to designate the specific facts in the record that create genuine issues precluding summary judgment. Jones .v Sheehan, Young, & Culp, P.C., 82 F.3d 1334, 1338 (5th Cir. 1996). The district court has no duty to survey the entire record in search of evidence to support a non-movant's position. Id. (citing Forsyth v. Barr, 19 F.3d 1527, 1537 (5th Cir. 1992); Nissho-Iwai Am. Corp. v. Kline, 845 F.2d 1300, 1307 (5th Cir. 1988)).

         A. Retaliation

         Jackson claims that UPS fired him in retaliation for the 2012 EEOC charge.

         Title VII's anti-retaliation provision states in relevant part:

It shall be an unlawful employment practice for an employer to discriminate against any of his employees . . . because he has opposed any practice made an unlawful employment practice by this subchapter, or because he has made a charge, testified, assisted, or participated in any ...

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