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Bailey v. Graphic Packaging International, Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Monroe Division

February 1, 2018

MARK A. BAILEY
v.
GRAPHIC PACKAGING INTERNATIONAL, INC.

          KAREN L. HAYES, MAG. JUDGE

          RULING

          ROBERT G. JAMES, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Before the Court is a Motion for Summary Judgment [Doc. No. 18] filed by Defendant Graphic Packaging International, Inc. Plaintiff Mark A. Bailey opposes the motion in part. [Doc. No. 22]. For reasons assigned below, the Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN PART.

         I. FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         In February of 1996, Defendant employed Plaintiff at its paper mill in West Monroe, Louisiana. At all relevant times, Plaintiff worked as a Coater Tender on Paper Machine No. 7. The primary duties of a Coater Tender are to ensure that the paperboard the facility produces receives a coating application that meets or exceeds product specifications. Plaintiff was required to understand the coating system and monitor the coating process.

         Plaintiff was an hourly employee whose employment was governed by a collective bargaining agreement (“CBA”) between Defendant and United Steel, Paper and Forestry, Rubber, Manufacturing, Energy, Allied Industrial, and Service Workers International Union, AFL-CIO, and its Local 13-0364 (the “Union”). The CBA contains a progressive disciplinary system covering a number of disciplinary issues, including an employee's failure to meet job performance requirements.

         In accordance with the CBA, Plaintiff received the following disciplinary notices: an oral reprimand on February 5');">5, 2014, a written reprimand on May 16, 2014, and another written reprimand on February 10, 2015');">5.

         In April of 2015');">5, Plaintiff filed a charge of race discrimination against Defendant with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”), but he did not enclose a detailed copy of his allegations. The EEOC issued a notice of the charge to Defendant on April 22, 2015');">5. [Doc. No. 18-5');">5, 2');">p. 12].

         On May 14, 2015');">5, Defendant issued Plaintiff a three-day disciplinary layoff.

         On June 12, 2015');">5, the EEOC issued Defendant a second notice of Plaintiff's charge of race discrimination, which included a copy of Plaintiff's detailed allegations. [Doc. No. 18-5');">5, pp. 15');">5-17].

         On July 1, 2015');">5, according to Defendant, Plaintiff violated the Mill Rules in the CBA by failing to “monitor the reel conditions and take appropriate action, ” which resulted in an “air knife streak” on a reel of paper. [Doc. No. 18-5');">5, p. 10]. The parties dispute the extent of the damage Plaintiff allegedly caused.

         On July 10, 2015');">5, Defendant terminated Plaintiff's employment. According to Ken Scharf, a Senior Product Engineer at the paper mill and Plaintiff's supervisor, he terminated Plaintiff's employment because Plaintiff “had received prior disciplinary action notices such that the incident of July 1, 2015');">5 in the progressive disciplinary system was at the termination stage . . . .” [Doc. No. 18-7, 2');">p. 2].

         On October 16, 2015');">5, the EEOC forwarded Defendant a copy of Plaintiff's second charge, in which Plaintiff alleged that Defendant terminated his employment in retaliation for filing his initial charge of race discrimination. [Doc. No. 18-5');">5, 2');">p. 20-21].

         On July 12, 2016, the EEOC issued a Notice of Right to Sue, which permitted Plaintiff to file a lawsuit against Defendant. Id. at 28. Subsequently, Plaintiff and the Union submitted his termination grievance to arbitration, and the arbitrator conducted a hearing on June 16, 2016. Id. at 33. Following the hearing, the arbitrator found that Plaintiff “was on the layoff rung of the progressive disciplinary system [] when he failed to observe the streak . ...


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