United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana
ORDER AND REASONS
ZAINEY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
following motion is before the Court: Motion for Partial
Dismissal and Motion for Summary Judgment (Rec. Doc. 6) filed
by Defendant, Superior Energy Services, LLC. Plaintiff
Courtenay Starks opposes the motion. The motion, submitted
for consideration on March 7, 2018, is before the Court on
the briefs without oral argument. For the reasons that
follow, the motion is GRANTED.
an action under Title VII and the Louisiana
Anti-Discrimination Law for a hostile work environment (race)
and retaliatory discharge. Plaintiff Courtenay Starks, who is
African-American, was employed at Defendant's valve shop
in Belle Chasse, Louisiana from February 2010 through
February 2016. Plaintiff alleges that Frank Cherry (white
supervisor), Max Schneck (coworker), and Carnell Mediamass
(coworker) subjected him to a racially discriminatory
workplace throughout his six-year employment with Defendant.
Sometime in 2013, and then again in November 2015, Plaintiff
made a complaint of race discrimination to Defendant's
Human Resources department but Defendant failed to take any
action to stop the racially abusive treatment. Plaintiff
contends that Cherry and Schneck retaliated by continuing to
harass him after he complained about the abuse.
February 2016 Defendant began to relocate the shop operation
and lay off the employees at the Belle Chasse facility.
Plaintiff was laid off on February 12, 2016, but so were
Cherry and the other harassing co-workers at the shop.
Plaintiff contends, however, that his lay off was retaliatory
because he overheard Cherry's supervisor ask the person
administering the lays offs to “do him a favor”
and “get rid” of Plaintiff. (Rec. Doc. 1,
Complaint ¶ 20).
filed a charge of discrimination with the EEOC claiming
retaliatory discharge and workplace harassment. This lawsuit
now moves for summary judgment arguing that Plaintiff
released the claims at issue in this lawsuit when he left
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)).
B-1 to Defendant's motion is a Confidential Separation
and Release Agreement that Plaintiff executed on February 12,
2016. (Rec. Doc. 6-5 pp. 3-7). Paragraph 2 of the Release is
a waiver and release in favor of Defendant “from any
and all claims, demands, causes of action, lawsuits and
liabilities of whatever kind or nature, known or unknown,
asserted or unasserted, that may have arisen prior to or that
may exist as of the date of EMPLOYEE's execution and
acceptance of this AGREEMENT for any damages, costs, fees
(including attorney's fees), wages, salary, back pay,
front pay, liquidated damages, penalties, or any other
compensation or benefits except as expressly provided under
this AGREEMENT.” The consideration offered to Plaintiff
in exchange for the release was $2, 256.00.
to Plaintiff, he was first given the Release at the time he
learned that he was being laid off. (Rec. Doc. 11-1,
Declaration ¶ 2). Plaintiff was given until February 19,
2016, to execute the agreement in exchange for the $2, 256.00
but he signed the document that same day.
was having doubts, however, about accepting the agreement and
taking the money, so he drove to Lafayette, Louisiana to
revoke the agreement. Plaintiff was concerned that if he
executed the Release he would not be able to bring his
discrimination and retaliation claims against Defendant.
(Id. ¶ 7). Plaintiff consulted with an attorney
(not his current counsel) and he performed Google internet
searches to determine the difference between an
“agreement” and a “contract.”
Plaintiff performed this specific search because
Defendant's HR Manager, Thomas LaFleur, told him that the
release was an agreement, not a contract, and therefore
“no big deal.” (Id. ¶ 7).
on his internet research and the advice that the attorney
gave him, Plaintiff decided to revoke his revocation and
execute the Release because he really needed the money after
losing his job. (Id. ¶ 9). Defendant paid
Plaintiff the $2, 256.00, which ...