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Gonzalez v. Premier Quality Imports, L.L.C.

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

April 19, 2018

ROBERTO GONZALEZ
v.
PREMIER QUALITY IMPORTS, LLC

         SECTION “B” (2)

          ORDER AND REASONS

         Before the Court is Defendant Premier Quality Imports d/b/a Premier Honda(“Defendant Honda”) Motion for Summary Judgment (Rec. Doc. 10), Plaintiff Roberto Gonzalez' (“Plaintiff”) Response in Opposition (Rec. Doc. 11), and Defendant Honda's Motion for Leave to File Reply (Rec. Doc. 12). For the reasons discussed below, IT IS ORDERED that the Motion for Leave to File Reply (Rec. Doc. 12) is GRANTED.

         IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Defendant Honda's Motion for Summary Judgment (Rec. Doc. 10) is GRANTED and Plaintiff's case is DISMISSED.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         The instant controversy emanates from an employment dispute between Plaintiff and Defendant Honda. Defendant Honda hired Plaintiff for the position of Parts Manager in November 2014. Rec. Docs. 11-2 and 10-12. Plaintiff, an American citizen of Cuban descent, was hired by the Service and Parts Director Walter Cannon (“Cannon”) and the Regional Parts and Services Director John Hightower (“Hightower”); a decision that was approved by General Manager Ashley Collins (“Collins”). Id.

         Plaintiff alleges that Cannon referred to him as a “hotheaded Mexican” on several occasions where Plaintiff had disagreements with other employees or managers. Rec. Doc. 11-2 at 2. Plaintiff denies ever receiving “written” disciplinary action at any time during his employment with Defendant Honda. Nevertheless the record reflects that Plaintiff engaged in several disputes with other co-workers during his tenure with Defendant Honda. Specifically, in December 2014-two months after his hire-Cannon submitted a disciplinary action report (the “Report”) regarding a dispute between Plaintiff and at least three female co-workers. Rec. Doc. 10-5. The Report provides that Plaintiff was counseled regarding his temper, maintaining a positive tone when counseling employees, and cautioned against negative gossiping. Id. Possible suspension or termination was also noted. Id.

         Defendant Honda alleges that about two months after the incident documented in the Report, Plaintiff was involved in another altercation with an employee he supervised-Nicole Charlot (“Charlot”). Defendant Honda asserts that Charlot complained that Plaintiff slapped her hand down and told her not to point at him when speaking to him. Rec. Doc. 10-12 at 3. The complaints about Plaintiff's behavior towards Charlot were an ongoing occurrence. Id. Plaintiff alleges that during disagreements with employees, such as those mentioned above, Cannon would refer to Plaintiff as a “hotheaded Mexican.” Rec. Doc. 11-2 at 2-3.

         On June 27, 2016, Plaintiff attended a training session provided by Petra Oil Company (“Petra”) for certain Defendant Honda employees (the “Training”). Rec. Docs. 10-12 and 11-2. During the Training Plaintiff was involved in a dispute with another attendant, a Service and Parts Manager at Premier Nissan, Danny Giardina (“Giardina”). Rec. Doc. 11-2 at 6. The undisputed facts present that during a sales presentation by a Petra representative, Plaintiff disagreed with certain sales expectations for the New Orleans area. Specifically, Plaintiff interjected disagreement with presented statistics that 7 out of 10 customers would purchase Petra products if presented the opportunity. Rec. Docs. 11-2 and 10-12. Giardina disagreed with Plaintiff's opposition to the presenter's information. Id.

         After the above disagreement between Plaintiff and Giardina, the meeting continued. However, Plaintiff subsequently observed other employees in the room laughing and presumably whispering about him. Rec. Docs. 11-2 at 7 and 10-12 at 5. Plaintiff stood up from his seat and approached the other individuals he felt were laughing at him and said, "Are you laughing at me?” Id. While the specific facts of the altercation are disputed, i.e., whether or not Plaintiff threatened to “beat up” Giardina, it is undisputed that Plaintiff was ultimately asked to leave the Training by the Petra representative leading the Training, Mr. Gacita. Id.

         Defendant Honda conducted an investigation of the incident. Plaintiff denies threatening Giardina; however, multiple witnesses negate Plaintiff's recollections. Toyota Service and Parts Director who was at the meeting, Chad Montgomery, informed Cannon that Plaintiff was out of control, threatened Giardina, and that he perceived Plaintiff to be drunk at the meeting. Rec. Doc. 10-12 at 6. Moreover, witnesses Errol Mayfield, Kirk Hayes, Mark Smith, and Calvin Brown all reported that Plaintiff was drunk and aggressive from the outset of the Training. They account that he jumped up, shoved his chair aside and aggressively approached Giardina during the incident. The witnesses further reported that Plaintiff threatened to knock Giardina's “old ass out.” Rec. Doc. 10-12. Plaintiff's employment with Defendant Honda was terminated on June 30, 2016. Rec. Doc. 1-12 at 8.

         Plaintiff denies that he physically threatened Giardina. Rec. Doc. 11-2. However, in his email to Hightower on July 2, 2016, after his termination, Plaintiff admits that he should have “handled the situation differently” and agreed consequences should follow, maybe “probation, suspension, etc.” Rec. Doc. 10-10. Plaintiff's email denies lunging or using profanity at Giardina; nevertheless concedes that he is “known to be a ‘hot head'” and that his tone was “loud and aggressive.” Id.

         Defendant Honda filed the instant motion for summary judgment seeking dismissal of Plaintiff's claims for discriminatory discharge under 42 U.S.C. § 1981 and retaliation under the Louisiana Whistleblower Act. Rec. Doc. 10-1. Plaintiff opposes Defendant Honda's motion, asserting that he was discriminated against and subjected to being called a “hotheaded Mexican, ” and that the June 2016 incident was minor. Rec. Doc. 11.

         LAW AND ANALYSIS

         Summary judgment is proper “if the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any 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). When considering a motion for summary judgment, the court should view all facts and evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. United Fire & Cas. Co. v. Hixson Bros. Inc., 453 F.3d 283, 285 (5th Cir. ...


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