United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana
ORDER AND REASONS
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.
IS FURTHER ORDERED that Defendant Honda's Motion
for Summary Judgment (Rec. Doc. 10) is
GRANTED and Plaintiff's case is
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
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”).
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. ...