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Darby v. Calumet Packaging, LLC

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

October 4, 2018


          DOUGHTY JUDGE.


          Mark L. Hornsby U.S. Magistrate Judge.


         Julian Darby (“Plaintiff”), who is self- represented, was formerly employed as a temporary worker at Calumet Packaging in Shreveport. Plaintiff alleges in his complaint that he was subjected to race and age discrimination, as well as unlawful retaliation. Before the court is a motion to dismiss (Doc. 14) filed by the defendants. They attack the several claims in the complaint on a number of grounds, including failure to exhaust administrative remedies and failure to adequately state a claim on which relief may be granted. For the reasons that follow, it is recommended that the motion be granted by dismissing Plaintiff's claim for punitive damages under the ADEA, but the motion should be denied in all other respects.

         Relevant Facts

         A. Scope of Facts

         “[W]hen ruling on a defendant's motion to dismiss, a judge must accept as true all of the factual allegations contained in the complaint.” Erickson v. Pardus, 127 S.Ct. 2197, 2200 (2007). The court may also consider exhibits attached to a complaint, which are part of the complaint “for all purposes.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 10(c). That includes the assessment of a Rule 12(b)(6) motion. U.S. ex rel. Riley v. St. Luke's Episcopal Hosp., 355 F.3d 370, 375 (5th Cir. 2004). Accordingly, the court will set forth the relevant facts found in the complaint and the EEOC documents that are attached to it as exhibits.

         B. EEOC Charge Form

         Plaintiff filed a charge of discrimination with the EEOC that identified his employer as “Calumet Packaging.” He began his employment in April 2015 as a temporary employee. He alleged that, during his employment, he was harassed, intimidated, and denied promotional opportunities by Shane Matherne (a manager). Plaintiff wrote that he was discharged on February 15, 2016, but his employer gave no reason for the actions taken against him.

         Plaintiff checked boxes on the EEOC charge form to indicate claims of discrimination based on race and age, as well as retaliation. He wrote in the charge that he believed he had been discriminated against based on his race (black) and age (54), and that he was retaliated against in violation of Title VII. He gave some particulars, including assignment to demeaning jobs with no opportunity for advancement or a raise in pay, denial of requests for training on different positions, never being interviewed for permanent status, advancement of a less experienced and younger white employee over him, and termination shortly after he questioned the advancement of a younger white coworker.

         C. Judicial Complaint

         Plaintiff alleges in his complaint that he was a temporary employee who was placed at Calumet by Career Adventures. Plaintiff alleges that the Calumet plant has eleven white males in management and supervisory positions and two white females in human resources. There are, he alleges, no black males or minority females in supervisory positions. The production crew, on the other hand, is almost fifty percent minority. Plaintiff alleges that there is a “buddy system” that results in the promotion of white males and the exclusion of minorities.

         Plaintiff requested, over several months, training as an operator or transfer to blending. Manager Shane Matherne instead assigned Plaintiff to less favorable jobs, which Plaintiff found embarrassing and demeaning, given his several months of experience at the plaint. Plaintiff was denied an opportunity to work as an operator on the pail line in January 2016. The position was instead given to Dakota Osborne, an 18-year-old white male who was the most recently hired temporary employee.

         Plaintiff alleges that he questioned manager Steve Haley to express his disappointment and say how unfair this was. Shane Matherne was listening to the conversation and said, “You can go home.” Plaintiff alleges that he replied that he had worked there for nine and a half months at the same job, but Osborne had been assigned to be trained on a better job after less than two weeks. Plaintiff said the situation was not fair, and he would rather take the day off than accept his assignment of mopping floors and cleaning the plant. Plaintiff alleges that these actions were “done racially and in a very mean spirited way to try and intimidate and humiliate me as well as to prove a point not to question him.”

         Plaintiff alleges that he applied to become a permanent employee at the plant. Management announced on February 2, 2016 that Calumet would hire six of its temporary employees on a permanent basis, and the director wanted to hire those temporary employees who had worked at the plant the longest. Dakota Osborne was hired, but he had less time at the plant than any temporary employee. On February 12, 2016, Shane Matherne announced that there would be a lay-off of temporary employees because business was slow. Two minorities were laid off, and one was terminated.

         Plaintiff alleges that he clocked out after a Friday shift, approached Matherne, and spoke to him respectfully and professionally. Plaintiff told Matherne how unfair he was in giving Plaintiff assignments. He said that he believed Matherne was trying to provoke him to quit and setting him up to fail by giving him all of the “odd jobs.” Plaintiff also complained that there was no logic in assigning Dakota Osborne to be trained as an operator, while denying Plaintiff that opportunity. Matherne allegedly laughed this off and told Plaintiff, “You just want to work and do what you want to do.” Plaintiff alleges that he replied, “I just want you to be fair, and give me the same opportunities, treat me like you treat Dakota Osborne and others. . . There is a name for what you are doing to me.” Plaintiff alleges that Matherne stopped smiling at that point, and Plaintiff told him to have a great weekend.

         Plaintiff alleges that on the following Monday, February 15, 2016, he picked up a sheet of paper by mistake and saw that it read, “I suggest we release Julian Darby.” Another employee told Plaintiff that the document was “all Shane Matherne (sic) doing.” Plaintiff asserts that he was in fact terminated on the next work day after he confronted Matherne about what he believed were unlawful practices in assignments and employment. The complaint contains a number of other allegations, some of which will be discussed below in connection with particular claims.

         Calumet GP, LLC

         Plaintiff's complaint names two defendants. The first is Calumet Packaging, LLC. Defense counsel represents that Calumet Packaging, LLC is not an operating entity. The Shreveport packaging facility is said to be owned by Calumet Branded Products, LLC, and that company has responded to the suit ...

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