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Hills v. LaShip, LLC

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

February 8, 2019

JESSE HILLS, JR., ET AL.
v.
LASHIP, L.L.C., ET AL.

         SECTION "S" (3)

          ORDER

          DANA M. DOUGLAS UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Before the Court are Plaintiff's Motion to Strike Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment [Doc. #142] and Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment as to Plaintiff Eugene Watson. [Doc. #137]. Both motions are opposed, and the parties have filed replies to both opposition memoranda. Also before the Court is the Motion to Compel Production of Documents [Doc. #162] filed by plaintiffs. This motion too is opposed, and plaintiffs have replied. Having reviewed the pleadings and the case law, the Court rules as follows.

         I. Factual Background

         This case has a long and tortuous history. Suffice it to say, six plaintiffs originally sued defendants LaShip, L.L.C. (“LaShip”) and Abbie Champagne alleging, inter alia: 1) Section 1981 Discrimination; 2) Section 1981 Retaliation; 3) Title VII Discrimination; 4) Title VII Retaliation; 5) State-law Discrimination; 6) Family and Medical Leave Act Violations; 7) State-law Retaliation; and 8) Negligent Hiring, Retention, and Supervision. Plaintiffs also sued Abbie Champagne, an employee of LaShip, alleging: 1) a violation of criminal statute La. Rev. Stat. § 14:45(A)(1); and 2) a violation of criminal statute La. Rev. Stat. § 14:107.2(A).

         After motions to sever and to consolidate, the withdrawals of numerous plaintiffs' attorneys, and motions to continue given the awkward procedural posture of the lawsuit, four plaintiffs remain represented by counsel, one proceeds pro se, and the Court dismissed one from the lawsuit. Eugene Watson is one of the plaintiffs represented by counsel. Watson is a carpenter who worked at the shipyard for LaShip who started in March 2009 at $16.00 an hour. He alleges denial of pay raises and unfair pay, as well as racist jokes and commentary. Specifically, Watson asserts claims for (1) race and color discrimination pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”), 42 U.S.C. § 1981 (“Section 1981”), and La. Rev. Stat. § 23:332, (2) retaliation pursuant to Title VII, Section 1981, and La. Rev. Stat. § 23:332, and (3) a hostile-work environment. The specific facts surrounding Watson's claims will be outlined below.

         II. The Motion for Summary Judgment

         A. Standard

         Pursuant to Rule 56(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, summary judgment shall be granted “if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). “Materiality” is determined by the substantive law's identification of which facts are critical and which facts are irrelevant. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A fact is material if it “might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law.” Id.

         If the dispositive issue is one on which the nonmoving party will bear the burden of proof at trial, the moving party may satisfy its summary judgment burden by merely pointing out that the evidence in the record contains insufficient proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's claim. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325 (1986); see also Lavespere v. Liberty Mut. Ins. Co., 910 F.2d 167, 178 (5th Cir. 1990). Once the moving party carries its burden pursuant to Rule 56(a), the nonmoving party must “go beyond the pleadings and by [his] own affidavits, or by the ‘depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file,' designate ‘specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'” Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324; see also Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986); Auguster v. Vermillion Parish School Bd., 249 F.3d 400, 402 (5th Cir. 2001).

         When evaluating a motion for summary judgment, the Court views the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, Gillis v. Louisiana, 294 F.3d 755, 758 (5th Cir. 2002), and draws all reasonable inferences in favor of that party. Hunt v. Rapides Healthcare System, L.L.C., 277 F.3d 757, 764 (2001). Factual controversies are to be resolved in favor of the nonmoving party, “but only when there is an actual controversy, that is, when both parties have submitted evidence of contradictory facts.” Little v. Liquid Air Corp., 37 F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th Cir. 1994) (citations omitted).

         Although the Court is to consider the full record in ruling on a motion for summary judgment, Rule 56 does not obligate it to search for evidence to support a party's opposition to summary judgment. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(3) (“court need consider only the cited materials”); Malacara v. Garber, 353 F.3d 393, 405 (5th Cir. 2003) (“When evidence exists in the summary judgment record but the nonmovant fails even to refer to it in the response to the motion for summary judgment, that evidence is not properly before the district court.”). Thus, the nonmoving party should “identify specific evidence in the record, and articulate” precisely how that evidence supports his claims. Forsyth v. Barr, 19 F.3d 1527, 1537 (5th Cir. 1994).

         B. Law and Analysis

         i. Claim for ...


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