United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Lafayette Division
R. SUMMERHAYS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the Court in this employment discrimination suit is a motion
for summary judgment filed by Defendant Cabot Corporation
("Cabot"). [Doc. No. 21]. Pursuant to its motion,
Cabot seeks dismissal of Plaintiff Charles Johnson's
claim of race discrimination in violation of Title VII of the
Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq. For
the reasons that follow, the motion is GRANTED.
Johnson, an African American male, was hired by Cabot on
March 21, 2011 as a warehouse technician at Cabot's
carbon black facility in Franklin, Louisiana. [Doc. No. 26-1
at ¶¶ 1-2]. Johnson continued in that position
until his termination on August 12, 2015. Id. at
¶ 2. Johnson's duties included packing and bulk
loading carbon black into railcars and hopper trucks.
Id. at ¶ 3. In order to load the carbon black
into the railcars, Johnson had to climb on top of a railcar,
open a spout located on the top of the railcar and pour the
carbon black through the spout.
time of Johnson's termination, Cabot had implemented a
Fall Protection Procedure, which required all employees
working on top of railcars to wear fall protection gear at
all times. The fall protection gear included a harness, which
was tethered to a guidewire running above the railcars.
Id. at ¶¶ 7-8; Doc. No. 21-4 at ¶ 15.
Cabot trained its warehouse technicians, including Johnson,
to comply with the Fall Protection Procedure. [Doc. No. 26-1
at ¶¶ 9-10], Cabot stored extra fall protection
gear at its facility to ensure employees were always able to
comply with the Fall Protection Policy. Id. at
¶ 15. The Employee Disciplinary Policy in effect during
the relevant time period identified the "flagrant or
intentional violation" of Cabot's Fall Protection
Procedure as "misconduct which may result in immediate
termination." [Doc. No. 21-4 at 22-23 (emphasis
omitted)]. Johnson was made aware of Cabot's Disciplinary
Policy from the beginning of his employment, and he testified
he knew that a violation of the Fall Protection Procedure
could result in termination. [Doc. No. 26-1 at ¶¶
point in time prior to August 5, 2015, Cabot installed hidden
cameras around its warehouse at the plant. [Doc. No. 21-5 at
¶ 11]. On August 5, 2015, Jonathan Granger, Cabot's
Technical Manager of Plant and Warehouse, observed misconduct
in violation of protocol in all areas of the warehouse while
reviewing footage from the video cameras. [Doc. No. 26-1 at
¶¶ 16-17; Doc. No. 21-7 at ¶ 12]. In addition
to numerous minor violations, Granger saw three African
American employees, including Johnson, in violation of the
Fall Protection Procedure. [Doc. No. 26-1 at ¶ 18]. That
same day, Granger reported the violations to the Facility
General Manager, Steve Hubertus. Id. at ¶ 21.
Hubertus directed Granger and Hugh Junca, a Cabot Warehouse
Supervisor, to personally verify the conduct. Id. at
¶ 22. That same evening, Granger and Junca walked to the
railcar dock to inspect fall protection compliance and
personally observed Johnson loading railcars without fall
protection. Id. at ¶ 25; Doc. No. 21-6 at
¶ 7; Doc. No. 21-7 at ¶ 15. At the time of the
inspection, Johnson was the only employee in the railcar dock
who was observed not wearing fall protection gear. [Doc. No.
26-1 at ¶ 27], Junca and Granger instructed Johnson to
climb down from the top of the railcar and go to the office
to discuss why he was not wearing fall protection gear.
Id. at ¶ 28. Johnson was unable to
satisfactorily explain why he was not wearing his gear.
Id. at ¶ 29. In light of the violation, Johnson
was instructed to go home pending an investigation into the
incident. Id. at ¶ 30.
August 6, 2015, Johnson was interviewed by Granger, Junca and
Ruth Ortego, Human Resources Generalist for the plant, in the
presence of a Union representative. Id. at ¶
31; Doc. No. 21-5 at ¶ 16; Doc. No. 21-7 at ¶ 20.
In the interview, Johnson admitted he was not wearing fall
protection even though he was required to do so and had been
trained with respect to same. Id. at ¶ 32.
Johnson admitted he chose not to wear his fall protection
gear without the knowledge of his supervisors. Id.
at ¶ 33. When asked why he chose not to wear his fall
protection gear, Johnson could not offer a satisfactory
explanation. Id. at ¶ 34. Johnson was
terminated on August 12, 2015, based on Defendant's
finding he violated the Fall Protection Procedure.
Id. at ¶ 36. Aside from the August 5, 2015
incident, Johnson had no other disciplinary violations during
his employment with Cabot. [Doc. No. 21-12 at 32-33].
7, 2016, Johnson filed a charge of discrimination with the
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC").
Id. at ¶ 40. On September 26, 2017, the EEOC
issued Johnson a Dismissal and Notice of Rights Letter.
Id. at ¶ 41. Johnson timely filed the instant
suit thereafter, asserting a claim of unlawful employment
discrimination. [Doc. 21-1 at 5].
Summary Judgment Standard
party may move for summary judgment, identifying each claim
or defense-or the part of each claim or defense-on which
summary judgment is sought." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a).
"The court shall grant summary judgment if the movant
shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material
fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of
law." Id. "A genuine issue of material
fact exists when the evidence is such that a reasonable jury
could return a verdict for the non-moving party."
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