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White Glove Staffing, Inc. v. Methodist Hospitals of Dallas

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit

January 15, 2020


          Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas

          Before OWEN, Chief Judge, and HAYNES and COSTA, Circuit Judges.


         Appellant White Glove Staffing, Inc. ("White Glove") appeals the district court's dismissal of its 42 U.S.C. § 1981 racial discrimination claim and grant of summary judgment on its § 1981 retaliation claim. We REVERSE the district court's dismissal of White Glove's racial discrimination claim, AFFIRM the district court's grant of summary judgment on White Glove's retaliation claim, and REMAND the case for proceedings consistent with our opinion.

         I. Background

         White Glove is a staffing corporation that provides clients with temporary kitchen and food service personnel. Appellees Methodist Hospitals of Dallas and Dallas Methodist Hospitals Foundation, Inc. (collectively, "Methodist" or the "Hospital") own and operate multiple hospitals in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

         In May 2016, White Glove employees Michael White, Shawn White, and Pedro Gutierrez met with Methodist chef Jose Soto to discuss whether White Glove could provide the Hospital with temporary kitchen staff. The same White Glove employees later met with Jeff Jennings, Methodist's catering coordinator. Jennings said that Methodist "wanted to give [White Glove] a shot" at providing temporary staff and that White Glove "ha[d] the contract."

         Shawn and Gutierrez met with Jennings again the next day. Linda White, the founder and owner of White Glove, was also present. At the meeting, Jennings allegedly stated that Soto "only really want[ed] to work with Hispanics" and that Soto "preferred Hispanics" over other groups. Additionally, Gutierrez said Soto told him to "[s]end [him] some compadres," which Gutierrez interpreted as "meaning send Mexican people, Hispanic people."

         Though White Glove and Methodist had not yet reached a formal agreement, Methodist asked White Glove to begin providing it with kitchen staff. On Thursday, May 19, White Glove sent Carolyn Clay, an African-American woman, to work in the Hospital's kitchen as a prep cook. Clay returned to work without issue the following Friday and Saturday. But during Clay's Saturday shift, the only other African-American working in the kitchen allegedly told her, "I'm surprised you're in here. They usually don't let blacks in this kitchen." The employee said that she was working there "only because" she had been there for eighteen years.

         Clay returned to work the following Monday and finished her shift without incident. But afterwards, a "very upset" Jennings told Shawn that Soto "was not happy because he wanted only Hispanics. That's what Chef wanted. . . . I don't want anybody else out here. . . . We went over this. I don't know why you're sending out other people."

         Shawn responded, "that's kind of messed up, I mean for you to tell me that this is exactly all you're wanting." He continued: "I have a lot of people of all different backgrounds, so if you're needing someone else tomorrow . . . I'll do what I can to try and put someone else in that spot. . . ." But he cautioned that "being as it's so late in the day, and [that the company needs someone] so early tomorrow, I'm not sure if I can get you anyone else. And, you know, [Clay] is already familiar with the kitchen." Shawn claimed that Jennings "wasn't too happy" about the conversation.

         White Glove did not have a Hispanic staffer to send to Methodist the next morning, so it again sent Clay to the Hospital. Three hours after Clay arrived, a junior chef told her to leave because "[w]e don't need you anymore today." A "clearly upset" Jennings then called Linda, stating that Soto "didn't want to use [White Glove] anymore because he was mad about [Clay] because she wasn't Hispanic." Michael said that Jennings "wanted to cancel everything" and indicated that "the whole deal was off."

         When Linda asked Jennings "if that was the only reason" for the termination, Jennings reiterated Soto's displeasure at being sent a non-Hispanic worker. Linda responded, "That's a little hard to say out loud sometimes, isn't it, Jeff?" Jennings said, "Yeah, it is. But it is what it is."

         Linda asked Jennings for another opportunity to work out an agreement with Methodist. Though Jennings initially agreed to meet, he called back several minutes later and said there would be no follow-up meeting: he "was going to go with what [Soto] wanted." White Glove did not work with Methodist after that day.

         White Glove and Clay sued Methodist in May 2017, alleging violations of § 1981 and Title VII, among other claims. Methodist moved to dismiss White Glove's § 1981 racial discrimination claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). The district court granted the motion, concluding that White Glove lacked standing to assert a discrimination claim because it was a corporation without a racial identity. Methodist also moved for summary judgment on White Glove's § 1981 retaliation claim. The district court granted Methodist's motion. This appeal followed.

         II. ...

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