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Campbell v. Atlantic Scaffolding Company, LLC

United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Southern Division

June 13, 2014



LOUIS GUIROLA, Jr., Chief District Judge.

BEFORE THE COURT is the [22] Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Defendant Atlantic Scaffolding Company, LLC ("Atlantic"). Plaintiff Lawrence Campbell alleges claims of racial discrimination and retaliation pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq., as well as claims of infliction of emotional distress and punitive damages, against Atlantic. Lawrence has responded in opposition to Atlantic's Motion for Summary Judgment, and Atlantic has filed a reply. Having reviewed the parties' briefs, the evidence in the record, and the applicable law, it is the opinion of the Court that Atlantic is entitled to summary judgment on Campbell's Title VII failure to promote and discriminatory discharge claims, as well as his claim of infliction of emotional distress and his claim for punitive damages. However, Atlantic is not entitled to summary judgment on Campbell's Title VII retaliation claim. Accordingly, Atlantic's Motion for Summary Judgment is granted in part and denied in part.


Atlantic Scaffolding Company performs work as a subcontractor at the Chevron refinery in Pascagoula, Mississippi. During the time period relevant to this litigation, Atlantic divided its work at Chevron into several projects, or divisions: Routine Maintenance Projects, Turnaround Projects, and Large Capital Projects. Atlantic also performed what is referred to as Small Capital Projects. As will be discussed in more detail below, the parties dispute whether the Small Capital Projects work was a separate division, or whether it was considered to be within one of the other divisions.

Generally, each division was headed by a Project Manager who oversaw the various Atlantic employees who staffed it. The Project Managers reported directly to the Site Manager, who oversaw all of Atlantic's work at the Chevron refinery, and was the highest-level Atlantic employee based there. During the relevant time period, there was no Project Manager designated for Small Capital Projects. Rather, the small capital work and employees were managed by a General Foreman. A General Foreman was a level below Project Manager in Atlantic's management hierarchy.

Plaintiff Campbell worked for Atlantic during the period from 2006 to early 2011. Campbell started as a lead builder and was promoted multiple times. In late 2007, Campbell was promoted to General Foreman over Small Capital Projects, and served in that capacity until he was terminated in 2011. (Pl. Mem. 1, ECF No. 33; Pl. Resp. Ex. A, Campbell Aff. 1-2 (¶3), ECF No. 32-1). Campbell claims in this lawsuit that he sought a promotion to Project Manager, but was denied. Campbell is African-American. He submits that during the relevant period, all of Atlantic's other Project Managers were white.

Management of Atlantic's Small Capital Projects

In the statement of facts in his complaint, Campbell claims that as General Foreman over Small Capital Projects, he had the same level of responsibility as the Project Managers, and was acknowledged by Atlantic employees to be the Project Manager, but he was not given the "title, pay, or benefits" of Project Manager. (Compl. 3, ECF No. 1). Campbell also asserts that as the General Foreman over Small Capital Projects, he reported directly to the Site Manager, similarly to the other Project Managers. Campbell submits that beginning in late 2007, he made Atlantic management aware that he "was qualified and wanted the Project Manager position for Small Cap and/or Large Cap or any other project manager position that would be available." ( Id. at 2). According to Campbell, he inquired about the promotion to Project Manager multiple times over the course of the next several years.

Atlantic disputes that Small Capital Projects was an independent division, and asserts that the small capital work fell under the Routine Maintenance Projects Division. Atlantic has submitted affidavits of two of its managers, Chris Romano and Chris Scruggs, who explain that Small Capital Projects work "was managed and supervised by a General Foreman, who was to report to the Routine Maintenance Projects superintendent." (Romano Aff. 2, ECF No. 22-1; see also Scruggs Aff. 2, ECF No. 22-3; Def. Mem. 3, ECF No. 23). Therefore, according to Atlantic, when Campbell was promoted to General Foreman over Small Capital Projects, "his work fell under the immediate supervision of the project manager for the Routine Maintenance Projects Division." (Def. Mem. 3, ECF No. 23; Romano Aff. 3, ECF No. 22-1). During the relevant time period, the Project Manager over Routine Maintenance was Johnny Baxter. Atlantic submits that "Campbell had a history of not getting along well with... Baxter, " and to resolve that conflict, Campbell "was often permitted to bypass the Project Manager and report directly to the Site Manager instead." (Romano Aff. 3, ECF No. 22-1; Scruggs Aff. 2, ECF No. 22-3). However, Atlantic argues, "the Routine Maintenance Projects Manager was still ultimately responsible for the small capital project work." (Def. Mem. 4, ECF No. 23; Romano Aff. 4, ECF No. 22-1; Scruggs Aff. 2, ECF No. 22-3).

In response to the Motion for Summary Judgment, Campbell claims that as the General Foreman for Small Capital Projects, he "did not report to Baxter." (Pl. Mem. 2, ECF No. 33). He attests that he "reported directly and daily to the Site Manager, " and that he "was never told by any of [his] superiors that [he] was working for and should report to... the project manager for Routine Maintenance." (Campbell Aff. 3, ECF No. 32-1). Campbell asserts that "[s]mall capital division did not fall under routine maintenance, but was a separate division." ( Id. ) Campbell testified in his deposition that he handled a number of duties that were considered to be a Project Manager's responsibility. (Campbell Dep. 53:9-55:8, ECF No. 22-2).

In support of its Motion, Atlantic submits that "Chevron dictates to Atlantic the work that must be completed, and is responsible for determining what positions are necessary to staff the work. Chevron also determines the hourly rate it will pay Atlantic for each position." (Romano Aff. 2, ECF No. 22-1; Scruggs Aff. 1, ECF No. 22-3; Def. Mem. 2, ECF No. 23). According to the affidavit of Chris Scruggs, Site Manager, Chevron is "specific, dictating what position should be supervising each project and how many foremen, general foremen, and other employees can be assigned to each project." (Scruggs Aff. 1-2, ECF No. 22-3). Atlantic maintains that "[t]here was not sufficient responsibility in Campbell's position as General Foreman over small capital projects to merit Atlantic's making a special request of Chevron to allow a Project Manager position to oversee the small capital projects." (Def. Mem. at 4, ECF No. 23; Romano Aff. at 4, ECF No. 22-1).

Atlantic argues that "the work that fell under Campbell's supervision was significantly less involved and generally required fewer employees than the work handled by Project Managers, " and that "small capital projects handled by Atlantic were much smaller in scope, duration, and complexity" than the other divisions. (Def. Mem. 4, ECF No. 23; Romano Aff. 2, 4, ECF No. 22-1).[1]

Available Project Manager Positions

Atlantic submits that during the period that Campbell was serving as General Foreman over Small Capital Projects, one Project Manager position became available in 2008. (Def. Mem. 5, ECF No. 23). That position was filled by Scott Scruggs. ( Id.; Romano Aff. 4, ECF No. 22-1) Atlantic asserts that it "experiences little turnover in its Project Manager positions, and no other Project Manager positions were open during Campbell's tenure as general foreman." ( Id. )

In contrast, Campbell asserts in his response to Atlantic's Motion that "there were several occasions that a project manager's position became vacant" while Campbell was serving as General Foreman. (Pl. Mem. 4, ECF No. 33). Campbell claims that the Project Manager for Large Capital Projects position became available "when Jarman Cochran left the company, " and that a white employee was promoted into that position "in late 2009 or early 2010." ( Id.; Campbell Aff. 11, ECF No. 32-1). Campbell attests in his affidavit that he inquired about that position, but Chris Scruggs told him that he would stay over Small Capital Projects. (Campbell Aff. at 4).

Campbell also testified in his deposition that when he started in Small Capital Projects, he "knew that the large cap position was open and the small cap position was starting to come open." (Campbell Dep. 44:8-11, ECF No. 22-2). Campbell testified that "Jarman Cochran moved from the turnaround manager position to the large capital [Project Manager] position, " and that Scott Scruggs became Project Manager over Turnaround Projects when Cochran moved to Large Capital. ( Id. at 44:15-18; 45:17-23).

Campbell's Account of Racial Issues at Atlantic and Denial of Promotion

In Campbell's account of the facts, the denial of his promotion and his termination were connected to several racially-charged events that occurred during his employment with Atlantic. Campbell's factual account is set forth in the affidavit he submitted in response to the Motion for Summary Judgment. Campbell claims that in late 2007, Chris Romano told Campbell that he would be promoted to Project Manager over Small Capital Projects after Atlantic acquired the remainder of the available small capital work at the Chevron refinery. (Campbell Aff. 2, ECF No. 32-1).

Campbell submits that Atlantic acquired all of Chevron's small capital work in late 2008, while he was serving as General Foreman. He also attests that around that time, in late 2008 or early 2009, he received a racist text message from Chris Scruggs, Atlantic's newly-appointed Site Manager. (Campbell Aff. 3, ECF No. 32-1). Campbell reported the text message to Chris Romano, who was then in upper management at Atlantic, as well as Atlantic's Human Resources department. Campbell claims that after reporting this incident, he "was never promoted since." ( Id. ) Campbell states that shortly thereafter, in early 2009, he inquired about his promotion to Project Manager, but Romano told him that "he would get back with [him] after... [the] investigation into the racial text." ( Id. at 4). Campbell asserts that after speaking with Romano, he felt his promotion was at stake, so he sent an e-mail to human resources stating that issue about the text message was resolved.[2] ( Id. )

Campbell also focuses a substantial portion of his affidavit on his involvement in litigation filed by a group of Atlantic employees in 2009, referred to herein as "the Gibson litigation."[3] Campbell asserts that in 2009, Chris Scruggs and Chris Romano gave him a list of employees, all of whom were minorities, and told him to lay off those employees. Campbell attests that Scruggs told Campbell that Atlantic needed a "black project manager" to inform the employees about the layoffs "due to all the race issues Atlantic was having at Chevron." (Campbell Aff. 4, ECF No. 32-1). Campbell states that he did not show up for work the following day, so Romano executed the layoffs. ( Id. ) Campbell has also testified that sometime thereafter, when those employees were filing a lawsuit against Atlantic, Romano and Scruggs asked him to provide a statement against the employees, and they told him that "it all depends on your help. You know you're wanting that project manager position." (Campbell Dep. 92:10-93:3, ECF No. 22-2).

Campbell was deposed in the Gibson litigation in the summer of 2010. He asserts that before his deposition, Atlantic management pressured Campbell to testify that he had laid off the employees, instead of Romano. (Campbell Aff. 5, ECF No. 32-1). Campbell was never asked about the layoffs during his deposition, but afterward, he resisted signing a declaration when Atlantic's counsel asked him to do so.[4] ( Id. at 5-6). Campbell states in his affidavit that he approached Chris Scruggs about the declaration in early December 2010, and Scruggs told Campbell that he should "play ball to win" and "not give the lawyer a hard time." (Campbell Aff. 6, ECF No. 32-1). At that point, Campbell signed the declaration. ( Id. ) Campbell submits that several weeks later, in mid-January 2011, he contacted the attorneys who represented Atlantic in the Gibson litigation "to inform them that [he] wanted to clarify [his] deposition, " because he "may have committed perjury and/or that [he] wasn't being truthful about everything."[5] ( Id. ) Campbell testified that after he did so, Chris Scruggs told him "you know you're making a big mistake. You're about to get this promotion." (Campbell Dep. 93:19-94:1, ECF No. 22-2).

Campbell attests that on January 19, 2011, he asked Chris Scruggs about his promotion, and Scruggs told him it was being denied. ( Id. ) On that same date, Campbell filed a charge with the EEOC. Shortly after he filed his first EEOC charge, Campbell complained to Atlantic's Human Resources director about racial discrimination in its promotion and demotion practices. (Compl. 3, ECF No. 1; see also Motley Dep. 15:6-16:13, 36:4-12). Andrea Motley, the Human Resources director, testified that she opened an investigation into Campbell's complaint on or about January 20, 2011. (Motley Dep. 17:23-18:2).

Campbell's Suspension and Termination

Campbell asserts that, around the same time his promotion was denied, in mid-January 2011, "several minority employees of Atlantic" asked for his "help in informing Chevron about racial discrimination and improper dealing" by Atlantic supervisors. (Campbell Aff. 7, ECF No. 32-1). Campbell states that he told the employees to report the issues to the Chevron hotline. On January 26, 2011, a Chevron Security representative contacted an Atlantic manager and requested a meeting with Campbell. (Def. Mot. Ex. 10, Cooper e-mail, ECF No. 22-10). According to Campbell, he gave the Chevron Security employee a statement about wrongdoing by Atlantic. (Campbell Aff. 7).

The following day, January 27, 2011, Campbell received a written reprimand and was suspended without pay because he had participated "in a fraud investigation being conducted by [Chevron]." (Compl. 3, ECF No. 1). Chris Scruggs attests in his affidavit that it was his understanding that Campbell had "made an allegation to Chevron without first reporting to Atlantic Scaffolding, which is a violation of company policy." (Scruggs Aff. 3, ECF No. 22-3). Atlantic has submitted the written reprimand, or disciplinary form, it issued to Campbell as an exhibit to its Motion for Summary Judgment. The form notes that Campbell ...

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