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Ray v. Huntington Ingalls Industries, Inc.

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

July 14, 2014

GEORGE E. RAY, Plaintiff,
v.
HUNTINGTON INGALLS INDUSTRIES, INC. and HUNTINGTON INGALLS INCORPORATED, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

HALIL SULEYMAN OZERDEN, District Judge.

BEFORE THE COURT is Defendant Huntington Ingalls Industries, Inc.'s Motion for Summary Judgment [49] filed January 10, 2014. Plaintiff filed a Response in Opposition [57] to the Motion on February 7, 2014, and Defendant filed its Rebuttal [63] on February 26, 2014. Having considered the parties' submissions, the record, and relevant legal authorities, the Court is of the opinion that the Motion should be granted and Plaintiff's claims against Defendant should be dismissed with prejudice.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff George Ray has been employed by Defendant Huntington Ingalls Industries, Inc., in its human resources department at its Pascagoula, Mississippi, facility for over forty-two years. Decl. of George Ray a [57-2]. In 2008, Plaintiff was classified as a "Staffing Representative 4" responsible for preparing employment requisitions for non-craft, professional positions. Pl.'s Dep. 116:64-10, 125:20-24 [49-1]. At that time, Plaintiff was under the immediate supervision of Vickie Crockett who reported to Kristen Barney. Id. at 119:10-14 [49-1]. Plaintiff attributes the majority of the problems of which he complains to the time he worked under the supervision of Ms. Crockett and Ms. Barney. Id. Ms. Barney was critical of Plaintiff's work product, and in 2008, she informed Plaintiff that he was going to be transferred from professional recruiting to craft recruiting. Id. at 85:4-21. Believing that Ms. Barney's actions were motivated by racial discrimination, Plaintiff filed an internal complaint with Defendant in October 2008 that he was being subjected to racial discrimination. Id., Pl.'s Mem. in Supp. of Resp. to Mot. for Summ. J. 10-11 [58]. Plaintiff recalls that Defendant conducted an investigation at the end of 2008, and he was not transferred at that time. Pl.'s Dep. at 86:20-87:13 [49-1].

Due to continuing perceived deficiencies in his performance, Plaintiff was placed on a Performance Improvement Plan ("PIP") in May 2011. Decl. of Edmond Hughes 1 [49-3]. Plaintiff did not sign the PIP, and Defendant contends he did not complete the PIP. Attach. G [49-6], Pl.'s Dep. 131:15-20 [49-1]. In 2011, Plaintiff was transferred from professional recruiting to craft recruiting, a position which made Plaintiff responsible for handling requisitions for hourly employment craft positions. Pl.'s Dep. 72:18-73:24 [57-1], 125:11-24 [49-1]. Despite a change in the type of recruiting he was performing, Plaintiff acknowledged that his title remained the same. Id. at 125:11-19 [49-1]. Plaintiff was glad to be transferred to craft recruiting because he was no longer being supervised by Ms. Barney. Id. at 152:20-153:2 [63-1]. Plaintiff's salary has increased from $91, 418.00 in 2008 to $99, 907.00 in 2014, and he currently is the highest paid staffing representative at Defendant's Pascagoula facility. Decl. of Susan Jacobs 2 [49-2]. Plaintiff has never been demoted or terminated by Defendant. Pl.'s Dep. at 41:1-13, 71:17-20 [49-1].

Plaintiff nevertheless filed a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") on September 12, 2011, stating that he believed he was being treated differently in terms of assignments, disciplinary actions, and pay because of his race and age. Charge of Discrimination [49-10]. After receiving a right to sue letter from the EEOC, Plaintiff filed this lawsuit advancing claims of racial discrimination under Title VII, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e-1 to -2000e-17, and age discrimination under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 621 to -634 ("ADEA"). Compl. 1-3 [1-2]. Plaintiff also asserts claims for retaliation and hostile work environment under Title VII. Id.

On January 10, 2014, Defendant moved for summary judgment on grounds that Plaintiff was not subjected to an adverse employment action and thus he could not establish a prima facia case to support his claims under McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 801-02 (1973). Mem. in Supp. of Mot. Summ. J. 16-25 [50]. Even if Plaintiff could establish a prima facia case as to his discrimination claims or his retaliation claim, Defendant contends that legitimate, nondiscriminatory reasons existed for its decisions related to Plaintiff. Id. at 19, 23. In opposing Defendant's Motion, Plaintiff posits that he suffered an adverse employment action when he was transferred from professional recruiting to craft recruiting, and that he has established a prima facie case. Pl.'s Mem. in Supp. of Resp. to Mot. for Summ. J. 7-14 [58]. Plaintiff also claims that two comments made about black individuals, graffiti around Defendant's premises, various emails containing jokes about President Barack Obama, and an alleged threat that Plaintiff would be fired all created a hostile work environment. Id. at 14-15.

II. DISCUSSION

A. Legal Standard

Summary judgment is appropriate "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." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). To rebut a properly supported motion for summary judgment, the opposing party must show, with "significant probative evidence, " that there exists a genuine issue of material fact. Hamilton v. Segue Software, Inc., 232 F.3d 473, 477 (5th Cir. 2000). "If the evidence is merely colorable, or is not significantly probative, ' summary judgment is appropriate." Cutting Underwater Technologies USA, Inc. v. Eni U.S. Operating Co., 671 F.3d 512, 517 (5th Cir. 2012) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)). In considering a motion for summary judgment, the Court "may not make credibility determinations or weigh the evidence" and "must resolve all ambiguities and draw all permissible inferences in favor of the non-moving party." Total E&P USA Inc. v. Kerr-McGee Oil and Gas Corp., 719 F.3d 424, 434 (5th Cir. 2013) (citations omitted).

"There is no material fact issue unless the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." RSR Corp. v. Int'l Ins. Co., 612 F.3d 851, 858 (5th Cir. 2010). "A fact is material' if its resolution in favor of one party might affect the outcome of the lawsuit under governing law[, and an] issue is genuine' if the evidence is sufficient for a reasonable jury to return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Hamilton, 232 F.3d at 477 (citing Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248). "[M]ere conclusory allegations are not competent summary judgment evidence, and such allegations are insufficient, therefore, to defeat a motion for summary judgment." Eason v. Thaler, 73 F.3d 1322, 1325 (5th Cir. 1996). "The court has no duty to search the record for material fact issues." RSR Corp., 612 F.3d at 858. "Rather, the party opposing summary judgment is required to identify specific evidence in the record and to articulate precisely how this evidence supports his claim." Id.

B. Analysis

1. Plaintiff's Discrimination Claims under Title VII and the ADEA

In Title VII cases, the McDonnell-Douglas inquiry follows a burden-shifting framework. Septimus v. Univ. of Houston, 399 F.3d 601, 609 (5th Cir. 2005) (citations omitted). To establish a prima facie case of discrimination, a plaintiff must demonstrate the following elements: (1) membership in a protected class; (2) qualifications for the position at issue; (3) an adverse employment decision; and (4) replacement by someone outside the protected class or, in the case of disparate treatment, that he was subjected to less favorable treatment than employees not in the protected class. Okoye v. Univ. of Texas Houston Health Sci. Ctr., 245 F.3d 507, 512-13 (5th Cir. 2001) (quoting Shackelford v. Deloitte & Touche, LLP, 190 F.3d 398, 404 (5th Cir. 1999)). If a plaintiff demonstrates a prima facie case, this creates a presumption of discrimination and the burden shifts to the employer to articulate a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for its action. Laxton v. Gap Inc., 333 ...


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