United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Western Division
ORDER AND OPINION
BRAMLETTE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the Court is a Motion for Summary Judgment [Doc.
41] filed by Defendants Kelvin Harrell, Cecil
Jackson, Sanderson Farms, Inc. (Processing Division), and
Sanderson Farms, Inc. For the reasons that follow, the Motion
will be GRANTED.
employment dispute arises from racial discrimination Jerry
Bates contends he endured as a clean-up worker at a McComb,
Mississippi Sanderson Farms plant, and retaliation he says he
experienced after he filed a complaint with the Equal
Employment Opportunity Commission.
an African-American, worked on the clean-up crew at Sanderson
Farms' McComb plant for over twenty years, from May 1995
to December 2015. As a worker on the clean-up crew, Bates
cleaned the plant's production and processing equipment
to prepare the plant for the day's poultry processing
Farms also employed Kelvin Harrell, Bates' supervisor,
and Cecil Jackson, Division Manager of the McComb plant.
Harrell was the subject of a July 2015 EEOC complaint, in
which Bates alleged that Harrell “constantly
harassed” him and “placed negative information in
[his] file” because Bates complained about Harrell to
months after initiating that EEOC complaint, Bates attended
Sanderson Farms' annual “Heart & Soul”
meeting. Heart & Soul meetings are mandatory employment
seminars conducted by Sanderson Farms management. After each
Heart & Soul meeting, employees are asked to complete a
survey and submit written comments to Sanderson Farms'
President. Company policy dictates that the Division Manager
-- in this case, Jackson -- meet in-person with each employee
who submits a Heart & Soul meeting comment.
the November 2015 Heart & Soul meeting, Bates submitted
Pay clean-up 40 hrs pay like all other Dept. We do more than
40 hrs worth of work a week: We actually work a miracle
everyday to make this plant start up on time everyday.
Sanderson Farms' policy required, Jackson arranged
in-person meetings with employees who, like Bates, submitted
comments at the Heart & Soul meeting. To facilitate those
meetings, Jackson emailed clean-up crew supervisors Chad
Robinson and Dorsey Cameron. He instructed Robinson and
Cameron to tell eight cleanup crew employees -- including
Bates -- to remain at work after their shift ended on
December 4, 2015 so that Jackson could meet with them about
the comments they submitted.
midnight on December 4, 2015, Robinson relayed the message to
Bates and other members of the clean-up crew: They were to
remain at work after their shift ended that morning so that
they could speak with Jackson. Bates did not comply. He
instead left work without speaking to Jackson. Sanderson
Farms fired Bates later that day.
sued Sanderson Farms, Harrell, and Jackson, alleging general
negligence and violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights
Act of 1964, the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. §
201 et seq. (“FLSA”), and 42 U.S.C. § 1981.
Complaint, Bates alleges that Sanderson Farms promoted white
members of the clean-up crew more quickly than
African-American members. Beyond that, he says, Sanderson
Farms manipulated the hours the clean-up crew worked so that
Sanderson Farms was not required to pay them overtime. Bates
also alleges that management, including Jackson, ignored
three harassment complaints he filed against Harrell.
Finally, Bates alleges that he was fired in retaliation for
his July 2015 EEOC complaint and the comment he submitted
following the November 2015 Heart & Soul meeting.
Farms, Jackson, and Harrell move for summary judgment on all
of Bates' claims.
judgment is proper if Defendants show that there is no
genuine dispute as to any material fact and that they are
entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a).
If Defendants show the absence of a disputed material fact,
Bates cannot, in reply, simply direct the Court to conclusory
allegations or a scintilla of evidence favorable to him.
Lincoln v. Scott, 887 F.3d 190, 195 (5th Cir. 2018).
He must instead “go beyond the pleadings and designate
specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for
trial.” McCarty v. Hillstone Restaurant Grp.,
Inc., 864 F.3d 354, 357 (5th Cir. 2017) (emphasis
Court views facts and draws reasonable inferences in
Bates' favor. Vann v. City of Southaven, Miss.,
884 F.3d 307, 309 (5th Cir. 2018). As always, the Court
neither assesses credibility nor weighs evidence at the
summary-judgment stage. Wells v. Minnesota Life Ins.
Co., 885 F.3d 885, 889 (5th Cir. 2018).
VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits racial
discrimination in employment. 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a). It
outlaws both intentional discrimination and unintentional
discrimination that disproportionately adversely affects
minorities. Ricci v. DeStefano, 557 U.S. 557, 577
(2009). The former form of discrimination is called disparate
treatment, the latter, disparate effect. Id. at 577.
This is a disparate treatment case.
evidence of intentional discrimination is difficult to come
by. A plaintiff without direct evidence may nonetheless
prevail in a Title VII action “by providing
circumstantial evidence sufficient to raise an inference of