United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
K. KALLON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
McCollough brings this case against the Buffalo Electric
Company of Alabama under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of
1964, 78 Stat. 253, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et
seq. and 42 U.S.C. § 1981. McCollough alleges that
Buffalo unlawfully retaliated against him by suspending and
then discharging him after he complained about ongoing racial
discrimination in the company warehouse where he worked.
Buffalo has filed a motion for summary judgment, doc. 15, and
that motion is now fully briefed, docs. 17; 22; 23, and ripe
for review. After carefully considering the parties'
briefs and the record, the court finds that questions of
material fact preclude summary judgment in favor of Buffalo.
Accordingly, Buffalo's motion is due to be denied.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
judgment is properly granted “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). A dispute about a material fact is
genuine “if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury
could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.”
Anderson v Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248
evidence of the non-movant is to be believed and all
justifiable inferences are to be drawn in [her] favor.”
Id. at 255. It is expressly not the role of the
court to “weigh conflicting evidence or to make
credibility determinations.” Mize v. Jefferson City
Bd. Of Educ., 93 F.3d 739, 742 (11th Cir. 1996); see
also Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255 (explaining
“[c]redibility determinations, the weighing of the
evidence, and the drawing of legitimate inferences from the
facts are jury functions, not those of a judge”).
“mere conclusions and unsupported factual allegations
are legally insufficient to defeat a summary judgment
motion.” Ellis v. England, 432 F.3d 1321, 1326
(11th Cir. 2005) (per curiam) (citing Bald Mountain Park,
Ltd. v. Oliver, 863 F.2d 1560, 1563 (11th Cir. 1989)).
“[A] . . . ‘scintilla of evidence in support of
the nonmoving party will not suffice to overcome a motion for
summary judgment.'” Melton v. Abston, 841
F.3d 1207, 1219 (11th Cir. 2016) (quoting Young v. City
of Palm Bay, 358 F.3d 859, 860 (11th Cir. 2004)).
Instead, if “the record taken as a whole could not lead
a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party,
there is no genuine issue for trial, ” and summary
judgment is appropriately granted. Matsushita Elec.
Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587
(1986) (citation omitted).
following facts reflect the court's assessment of the
record in the light most favorable to McCollough. Buffalo, a
family-owned electrical supply business located in
Birmingham, Alabama, hired McCollough through a temporary
employment agency in January of 2013. Doc. 17 at 3-4. Buffalo
mostly used temporary workers to fill its warehouse related
positions due to their relatively high employee turnover
rates. Id. at 4. Although McCollough characterized
his position as delivery/sales, doc. 17-6 at 8, most of his
daily duties involved working in Buffalo's warehouse.
Doc. 17-6 at 7-9. At the time of his hiring, all four of the
warehouse associates employed by Buffalo, including
McCollough, were African-American. Doc. 17 at 5.
first months of employment passed without incident, and on
May 6, 2013, Buffalo hired him as a regular employee.
Id. at 6. A few weeks later, Buffalo hired Mike
Glover, a white man, as a new sales representative.
Id. Doc. 22 at 21. As part of Glover's initial
training for this position, Buffalo assigned him to the
warehouse where he worked closely with McCollough. Docs. 17
at 6-7; 17-6 at 29. When Glover completed his warehouse
training, he assumed a position in sales. Doc. 17 at 6.
perceived Glover's placement in sales as evidence of
racial disparity in Buffalo's employment decisions since
he had previously expressed interest in a sales position and
was never considered for the position that Glover filled.
Doc. 17-6 at 13. McCollough was upset enough over this hiring
decision to ask Stephen Schneider, the warehouse manager, for
a workplace grievance form. Id. at 9,
11-14. Schneider informed McCollough that Buffalo
did not have grievance forms, but that McCollough could write
down his complaint on a sheet of paper and discuss the matter
with Schneider at a later time. Id. at 11; Doc. 17-4
at 16. It is undisputed that McCollough never made a written
complaint regarding alleged racial discrimination at Buffalo,
doc. 17-6 at 11, and it took over six months for him to
follow up with management regarding his concerns,
id. at 17.
November 2013, Buffalo promoted Schneider and filled his
position of warehouse manager with Winfred Stewart, one of
McCollough's African-American co-workers. Doc. 17 at 7-8.
The record overwhelmingly indicates that McCollough did not
readily accept Stewart's promotion. Among other things,
McCollough frequently refused to follow Stewart's
directives and repeatedly attempted to trick Stewart into
completing unnecessary tasks. Docs 17-3 at 26-27; 17-7 at
13-14; 17-9 at 18-19. This pattern of behavior prompted
Stewart to reach out to Patrick McCarroll, Buffalo's then
Vice-President, for assistance in dealing with McCollough.
Doc. 17-3 at 26. In response to Stewart, McCarroll drafted a
strongly-worded memorandum explaining that the “acts of
insubordination” occurring since Stewart's
promotion were unacceptable. Id. at 27; Doc. 17-5 at
13. On December 20, 2013, Stewart presented the document to
all warehouse employees requiring them to sign the document
or “go home.” Doc. 17-7 at 14- 15.
undisputed that McCollough failed to initially sign the
memorandum, but the record is unclear regarding what happened
following his refusal. Doc. 17-6 at 19. McCollough testified
that he simply wanted time to read the document and did not
adamantly oppose signing it. Id. Stewart and
McCarroll contradict this assertion indicating that
McCollough acted insubordinately toward Stewart and demanded
to meet with McCarroll before signing the document. Docs 17-3
at 38- 39; 17-7 at 15. In either event, McCarroll went to the
warehouse floor and spoke with McCollough shortly after
Stewart presented the memorandum to the company's
warehouse associates. Doc. 17-3 at 38.
men engaged in what quickly became a heated conversation.
Id. at 39. McCollough reiterated many of his
workplace grievances to McCarroll, including concerns over
differences in pay and advancement opportunities between
white and African-American employees, the use of racial slurs
in the workplace, and McCollough's inability to file a
grievance related to these issues. Doc. 17-6 at 20-21.
McCarroll grew increasingly agitated during the conversation
and eventually accused McCollough of calling him a racist
stating “you are pushing me against a corner . . . I
can't have you saying I am a racist and we [Buffalo] are
discriminating.” Doc. 22 at 10. Buffalo now admits that
McCollough signed the memorandum in question, albeit outside
of the presence of Stewart and McCarroll. Doc. 17-3 at 39.
that same day, December 20, 2013, McCarroll and Stewart had a
discussion in which McCarroll told Stewart to suspend
McCollough with pay. Id. at 28. Immediately
thereafter, McCollough filed a charge with the Equal
Employment Opportunity Commission asserting that Buffalo had
suspended him in retaliation for his complaints about the
company's allegedly discriminatory employment practices.
Doc. 21-8 at 2-3. Ten days later, after consultation with
McCarroll, Stewart formally discharged McCollough. Doc. 17-7
addition to protecting employees from discriminatory
practices in the workplace, Title VII also provides a remedy
for “employer retaliation on account of an
employee's having opposed, complained of, or sought
remedies for, unlawful workplace discrimination.”
Univ. of Tex. Sw. Med. Ctr. v. Nassar, 133 S.Ct.
2517, 2522 (2013) (citing 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-3(a)). To
establish a prima facie case of retaliation, the
plaintiff is required to show that: “(1) she engaged in
an activity protected under Title VII; (2) she suffered an
adverse employment action; and (3) ...