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Jackson v. Doubleback Transportation

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

May 6, 2019

RONALD JACKSON, Plaintiff,
v.
DOUBLEBACK TRANSPORTATION, Defendant.

          ORDER

          KRISTI K. DuBOSE, CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Pro se plaintiff Ronald Jackson has sued his former employer, [1] Doubleback Transportation, LLC, for various claims regarding workplace discrimination and retaliation he alleges occurred during his five-month tenure with the company.[2] Jackson has now moved for summary judgment.[3]Because Jackson's motion does not demonstrate that he is entitled to judgment as a matter of law on any of his claims, it is due to be denied.

         I. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Jackson initiated this action by filing a complaint in August 2017. Over the course of the next several months, he failed to properly effectuate service, which led to a significant delay. (See Doc. 8 (explaining that Jackson did not effectuate service on Doubleback despite a seven-month lapse)). In July, the Court extended the time for service until September 4, 2018. (Doc. 11).

         After being served, Doubleback moved for judgment on the pleadings based on Jackson's first complaint. (Doc. 24). The Court denied Doubleback's motion, reasoning that despite the complaint's lack of clarity, Jackson should be afforded “at least one opportunity” to substantively amend his complaint. (Doc. 33 at 3 (citing Bryant v. Dupree, 252 F.3d 1161, 1163 (11th Cir. 2001)). Because the Court saw fit to give Jackson leave to amend his first complaint, it denied Doubleback's motion to dismiss and it permitted Jackson to file his amended complaint on or before February 5, 2019. (Id. at 4).

         Jackson filed an amended complaint. (Doc. 34). As amended, the complaint alleges the following claims:

a. Workplace Discrimination on the Basis of Race
b. Hostile Work Environment on the Basis of Race and in Retaliation
c. Retaliation
d. Failure to Adequately Train

See (Doc. 42 at 1 (“The Plaintiff is pursuing claims against Double Back Transportation for hostile work environment, termination/discharge in regards to same or similiar [sic] under Section 1981 and Title Vll and failure to adequately train.”); Doc. 34-1 at 7 (“The [n]egative appraisal occu[r]red after protected activity on April 11, 2017, Plaintiff was subjected to adverse activity.”)).

         Jackson filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings. (Doc. 42). The Court converted his motion into a motion for summary judgment because it implicated factual issues. The Court afforded Jackson time within which to supplement his motion, and entered a briefing schedule for a response to Jackson's motion for summary judgment. (Docs. 43 & 44).

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         “The court shall grant summary judgment 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). In layman's terms, “To succeed [on a motion for summary judgment], the moving party bears the burden of establishing both prongs of the summary judgment test. The nonmoving party may defeat the motion for summary judgment by establishing either genuine issues of material fact or that the movant is not entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Bell v. U.S., 2003 WL 22697227, at *1 (N.D. Ala. Oct. 8, 2003) (emphasis in original). “[T]he nonmovant can defeat summary judgment by showing either a genuine issue of material fact or that the movant is not entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” U.S. Fid. and Guar. Co. v. Slate Sec. Sys., Inc., 2006 WL 8437800, at *1 (N.D. Ala. Jan. 3, 2006).[4]

         Jackson, as the party seeking summary judgment, bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for his motion, and identifying those portions of the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Clark v. Coats & Clark, Inc., 929 F.2d 604, 608 (11th Cir. 1991) (quoting Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986)). If the nonmoving party fails to make a sufficient showing on an essential element of his case with respect to which he has the burden of proof-that a genuine dispute of material fact exists-the moving party is entitled to summary judgment. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. “In reviewing whether the nonmoving party has met its burden, the court must stop short of weighing the evidence and making credibility determinations of the truth of the matter . . . the evidence of the non-movant is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor.” Tipton v. Bergrohr GMBH-Siegen, 965 F.2d 994, 998-999 (11th Cir. 1992) (internal citations and quotations omitted).

         III. MATERIAL FACTS[5]

         Doubleback hired Jackson as a part-time driver in January 2017.[6] (Doc. 49-1 at 1). During his employment, Jackson worked on an as-needed basis. (Id.). Becky Pilkington, who served during the relevant period as Doubleback's general manager, gave Jackson verbal reprimands. (Id.)

         In a span of three days in April, Pilkington received three unrelated complaints about Jackson. (Id.). In response to these complaints, he was given a written reprimand. (Id.; doc. 49-2) The three incidents initially listed on the written reprimand were: (1) 4/11/17: Tailgate left open on a truck; (2) 4/13/17: Jackson took the wrong trailer; and (3) 4/14/17: Anonymous call that Jackson was driving recklessly. (Doc. 49-2). The second incident was stricken from the reprimand. (Id.). The reprimand indicated that any other incidents that required disciplinary action would result in suspension of employment. (Doc. 42-3). Jackson refused to sign the written reprimand- twice. (Doc. 49-1 at 1) According to Pilkington, Jackson's demeanor changed after he received a written reprimand. (Id.) He arrived late, ineffectively communicated, and walked off the job on May 22, following an incident (“the May 22 incident”). (Id.)

         The May 22 incident revolved around Jackson's allegations that a truck, Truck 57, was unsafe to drive due to the truck shaking. (Doc. 49-3) According to Pilkington, Jackson claimed that Truck 57 was unsafe because the front shook and its cruise control did not work properly. (Doc. 49-1 at 2). Jackson had driven Truck 57 on the previous three days, and had not reported any issues with the truck during those days. (Id.)

         Pilkington asked Doubleback's Safety Manager, Daron Bolen, to address the problems. (Doc. 49-3 at 1). An inspection revealed that the front tire had uneven tread, which would have caused the shaking. (Id.) The tire was replaced, the truck was test driven, and it was determined to be safe. (Id.) Bolen also determined that the defective cruise control did not render the vehicle inoperable pursuant to the Department of Transportation's requirements. (Id.) Although Jackson was informed that the truck was fixed, he refused to drive it. (Id.)[7] Another driver replaced him, and the replacement driver drove Truck 57 without incident. (Id.)

         Jackson did not report for work on May 24, 2017. Jackson called in sick an hour after he was scheduled to arrive. As a result of the incidents described in the written reprimand, subsequent workplace conduct, Jackson walking off the job following the May 22 incident, and his refusal to drive Truck 57, Pilkington determined that Jackson's employment should be terminated. (Doc. 49-1 at 2). Doubleback terminated Jackson in a written letter dated May 24, 2017. (Doc. 49-1 at 10).[8]

         Jackson dated an EEOC Charge of Discrimination (EEOC Charge No. 846-2017-21475) as April 23, 2017. (Doc. 42-4 at 1).[9] On his Charge, he checked race as the basis upon which Doubleback discriminated against him. (Id.). The alleged discrimination is based on the receipt of the written reprimand dated April 19, 2017. The EEOC dated this Charge as received on May 23, 2017. (Id.). On June 20, 2017, the EEOC issued a right to sue letter on the first charge of discrimination (EEOC Charge No. 846-2017-21475). (Doc. 42-6). In the letter, the EEOC notified Jackson that it was unable to conclude that the information obtained established violations of the statutes. (Id.).

         Jackson filed a second EEOC Charge that alleged between May 3 and May 24, 2017, Doubleback engaged in retaliation and discrimination against him. See (Doc. 34-10 (Notice of Charge of Discrimination)) (EEOC Charge No. 425-2017-00656); (Doc. 16 at 9). On June 29, ...


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