United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
W. SIPPEL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
the City of St. Louis (the “City”) moves for
summary judgment on plaintiff Rodney Cooper's claim of
unlawful employment discrimination. (No. 45). The City argues
that Cooper has suffered no adverse employment action, that
he has failed to exhaust his administrative remedies on his
hostile work environment and retaliation claims, and that he
cannot prove the required elements of his claims. Because
Cooper has no evidence to prove that he suffered an adverse
employment action, I will grant summary judgment on his
discrimination claim. I will also grant summary judgment on
his retaliation claim, because Cooper did not present it in
his charge to the Equal Employment and Opportunity Council
(EEOC). Cooper, however, presents enough evidence that a jury
could find that he suffered from a hostile work environment,
a claim that he presented to the EEOC. As a result, I will
deny the City's motion for summary judgment on
Cooper's hostile work environment claim alone.
Rodney Cooper works as a utility worker in the City's
public parks system. (No. 47-2 at 2). From September 2011
through August 2015, Cooper performed this job in a crew
dedicated to maintaining Forest Park. In this position he was
directly supervised by non-party Ricky Hahn, who in turn was
directly supervised by Roger Berry. Plaintiff Cooper
testified that he experienced a religious conversion in 2013,
(Cooper Depo., No. 61-2 at 12), and that, from that point
forward, he frequently talked about religion with coworkers,
predominantly in the lunchroom before work started.
(Plaintiff's Statement of Facts, ¶ 47-49).
and Berry clashed over Cooper's religious conversations
in the workplace. Berry's office is adjacent to the
lunchroom, where Cooper would have many of his conversations
about religion. When Berry overheard these conversations, he
often told Cooper to stop talking. Cooper said that Berry
told him to shut up almost every day, (Cooper Depo., No. 61-2
at 21), which Berry denies. (Berry Depo., No. 61-1 at 28-29).
Instead, Berry says he respectfully asked Cooper to
“keep it down a little bit so we don't have
everybody griping” about his religious speech.
(Id. at 28-29). According to Berry, he was compelled
to intervene on behalf of other employees who complained
about Cooper. (Id.)
2015, Cooper was transferred or relocated to Fairgrounds
Park in North St. Louis City. As of the filing of this suit,
Cooper continued to work at Fairgrounds Park in the same role
he had in the Forest Park location. Cooper argues that he was
relocated to Fairgrounds Park because of his religious
beliefs. Both parties agree that the Fairgrounds Park
supervisor Fred Quinn raised the idea of exchanging workers.
(Defendant's Statement of Undisputed Material Facts, No.
47 at ¶ 12; Plaintiff's Statement of Facts, No. 61
at ¶ 12). One of Quinn's employees was having
difficulty with a supervisor, and Quinn wanted to avoid
conflict between those employees. When Berry heard
Quinn's proposal, he suggested that Cooper be the Forest
Park employee transferred to Fairgrounds Park.
time period before he was relocated, Cooper claims that he
was subject to harassment based on his religious beliefs.
Berry or his subordinates allegedly threatened to fire Cooper
“every day” if he didn't stop talking about
God. (Cooper Depo., No. 61-2 at 103). Coworker Terrence Brown
corroborated these claims, saying that “Berry literally
told Rodney Cooper if he didn't stop praying he would get
fired on the spot.” (Affidavit of Terrence Brown, No.
61-9). In addition to these threats, Berry admits that he
called Cooper “Reverend Rodney” several times,
(Berry Depo, No. 61-1 at 26-27), and he allegedly called
Cooper bipolar more than once, (Cooper Depo, No. 61-2 at 29),
and retarded a few times. (Id. at 30-31). Berry
allegedly said some of these insults in the context of
statements about religion such as “[w]hat are you
doing, getting ready to pay your tithes out of your
check?” (Id. at 29). Other non-supervisory
employees allegedly called Cooper “preacher man”
on a regular basis and in a way that Cooper found insulting.
(Id. at 61-62). In defense of himself, Berry denies
that he made any threat to fire Cooper, that he called Cooper
retarded or bipolar, or that he told Cooper to shut up in the
mornings before work started. (Berry Depo, No. 61-1 at 5).
also claims that he was excluded from advancement
opportunities because of his religious beliefs. He says that
he stopped receiving discretionary overtime for smaller
events in 2013 and that he still is not selected for overtime
for those events. (Cooper Depo, No. 61-2 at 46, 104). If
Cooper requested overtime for an event that would be held on
a Sunday, Berry would allegedly tell him “No. You need
to go to church.” (Id. at 49). In contrast,
Cooper claims that Berry only gives discretionary overtime to
a small group of people that he liked. (Id. at 48,
58-59). These same workers are informally designated as
“crew leaders” a position that Cooper says he was
excluded from. (Id. at 57-59). Cooper does receive
overtime hours for larger events where all utility employees
are expected to be on hand. Overall, the City's annual
payroll records indicate that Cooper worked 70.5 overtime
hours in 2012, 34.5 overtime hours in 2013, and 64.5 overtime
hours in 2014. (Plaintiff's Statement of Facts, No. 61 at
¶ 49; Annual Payroll Records, No. 47-5). No. other
overtime records were provided by either party.
alleges that, as a result of these events, he suffered mental
anguish, anxiety, depression, embarrassment, and lack of
enjoyment of life. (Cooper Depo., No. 61-2 at 85-96). He says
he is “jumpy, ” no longer feels comfortable
taking walks in the park, and is generally depressed although
feels as though he is slowly recovering from these events. He
alleges that he was “humiliated” and embarrassed
before his fellow employees. To treat his anxiety, he says he
has taken prescribed medicines and began seeing a counselor.
on these circumstances and events, Cooper filed a charge of
discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity
Commission (EEOC) and the Missouri Commission on Human Rights
on December 24, 2015. (No. 47-3). The Department of Justice
issued Cooper a right-to-sue letter on August 31, 2016. (No.
27-1). Cooper filed this complaint on September 26, 2016, and
amended his complaint on March 24, 2017. (No. 1, 27). In his
amended complaint, Cooper asserts claims for religious
discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of
1964 and under 42 U.S.C. § 1981. (No. 27 at 3-4).
City moves for summary judgment, arguing a) that Cooper has
shown no direct evidence of discrimination, b) that he
suffered no adverse employment action, c) that in the
alternative, he has not shown that his adverse action was the
product of discriminatory intent, and d) that any claims of
hostile work environment or retaliation should be dismissed
for failure to exhaust available administrative remedies.
(No. 46 at 3-6). In response, Cooper argues that his
relocation to Fairground Park and alleged loss of overtime
were adverse employment actions motivated by discriminatory
intent, and that the hostile work environment claim was
properly exhausted in his original EEOC complaint. (No. 62 at
judgment is proper where the evidence, when viewed in a light
most favorable to the non-moving party, indicates that no
genuine issue of material fact exists and that the moving
party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”
Davison v. City of Minneapolis, Minn., 490 F.3d 648,
654 (8th Cir. 2007); see also Fed R. Civ. P. 56(a).
I “must view the evidence in the light most favorable
to the opposing party” and draw “reasonable
inferences” in favor of that party. Tolan v.
Cotton, 134 S.Ct. 1861, 1866-68 (2014). “The basic
inquiry is… whether it is so one-sided that one party
must prevail as a matter of law.” Diesel Machinery,
Inc. v. B.R. Lee Industries, Inc., 418 F.3d 820, 832
(8th Cir. 2005). At one time, Eighth Circuit jurisprudence
held that “summary judgment should seldom be used in
employment-discrimination cases … .”
Crawford v. Runyon, 37 F.3d 1338 (8th Cir. 1994),
abrogated by Torgerson v. City of Rochester, 643
F.3d 1031 (8th Cir. 2011). (“Because discrimination cases
often depend on inferences rather than on direct evidence,