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Davis v. Lohr Distributing Co., Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

May 9, 2019

ANTHONY DAVIS, Plaintiff,
v.
LOHR DISTRIBUTING CO, INC., Defendant.

          OPINION, MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          HENRY EDWARD AUTREY, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on Defendant's Motion for Partial Dismissal, [Doc. No. 4]. Plaintiff has filed a response in opposition, to which Defendant has filed a reply; the issues are fully briefed. For the reasons set forth below, the motion will be granted.

         Facts and Background

         On August 28, 2018, Plaintiff filed a Complaint, alleging claims of racial discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq. In the “Nature of the Action” section, Plaintiff alleges that “Defendant created, maintained, and subjected Plaintiff to a hostile and discriminatory work environment, wherein he was repeatedly harassed because of his race, discriminatorily accused of numerous infractions, and verbally abused over the course of several years, by several of Defendant's agents, including a number of Plaintiff's supervisors.” Plaintiff seeks to “recover compensatory damages for past and future pecuniary losses, emotional pain, suffering, inconvenience, mental anguish, loss of enjoyment of life, and other non-pecuniary losses, ” punitive damages, reasonable attorney fees and “such other and further relief as the Court deems just and necessary.

         For purposes of the motion now before the Court, the record set forth in the Complaint establishes the following facts.

         Plaintiff began his employment with Lohr in 2013. During Plaintiff's employment, however, he was consistently harassed and discriminated against for his race. Plaintiff, throughout his tenure with Lohr, had to endure, inter alia, continual harassment including the following: a. Plaintiff's white co-workers and managers would often speak to him and other African American employees in a racist, derogatory manner; b. white workers had the choice to be rerouted from areas with a large percentage of African Americans, and were, in general, given preference to choose better routes than Plaintiff and other African American employees; c. white drivers received ample assistance, while black drivers including Plaintiff were most often left to complete their routes alone; in general, the non-white employees were forced to work under more-difficult conditions than their white co-workers; d. in Plaintiff's presence, white workers were told things like that they did not have to “go to the hood;” e. when Plaintiff had issues, he was informed that he was on the “ghetto route” and to “tough it out;” f. Plaintiff's white similarly-situated co-workers were paid higher wages than Plaintiff for no discernable reason other than race.

         Numerous other employees witnessed the harassment of Plaintiff, noting Plaintiff's treatment as unwarranted as Plaintiff was held to unreasonable standards to which his white co-workers were not. In addition, coworkers noted that Plaintiff was receiving the worst visible abuse, while noting that Lohr had a culture of racism.

         Out of fear for losing his job, Plaintiff attempted for years to ignore the harassment and focus on performing his duties to the best of his ability.

         Among other of Defendant's supervisors, Plaintiff's manager Bill Lenz constantly, over the course of multiple years, spoke to Plaintiff in a racist and disrespectful manner, privately, and in front of Plaintiff's coworkers. As just a few of many examples, Lenz, knowing that Plaintiff lived in a predominantly black neighborhood, would ask Plaintiff if he “ha[d] fun in the jungle, ” and would ask Plaintiff following his lunch break things like whether Plaintiff “ate any chicken or watermelon” that day. This verbal abuse continued for years. The pattern of verbal abuse was so bad that on multiple occasions, Plaintiff's coworkers pulled him aside and said things to him such as “I don't know how you feel about it, but I find the things that [the managers] say to you to be offensive, ” and other statements making it clear that the racist treatment of Plaintiff was so pervasive and glaring that it was offensive even to Plaintiffs' white co-workers.

         In addition to the racist comments directed at Plaintiff, Defendant's managers singled him out in other improper and negative ways, often treating him with an obvious double-standard, penalizing or reprimanding Plaintiff for behavior that management allowed and ignored in the case of similarly-situated white co-workers; for instance, on one occasion, Lenz wrongfully blamed Plaintiff for a mistake made by the company in which Plaintiff did not complete a delivery because it was not accompanied by an invoice. In the warehouse, multiple signs were posted that said, “no invoice / no delivery;” that was a common policy that Plaintiff's white co-workers also followed. Despite this, Lenz told Plaintiff in front of his co-workers that Plaintiff “had no common sense.”

         As another example of being negatively singled out for no apparent reason other than his race, Plaintiff was completing an inventory count and was ordered to turn off his music because “a white coworker didn't want to hear it.” Meanwhile, Plaintiff's white co-workers were never scrutinized for playing their choice of music, and certainly were never told their music “bothered a black coworker.”

         Over the course of his employment, Plaintiff was repeatedly passed over for promotion in favor of white co-workers with much less experience and/or tenure. As just one of many examples over the years, in May of 2016, Plaintiff was promised an opportunity to be hired full-time as soon as Lohr began filling full-time positions. As Plaintiff had seniority over many of his peers, he was assured that he would be the first to be moved into a full-time position once the hiring period began. However, Defendant promoted another employee, Ryan Colt, to a full-time position before Plaintiff. Colt, a white man, was trained by Plaintiff and was given the job despite the position never being opened up to Plaintiff. Plaintiff's being passed over for promotion in this manner happened repeatedly over the course of his employment; the situation with Colt was only one of many instances in which Defendant racially discriminated against Plaintiff in its promotion of employees.

         Another facet of Plaintiff's employment where he was treated in an obviously worse manner than his similarly-situated white co-workers was in the treatment of Plaintiff's requests for vacation time. As just one of many examples, throughout 2016, manager Cory Wallace began to reject Plaintiff's requests for vacation days. When Plaintiff questioned his rejections, Wallace claimed that other employees entered vacation requests first; that assertion, however, was false; rather, it was clear to Plaintiff that white co-workers were given preference for vacation days over Plaintiff, regardless of when their requests were made.

         On another occasion, Plaintiff asked if he could take off every Friday in the month of December 2016 as another of his coworkers, David Bax, a white employee, was allowed to do so the previous month. Wallace summarily denied Plaintiff's ...


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