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Flagg v. Peterson Manufacturing Co.

United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Western Division

January 15, 2020




         Pending is Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment. Doc. #31. For the following reasons, Defendants' motion is granted.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Royal Domingo Flagg brings this employment retaliation lawsuit against Maxi-Seal Harness Systems, Inc. and Peterson Manufacturing Company. Maxi-Seal designs and manufactures custom harness systems for vehicles. Doc. #32-2, at 2. Peterson, which produces and markets vehicle safety lighting systems, is Maxi-Seal's parent company. Doc. #15; Doc. #32-1, at 2.

         In February 2018, Plaintiff applied for a position with Maxi-Seal. Doc. #32-2, at 3; Doc. #32-4, at 15. After interviewing Plaintiff, Maxi-Seal's human resources manager, Erica Armacost, hired him. Doc. #32-2, at 2-3; Doc. #32-4, at 32, 35. Before beginning his employment, Plaintiff signed several Maxi-Seal documents, agreeing to not disclose confidential information and acknowledging he received and reviewed Maxi-Seal's policies. Doc. #32-2, at 3, 5-6, 11-13, 26-35; Doc. #32-4, at 16-19, 25-27, 36-37.

         On May 21, 2018, Plaintiff began working as an assembler. Doc. #32-2, at 3; Doc. #32-3, at 2. Plaintiff, like all new employees, was evaluated during the first three months of employment. Doc. #32-2, at 6, 35; Doc. #32-4, at 26-28. During the evaluation period, a new employee's supervisor continually evaluates the employee's “performance and compatibility with Maxi-Seal.” Id. Plaintiff understood if his “performance did not meet the standards set forth by Maxi-Seal, ” his employment would be terminated. Id.

         After each month during the evaluation period, a new employee's supervisor completes a performance evaluation. Doc. #32-2, at 6. On June 21, 2018, Plaintiff was evaluated by his immediate supervisor, Scott Knight, a Maxi-Seal employee. Doc. #32-2, at 2, 4-6; Doc. #32-4, at 35. Knight gave Plaintiff a “3” rating for quantity of work, which appears to indicate he was above expectations.[1] Doc. #32-2, at 24. Knight found Plaintiff met expectations (a “2” rating) in all other areas: quality of work, knowledge of job, relations with supervisor, cooperation with others, attendance and reliability, initiative and creativity, and capacity to develop. Id.

         On July 21, 2018, Knight again evaluated Plaintiff's performance. Id. at 2-6, 24. Plaintiff's ratings in all but two areas remained unchanged. Id. at 24. For knowledge of job and cooperation with others, Knight gave Plaintiff a “1” rating, meaning he was “below expectations.” Id.

         During July 2018, Maxi-Seal received written complaints from three individuals about Plaintiff “degrad[ing] the lead and production supervisors, claiming they only do their jobs half-way”; “insult[ing]” the “character, integrity, and intelligence” of a trainer; being insubordinate and disrespectful; “boast[ing] he had paperwork in his portfolio that Scott Knight hasn[']t seen”; being condescending; telling a trainer “how and what” to do; saying “special needs, slow people” were sent to work on a certain piece of equipment; “[c]onstantly stat[ing] he was smarter than…the trainer…and smarter than most in the warehouse”; stating he has been assured by Maxi-Seal's vice president and human resources manager that he “cannot be fired”; and making comments about “fat women” and “that they stink.” Doc. #32-2, at 3-4, 15-17, 19-20, 22; Doc. #32-3, at 2-5, 9-11, 13-14, 16. Maxi-Seal also received several verbal complaints from employees about Plaintiff's “unprofessional behavior and communication.” Doc. #32-3, at 2.

         Knight, who witnessed Plaintiff's “unprofessional and disruptive behavior and communication, ” recommended Plaintiff's employment be terminated. Doc. #32-2, at 2-3, 5; Doc. #32-3, at 5. “Based on the employee complaints about Plaintiff, Knight's observations about Plaintiff's performance, and Knight's recommendation, ” Jim Rush, a vice president of Maxi-Seal, decided to terminate Plaintiff's employment. Doc. #32-2, at 5; Doc. #32-3, at 2-5. On July 30, 2018, Plaintiff's employment was terminated. Doc. #32-2, at 2; Doc. #32-3, at 2, 5-6; Doc. #32-4, at 21.

         In late 2018, Plaintiff filed this lawsuit against Maxi-Seal and Peterson. Plaintiff contends he was employed by Maxi-Seal and “under the Authority of” Peterson or the two companies are “one company.” Doc. #5, ¶ 2; Doc. #32-4, at 42. He alleges Maxi-Seal and Peterson retaliated against him in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and section 287.780 of the Missouri Revised Statutes when his employment was terminated on July 30, 2018. Doc. #5, ¶¶ 1, 58-59; Doc. #32-4, at 20-22. Maxi-Seal and Peterson move for summary judgment on all of Plaintiff's claims.

         II. STANDARD

         A moving party is entitled to summary judgment on a claim only if there is a showing that “there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.” Williams v. City of St. Louis, 783 F.2d 114, 115 (8th Cir. 1986). “[W]hile the materiality determination rests on the substantive law, it is the substantive law's identification of which facts are critical and which facts are irrelevant that governs.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). Thus, “[o]nly disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment.” Wierman v. Casey's Gen. Stores, 638 F.3d 984, 993 (8th Cir. 2011) (quotation omitted). The Court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, giving that party the benefit of all inferences that may be reasonably drawn from the evidence. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 588-89 (1986). “[A] nonmovant may not rest upon mere denials or allegations, but must instead set forth specific facts sufficient to raise a genuine issue for trial.” Nationwide Prop. & Cas. Ins. Co. v. Faircloth, 845 F.3d 378, 382 (8th Cir. 2016) (citations omitted).


         A. Summary Judgment Briefing

         (1) Plaintiff's Response to ...

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