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WALTHOUR v. RAYONIER INC.

September 19, 2005.

CATO WALTHOUR and SAMUEL WALTHOUR, Plaintiffs,
v.
RAYONIER INC., Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: ANTHONY ALAIMO, Senior District Judge

ORDER

Plaintiffs, Cato Walthour and Samuel Walthour, filed the above-captioned case against Defendant, Rayonier Inc., asserting race discrimination claims under Title VII and related state law claims for intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Presently before the Court is Rayonier's motion for sanctions. Because some of the alleged discriminatory conduct was challenged in a timely fashion, the motion will be DENIED. BACKGROUND

  Rayonier operates a paper pulp mill in Jesup, Georgia. The Walthours are Maintenance Support Utility Level II technicians in the mill's Maintenance Department. In 1972, Cato Walthour began working at the mill, as a laborer in the bleach plant. In his current position, Cato Walthour operates a cherry picker, flatbed truck, and Bobcat machinery. In 1972, Samuel Walthour also began working at the mill, doing yard utility work. His typical duties include operating a jackhammer, building scaffolds, and shoveling.

  Plaintiffs, both black men, are first cousins. They contend that Rayonier discriminated against them by assigning more lucrative, less labor-intensive work to less senior, white maintenance workers. The Walthours aver that Hugh Harvey and Gary Bowen were assigned vibration testing work, without either Plaintiff having the chance to take the assignments first.

  The parties agree that the vibration testing work was done ordinarily by millwrights, not maintenance support technicians. Bowen and Harvey performed these jobs on a temporary, or "relief," basis, but how frequently the men did so is not in the record. According to Rayonier, Bowen and Harvey had been performing the work at least since August 1996. Bowen and Harvey began earning more than the Walthours, when performing vibration testing duties.

  On January 8, 2001, Plaintiffs filed a grievance through their trade union, the Paper, Allied-Industrial, Chemical & Energy Workers International Union, Local 787, contesting the job assignments. Although this grievance was unsuccessful, on August 19, 2003, the Walthours filed another grievance regarding this assignment of duties, seeking the difference in pay between their wages and what Harvey and Bowen were earning until the matter was resolved.

  When the second grievance was rejected, the Walthours took their complaints to the federal government. On October 7, 2003, Plaintiffs signed a charge questionnaire, jointly, and mailed it to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"), challenging Rayonier's conduct as racially motivated. On December 30, 2003, Cato Walthour submitted a perfected charge of discrimination against Rayonier to the EEOC. The next day, Samuel Walthour also filed an individual, perfected charge of discrimination.

  DISCUSSION

  Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 11 provides, in part: (b) Representations to Court.

 
By presenting to the court (whether by signing, filing, submitting, or later advocating) a pleading, written motion, or other paper, an attorney or unrepresented party is certifying that to the best of the person's knowledge, information, and belief, formed after an inquiry reasonable under the circumstances, —
(1) it is not being presented for any improper purpose, such as to harass or to cause unnecessary delay or needless increase in the cost of litigation;
(2) the claims, defenses, and other legal contentions therein are warranted by existing law or by a nonfrivolous argument for the extension, modification, or reversal of existing law or the establishment of new law;
(3) the allegations and other factual contentions have evidentiary support or, if specifically so identified, are likely to have evidentiary support after a reasonable opportunity for further investigation or discovery; and
(4) the denials of factual contentions are warranted on the evidence or, if specifically so identified, are reasonably based on a lack of information or belief.
  "Rule 11 motions should not be made . . . to test the legal sufficiency or efficacy of allegations in the pleadings; other motions are available for those purposes." Fed.R.Civ.P. 11 advisory committee's note (1993). Rule 11 is a salutatory tool when invoked to deter frivolous litigation, but it must be asserted with discretion and care. Rayonier contends that Plaintiffs' claims are time barred because they failed to file their charges of discrimination with the EEOC within 180 days of the alleged discriminatory event. 42 U.S.C.A. § 2000e-5(e)(1) (2003). Rayonier asserts that the Walthours' failure to promote" claims arose either (1) when they became aware that Bowen and Harvey were, assigned the work in the early to mid-1990s, or (2) when they became aware that Bowen and Harvey were earning more for performing that work in December 2000.

  Having complied with the safe-harbor provision of. Rule 11*fn1 Rayanier seeks the sanction of dismissal of the Walthours' claims, and monetary sanctions to reimburse it for having ...


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