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Jolley v. Triad Mechanical Contractors

United States District Court, M.D. Georgia, Macon Division

March 23, 2015

ANTWAN D. JOLLEY, Plaintiff,
v.
TRIAD MECHANICAL CONTRACTORS, et al., Defendants.

ORDER

MARC T. TREADWELL, District Judge.

Plaintiff Antwan Jolley, an African-American male, contends he was discriminated against because of his race and was subjected to a racially hostile work environment in violation of Title VII and 42 U.S.C. § 1981. He also asserts claims for retaliation in violation of § 1981, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and a violation of the Equal Pay Act. Before the Court is the Defendants' motion for summary judgment. (Doc. 32). For the following reasons, the motion is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.

I. BACKGROUND[1]

Defendant Triad Mechanical Contractors, Inc. is a mechanical, plumbing, sheet metal, HVAC, and equipment services contractor. (Doc. 37, ¶ 2). During 2011 and 2012, Triad was under subcontract to install HVAC ductwork, related components, and water and sewage piping in conjunction with the construction of the Advanced Metal Finishing Facility at Robins Air Force Base in Warner Robins, Georgia. (Doc. 38, ¶¶ 2, 3). Defendant Jesse Blewer was the project manager and reported directly to Defendant Del Laquiere, Triad's president. (Docs. 38, ¶ 2; 37, ¶ 2). Defendant Jeff Throne, Triad's HVAC superintendent for the project, reported directly to Blewer. (Doc. 38, ¶ 4).

Plaintiff Antwan Jolley began working for Triad on January 16, 2012. (Doc. 36 at 96). Like all civilian employees, Jolley received an identification badge when he was hired so he could gain access to the base. (Docs. 38, ¶ 5; 36 at 23:22-24:1).[2] According to Triad, Jolley was paid less per hour than any other Triad employee because he had almost no HVAC experience. (Docs. 37, ¶ 7; 38, ¶ 9). He was hired to assist with HVAC work but was then moved to Triad's tool room. Triad asserts the transfer was also due to Jolley's inexperience. (Doc. 38, ¶ 10). Neither Jolley's pay nor job classification, which was "laborer, " changed when he was transferred to the tool room. (Doc. 38, ¶ 10).

Triad set its employees' hourly pay rates based on their experience at the time they were hired, and it was not Triad's practice to increase employees' pay rates during a project. (Doc. 37, ¶¶ 7-8). Both the highest paid Triad laborer and the highest paid non-management Triad employee on the project were African-American. (Doc. 37, ¶ 7).

A. Security Badge Incident

Around April 2012, Jolley left his ID badge in his car, which his mother drove and left at the Atlanta airport for a few days while she was on a trip. (Doc. 36 at 25:17-24, 63:16-18). The first day Jolley was without his badge, his cousin, a sergeant in the military, escorted him onto the base. (Doc. 36 at 28:13-24, 29:18-25). Jolley called Throne from the base's security gate and told him he needed a temporary replacement badge until his mother returned with his car, but Throne did not provide Jolley with another badge and instead told him he could return to work after he retrieved his badge. (Docs. 36 at 25:17-24; 39, ¶ 6).[3] Jolley contends that "Steven, " a Caucasian employee, lost his badge about a month later and Triad replaced it. (Doc. 36 at 31:25-32:11). Unlike Jolley, Steven was requesting a replacement badge and not a temporary one. (Doc. 36 at 32:2-4).

B. Jolley's Termination

On June 18, 2012, [4] Triad employees Robert Gill (African-American) and Terry Carson (Caucasian) got into a fight in a parking lot off the base after their shift ended. According to Jolley, he stopped his car in an effort to break up the fight and saw Carson hitting Gill with a bat. After Jolley tried to intervene, Gill hit Carson in the face with a stick. Carson fell, hit his head on the concrete, and became unconscious. (Docs. 36 at 40:23-44:2; 22-1 at 1). He was hospitalized and died from his injuries several days later. (Doc. 38, ¶ 20). Blewer and Throne went to the hospital after the fight and spoke to the Triad employees who were there. (Doc. 38, ¶ 16). Besides Carson and Gill, the Triad employees present at the fight were Jolley, Robert Grant (African-American), Carlos Simmons (African-American), and Rick White (Caucasian). (Docs. 36 at 46:23-47:2, 47:14-21, 48:7-10; 38, ¶ 16). Carson's son Chris Copeland (Caucasian) was also present at the fight. (Doc. 36 at 47:5-9, 48:5-6, 50:3-6). Copeland was not employed by Triad but had been working on the same project at the base. (Doc. 38, ¶ 17).[5]

After speaking with the employees present at the hospital, Blewer called Laquiere to brief him on what happened. (Doc. 38, ¶ 18). Laquiere decided to terminate all employees present at the fight because he was concerned about work disruption and hindrance of the project's completion. (Doc. 37, ¶ 10). Grant, Simmons, White, Gill, and Jolley were fired the next day. (Docs. 36 at 74:7-13; 38, ¶¶ 16, 19). In his deposition, Jolley contends White was not fired. (Doc. 36 at 49:17-23). Laquiere was not aware of any complaints Jolley had about his job when he made the decision to terminate the employees. (Doc. 37, ¶ 11).

Jolley contends the Defendants have "black balled" him from other potential employment, which is evidenced by his inability to get a job in Macon despite his previous work on the base and his "hell of a resume." (Doc. 36 at 86:5-87:25). Since his termination, Jolley has not applied for employment with any of the other contractors working on the base project. (Doc. 36 at 86:5-7).

C. Harassment Allegations

Jolley's complaint also alleges he was subjected to a racially hostile work environment. During a confrontation on the job, Triad employee James Hudson (Caucasian) called Gill a "coon, " and Jolley witnessed the incident. (Docs. 36 at 32:19-33:11, 35:4-16; 39, ¶ 7). Gill reported the incident to Throne, and Throne allowed Gill to go home for the rest of the day because he was upset. (Doc. 39, ¶ 7). After the incident, Throne and Blewer had a meeting with the HVAC employees. (Docs. 38, ¶ 13; 39, ¶ 8). During the meeting, Throne told the employees that Triad would not tolerate racial slurs on the job. (Docs. 38, ¶ 13; 39, ¶ 8). Gill, Hudson, and Jolley were also placed on separate work crews. (Doc. 39, ¶ 9). According to Throne and Blewer, they never received another complaint of racial harassment or discrimination on the project, and they did not hear other Triad employees use racially derogatory language. (Docs. 38, ¶ 14; 39, ¶ 10).

Jolley cannot recall a specific instance where he heard Throne or Blewer use the terms "coon" or "nigger" other than at the meeting when they told the HVAC employees that racial slurs were prohibited. (Doc. 36 at 21:5-10, 34:16-23, 36:10-17, 38:5-39:13). Jolley does say that Throne and Blewer referred to him as "boy" and that Throne would say, "Boy, go to your cell."[6] (Doc. 36 at 24:14-22, 38:16-25). However, Jolley never contacted Laquiere to complain about discriminatory conduct, and Laquiere never received complaints from other employees on the project. (Docs. 36 at 68:25-69:11; 37, ¶ 12).

While these facts are admitted by Jolley, his deposition testimony further provides that he and other African-American employees were called "coon, nigger, [and] boy" from the time he started working for Triad. (Doc. 36 at 21:6-10). He also testifies that Hudson and Gill got into a fight on the job because Hudson called Gill a "coon" and references other fights on the job, ...


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