United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Waycross Division
RODERICK V. THOMAS, Plaintiff,
ELIXIR EXTRUSIONS, LLC, MIKE MOORE, RHONDA DOUGLAS, STEVEN JONES, and DAVID WILKERSON, Defendants.
LISA GODBBY WOOD, JUDGE
the Court is a Motion for Summary Judgment filed by
Defendants Elixir Extrusions, LLC, Mike Moore, Rhonda
Douglas, Steven Jones, and David Wilkerson. Dkt. No. 48. The
Motion has been fully briefed and is ripe for review. For the
reasons that follow, Defendants' Motion is
Plaintiff Has Not Responded to Defendants' Motion for
Summary Judgment or Defendants' Statement of Undisputed
Roderick Thomas has not responded to Defendants' Motion
for Summary Judgment or Defendants' Statement of
Undisputed Material Facts. Southern District of Georgia Local
Rule 56.1 provides that "[a]11 material facts set forth
in the statement required to be served by the moving party
will be deemed to be admitted unless controverted by a
statement served by the opposing party." Moreover, Local
Rule 7.5 provides that "failure to respond" to a
motion "within the applicable time period shall indicate
that there is no opposition to a motion." Because
Plaintiff has not responded, pursuant to Local Rule 56.1, the
facts as stated in Defendants' Statement of Undisputed
Material Fact are deemed admitted for the purpose of
considering Defendants' Motion. This is so, even though
Plaintiff is pro se. See Moon v. Newsome, 863
F.2d 835, 837 (11th Cir. 1989) ("[O]nce a pro se [in
forma pauperis] litigant is in court, he is subject to the
relevant law and rules of court, including the Federal Rules
of Civil Procedure."); see also Smith v.
Mercer, 572 Fed.Appx. 676, 678 (11th Cir. 2014)
("The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure state that a
party asserting that a fact is genuinely disputed must cite
to specific materials in the record and a failure to do so
allows the district court to consider the fact as undisputed
for purposes of the motion for summary judgment."
(citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(A), (e) (2))); Reese v.
Herbert, 527 F.3d 1253, 1268 (11th Cir. 2008) (stating
in relation to a functionally identical local rule: "The
proper course in applying Local Rule 56.1 at the summary
judgment stage is for a district court to disregard or ignore
evidence relied on by the respondent-but not cited in its
response to the movant's statement of undisputed
facts-that yields facts contrary to those listed in the
movant's statement."). The Court has reviewed the
entire record to ensure that summary judgment is appropriate.
As explained below, it is.
Plain-biff's Employment with Elixir
case involves Plaintiff's employment with, termination
by, and subsequent discrimination and defamation suit against
his former employer, Defendant Elixir Extrusions, LLC
("Elixir"). Elixir is a limited liability
corporation that provides full-service, custom aluminum
extrusions and fabricated parts for a variety of
applications, including structural components, lighting
fixture components, and door frames. Dkt. No. 48-1 ¶
Elixir operated a large facility located in Douglas, Georgia
("the Facility"), and it employed 222 individuals
in 2017. Id. ¶¶ 2-3. Of those 222
employees, 74 were African Americans, 108 were Caucasian, and
40 were of other races. Id. ¶ 4.
who is African American, worked as a Fab Machine Operator in
the Fabrication Department at the Facility at all times
relevant to this suit. Id. ¶¶ 2, 6, 9. In
this position, Plaintiff was responsible for ensuring that
when parts were sawed off, the rough edges were smoothed
before a product was packaged for the customer. Id.
¶ 10. While working for Elixir, Plaintiff reported to
Defendants David Wilkerson, his supervisor, and Michael
Moore, his manager. Id. ¶¶ 8, 11.
Defendant Rhonda Douglas, Elixir's HR Manager, was
involved in initially hiring Plaintiff (along with Michael
Moore). Id. ¶ 8. Lastly, Defendant Stephen
Jones is the Vice President of Elixir. Id. ¶
The April 26, 2017 Incident
April 26, 2017, employee Carroll Dale emailed Jones and
Douglas to inform them that a truck driver reported a small
bag of marijuana in the main aisle of the Facility.
Id. ¶ 14. Dale indicated in his email that he
was alerted to what looked like a bag of marijuana that
someone dropped on the floor and that he had placed the bag
in his desk drawer. Id. ¶¶ 15-16. Dale
suggested that Jones and Douglas check camera footage to see
who dropped it. Id. ¶ 17. Jones retrieved
the bag of marijuana and went to Douglas's office where
they both began an investigation into the
matter. Id. ¶¶ 18-19. Douglas
and Jones obtained the footage from the surveillance cameras
and reviewed that footage to determine from where the
marijuana came. Id. ¶¶ 20-21.
video footage, Plaintiff is seen entering the vending machine
area from the Packing Department and begins speaking to,
co-worker Orlando Spellman. Id. ¶¶
22-23. Another co-worker, Robert Keith Adams, can
be seen standing toward the back of the video
frame. Id. ¶ 25. At 7:20:38, the
video shows Plaintiff extending his right hand toward
Spellman and the two appear to exchange an item that is clear
or white. Id. ¶ 26. After this exchange,
Spellman immediately puts both hands into his pockets and
turns away from the camera as Plaintiff moves toward the
vending machine. Id. ¶ 27. Then, Plaintiff,
Adams, and Spellman are seen talking near the vending machine
when Adams hurries into the men's restroom near the
vending machines. Id. ¶ 28. About seven seconds
after Adams enters the men's restroom, Spellman also
enters that same restroom. Id. ¶ 29.
7:22:50, Plaintiff leaves the vending area after getting a
drink from the vending machine. Id. ¶ 30. About
a minute later, Adams emerges from the restroom while drying
his hands, then abruptly turns around and walks back into the
restroom. Id. ¶ 31. A few seconds later,
Spellman leaves the restroom and walks toward the vending
machine areas, and then, he exits the frame and returns back
to the Packing Department. Id. ¶ 32. Next,
Adams emerges from the men's restroom a second time and
is seen walking down the main aisle of the facility.
Id. ¶¶ 35-37. While walking down the main
aisle, a small package falls out of Adams's pocket at
approximately 7:24:28. Id. ¶ 38. After the
package drops, a small dark spot can be seen on the floor as
Adams exits the video frame. Id. ¶ 39. This
package was dropped in the same spot where the marijuana was
found by Dale. Id. ¶ 40.
identified the individuals in the video for Douglas and
Jones,  and based off of their review of the video
and the bag of marijuana found on the floor, Douglas, Jones,
and Moore believed that Plaintiff, Adams, and Spellman were
involved in bringing drugs to work and distributing those
drugs in violation of Elixir's Drug and Alcohol policy.
Id. ¶¶ 42-44. In response, Douglas called
the Coffee County Sheriff's Department to tell them that
a bag of marijuana was found on the premises. Id.
Sheriff's Office and Elixir Investigations
arrival, Detectives from the Coffee County Sheriff's
Department reviewed the video footage and agreed with Douglas
and Jones that, based on their experience, this behavior was
consistent with drug activity. Id. ¶ 47-49. The
Detectives also agreed with Defendants that the package that
Plaintiff handed to Spellman looked like it could be drugs.
Id. ¶ 48. The Detectives conducted a
walk-through in the parking lot around employee vehicles with
their K-9 unit. Id. ¶¶ 51-52. After
conducting the walk-through, Adams was called to Douglas'
office. Id. ¶ 5.4. One of the Detectives then
quested Adams in the presence of Elixir's management
employees. Id. ¶ 55. When asked about the
incident, Adams initially denied any involvement with the
package of marijuana but later admitted that the package was
his. Id. ¶¶ 56-57. Adams was then
transported to the Coffee County Jail for the charge of
possession of marijuana. Id. ¶ 58. As for
Spellman, he was terminated for his involvement in the
alleged distribution of drugs at work and was transferred
back to the Valdosta Transitional Center where he was
residing at the time. Id. ¶¶ 60-61.
afternoon, Plaintiff and other Elixir employees were asked to
take drug tests. Id. ¶ 62. All employees drug
tested that day, including Plaintiff, passed. Id.
¶ 63. After the drug test, Plaintiff returned to work.
Id. ¶ 64.
Plaintiff's Meeting with Management and Subsequent
that afternoon, Wilkerson asked Plaintiff to come to
Douglas's office to meet with him, Douglas, Jones, and
Moore. Id. ¶¶ 65-66. Douglas showed
Plaintiff the video footage and asked him to explain what was
occurring in the video. Id. ¶¶ 67-68.
Plaintiff responded that he did not know and asked Jones and
Douglas what they thought was in his hand. Id.
¶ 70. Defendants continued to ask Plaintiff what it was
that he gave to Spellman to which he continued to respond
that he did not know. Id. at ¶¶ 71-72.
Plaintiff then told Defendants that he did not have drugs in
his hand. Id. ¶ 74. Defendants
responded that they had not mentioned anything about drugs.
Id. ¶ 76. Defendants asked Plaintiff what was
in his hand and explained that if he could not tell them,
they would have to walk him out to his car and terminate his
employment. Id. ¶ 89. Plaintiff provided no
response so Defendants walked him to his car and shook his
hand. Id. ¶¶ 90-91.
testified to a different account of the events in his
deposition. Id. ¶ 77. Plaintiff testified that
after his drug test, he was called into the office and was
told'"You good. You can go back to work but we need
you to tell me what's on this video." Id.
¶ 78. He then testified that he told Defendants that
"Tonya had told [him] to get her a monster drink . . .
and she gave [him] change." Id. ¶ 79.
Plaintiff testified that on the way to get the drink, he saw
"Mr. Keith and Mr. Spellman, and [he] bumped hands with
Mr. Spellman." Id. ¶ 80. Plaintiff later
clarified that he bumped fists with Spellman to greet him and
then went to get the drink requested by Tonya. Id.
¶ 81. During his deposition, Plaintiff testified that
when Moore asked him what was in his hand, he told Moore that
he had change in his hand for the monster drink. Id.
¶ 82. According to Plaintiff's testimony, Moore
responded by saying "[w]ell that don't look like
change. But if you can't tell me what's in your hand,
we're going to have to walk you to the door."
Id. ¶ 83. Plaintiff also testified that Moore
said at one point "there's clearly something in your
hand." Id. ¶ 102. During his deposition,
Plaintiff testified that he did not have drugs and when asked
what was in his hand, he stated "that's change in my
hand. That's-it's nothing else in my hand" and
said "there's no drug or nothing." Id.
his termination, Plaintiff filed a charge of discrimination
with the EEOC, and on November 2, 2017, he received a right
to sue letter. Dkt. No. 1-1. Plaintiff filed his pro se
Complaint on February 15, 2018, alleging claims against
Elixir as well as the four Individual Defendants for
disparate treatment and retaliation under Title VII, 42
U.S.C. § 2000e, et. seq., and defamation under Georgia
law. Dkt. No. 1. On December 13, 2018, the Court granted the
Individual Defendants' Partial Motion to Dismiss and
dismissed Plaintiff's Title VII claims against the
Individual Defendants. Dkt. No. 34. On April 25, 2019,
Defendants filed the Motion for Summary Judgment currently at
issue before the Court arguing for summary judgment on the
remaining Title VII claims against Elixir and the defamation
claim. Dkt. No. 48. Plaintiff has not responded to
judgment is required where "the movant shows that there
is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant
is entitled to judgment as a matter of law."
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A fact is "material" if it
"might affect the outcome of the suit under the
governing law." FindWhat Inv'r Grp. v.
FindWhat.com, 658 F.3d 1282, 1307 (11th Cir. 2011)
(quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S.
242, 248 (1986)). A dispute is "genuine" if the
"evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a
verdict for the nonmoving party." Id. In making
this determination, the court is to view all of the evidence
in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and draw
all reasonable inferences in that party's favor.
Johnson v. Booker T. Washington Broad. Serv., Inc.,
234 F.3d 501, 507 (11th Cir. 2000). The moving party bears
the initial burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine
issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett,
477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). The movant must show the court that
there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving