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McCracklin v. Hanson Pipe & Products

January 27, 2007


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Wm. R. Wilson, Jr. United States District Judge


On June 23, 2005, Plaintiff, acting pro se,*fn1 brought this action alleging that he was wrongfully terminated on the basis of race in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 1981. He also alleged defamation and outrage under state law. Pending is Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 44). In his response, Plaintiff abandons his state law allegations.*fn2 For the reasons set forth below, Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED.

I. Statement of Facts

Plaintiff, an African-American, worked in Defendant's maintenance department from April 1985 until the date of his termination on January 4, 2005. On December 18, 2004, Richie Davis, a white male supervisor, asked Plaintiff to help him test piping. Plaintiff refused to help Mr. Davis because he already had been given another assignment. Plaintiff maintains that when he refused to help Mr. Davis, he was cursed and called a "nigger."*fn3

While Mr. Davis and Plaintiff were talking, Grady Williford, the plant manager, passed by in his truck. Mr. Davis waved Mr. Williford over to them. Mr. Davis told Mr. Williford that Plaintiff "smelled like a brewery" and needed to be handled.*fn4 Based on Mr. Davis's remarks, Mr. Williford called Plaintiff over to him. Mr. Williford attests that Plaintiff's "eyes were glazed over, he slurred his words . . . and could not be easily understood."*fn5

Mr. Williford also noticed a strong smell of alcohol on Plaintiff.

Based on his observations, Mr. Williford advised Plaintiff that he would have to take a drug and alcohol test. When Plaintiff initially refused to take the test, Mr. Williford told him that refusal could result in an automatic dismissal. Plaintiff was taken to the plant locker room where he met with two other supervisors, Mr. Keith Walker and Mr. Julian Harviston. Both men noticed that Plaintiff had slurred speech, and Plaintiff admitted to them that he did not think he could pass an alcohol test.*fn6 This admission was confirmed by deposition testimony.*fn7 Because no union representative was at the plant that day, a shop steward, Mr. Lloyd Banks was contacted and asked to come meet with Plaintiff. Plaintiff eventually consented to be taken by Mr. Walker to the Crittenden Memorial Hospital for drug and alcohol testing.

Plaintiff was suspended that afternoon, and advised by letter, that he would remain suspended until the results of his blood tests were received.*fn8 The blood work was originally sent by the hospital to the Arkansas Health Department, Office of Alcohol Testing in Little Rock for analysis. But, the Heath Department refused to conduct the test and sent the untested sample back to Defendant. Janice Davis, one of Defendant's office employees, retrieved the blood sample from its post office box and delivered the sealed container to Preventative Medicine Specialty in West Memphis. On January 4, 2005, Preventive Medicine advised Defendant that the test results showed that Plaintiff's blood alcohol content had been .27%, which was over the .08 legal limit in Arkansas. Mr. Williston talked with the plant's General Manager, Don Powell, and the plant's Labor Relations Manager, Rob Rhinehold, and together they decided to send Plaintiff a Notice of Termination.*fn9

Plaintiff filed a discrimination charge with the EEOC on March 10, 2005.*fn10 A Dismissal and Notice of Rights Form was mailed to Plaintiff on March 24, 2005.*fn11

II. Standard of Review

Summary judgment is appropriate only when there is no genuine issue of material fact, so that the dispute may be decided on purely legal grounds.*fn12 The Supreme Court has established guidelines to assist trial courts in determining whether this standard has been met:

The inquiry performed is the threshold inquiry of determining whether there is the need for a trial -- whether, in other words, there are any genuine factual issues that properly can be resolved only by a finder of fact because they may reasonably be resolved in favor of either party.*fn13

The Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit has cautioned that summary judgment is an extreme remedy that should only be granted when the movant has established a right to the judgment beyond controversy.*fn14 Nevertheless, summary judgment promotes judicial economy by preventing trial when no genuine issue of fact remains.*fn15 This Court must view the facts in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion.*fn16 The Eighth Circuit has also set out the burden of the parties in connection with a summary judgment motion:

[T]he burden on the party moving for summary judgment is only to demonstrate, i.e.,"[to point] out to the District Court," that the record does not disclose a genuine dispute on a material fact. It is enough for the movant to bring up the fact that the record does not contain such an issue and to identify that part of the record which bears out his assertion. Once this is done, his burden is discharged, and, if the record in fact bears out the claim that no genuine dispute exists on any material fact, it is then the respondent's burden to set forth affirmative evidence, specific ...

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