United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Jonesboro Division
OPINION AND ORDER
LEON HOLMES UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Robinson commenced this action against Nucor Corporation,
d/b/a Nucor Steel, alleging race discrimination and
retaliation in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981 and the
Arkansas Civil Rights Act of 1993, Ark. Code Ann. §
16-123-101 et seq. Robinson alleges that Nucor
violated the law when it demoted him from his position of
shift supervisor and disciplined him on several occasions
between 2012 and 2014. Nucor has filed a motion for summary
judgment, and Robinson has responded. For the following
reasons, Nucor's motion for summary judgment is granted.
an African-American, has worked for Nucor since 1992. He
began as a crane operator in the shipping department and was
promoted to a shift supervisor in the same department in
2001. Nucor has four crews (A, B, C, and D crews) that work
in the shipping department, each with its own supervisor.
Robinson was initially assigned as the B-crew supervisor.
When Robinson was promoted to shift supervisor, Steve Pienaar
was the manager of the shipping department and David Chase
was the general manager at Nucor. A year later, in 2002, Sam
Commella became the general manager at Nucor, and in 2005,
Robert Byrd became Robinson's direct supervisor as
manager of the shipping department.
Robinson was supervisor of the B crew, he underwent a
leadership assessment. Nucor hired an industrial psychologist
to conduct the assessment for developmental purposes.
Although not all supervisors underwent the assessment,
Robinson was not the only supervisor to be assessed.
Robinson's assessment noted areas of strength as well as
weakness. For example, the assessment described Robinson as
calm, level-headed, composed, and resilient. But it also
found that Robinson struggled to hold crew members
accountable successfully. Overall, the assessment concluded
that Robinson could effectively enforce safety policies but
that he had a tendency to micromanage and miss opportunities
to build teamwork. Robinson would later complain that Byrd
never reviewed the assessment with him.
2009, issues with Robinson's crew began to percolate.
Commella and Byrd became aware that members of Robinson's
crew did not trust or respect him. A 2009 annual peer review
of Robinson reflected that a large majority of his peers
rated him as “Sometimes” earning the respect of
others. The peer review also reflected that half of his peers
rated him as “Sometimes” demonstrating
leadership. Byrd evaluated Robinson on the peer review and
noted such things as Robinson's “micromanagement
approach to leadership is counterproductive to team building,
” Robinson “has obvious ‘favorites' on
his crew, ” Robinson “[f]ails to gain respect and
trust of others, ” and Robinson “could put more
emphasis on holding the people that work with him more
accountable.” Commella testified that Robinson had
leadership issues prior to 2009, but they “really
started to percolate systemically around .”
December 2009, Byrd decided to move Robinson from the B crew
to the C crew. Byrd wanted to give Robinson a fresh start
with a new crew, hoping to resolve the issues that had
cropped up with B crew. But eventually, the same issues
Robinson experienced with B crew recurred with C crew. In
July 2012, Robinson attempted to address some of these issues
in a meeting with his crew. Robinson asked Doug Johnson,
another supervisor, to attend and observe the meeting. After
the meeting, Johnson met with Byrd and discussed the meeting.
Byrd asked Johnson to follow up with Robinson's crew
members to get more information about some of the issues.
Johnson's notes from following up with the crew reflect
that some members of the crew did not trust or respect
Robinson and that the crew lacked harmony.
on the meeting and Johnson's follow-up, Byrd took
disciplinary action against Robinson. Byrd served a written
disciplinary notice on Robinson and warned him that he needed
to meet the expectations of a Nucor supervisor. The written
notice outlined Robinson's leadership failures, citing
Robinson's failure to hold his crew members accountable,
effectively communicate, and instill teamwork and team unity
“for a period of greater than seven months.”
Robinson signed the written disciplinary notice. After
receiving the written notice, Robinson met with Commella to
discuss the discipline. At the meeting, Robinson did not
disagree with the issues cited but thought that the
time-frame of seven months was inaccurate. Commella told
Robinson that he was more concerned about the substance of
the issues than the time-frame. Commella offered Robinson
resources and help, but Robinson declined them.
issues with his crew became known to other workers at Nucor.
Don Wilson, Doug Johnson, Chris Booker, Tommy O'Malley,
and Steve Bennett all testified that Robinson had leadership
issues with his crew. In a further step to assist Robinson
with the crew issues, Byrd assigned Bennett, an experienced
and well-respected crewman, to Robinson's crew. Byrd
intended Bennett to provide Robinson with helpful feedback
from his observations of and discussions with the crew.
Nevertheless, the issues persisted.
September 2012, Robinson and Byrd met with members of
Robinson's crew to discuss continuing complaints of
Robinson's leadership. The notes from the meeting show
that the crew lacked respect and trust for Robinson and was
upset that Robinson did not address issues as they came up.
This meeting precipitated another meeting between Commella
and Robinson at the beginning of October 2012, in which
Commella told Robinson that he would be demoted if he did not
show improvement within three months.
December 2012, Robinson underwent his annual peer review. The
peer review indicated that the widespread discord within his
crew continued. A majority of his crew gave him low ratings
in the categories of dealing with people, respect of others,
and leadership. Also, after the October meeting with
Commella, Robinson failed to take proper corrective action
against a crew member on two separate occasions. In January
2013, Commella decided to demote Robinson from a shift
supervisor to a port crane operator. Robinson's written
demotion noted that “[o]ver the course of the past
year, the performance, morale, teamwork, communication and
accountability of [Robinson's] crew has been on a steady
decline.” The demotion also cited Robinson's
leadership failures and the resources and clear expectations
provided to Robinson.
appealed his demotion, claiming that he was discriminated
against by Byrd. In a meeting with Kellie Crain, Nucor's
Human Resource supervisor, and Commella, Robinson stated that
Byrd discriminated against him based on his race. Robinson
cited things such as Byrd not reviewing the leadership
assessment with him, Byrd's lack of hiring or promoting
African-Americans, and Byrd singling him out for discipline
and extra scrutiny. Nucor's investigation did not uncover
any evidence that Robinson was subjected to discriminatory
2012 and 2014, Robinson violated Nucor's safety policies
on four occasions, three of which resulted in disciplinary
action. In all three incidents, Robinson admitted to engaging
in the conduct. He was disciplined for the infractions but
was not demoted. One of the infractions resulted in a
five-day suspension. Two ...