Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Edwards v. Hiland Roberts Dairy, Co.

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

June 27, 2017

Sam Edwards Plaintiff- Appellant
v.
Hiland Roberts Dairy, Co.; Hiland Dairy Foods Company, L.L.C. Defendants - Appellees Zyeair Smith Plaintiff- Appellant
v.
Hiland Roberts Dairy, Co.; Hiland Dairy Foods Company, L.L.C. Defendants - Appellees

          Submitted: May 11, 2017

         Appeals from United States District Court for the District of Nebraska - Omaha

          Before RILEY, BEAM, and SHEPHERD, Circuit Judges.

          RILEY, Circuit Judge.

         Zyeair Smith and Sam Edwards, both African-American men, brought separate suits against Hiland Roberts Dairy, Co., [1] and Hiland Dairy Foods Company, L.L.C. (collectively, Hiland Dairy), alleging race discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e, et seq., and the Nebraska Fair Employment Practice Act (NFEPA), Neb. Rev. Stat. §§ 48-1101, et seq. The district court[2] granted summary judgment to Hiland Dairy in both cases, finding Smith and Edwards failed to produce sufficient evidence to support their claims. We affirm.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Smith and Edwards were Hiland Dairy employees and worked at Hiland Dairy's facility in Omaha, Nebraska. Both worked as part of a sanitation crew, responsible for equipment maintenance between the facility's production cycles. On July 26, 2013, Smith, at Edwards's request, used Edwards's company-issued identification card to clock Edwards out after Edwards had left the facility, in violation of Hiland Dairy's timecard policies. Smith initially did not admit to clocking Edwards out, but later confessed when confronted with a video recording of the incident. Less than one week later, Hiland Dairy conducted an investigation and terminated Edwards's and Smith's employment, citing "theft of time" and dishonest conduct as reasons for termination.

         Smith and Edwards filed charges of discrimination with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the Omaha Human Rights and Relations Department (OHRRD). According to the complaints, the OHRRD found in each case "there was reasonable cause to believe that plaintiff's race was a motivating factor in his termination by the defendant" and set up conciliatory meetings on April 2, 2014. Hiland Dairy failed to attend the meetings, and the OHRRD determined the "conciliation failed and forwarded the charge to the EEOC." The EEOC issued a right to sue letter to each plaintiff on June 4, 2014. Smith and Edwards subsequently filed actions against Hiland Dairy, alleging unlawful termination in violation of federal and state law. See 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(1) (prohibiting discriminatory employment practices on the basis of race); Neb. Rev. Stat. § 48-1104(1) (same).[3] In support of their employment discrimination claims, they alleged two similarly-situated white employees named in the complaints violated the same policies by leaving work without clocking out and falling asleep on the job, but were not terminated.

         Hiland Dairy moved for summary judgment, which the district court granted in both cases. The district court concluded Smith and Edwards, without any direct evidence of race discrimination, both failed to demonstrate a prima facie case of employment discrimination. See McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 802 (1973) (prima facie case absent direct evidence). The district court also concluded that even if Smith and Edwards had satisfied their prima facie cases, and the burden shifted back to Hiland Dairy to show a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for the terminations, Smith and Edwards had not provided sufficient evidence of pretext under the more rigorous standard. Smith and Edwards each appealed, and we granted Hiland Dairy's unopposed motion to consolidate their appeals. See 28 U.S.C. § 1291 (appellate jurisdiction); Fed. R. App. P. 3(b)(2).

         II. DISCUSSION

         "'We review the district court's grant of summary judgment de novo, viewing the facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and giving that party the benefit of all reasonable inferences that can be drawn from the record.'" Banks v. John Deere & Co., 829 F.3d 661, 665 (8th Cir. 2016) (quoting Minn. ex rel. N. Pac. Ctr., Inc. v. BNSF Ry. Co., 686 F.3d 567, 571 (8th Cir. 2012)). Summary judgment must be granted "if 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). To prevent summary judgment, "[t]he nonmovant 'must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts, ' and must come forward with 'specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'" Torgerson v. City of Rochester, 643 F.3d 1031, 1042 (8th Cir. 2011) (en banc) (quoting Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-87 (1986)).

         Because Smith and Edwards did not produce direct evidence of discrimination, we apply the McDonnell Douglas burden-shifting framework. See Shirrell v. St. Francis Med. Ctr., 793 F.3d 881, 887 (8th Cir. 2015). Under the McDonnell Douglas framework, a plaintiff must first establish a prima facie case of race discrimination by showing "(1) he was a member of a protected group; (2) he was qualified to perform the job; (3) he suffered an adverse employment action; and (4) circumstances permit an inference of discrimination." Huynh v. U.S. Dep't of Transp., 794 F.3d 952, 958 (8th Cir. 2015). If a plaintiff "establishes a prima facie case, a presumption of discrimination arises and the burden shifts to [the employer] to present evidence of a 'legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for' its adverse employment action." Banks, 829 F.3d at 666 (quoting McDonnell Douglas, 411 U.S. at 802). If the employer satisfies its burden, the presumption disappears and the plaintiff must provide evidence demonstrating the employer's proffered nondiscriminatory reason is mere pretext for intentional discrimination. See id. We pass over the district court's finding that Smith and Edwards did not satisfy their prima facie cases and address the district court's second basis for its decision, insufficient evidence of pretext to defeat Hiland Dairy's legitimate reason for terminating Smith and Edwards.

         Smith and Edwards concede Hiland Dairy satisfied its burden by articulating and presenting evidence of a legitimate and nondiscriminatory reason for firing them. Assuming Smith and Edwards could establish their prima facie cases, they could only survive summary judgment if they discredited Hiland Dairy's proffered nondiscriminatory reason by providing evidence that reason was pretext for a discriminatory motive. See Johnson v. Securitas Sec. Servs. USA, Inc., 769 F.3d 605, 611 (8th Cir. 2014) (en banc). "'A plaintiff may show pretext, among other ways, by showing that an employer (1) failed to follow its own policies, (2) treated similarly-situated employees in a disparate manner, or (3) shifted its explanation of the employment decision.'" Schaffhauser v. United Parcel Serv., Inc., 794 F.3d 899, 904 (8th Cir. 2015) (quoting Lake v. Yellow Transp., Inc., 596 F.3d 871, 874 (8th Cir. 2010)).

         Smith and Edwards contend the circumstances of their terminations created an inference of discrimination because they were disciplined more severely than similarly-situated white employees, Bernie Turbes and Steve Rezac, for similar offenses. "At the pretext stage, the test for whether someone is sufficiently similarly situated, as to be of use for comparison, is rigorous." Johnson, 769 F.3d at 613. Smith and Edwards must establish they and the white employees are "'similarly situated in all relevant respects.'" Id. (quoting Bone v. G4S Youth Servs., LLC, 686 F.3d 948, 956 (8th Cir. 2012)). Additionally, the employees "'used for comparison must have dealt with the same supervisor, have been ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.