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Nguyen v. Kennam Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Fayetteville Division

September 20, 2017




         Before the Court are Defendant Kennam Inc.'s (“Kennametal”) motion for summary judgment (Doc. 46), brief in support of its motion (Doc. 47), statement of facts in support of its motion (Doc. 48), and supplement to its statement of facts. (Doc. 50). Plaintiff Gai Thi Nguyen filed a response in opposition to summary judgment (Doc. 51), a brief in support of her response (Doc. 52), a response to defendant's statement of undisputed facts (Doc. 53), and a statement of material facts in dispute in support of her response. (Doc. 54). Kennametal submitted a reply to Ms. Nguyen's response. (Doc. 55). For the reasons stated herein, Kennametal's motion for summary judgment will be granted.

         I. Background

         On February 12, 2001, Kennametal hired Ms. Nguyen as a Centerless Grinder. (Doc. 48-1, p. 13). Ms. Nguyen's title later changed to Press Operator B, but her job duties did not change. (Doc. 48-2, p. 1). Ms. Nguyen remained in this position until her employment was terminated. (Id.).

         During the course of her employment, Ms. Nguyen received multiple warnings for making false accusations about other employees. (Doc. 48-6, pp. 14-18). On August 4, 2014, during a shift safety talk, Ms. Nguyen accused her coworkers of messing with her lunch. (Id. at p. 14). After the shift safety talk, Ms. Nguyen's supervisor, George DuMond, and Human Resources Manager Lynda Young met with her to discuss the incident. (Id.). Ms. Nguyen was described as being in a “hysterical state” during the meeting. (Id.). On August 5, 2014, Kennametal terminated Ms. Nguyen's employment. (Doc. 48-2, p. 2).

         II. Legal Standard for Summary Judgment

         When a party moves for summary judgment, it must establish both the absence of a genuine dispute of material fact and that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56; Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-87 (1986); Nat'l Bank of Commerce of El Dorado, Ark. v. Dow Chem. Co., 165 F.3d 602, 606 (8th Cir. 1999). In order for there to be a genuine issue of material fact, the nonmoving party must produce evidence “such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Allison v. Flexway Trucking, Inc., 28 F.3d 64, 66-67 (8th Cir. 1994) (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)). Only facts “that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law” need be considered. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. “[T]he non-movant must make a sufficient showing on every essential element of its claim on which it bears the burden of proof.” P.H. v. Sch. Dist. of Kan. City, Mo., 265 F.3d 653, 658 (8th Cir. 2001). Facts asserted by the nonmoving party “must be properly supported by the record, ” in which case those “facts and the inferences to be drawn from them [are viewed] in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party.” Id. at 656-57.

         A plaintiff in an employment discrimination or retaliation case survives a motion for summary judgment either by providing direct evidence of discrimination or retaliation or by creating an inference of unlawful discrimination or retaliation using circumstantial evidence. Bone v. G4S Youth Servs., LLC, 686 F.3d 948, 953 (8th Cir. 2012); Pye v. Nu Aire, Inc., 641 F.3d 1011, 1020 (8th Cir. 2011). When, as is the case here, a plaintiff presents no direct evidence to support a claim of discrimination or retaliation, the claim is analyzed under the burden shifting framework set out in McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792 (1973). Under this framework, the plaintiff must first present a prima facie case of employment discrimination or retaliation. Pye, 641 F.3d at 1021; Ramlet v. E.F. Johnson Co., 507 F.3d 1149, 1153 (8th Cir. 2007). Once the plaintiff has established a prima facie case, the burden shifts to the defendant to articulate a legitimate, nondiscriminatory or nonretaliatory reason for its actions. Pye, 641 F.3d at 1021; Ramlet, 507 F.3d at 1153. The plaintiff must then demonstrate that the defendant's proffered reason is a pretext for unlawful discrimination or retaliation. Pye, 641 F.3d at 1021; Miners v. Cargill Comms., Inc., 113 F.3d 820, 823 (8th Cir. 1997). To demonstrate a material question of fact regarding pretext, the plaintiff must show that the employer's explanation is unworthy of credence because it has no basis in fact or persuade the court that a prohibited reason more likely motivated the employer's decision. Torgerson v. City of Rochester, 643 F.3d 1031, 1047 (8th Cir. 2011). Although the burden of production shifts between the parties, the burden of persuasion remains on the plaintiff at all times. Fatemi v. White, 775 F.3d 1022, 1041 (8th Cir. 2015).

         III. Analysis

         Ms. Nguyen contends that there are genuine issues of material facts as to (1) whether she was discriminated against based on her race and national origin, (2) whether she was terminated in retaliation for reporting incidents and conduct which she believed to be unlawful, and (3) whether she was subject to harassment and a hostile work environment based on her national origin. (Doc. 51, p. 3). The Court will address each of these arguments in turn. Ms. Nguyen abandons her age discrimination claim and admits that her failure to promote claim is time barred. (Doc. 52, p. 10). Accordingly, the Court will not address these claims.

         A. Race and National Origin Discrimination

         To establish a prima facie case of unlawful race or national origin discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, a plaintiff must show that: “(1) she is a member of a protected class, (2) she met [employer's] legitimate expectations, (3) she suffered an adverse employment action, and (4) the circumstances give rise to an inference of discrimination.” Guimaraes v. SuperValu, Inc., 674 F.3d 962, 974 (8th Cir. 2012). In this case, the parties disagree about whether the second and fourth requirements of the prima facie case have been met.

         Assuming, without deciding, that Ms. Nguyen has established a prima facie case of discrimination, summary judgment is still proper because Kennametal has articulated a legitimate nondiscriminatory reason for terminating her employment and she has not shown ...

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