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Bankruptcy Trustee v. Management & Training Corp.

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Owensboro Division

August 4, 2017




         This matter is before the Court on Defendant Management & Training Corporation (“MTC”) Motion for Summary Judgment [DN 39]. Fully briefed, this matter is ripe for decision.

         I. Background

         Jeffrey James, the original Plaintiff in this action, was employed at the Earle C. Clements Job Center (“ECC”) in Madisonville, Kentucky, from 2003 to 2014. At the time of his termination in April of 2014, James was employed as the Community Living Director at the ECC. Although the United States Department of Labor (“DOL”) administers the program, it contracts with private corporations to actually operate the facility. In 2008, the DOL contracted with Defendant, Management & Training Corporation (“MTC”), to take-over operations of the facility.

         In November of 2008, MTC hired James to work as the Center Standards Manager, a position he previously held under the ECC's previous contractor. Defendant later promoted James to Residential Manager, and then on July 23, 2012, to Community Living Director. In the position, he reported to Deputy Director of Administration, Marvin Marteen and thereafter, in the summer of 2013, to Amanda Curry. As Community Living Director, he was responsible for the management of residential living and recreation.

         On April 16, 2014, the Defendant terminated James. The reasons listed for termination included his failure to meet the expectations of a 60-day Performance Improvement Plan (“PIP”) and James' failure to enforce time card and overtime requirements. Specifically, the Notice of Caution provided in part:

Deputy Director Amanda Curry instructed you in an email dated December 12, 2013 that this was not the directive to be followed and to cease and desist from this process immediately. Despite this instruction, Residential employees still continued to turn in their timecards in advance and failed to report their correct hours. When asked why this practice continued you stated you did not know why. In one dorm the timecards were being turned in two weeks in advance and had only recently stopped this practice after a training was conducted by human resources. You are aware of a senior RA working from home and did nothing to stop it. You said you spoke to him but he continued to do so and you took no further action. Over 40% of the residential staff have issues with their timecards. This is unacceptable to have such a large portion of your staff with issues which you did not correct or follow up.
Mr. James, your lack of oversight for the Residential Department led to issues with student accountability, communication, dorm consistency, staff training and attendance and dormitory planning. As Community Living Director, it is your responsibility to ensure that your department is operating legally and ethically. Due to your lack of leadership and involvement in your departmental process, we are terminating your employment with MTC/Earle C. Clements Job Corps Academy effective immediately.

(Notice of Caution, DN 39-6 at 58.)

         On July 17, 2015, James filed this action in the Union Circuit Court alleging retaliation in violation of the Kentucky Civil Rights Act (“KCRA”). James alleges that he was actually retaliated against because of deposition testimony he gave on May 30, 2013, in a racial discrimination action between James Cole and Defendant. See Cole v. Management & Training Corp., No. 4:11CV-118-JHM. James contends that because he supported Cole's allegations of racial discrimination, he was targeted and harassed by Jeff Barton, the Director of the ECC, and later terminated. James asserts that after his deposition, he was called into Barton's office and chastised about petty matters. Then, for the first time in 11 years, James was placed on a PIP and eventually terminated. On August 5, 2015, Defendant removed the action to this Court. On January 18, 2017, the Court substituted Russ Wilkey, trustee of James' bankruptcy estate, as the Plaintiff in this action. On May 1, 2017, Defendant filed this motion for summary judgment.

         II. Summary Judgment Standard

         Before the Court may grant a motion for summary judgment, it must find that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The moving party bears the initial burden of specifying the basis for its motion and identifying that portion of the record that demonstrates the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). Once the moving party satisfies this burden, the non-moving party thereafter must produce specific facts demonstrating a genuine issue of fact for trial. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986).

         Although the Court must review the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, the non-moving party must do more than merely show that there is some “metaphysical doubt as to the material facts.” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). Instead, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require the non-moving party to present specific facts showing that a genuine factual issue exists by “citing to particular parts of materials in the record” or by “showing that the materials cited do not establish the absence . . . of a genuine dispute.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1). “The mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the [non-moving party's] position will be insufficient; there must be evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the [non-moving party].” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252.

         III. ...

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