United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Northern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
R. Willhoit, Jr., United States District Judge
matter is before the Court upon Defendant AK Steel
Corporation's Motion for Summary Judgment [Docket No.
33]. The matter has been fully briefed by the parties [Docket
Nos. 33-1. 35 and 38]. For the reasons stated herein, the
Court finds that Defendant is entitled to judgment as a
matter of law.
case arises from Plaintiff Stanley Hall'semployment5 with
Defendant AK Steel Corporation ("AK Steel"). The
relevant facts are as follows:
around April 6, 1989, AK Steel hired Plaintiff to work at its
coke plant. While at the coke plant, Plaintiff held a number
of positions including coal handler, laborer, crane operator,
engine operator, lidman, storage room clerk, flue tender,
machine operator, heating system cleaner, and for a brief
time in a "step-up" position. Hall worked in the
coke plant for approximately twenty-two years.
claims that he had minimal problems with his employment until
2010, when Plaintiff alleges that his supervisor, Section
Manager Nick Greene, began "targeting" him.
Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that Greene disciplined
Plaintiff for frivolous reasons and "would write
[Plaintiff] up." Plaintiff claims he was"
written-up" for performing work duties in the same way
his co-workers performed the same duties. [Docket No. 34-1,
Deposition of Stanley Hall, pp. 30-32]. When asked about this
allegation, Hall could identify only one specific example. He
recalled a time that he and a co-worker, Roger Daniels,
received a write-up for not taking temperatures of the ovens
at the coke plant. Id. at pp. 33-34. Hall could not
identify a date and had no documentation of the incident.
Id. at pp. 38-39. Hall believed the write-up was
"frivolous" because he felt the temperature
readings were the responsibility of the preceding shift.
Id. at pp. 38-40. He also believed that Greene
"had an issue" with him, but admitted,
"[w]hether it was race, I don't know."
Id. at p. 42. He acknowledged that Greene did not
say or do anything to suggest that the write-up was racially
motivated, and he further acknowledged that Daniels, who is
white, also received a write-up for the incident.
Id. at pp. 36, 42-43.
Hall admitted that he knew of AK Steel's policy for
reporting discrimination and harassment to the Human
Resources department, he did not report any belief that he
was written up because of his race. Id. at pp.
43-45, 46-48. Nor did file a grievance with his union to
challenge any allegedly "frivolous" write-up at the
coke plant. Id. at p. 53.
September 2010, while working the midnight shift at the coke
plant, Plaintiff was told by a co-worker, Von Woodson, that
someone had written "WHITE POWER" and drawn a
swastika symbol at the top of a large piece of equipment at
the No. 3 block of the coke plant. Id. at pp. 54-55.
hearing about the graffiti, Plaintiff stated over the
plant-wide radio channel, "F, not going to deal with
this." Id. at pp. 55-57. He told his supervisor
Michael Marks who informed Plaintiff that it would be taken
care of. Plaintiff also reported the incident to his Labor
Relations Representative J.P. Bradley. Id. at p. 59.
Plaintiffs complaint both over the radio and to his
supervisor, Michael Marks, Defendant's upper management,
including Labor Relations Representative/Manager J.P. Bradley
and Human Resources Manager Edna Holbrook, conducted an
investigation into the incident and determined
Defendant's employee Jimmy Adams had written the
graffiti. Soon thereafter, Defendant terminated Mr.
Adams' employment. Id. at pp. 59-60. Hall
Testified that he had no issue with AK Steel's
investigation and response to the incident. Id. at
in his Amended Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that he was
"shocked to see a piece of equipment with a swastika
symbol painted on it, with the phrase 'WHITE POWER'
written on it, " [Docket No. 1, Complaint, ¶ 13],
he testified that he did not personally see the writing and
further conceded that there is no evidence in the record that
a swastika was painted on the equipment. [Docket No. 34-1,
Deposition of Stanley Hall, pp. 28-29, 54].
point soon thereafter, an unknown individual wrote "BLUE
POWER" with a magic marker in the locker room at the
coke plant. The graffiti, presumably a substitute for
"white power", was written close to Plaintiffs
locker. The "blue power" graffiti remained
untouched in the locker room for an extended period of time.
2011, AK Steel close the coke plant and Plaintiff, along with
several other employees, was transferred to Defendant's
"West Works" facility.
October 2011, Plaintiffs co-worker, Tammy Johnson, brought
charges of sexual harassment against Plaintiff. In his
deposition, Plaintiff explained that Ms. Johnson was upset
about a scheduling issue and became angry at Plaintiff. She
began cursing at Plaintiff, and to try to calm her down,
Plaintiff tried to give her a hug. Prior to this incident,
Plaintiff and Ms. Johnson had been friends for many, many
years. Id. at p. 78.
Steel investigated Johnson's complaint, interviewing
approximately fifteen employees, including Hall and Ms.
Johnson. Plaintiff told his employer that Ms. Johnson was
sexually provocative and said inappropriate things of a
sexual nature and that sexual banter among employees was not
uncommon in the Warehouse, where both Plaintiff and Ms.
Johnson worked. Id. at pp. 74-78.
other employees corroborated Ms. Johnson's allegations
that Hall had engaged in inappropriate conduct of a sexual
nature. [Docket No. 33-3, Deposition of J.P. Bradley, pp. 58,
62-65]. Based on its investigation, AK Steel concluded that
Hall's conduct violated its harassment and discrimination
policy. Id. at pp. 27, 62-65. The decision was made
to terminate Hall's employment. He was given a five-day
subject to discharge letter. However, at the request of the
Union, the Company agreed to convert Hall's discharge to
a last chance agreement between AK Steel, the Union, and
Hall. Id. at pp. 27, 59. The Agreement placed Hall
on a two year probation and reassigned him from steelmaking
to the iron making department. Hall testified that he has no
evidence that this Agreement was in any way discriminatory or
motivated by race. [Docket No. 34-1, Deposition of Stanley
Hall, pp. 84-85]. Indeed, the Agreement saved his job.
next incident alleged by Plaintiff occurred in early February
2012. On that day, Plaintiff and co-worker Leroy Stevens were
called to pressure test the furnace during a shutdown. Ryan
Grubb is the foreman in that area. Stevens explained to
Foreman Grubb that he was too short to reach the equipment.
Id. at p. 88. Grubb responded, stating
"[d]on't worry about it, that boy behind
you is tall enough to reach the valves" or some similar
statement, addressing Plaintiff as "Z>oy."
Id. at p. 89 (emphasis added). Although Plaintiff
did not tell Grubb he was offended by what he perceived to be
a racial slur, he testified that he was visibly upset by
Grubb's comment and Stevens approached Plaintiff to
console him. Id. at p. 89. Plaintiff did not report
Grubb's comment to management, the Union or Human
Resources because he feared retaliation. Id.
next incident alleged by Plaintiff occurred in March 2012.
Plaintiff and Andrew Thrower were working in the iron making
department on the "highline." Id. at p.
92. The highline involves moving railcars back and forth over
raw material bins. The rail cars open to drop materials into
the bins, which are ...