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Singleton v. United Steelworkers Local Union 550

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Paducah

January 7, 2019

TAMMY SINGLETON PLAINTIFF
v.
UNITED STEEL WORKERS LOCAL UNION 550 DEFENDANT

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Thomas B. Russell, United States District Senior Judge

         This matter is before the Court upon a motion by Defendant, United Steel Workers Local Union 550, for summary judgment. [DN 24]. Plaintiff, Tammy Singleton, has responded to the motion. [DN 30]. The Defendant has filed its reply. [DN 31]. Fully briefed, Defendants motion is ripe for review, and for the following reasons, it is GRANTED.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff, Tammy Singleton, became a member of Defendant, United Steel Workers Local Union 550, in 2009. [DN 1 at 2]. Plaintiff was employed by United States Enrichment Corporation (“USEC”) from 2009 until 2014. Id. In February 2014, Plaintiff was laid off from USEC. [DN 24-2 at 2]. Although Plaintiff claims she applied for numerous jobs with prospective employers engaged in hiring through the Defendant, she was unsuccessful in securing employment. [DN 1 at 3]. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant discriminated against her in the hiring process because she is female. Id. at 3. Plaintiff also alleges that Defendant retaliated against her because she complained about the alleged gender discrimination. Id. at 3.

         Under the collective bargaining agreement (“CBA”) between Defendant and USEC, the employer and Defendant must establish a recall listing of laid off employees. [DN 31-1 at 7]. The employer and Defendant are also required to establish seniority listings showing the name of all employees in the order of their seniority ranking in the job classification groups in which the employees hold seniority. Id. According to Donna Steele, president of United Steel Workers Local Union 550, “[t]he Defendant maintains records of the classification of members, their hire dates, layoff dates, and recalls.” [DN 24-2 at 2]. A laid off employee can only be recalled into positions in which they hold seniority. [DN 31-1 at 5-6.] When two employees both have seniority in a particular job classification, the job must be granted to the laid off employee with the most seniority in the classification they are applying for. Id. at 7. Defendant now moves the court for summary judgment, claiming that there is no genuine dispute of material fact regarding either of Plaintiff's claims. For the following reasons, Defendant's motion is GRANTED.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         Summary judgment is appropriate where “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). In determining whether summary judgment is appropriate, a court must resolve all ambiguities and draw all reasonable inferences against the moving party. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986).

         “[N]ot every issue of fact or conflicting inference presents a genuine issue of material fact.” Street v. J.C. Bradford & Co., 886 F.2d 1472, 1477 (6th Cir.1989). The test is whether the party bearing the burden of proof has presented a jury question as to each element in the case. Hartsel v. Keys, 87 F.3d 795, 799 (6th Cir.1996). The plaintiff must present more than a mere scintilla of evidence in support of his position; the plaintiff must present evidence on which the trier of fact could reasonably find for the plaintiff. See Id. (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 251-52, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986)). Mere speculation will not suffice to defeat a motion for summary judgment: “the mere existence of a colorable factual dispute will not defeat a properly supported motion for summary judgment. A genuine dispute between the parties on an issue of material fact must exist to render summary judgment inappropriate.” Moinette v. Elec. Data Sys. Corp., 90 F.3d 1173, 1177 (6th Cir.1996).

         DISCUSSION

         A. Gender Discrimination Claim.

         Plaintiff claims she has been subjected to less favorable terms and conditions in her membership with Defendant and has been actively prevented from being provided with employment opportunities because of her gender. Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(1), makes it an unlawful employment practice “to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual's race, color, religion, sex, or national origin . . ..” 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(1). The employer does not violate Title VII unless there is a discriminatory basis. See St. Mary's Honor Ctr. v. Hicks, 509 U.S. 502, 514 (1993) (“We have no authority to impose liability upon an employer for alleged discriminatory employment practices unless an appropriate factfinder determines, according to proper procedures, that the employer has unlawfully discriminated.”).

         When the plaintiff fails to present direct evidence of discrimination, as is the case here, courts analyze Title VII disparate treatment claims under the McDonnell Douglas framework. See McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 802 (1973). Under that framework, the burden initially lies with the plaintiff to establish a prima facie case of discrimination. See Id. This is established by showing that (1) plaintiff is a member of a protected group, (2) plaintiff was subject to an adverse employment decision, (3) plaintiff was qualified for the position, and (4) plaintiff was either replaced by a person outside of the protected class or was treated differently than similarly situated, non-protected employees. Russell v. Univ. of Toledo, 537 F.3d 596, 604 (6th Cir.2008). If the plaintiff establishes a prima facie case of discrimination, the burden then shifts to the defendant to articulate a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for its action. Assuming it does so, the burden shifts back to the plaintiff to demonstrate the defendant's proffered reason is merely pretext for unlawful discrimination. See McDonnell Douglas Corp., 411 U.S. at 802; Hollins v. Atl. Co., 188 F.3d 652, 658 (6th Cir. 1999).

         In this case, Defendant concedes that Plaintiff can establish the first three elements of her prima facie case. [DN 24 at 8-9]. The parties disagree on whether Plaintiff can establish the fourth element of her prima facie case. Therefore, the Court must determine whether there is a genuine dispute of fact regarding whether Plaintiff was treated differently than similarly situated male union members.

         In this case, Plaintiff only held seniority in the classification of janitor/laborer. [DN 30-2 at 18-19]. Therefore, Plaintiff could only be recalled into the janitor/laborer job classification under the CBA. When she was laid off, there were about forty-two other laid off union members who held more seniority in the janitor/laborer classification than Plaintiff did. [DN 31-3 at 3]. Under the CBA, these forty-two members would need to be recalled before Plaintiff could go back to work at USEC. According to Defendant, no union member with less labor/janitor classification seniority than Plaintiff was recalled by USEC. [DN 31-3 at 3]. Plaintiff claims that three male employees-Bobby Crick, Chris Bencini, and Brian Thompson-were treated better than she was because they were male. These male employees were allegedly hired around the same time as Plaintiff. After the lay-off, the male employees were recalled; Plaintiff was not recalled. But Plaintiff's claim regarding these three male members fails for two reasons. First, Plaintiff has not proven that any of the three male members had less seniority than she did. [DN 30-2 at 26-27]. Plaintiff admits “I ...


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