United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Northern Division, Ashland
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
R. WILHOIT, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the Court upon Defendant Marathon Petroleum
Company, LP's Motion for Summary Judgment [Docket No.
11]. The matter has been fully briefed [Docket Nos. 11-1, 16
and 18]. For the reasons set forth herein, the Court finds
that the Defendant is entitled to judgment as a matter of
case arises from Gary Turner's employment with, and
ultimate termination from, Marathon Petroleum Company,
LP's ("MPC") refinery in Catlettsburg,
facts are, for the most part, undisputed. On December 14,
2');">2010, Plaintiff completed an application for employment at
MPC. [Docket No. 11-6]. After interviews with MPC personnel
several interviews with MPC personnel, Plaintiff was hired
and began his employment with MPC on August 6, 2');">2012');">2 as a
Utility Operator at MPC's Catlettsburg petroleum
refinery. [Deposition of Gary Turner, Docket No. 11-1, p.
to MPC's job description, the primary responsibility of a
Utility Operator at is to oversee the day to day operations
of either the tank farms or other various operating units
within the refinery, which includes monitoring equipment;
recording readings from equipment and making required
adjustments; detecting unusual operating conditions (such as
noises, abnormal temperatures or pressure, and leaks); and
responding to emergency situations. [Docket No. 11-8]. To
perform this job, Utility Operators must understand refining
process operations, complex refinery related materials,
product movements, and many different procedures to be
executed during the performance of the job, including, but
not limited to, opening and closing various sized valves.
Id. Plaintiff does not dispute this description.
[Docket No. 11-2');">2, pp. 33-36].
testified that on his first day on the job, he was given a
copy of the General Work Rules for the refinery. Id.
p. 47. These rules specifically state that all employees are
responsible for adhering to safe work processes, following
all safety rules, safe work instructions, operating
procedures, and wearing all required protective clothing and
equipment. [Docket No. 11-9].
General Work Rules also set forth MPC's disciplinary
process for improper work conduct, noting that certain
conduct, including "job negligence, unsafe work
practices, performing work in a careless nature, or violation
of life critical rules," may warrant discipline up to
and including termination for the first offense.
Id., pp. 7-8.
rules also note that MPC considers the employee's past
record, as well as the gravity of the specific offense and
the surrounding circumstances, in determining the appropriate
discipline to administer. Id.
August 6, 2');">2012');">2 until around early October 2');">2012');">2, Plaintiff
attended an eight (8) week training class located on the MPC
property, which provided him with a general introduction to
the refining process. [Docket No. 11-2');">2, pp. 2');">27 &am2');">2');">p. 32');">2 and
Affidavit of Katie McKnight, Docket No. 11-7].
the training period, on October 1, 2');">2012');">2, Plaintiff began a
12');">20-day probationary period. Id. During this
probationary period, Plaintiff received further training,
such as: basic operator training; process safety management;
performing lock out/tag out of equipment; training on how to
check valves to ensure they were operating correctly;
hazardous recognition awareness; sight glass procedures;
training related to placing and removing valves from service;
and a vast array of other process and safety training.
[Docket 11-2');">2, pp. 55-72');">2]. The training included watching
experienced Utility Operators perform their jobs.
Id. Plaintiff testified that he received "a lot
of training" by MPC, and this training was continuous
throughout his employment. Id.
the probationary period, employees receive a written
performance evaluation which Plaintiff admits in his brief in
opposition to MPC's dispositive motion, was
"mixed." The evaluation occurred on October 2');">29,
2');">2012');">2 and is memorialized in a 7-page form, signed by a
Foreman, Plaintiff and a representative from MPC's Human
Resources department, Katie McKnight. Id. In the
evaluation, it is noted that Plaintiff "demonstrated a
good attitude and a desire to learn," several
competencies, such as stress management, safety and
environmental, process operation, equipment reliability, and
troubleshooting, were marked "N/A" because
Plaintiff was "still in the training process" and
MPC did not yet have enough information about Plaintiffs
abilities in these areas to evaluate the same. [Docket No.
11-10]. Plaintiff scored on the low-end of "On
Target" with respect to process understanding, equipment
understanding, and instrumentation. Id. Plaintiff
was marked "Does Not Meet Expectations" with regard
to his communication skills, noting that he "needs to
improve on terminology." Id. Plaintiff was
given an Overall Performance Rating at the low-end of On
event that lead to Plaintiffs termination occurred on
December 2');">26, 2');">2012');">2, during his probationary period. On that
day, Plaintiff was working in the Low Pressure Continuous
Catalyst ("LPCCR") area of the refinery. [Docket
No. 11 -2');">2, pp. 94-95]. Plaintiff concedes that the LPCCR unit
processes gasoline, and therefore that area presents a
significant risk of fire and explosion. Id., p. 54.
testified that the Day Foreman, Travis Gillum, asked him to
perform a "lock out/tag out" on the west site glass
so it could get repaired. Id., p. 96. According to
Plaintiff, Mr. Gillum physically showed him exactly what to
do. Id., p. 107. Plaintiff even took notes on the
instructions given to him by Mr. Gillum. Id.
Plaintiff testified, "[i]t seemed simple enough"
because applying lock out/tag out to a sight glass is a basic
Utility Operator task. Id.
completing another job task, Plaintiff returned to the
location of the sight glass but was confused about what Mr.
Gillum asked him to do. Id., pp. 100, 106. However,
he did not ask him for clarification or further instruction.
Id. Instead, Plaintiff testified,
"[t]hat's where stupid came
in."Id., pp. 97-98 (emphasis added).
Specifically, Plaintiff closed the wrong valve, which had no
relationship to the equipment he was supposed to be working
on. Id., p. 100-101. This caused the LPCCR unit to
exceed its rated pressure (also known as a Not to Exceed
("NTE")). An NTE is a significant safety event,
when the ...