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Armstrong v. City of West Buechel

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

October 26, 2019

WILLIAM ARMSTRONG, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF WEST BUECHEL and RICHARD RICHARDS, individually and in his official capacity as Mayor of the City of West Buechel, Kentucky, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          DAVID J. HALE, JUDGE

         William Armstrong was fired from his job as Director of Public Works for the City of West Buechel, Kentucky, after he sent a letter to West Buechel Mayor Rick Richards complaining of racial discrimination. He sued Richards and the City, alleging discrimination and retaliation under state and federal law. (Docket No. 1) The defendants have moved for summary judgment, arguing that Armstrong lacks evidence to support any of his claims. (D.N. 40) After careful consideration, the Court will grant summary judgment as to Armstrong's discrimination claims but deny the motion as to Armstrong's retaliation claims.

         I.

         Armstrong, who is African American, worked for the City of West Buechel from August 2012 until August 2015. During that time, City Council member Joe Mattingly twice used the word “n****r” in Armstrong's presence and addressed him as “boy” on one occasion.[1] (D.N. 40-2, PageID # 162) On another occasion, Armstrong was “grabbed and pushed” by coworker Gerald Chamberlain. (Id., PageID # 165) In addition to these incidents of alleged discrimination, Armstrong claims that he was the only City employee who did not receive a raise in July 2015. (Id., PageID # 167) Armstrong complained to Richards about Mattingly's use of the word “n****r, ” as well as the pushing incident. (Id., PageID # 163, 165-66)

         On August 20, 2015, Armstrong delivered the following letter to Richards:

To Mayor Richards
This letter is in regards to a concern of mine about my job with the City. Since your first day as Mayor I have shown my loyalty to you. I work hard and do whatever is required and you ask me to do, I came honestly to you and shared concerns I had about remarks made by one of the City Council members, but I feel that I am being punished for speaking up.
I just want to come to work and to do the job you appointed me to as “Director of Public Works, ” and to have an opportunity to run my department without outside interference.
Last week you texted me a[nd] told me not to come in to work until I heard from you again. Then, last Wednesday, you sent me a letter delivered by a WBPD officer to my home. I was not there at the time and the letter was delivered to my son. You asked me to be at City Hall at 9:30 AM last Thursday. I was there at 9:30.
I saw you in the kitchen, but you did not mention anything about the letter or the meeting. Ms. Marti told me you said for me to go out and clean up the City.
I am baffled that you texted me on Sunday telling me not to come in until you got back to me, then sending a letter to my home by a police officer and then ignoring me when I did exactly what you asked.
I feel I am being punished as I am having to use my personal vacation time to make up for the times you tell me to stay home. I feel I deserve to know what is going on.
I feel I am working in a very hostile environment, without any explanation from you about why. I am respectful to everyone and I believe that I deserve to be treated with respect in return.
There is a lot of gossip going around the neighborhood and City Hall, and I don't know what to believe. People are acting differently toward me with no explanation. What have I done to make you unhappy and to treat me this way?
You asked me to keep notes of what I have done on the job, and I have done that.
Please give me something in writing about my job with ...

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