United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Norfolk Division
Steven Vernard Parker, Plaintiff, Pro se, Salters, SC.
For Golden Peanut, LLC, Defendant: Joseph M. Rainsbury, LEAD ATTORNEY, LeClairRyan, PC (Roanoke), Roanoke, VA; Kelvin LaVel Newsome, LEAD ATTORNEY, LeClairRyan PC (Norfolk), Norfolk, VA.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Rebecca Beach Smith, Chief United States District Judge.
This matter comes before the court on the Motion for Summary Judgment and accompanying Memorandum in Support filed by Defendant Golden Peanut, LLC (" Defendant" ). Plaintiff Steven Vernard Parker (" Plaintiff" ) filed an Opposition to Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment and Defendant filed a Reply. The matter is ripe for review. For the foregoing reasons, Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment is DENIED.
I. Factual and Procedural History
In August of 2009, Plaintiff applied for employment with Reliance Staffing. Decl. of Stephanie Lamb (" Lamb Decl." ) ¶ 5, attached as Ex. D to Def.'s Mem. of Law in Supp. of Summ. J; Parker Dep. at 14, excerpts attached as Ex. A. to Def's Mem. of Law in Supp. of Summ. J, Reliance Staffing provides temporary employees to companies in the Hampton Roads area. Lamb Decl. ¶ 3.
Defendant is a sheller and processor of peanuts and peanut products. Decl. of Mark David Baker (" Baker Decl." ) ¶ 3, attached as Ex. J to Def.'s Mem. of Law in Supp. of Summ. J. Plaintiff was assigned to work as a temporary equipment operator at Defendant's facility on or about September 25, 2009. Lamb Decl. ¶ 8; Am. Compl. ¶ 1; Parker Dep. at 25. Mr. Mark David Baker was Plaintiff's direct supervisor while Plaintiff was assigned to Defendant's facility. Am. Compl. ¶ 4; Parker Dep. at 26. Plaintiff claims that from January 25, 2010 through January 7, 2011, he suffered racial harassment at work. Am. Compl. ¶ ¶ 2, 4. In his deposition, Plaintiff testified:
A: Well, Mr. Baker referred to myself, as well as other employees and regular citizens, in my presence, by different terminology as far as -- the one that I witnessed and they were used on me were " black ass." " Nigger." Appeared to use the terminology " black bitches" referring to African-American women. " Black monkeys" as far as myself and other employees, and " sand niggers" in reference to store owners, convenience store owners.
Parker Dep. at 27, excerpts attached as Ex. 2 to Pl.'s Mem. of Law in Opp. to Summ. J. Plaintiff could not recall the exact number of times Mr. Baker used the term " black ass," but testified, " It depended. If Mr. Baker had been drinking that day, it was more so than when he wasn't drinking." Id. at 29.
Plaintiff claims that he confronted Mr. Baker about his use of discriminatory racial terms on three occasions. Id. at 34. The first complaint occurred in 2010 after Mr. Baker told a few African-American
employees, who were sitting down on the job, to " get their black asses up and get back to work." Id. Plaintiff testified:
A: . . . So I asked Mr. Baker -- I actually went up to him and talked to him and informed him this is a workplace and he should be -- he should always carry himself in a professional manner.
Q: What did he say?
A: He said, if you don't like what I say, there's the fucking door.
Id. at 35.
Plaintiff claims that he complained a second time in 2010 after Mr. Baker referred to an African-American employee, Darren, as a " big black gorilla." Id. Plaintiff testified:
A: . . . And I informed Mr. Baker of Darren's concerns about what he said to him. Mr. Baker, again, stated that if the black ass doesn't like the way I talk, there is the freaking door. He always refer to that in that manner.
Id. at 35-36.
Plaintiff claims that he complained to Mr. Baker a third time in 2011. Id. at 36-38. Mr. Baker was upset that Plaintiff and another employee, Derrick, did not unload the contents of a truck in a particular location. Id. at 36. Plaintiff testified:
A: . . . [Mr. Baker] turned, in the presence of -- I think there were three truck drivers there and myself and the gentleman Derrick, and he said, see, you can't get these black monkeys to do shit right.
Id. at 36-37. Following the incident, Plaintiff testified:
A: . . . Once the truck drivers left, I went to Mr. Baker and I explained to him not only did he owe us some apologies, but we would appreciate if he didn't use those types of words around us or in reference to me. I was basically speaking for myself . Mr. Baker said, look -- it got to the point where I was coming to him all of the time and asking him to stop using -- he said if I didn't like the fucking way he was talking, there's the door. All right. I said to Mr. Baker, I said, you cannot fire me for asking you to stop using those terminologies. He said, I'm not firing you; if you walk out that door, you quit.
Id. at 37-38.
Plaintiff claims that he was terminated by Mr. Baker on January 12, 2011, just days after his third complaint. Am. Compl. ¶ 3; Pl.'s Mem. of Law in Opp. to Summ. J. at 1-2; Parker Dep. at 55-56. Plaintiff testified:
A: . . . Mr. Baker went in the office, came out, came directly to me and asked me for the keys, told me I no longer work there, I no longer work for him at Golden Peanut. I asked him again why. He said because I don't like -- you don't like the way I talk, you don't like the words I use, you're telling me how to talk. And I, again, told him, you can't fire me for asking you not to use those terminologies. He told me to get my black ass off the property before he call [sic] the police. That was it.
Parker Dep. at 56.
Plaintiff filed a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (" EEOC" ) on January 24, 2011, alleging racial harassment, discrimination and retaliation. EEOC Charge, attached within Ex. 2 to Pl.'s Mem. in Opp. to Summ. J. Plaintiff received his Right to Sue Letter from the EEOC on or about July 31, 2013. Notice of Right to Sue, attached to Am. Compl. Plaintiff filed a pro se Complaint against Defendant on October 9, 2013 and, after this court granted leave, Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint on January 3, 2014. In his Amended Complaint, Plaintiff claims that Defendant violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (" Title VII" ). Specifically, Plaintiff claims that he was harassed and terminated due to his race and that his termination was in retaliation
for his complaints about discrimination. Am. ...