United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Abingdon Division
McClanahan and Zach Miller, McClanahan Powers, PLLC, Vienna,
Virginia, for Plaintiff
L. Newsome and Rachael L. Loughlin, O'Hagan Meyer, PLLC,
Richmond, Virginia, for Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
P. Jones United States District Judge
Title VII employment discrimination case, the plaintiff, a
truck driver, claims that his former employer fired him
because of his race and in retaliation for complaining about
job discrimination. Following discovery, the employer has
moved for summary judgment in its favor, and for the reasons
set forth in this opinion, the motion will be granted.
following facts are taken from the summary judgment record.
Somerset, an African American, worked as a truck driver for
the defendant, SpartanNash Associates, LLC
(“SpartanNash”), beginning in April 2012. His
employment was terminated in October 2015.
worked out of SpartanNash's Bluefield, Virginia,
Distribution Center (“SpartanNash Bluefield”) and
reported to Angela Bevins. Both Bevins and Operations Manager
Brandon Hoops, investigated and addressed any customer
complaints, coached employees on unsatisfactory work
performance, and issued disciplinary sanctions.
General, the operator of numerous retail stores, was a
significant customer of SpartanNash and the only customer
served out of SpartanNash Bluefield during Somerset's
asserts that it is a customer-driven company. Its commitment
to and emphasis on customer satisfaction and service is
detailed in its Associate Handbook and Code of Business
Conduct. One of the company's core values is
“Customer Focus.” Def.'s Mem. Supp. Mot.
Summ. J. Ex. E, Schwartz Decl. Ex. 1 at 5, ECF No. 19-5. The
Associate Handbook provides that “SpartanNash is
committed to differentiating ourselves from our competitors
through focus on the customer. . . . At SpartanNash,
it's about providing customer service a notch above the
rest. How we treat our customers (both internal and external)
is how we set ourselves apart as a great company to work for
and do business with.” Id. at 11. A
“[v]iolation of any provision of the SpartanNash Code
of Conduct” could result in discipline, including
termination of employment. Id. at 48. Somerset
acknowledged receipt of the Associate Handbook and Code of
Business Conduct at the beginning of his employment.
was aware of the significance placed on customer service and
SpartanNash's policies as they applied to Dollar General
and all customers, as follows:
Q: Mr. Somerset, would you agree that it's against
SpartanNash policy to repeatedly speak to a Dollar General
associate in an unprofessional and aggressive tone?
Q: Would you agree it's against SpartanNash policy to
fail to treat a customer with respect?
Id. at Ex. B, Somerset Dep. 67-68, ECF No. 19-2.
also was aware that as a driver, he had an obligation to
behave professionally according to company policy, and that