United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division
CLAUDE V. BROOME, Plaintiff
IRON TIGER LOGISTICS, Defendant
MIEHAEL F. URBANSKI CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
V. "Mike" Broome ("Broome") filed this
lawsuit on September 25, 2017, alleging that defendant Iron
Tiger Logistics ("Iron Tiger") violated his rights
under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended,
42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. ("Title VII"). Iron
Tiger filed a motion for summary judgment, ECF No. 36, to
which Broome responded, ECF No. 43, and a hearing was held on
August 30, 2019. For the reasons discussed below, the court
GRANTS Iron Tiger's motion for summary
is an African American man who has worked for Iron Tiger
since 2008. Iron Tiger delivers finished vehicles for large
truck manufacturers around the nation, with locations in
several states. Broome works at an Iron Tiger facility in
Dublin, Virginia, as a lead man, or decker. He does not have
supervisory duties, but advises other employees about their
jobs. He has worked in this position for Iron Tiger since
and a Caucasian coworker, Glenn Ward ("Ward"), have
worked together at Iron Tiger since 2008. Broome Depo. Tr.,
ECF No. 44 at 131. Prior to 2015, they had a cordial
relationship and up until 2015, Broome had never believed or
perceived that Ward was a racist or racially biased.
reasons which are unclear, the relationship between Broome
and Ward soured in 2015. In January 2015, Ward approached Broome
and according to Broome, the following interaction occurred:
I was standing there. So he walks up to me and looks at me
like, You've got a problem with me? And I looked at him
... and I said, Man, what are you - I said, What are you
talking about? You act like you've got a problem with me.
And I looked at him, I said, Man, you know, I ain't got
no problem with you. You know, what are you talking about. So
I went to break.
Depo. Tr., ECF No. 44 at 146. When Broome returned from
break, Ward approached him and called him "racist
n****r." Broome was highly offended, but he laughed and
told Ward that he did not appreciate being called that.
Id. at 147, 150. There were no witnesses to the
exchange, but other employees told Broome that some people in
the workplace were saying Broome was a racist. Id.
Broome reported the racial slur to Terry Epperly, the
assistant terminal manager at the Dublin facility.
Id. at 156; Decl. of Terry Epperly, ECF No. 37-8 at
¶¶ 1, 6.
the following week or two, Ward called Broome a
"n****r" three or four more times. Broome Depo.
Tr., ECF No. 44 at 152. The second time Ward used the word,
he also bumped Broome with a trash can while he was in his
bay at work. Broome told him that he did not appreciate what
had happened. There were no witnesses to the interaction and
Broome did not report it to anyone. Id. at 152-154,
156-157; Epperly Decl, ECF No. 37-8 at ¶ 6.
third time Ward used the racial slur was when Broome was in a
hallway heading toward the restroom and Ward went up to him
and said, "I don't like you, n****r." Broome
Depo. Tr., ECF No. 44 at 158. Broome said nothing in reply
because he could not afford to lose his temper and also
because he believed that Ward had management on his side.
Broome did tell his coworker, James McMickle, what Ward had
said to him. Id. at 160. In a statement attached to
his Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
("EEOC") claim, Broome stated that on another
occasion in the two-week time frame Ward walked up to him and
said, "you need to grow up n****r!" ECF No. 37-3 at
February 24, 2015, Broome contacted Mark Wade, a union
representative who no longer works at Iron Tiger, and
reported the slurs. IcL The next day, Wade contacted the
director of die union, who contacted John Hummel, vice
president of terminal operations for Iron Tiger. Decl. of
John Hummel, ECF No. 37-5 at 2; ECF No. 37-3 at 2. At some
point thereafter, Hummel traveled to Dublin and met with
employees to tell them that harassment would not be
tolerated. Hummel Decl., ECF No. 37-5 at 4. The company also
conducted employee harassment training via a webinar and both
Broome and Ward participated in the training. Decl. of Kristy
DeMeyer, ECF No. 37-4 at pp 2-3. Ward did not use any racial
slurs after Hummel met with the employees. Broome Depo. Tr.,
ECF No. 44 at 165.
only did Broome complain about Ward, but Ward complained
about Broome. In an email dated March 30, 2015 from Ward to
DeMeyer, the human resource manager at Iron Tiger, Ward
complained about six incidents involving Broome. According to
Ward, on January 23, 2015, Ward was in the restroom when
Broom came in, grabbed his (Broome's) crotch and said,
"You like big black d***s." On January 29, 2015,
Broome was sitting on a tow motor when Ward walked behind it.
Broome saw him and started backing up, which caused Ward to
hurry and Broome to laugh. On February 3, 2015, Broome went
out of his way to bump Ward as they were passing each other.
On February 6, 2015, Ward was passing by Broome's work
area and Broome shook a hammer at him. On February 11, 2015,
Ward passed by Broome's work area and Broome called him a
coward and laughed. On February 21, 2015, Ward was taking his
trash can out to empty it and Broome stepped in front of him
and kicked the trash can. ECF No. 37-4 at 11.
forwarded the email to Hummel, who suggested she talk to Ward
and see if he reported anything further. Hummel commented
that if they talked to Broome, he would "claim racial
discrimination right out of the box." DeMeyer called
Ward who stated that nothing had happened since the February
incident and that he just wanted DeMeyer to be aware of what
was happening. ECF No. 37-4 at 10.
Ward did not use racial slurs toward Broome again in 2015,
other incidents occurred. On June 1, 2015, Broome was coming
out of the main office when Ward approached him, brushed up
against him, laughed, and said he was going to
"get" Broome. ECF No. 37-3 at 3.
June 2015, Ward was carrying a four-foot-long aluminum light
bar past Broome and almost hit Broome in the head with it.
Broome had to duck to avoid being hit and Ward laughed.
Id. at 169. Employee McMickle saw what happened and
reported it to Epperly, who in turn called DeMeyer. DeMeyer
called and spoke to Broome and Ward about the incident and
received conflicting stories. McMickle said in a statement
that Ward was carrying the light bar as he walked past Broome
and that as he turned, the light bar almost hit Broome.
McMickle reported the incident because he knew the two had
problems and he did not want anyone to get fired. McMickle
had no opinion about whether Ward intended to hit Broome with
the light. ECF No. 37-8.
September 2015, DeMeyer interviewed nineteen people at the
Dublin facility to try and get to the bottom of the animosity
between Broome and Ward. No. one she spoke to could
substantiate the complaints of either Broome or Ward. DeMeyer
counseled both of them regarding their complaints and
behavior. DeMeyer Decl., ECF No. 37-4 at 3. Broome claims
that DeMeyer told him that he could be fired for stating that
Ward called him a "n****r." She also told Broome
that Ward said he would make no further negative comments
about Broome. ECF No. 1 at ¶ 10.
February 2016 Broome was using a hand truck to carry three
buckets filled with nuts and washers, which he estimated to
weigh 200-300 pounds each. As he was walking with the hand
truck, Ward came up and bumped Broome and then yelled that
Broome had bumped him. Broome immediately went to the office
to report what had happened. Ward reported the opposite-that
Broome had bumped into him. Broome Depo Tr., ECF No. 44 at
195-199; Decl. of Jack Tatum, ECF No. 37-6 at 3.
Tatum, the terminal manager at the Dublin facility, called a
meeting with Broome and Ward in an effort to resolve the
issues between them. Also present at the meeting were Alex
O'Neal, a union representative, Mark Wade, and Jack
Thatcher. Tatum Decl., ECF No. 37-6 at 3. According to
Broome, Tatum made it seem like Broome was causing the
problems. Ward said that Broome was lying about what
happened. Broome Depo. Tr., ECF No. 44 at 201-202, 204. After
a few minutes, O'Neal took Ward outside and then came
back and started "drilling" Broome and saying that
Ward was not what Broome was trying "to portray him to
be." Broome responded that Ward had called him a
"n****r" on various occasions. Id. at 202.
Wade also stated that he had problems with Ward in the past.
Id. at 205.
suggested that the two shake hands and agree to end dieir
disagreements. Broome shook Ward's hand and left the
office, while everyone else remained inside. Id. at
next day, February 23, 2016, Wade told Broome that the other
people at the meeting thought Broome had shaken Ward's
hand too aggressively. Id. at 206-207. Broome denied
shaking Ward's hand aggressively. Id. at 207.
Based on reports from others at the meeting, Tatum gave
written notice to Broome dated February 25, 2016 that he was
being suspended without pay for three days because he
aggressively shook Ward's hand and tried to intimidate
him. ECF No. 37-6 at 5. He also was told that any future
actions by him of the same nature would result in further
disciplinary action being taken, up to and including
discharge. Id. Broome served the suspension and
returned to work at Iron Tiger. Broome Depo. Tr., ECF No. 44
April 30, 2016, Broome filed a complaint with the EEOC. He
complained that on February 22, 2016 he was called a
"n****r" by another employee. He said he reported
the incident to his union steward and the terminal manager. A
meeting was held and after the meeting he shook his
coworker's hand. On February 24, 2016 he was given a
written warning and suspended from February 25-27, 2016. ECF
No. 37-2 at 2.
next workplace incident occurred more than a year later, in
May 2017, when both men complained that they exchanged words
in the restroom. Broome reported that when he went to the
restroom Ward was already there. Ward approached him from
behind and said, "You're stupid, you are a coward,
you are a coward, you are a coward" and Broome did not
respond. ECF No. 37-6. Ward reported that he was washing his
hands when Broome entered the restroom, grabbed some paper
towels and asked, "Do you want to suck my d**k?" as
he was passing by. Ward told him he was nothing but a coward
and left the restroom. Ward added that if Broome sees him in
the workplace he stops what he is doing and stares. Ward has
not reported it because there is never anyone around to
witness the behavior. ECF No. 37-6 at 7.
Broome and Ward received letters of reprimand on July 11,
2017, following the last bathroom encounter. Both were told
that there had been similar complaints on multiple occasions
in the past and both had received previous warning
letters. Both were told to consider the letters
their last and final warning and that any further similar
actions would subject them to further disciplinary action, up
to and including discharge. ECF No. 37-6 at 8-9. In early
2018, Iron Tiger installed additional cameras at multiple
locations around the facility. Hummel Decl., ECF No. 37-5 at
5; Decl. of David Tatum, ECF No. 37-6 at 4.
that time, Broome and Ward have not spoken, but every time
they are both in the restroom, Ward records audio on his
phone. Broome Depo. Tr., ECF No. 37-1 at 57. Also, while at a
grocery store in 2019, Broome saw Ward on an aisle and Ward
was openly carrying a weapon, which made Broome
uncomfortable. The two saw each other but did not speak.
Id. at 104-106. Also in 2019, a coworker, Tim
Woodyard, told Broome that other employees were making racist
comments but would not repeat what he heard. Id. at
108. Broome also asserted in his deposition that he is
ostracized at work and no one will eat lunch with him; that
he is left out of conversations; that he is given trucks that
are harder to work on than other deckers; his bay is left
messy by other shifts; he was not consulted by a supervisor
when there was a problem with the saddle on one of his
trucks; that he was told he had to clock out when he wanted
to leave a dinner provided by Iron Tiger but the people at
the dinner did not have to clock out; and when he complained
in 2015 about the leftover chicken being thrown out, his
complaint was not taken seriously even though he believed
that a camera that was in place would have revealed who took
the chicken. Id. at 118, 119, 122, 124, 56, 59-60,
than the three-day unpaid suspension, Broome has not lost pay
or benefits as the result of any complaints he made. Broome
and Ward both continue to work at Iron Tiger.
March 15, 2017, the EEOC sent a pre-determination letter to
Iron Tiger stating that investigation revealed that Ward
repeatedly called Broome a racial epithet. The EEOC found
that Broome reported the conduct and was disciplined the next
day for an aggressive handshake that occurred during a
meeting to resolve the dispute. The EEOC concluded that there
was a basis on which to hold Iron Tiger liable for harassment
under Title VII and also for finding that Iron Tiger
retaliated against ...