683 F.3d 1283 (11th Cir. 2012), 11-10416, Jones v. UPS Ground Freight

Docket Nº:11-10416.
Citation:683 F.3d 1283
Opinion Judge:RIPPLE, Circuit Judge:
Party Name:Reginald JONES, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. UPS GROUND FREIGHT, Defendant-Appellee.
Attorney:Larry Mann, Law Office of Larry Mann, Cynthia Wilkinson, Wilkinson Law Firm, PC, Stephanie Woodard, Law Office of Stephanie Woodard, Birmingham, AL, for Plaintiff-Appellant. Lisa Helen Cassilly, Alicia P. Starkman, Alston & Bird, LLP, Atlanta, GA, Joel E. Dillard, Donald Randolph James, Jr., Baxl...
Judge Panel:Before CARNES, PRYOR and RIPPLE,[*] Circuit Judges.
Case Date:June 11, 2012
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
 
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683 F.3d 1283 (11th Cir. 2012)

Reginald JONES, Plaintiff-Appellant,

v.

UPS GROUND FREIGHT, Defendant-Appellee.

No. 11-10416.

United States Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit.

June 11, 2012

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Larry Mann, Law Office of Larry Mann, Cynthia Wilkinson, Wilkinson Law Firm, PC, Stephanie Woodard, Law Office of Stephanie Woodard, Birmingham, AL, for Plaintiff-Appellant.

Lisa Helen Cassilly, Alicia P. Starkman, Alston & Bird, LLP, Atlanta, GA,

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Joel E. Dillard, Donald Randolph James, Jr., Baxley, Dillard, McKnight & James, Birmingham, AL, for Defendant-Appellee.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Alabama.

Before CARNES, PRYOR and RIPPLE,[*] Circuit Judges.

RIPPLE, Circuit Judge:

Reginald Jones brought this action against UPS Ground Freight, Inc. (" UPSF" ), his former employer, on July 1, 2009. Mr. Jones alleged that he had been subjected to a racially hostile work environment in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981 and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2.1 The district court entered summary judgment in favor of UPSF on December 30, 2010, and Mr. Jones timely appealed.2 We conclude that, on the summary judgment record before us, a reasonable trier of fact could conclude that the events alleged by Mr. Jones created an objectively hostile work environment. Accordingly, we vacate the judgment of the district court and remand the case for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

I

BACKGROUND

A. Facts

1.

UPSF is in the business of transporting commodities by motor carrier. Mr. Jones, who is African-American, began working for UPSF as a road driver trainee on May 1, 2007. After one week of training, he became a road driver and drove alone on his assigned trips.

Although he lived in Birmingham, Alabama, Mr. Jones was dispatched on his trips from UPSF's terminal in Fulton, Mississippi (the " Fulton terminal" ). By a contractual arrangement, the Fulton terminal is located on the grounds of Ferguson Enterprises, Inc., a wholesale plumbing distributor. Approximately twice a week, Mr. Jones would drive his UPSF truck to the Fulton terminal to pick up Ferguson's goods for transit and delivery. His visits to the Fulton terminal were generally short; his trailer would be loaded, and he would " just go in, get paperwork and leave back out." 3 The Fulton terminal was managed by Sue Miles, who also was Mr. Jones's direct supervisor. The Fulton terminal does not have an on-premises human resources department; such matters are handled generally at UPSF's headquarters in Richmond, Virginia.

Because his home was in Birmingham, Mr. Jones was permitted to park his UPSF truck during his off-duty hours at a UPSF service center, known as the Trussville terminal. The Trussville terminal, located in Leeds, Alabama, was managed by Keith Carter. It consists of a building, a parking lot for general business traffic and

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a yard for truck parking. The truck yard is located behind the building and is enclosed by a barbed-wire fence that is " pretty high." 4 Only UPSF employees are allowed inside this yard, but it is open to these employees around the clock during the work week.5 Drivers come in and out at " all hours of the day." 6 Work is done on the dock throughout the day as well.7

When Mr. Jones arrived at the Trussville terminal to pick up his UPSF truck, he would park his personal vehicle in the general parking lot in front of the building and then walk to the yard behind the building, where his delivery truck was parked. He would fuel his truck at the Trussville terminal before leaving. Upon his return, he would park the truck in the yard and walk back to his car. There were no assigned parking spots in the yard; Mr. Jones would park his delivery truck wherever space was available. Mr. Jones was not required to do anything else at the Trussville terminal. Mr. Jones estimates that he was at the Trussville terminal " [m]aybe one or two days out of the week." 8

2.

Mr. Jones first encountered what he perceived to be racial harassment during his road driver training. That week-long training was conducted by Kenneth Terrell, another UPSF driver. Terrell is Caucasian. Within the first two days of that period, while the two were on a training run, Terrell told Mr. Jones, " I know how to train you Indians." 9 When Mr. Jones responded that he was not Indian, Terrell said " I don't care what race you are, I trained your kind before." 10 Terrell used the term Indian more than once during this conversation, but made no other comments that Mr. Jones perceived to be of a racial nature. Mr. Jones testified in his deposition that Terrell's remarks were the only racially based comments made to him throughout his year-long employment at UPSF.11

Mr. Jones testified that he called his supervisor, Miles, during the training period to tell her that Terrell was saying " racist things." 12 Miles told Mr. Jones that she had written it down and that she would talk to the two of them when they came back to Fulton. She also asked Mr. Jones to submit a written statement of what happened; he never did. Miles did not discuss this matter with Mr. Jones upon his return from training. Indeed, Miles testified that she did not learn of the racial nature of this incident until she was questioned about it at her deposition. She

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testified that she had heard from another employee that Mr. Jones " had some issues with Ken Terrell," but that Mr. Jones would not tell her what those issues were when she inquired. 13

At some point after Mr. Jones's training period ended, he began to find remnants of bananas, such as banana peels and bananas that had been broken in half, on his delivery truck in the yard at the Trussville terminal. The bananas were always located in one of two places: either on the back of the truck's flat-bed trailer or on the steps up into the cab. Mr. Jones never saw bananas on any other truck, nor is there any evidence that he found other refuse on his truck. Mr. Jones testified that " [t]he first time [he] thought nothing of it, [he] said, [‘ ]well, maybe it was the yardmen just walking around, and maybe they forgot it, and they put it on there.[’ ]" 14 He therefore did not report finding the bananas immediately.

On or about April 21, 2008, after finding the bananas for approximately the third time, Mr. Jones called Miles to inform her. Miles instructed Mr. Jones to speak with Carter, the manager of the Trussville terminal, about the matter. Miles also emailed Kevin Martin, the Human Resources Manager for the UPSF Truckload Division, about the complaint.15

As Miles had directed, Mr. Jones went into the terminal and told Carter, whom he had not met previously, that he had been finding banana peels on his truck and that he believed that this was racially discriminatory. Carter explained that UPSF policy prohibited discrimination based on race. Carter also indicated that he did not believe anyone working at the Trussville terminal was racist. He suggested that children might be throwing the bananas over the fence. Mr. Jones responded that he did not believe that the bananas could have been thrown over the fence by children because he always found them in the same places on his truck. Carter then recommended that Mr. Jones park his trailer in a different part of the lot and that " if it comes up on there, then, we'll see." 16

During his conversation with Carter about the banana peels, Mr. Jones said that it " seems like [there is] a lot of racism up here because the guys are wearing confederate shirts and confederate hats also." 17 Carter said " that happened a while back" and that he had " told them that they couldn't wear that type of stuff around here." 18 Carter was surprised to learn that Mr. Jones had observed " [p]robably three" yardmen wearing such clothing that same day.19 Carter has no recollection of Mr. Jones ever mentioning that employees were wearing Confederate flags, and there is no evidence that he ever investigated the accusation. Regardless, after his conversation with Carter, Mr. Jones never witnessed any other employees

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at the Trussville terminal wearing garments adorned with the Confederate flag. 20

After his discussion with Mr. Jones, Carter did ask Tim Jacks, another supervisor, " if he had noticed anything, anybody over in that area or anything like that." 21 Carter explained that this was the extent of his investigation.22 Carter did not question Jimmy Shell, a " yard jockey" whom he believed to be the only person with access to the yard during the relevant time periods.23 Nor did he question anyone else about Mr. Jones's allegations.

Less than a week after Mr. Jones reported the banana peels to Carter, an incident occurred with two workers in the Trussville terminal. Mr. Jones recounted the incident in his deposition:

[T]he guys came up to me and asked me about the— why did I tell on them about the confederate flag and did I tell the manager that— that they put the— that they put the banana on it. And I was— and I was kind of nervous because it was like at night. So you know, and it was like two of them. And one had like a metal like crowbar or something in his hand. So he was— asked me and I was just like no, I didn't. Because, you know, it wasn't supposed to have been— [Carter] wasn't supposed to tell them. So I was like no. But I was like but if you did do that, I was like, I think that's not funny. And he started laughing.

R.24-2 at 35 (Jones Dep. 130). The men looked at him " in a certain way" and then walked away.24 These men were two of the yardmen that Mr. Jones...

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