Barucic v. Titan Tire Corp.

Decision Date14 March 2012
Docket NumberCivil Case No. 4:10–cv–00287–JAJ.
Citation839 F.Supp.2d 1038
PartiesNadis BARUCIC, Plaintiff, v. TITAN TIRE CORPORATION, Defendant.
CourtU.S. District Court — Southern District of Iowa


Michael J. Carroll, Kodi Ann Brotherson, Thomas W. Foley, Babich Goldman, P.C., Des Moines, IA, for Plaintiff.

Gene R. La Suer, Davis Brown Koehn Shors & Roberts PC, Kelsey J. Knowles, Michael R. Reck, Belin McCormick, P.C., Des Moines, IA, for Defendant.


JOHN A. JARVEY, District Judge.

This matter comes before the Court pursuant to Defendant's December 27, 2011 Motion for Summary Judgment. [Dkt. No. 16.] On January 30, 2012 Plaintiff filed a Response to the Motion for Summary Judgment [Dkt. No. 24.] and Defendant replied on February 8, 2012. [Dkt. No. 30.] The Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED.


Titan Tire (Defendant) is a foreign corporation registered and conducting business in Iowa. Defendant maintains a facility in Polk County, IA. In 1998, Silverhawk Security hired Nadis Barucic 1 (Plaintiff) to work as a security guard at the Defendant's facility in Polk County. In 1999, the Defendant hired the Plaintiff to work as a Human Resources Assistant at the Polk County facility and he reported directly to Joyce Kain, the Human Resources Manager. In addition to being given various HR responsibilities, the Plaintiff was asked to help with the recruitment of employees for the facility. 2 After only a few months, the Plaintiff was responsible for recruiting much of the Defendant's work-force, including several hundred Bosnian workers.3 At some point the Plaintiff was promoted to the position of Human Resources Supervisor and given greater responsibility. During his employment,Plaintiff's salary increased from $27,040 to $46,000.

The events giving rise to this lawsuit took place some ten years after the Plaintiff was hired by the Defendant.4 Throughout the course of the Plaintiff's employment, he was charged with collecting information and completing the paperwork for the United States immigration I–9 forms. He prepared the I–9 forms which were then signed by Ms. Kain, except in circumstances where she was absent for prolonged periods of time.5 The Plaintiff organized the I–9 information by maintaining an Excel spreadsheet with the pertinent information. One item on the spreadsheet pertained to the expiration of employees' permanent resident cards or other work authorizations. Eventually, the Plaintiff was given the responsibility of sending notices to employees with expiring I–9 documents. These records were then maintained in his supervisor's office.

In 2008, Kathy Dietrich, an auditor for the Defendant, traveled to the Polk County facility to conduct an audit. Upon review of the Plaintiff's spreadsheet, Ms. Dietrich approached the Plaintiff and asked if he was re-verifying employees' permanent resident cards. Ms. Dietrich approached Ms. Kain about the issue and the Plaintiff was present during an argument wherein Ms. Dietrich told them that they should not be re-verifying these documents. After Ms. Dietrich left, Ms. Kain and the Plaintiff had a phone conversation with INS 6 and the Plaintiff claims that Ms. Kain confirmed that the re-verification process was proper as long as they were re-verifying all employees in the same manner. In response, the Plaintiff continued re-verifying the documents. Ms. Dietrich claims that she specifically told the Plaintiff not to re-verify these documents during the 2008 meeting, and again in 2009.7

In late March or early April of 2009, the Plaintiff was called into a meeting with Ms. Kain and Becky Knutson, counsel for the Defendant in a lawsuit brought by employee Izet Duric. The Plaintiff alleges that during this conversation he was told by Ms. Kain and Ms. Knutson that his testimony was needed to bolster the fact that the Defendant did not discriminate against Bosnians. The Plaintiff further alleges that he told both Ms. Kain and Ms. Knutson that he refused to testify to that effect and that he felt the Defendant discriminated against Bosnians by giving them more difficult assignments in the mill room. The Plaintiff was not called to testify at the Duric trial.

Sometime in 2009, the Plaintiff informed Ms. Kain that Mr. Rodriguez–Villegas, an employee of the Defendant, would need to re-verify his I–9 documents. Mr. Rodriguez–Villegas provided the Plaintiff and Ms. Kain with a form I–551 and his Mexican Passport. An attempt to verify the documents with INS revealed that the I–551 was not valid. As a result, Mr. Rodriguez–Villegas was terminated from his position on April 16, 2009.

In July of 2009, Cherri Holley, General Counsel for the Defendant, was notified that Mr. Rodriguez–Villegas had retained counsel, Mark Sherinian. Mr. Sherinian claimed that Mr. Rodriguez–Villegas' termination violated the law because the Defendant could not require green card holders to re-verify certain documents related to their I–9s. Ms. Holley consulted with Assistant General Counsel, Patrick Shine, and confirmed Mr. Sherinian's claims. Mr. Rodriguez–Villegas was reinstated with $12,000 in back pay. Ms. Holley investigated the matter and was informed by Ms. Dietrich that all I–9 questions were directed to the Plaintiff and she had twice informed him that he should discontinue re-verifying the permanent residency cards. On August 11, 2009, Ms. Holley traveled to the Polk County facility and interviewed the Plaintiff and Ms. Kain.

After the interview, Ms. Holley determined that Ms. Dietrich was telling the truth and that Ms. Dietrich had informed the Plaintiff not to re-verify the permanent residency cards. Further, Ms. Holley found the Plaintiff's story to be unpersuasive and untruthful. Ms. Holley believed that the Plaintiff's violations resulted in the termination of Mr. Rodriguez–Villegas and, thus, the resulting lawsuit. On August 13, 2009, the Plaintiff's employment was terminated.

A. Summary Judgment Standard

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 provides the standard for summary judgment: “The court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A motion for summary judgment may be granted only if, after examining all of the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, the court finds that no genuine issues of material fact exist and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. HDC Med., Inc. v. Minntech Corp., 474 F.3d 543, 546 (8th Cir.2007) (citation omitted). [S]ummary judgment is proper if there are no genuine issues of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Med. Liab. Mut. Ins. Co. v. Alan Curtis LLC, 519 F.3d 466, 471 (8th Cir.2008); see also Kountze ex rel. Hitchcock Found. v. Gaines, 536 F.3d 813, 817 (8th Cir.2008) ([S]ummary judgment is appropriate where the pleadings, discovery materials, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to summary judgment as a matter of law.”).

Once the movant has properly supported its motion, the nonmovant “may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials of [its] pleading, but ... must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e). [A]n issue of material fact is genuine if the evidence is sufficient to allow a reasonable jury verdict for the nonmoving party.” Great Plains Real Estate Dev., L.L.C. v. Union Cent. Life Ins. et al., 536 F.3d 939, 944 (8th Cir.2008) (citation omitted). “A genuine issue of fact is material if it ‘might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law.’ Saffels v. Rice, 40 F.3d 1546, 1550 (8th Cir.1994) (citation omitted). The nonmoving party is entitled to all reasonable inferences that can be drawn from the evidence without resort to speculation. Sprenger v. Fed. Home Loan Bank of Des Moines, 253 F.3d 1106, 1110 (8th Cir.2001). [A]lthough [the non-moving party] does not have to provide direct proof that genuine issues of fact exist for trial, the facts and circumstances that she [or he] relies ‘upon must attain the dignity of substantial evidence and not be such as merely to create a suspicion.’ Taylor v. White, 321 F.3d 710, 715 (8th Cir.2003) (citation omitted). The mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the plaintiff's position will be insufficient; there must be evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the plaintiff. Sprenger, 253 F.3d at 1110.

Summary judgment in employment discrimination cases should be treated with particular care because “such actions are inherently fact based.” Simpson v. Des Moines Water Works, 425 F.3d 538, 542 (8th Cir.2005) (citations omitted). That said, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals recently reiterated,

Because summary judgment is not disfavored and is designed for “every action,” panel statements to the contrary are unauthorized and should not be followed. There is no “discrimination case exception” to the application of summary judgment, which is a useful pretrial tool to determine whether any case, including one alleging discrimination, merits a trial.

Torgerson v. City of Rochester, 643 F.3d 1031, 1043 (8th Cir.2011) (en banc).

This Court has subject matter jurisdiction over Plaintiff's Title VII claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331 and supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiff's Iowa Civil Rights Act (“ICRA”) claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367.

B. Employment Discrimination Claims Under Title VII and ICRA

Plaintiff brings claims alleging that the termination of his employment constituted national origin discrimination under both Title VII and the ICRA. 8 Title VII makes it an unlawful employment practice for an employer to “discharge ... any individual ... because of such individual's ... national origin.” 42 U.S.C. § 2000e–2(a)(1). The Supreme Court...

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