Crabb v. Ohio Veterans Home Agency

Decision Date22 May 2012
Docket NumberCase No. 3:10 CV 1952
PartiesGARY CRABB, Plaintiff, v. OHIO VETERANS HOME AGENCY, Defendant.
CourtU.S. District Court — Northern District of Ohio


This matter is before the Court on the Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 20) of Defendant Ohio Veterans Home Agency ("OVH" or Defendant). The Court notes federal question jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. §1331 and proper venue under 28 U.S.C. §1391. For the reasons stated below, Defendant's motion will be granted.


Plaintiff Gary Crabb, an African American, began working for Defendant in 1992. Shortly thereafter he joined the union. In 1994 he was promoted to Cook 1, the position he occupied until the end of his employment in March 2009.

Defendant is a nursing home for veterans. It has a set of rules regarding not only food preparation and standard employee relations issues such as breaks and access to work food, but also prohibiting improper interaction between employees and residents. Such improper interactions include business relationships. Access to food issues included not only access to meals, but also when a cook could and should taste test food and prohibition on any consumption of food, other than taste testing, in most of Plaintiff's work area.

Defendant employs a progressive discipline scheme where further infractions within a certain period of time lead to harsher punishments for the same activities. From 1998 to 2004,Plaintiff had a number of disciplinary issues. These included counseling memos, written reprimands, and two suspensions. Plaintiff often did not sign the disciplinary paper work, but in all cases admitted receiving it. He said that he would not sign if he disagreed with something in the paperwork, though he rarely could remember what.

By at least April 2006, Adam Brazie ("Brazie") was Plaintiff's direct supervisor, Craig Selka ("Selka") was Brazie's supervisor, and Naomi Twine ("Twine") was Defendant's EEO officer. Around this time, Defendant began changing some of its operating procedures, though without fundamentally changing the underlying rules. One of the changes included adjusting scheduled break times - an employee had to inform a supervisor prior to the scheduled break or risk losing that break. Another change regarded the actual preparation of food: where before a cook assembled and prepared an item as he or she saw fit, now there were prepared carts containing every item required for a meal in the correct amounts. This was meant to increase uniformity in preparation. In addition, Defendant increased enforcement of work rules.

On August 17, 2006, Plaintiff received a counseling for reading a newspaper at a time that was not his scheduled break time. He received a verbal reprimand for similar conduct on November 11, 2006. On December 3, 2006, he was given a written reprimand for twice eating where he should not. He received a one day suspension on March 25, 2007 for again eating in an inappropriate place and for refusing a work order. Like nearly all of his discipline, Plaintiff felt that these incidents were racially motivated, but could not say why or how.

In late 2007, Plaintiff filed an EEO complaint of discrimination with Twine. She conducted a meeting on December 3, 2007 with Plaintiff, Brazie, and Selka. Though Plaintiff could not recall what incident precipitated his complaint, he could say that he thought Brazie'smanner and speech were racially problematic. Further, he complained of excessive scrutiny and uncertain rules regarding tasting. According to Plaintiff, this meeting lead to sensitivity training for Brazie and Selka issuing tasting guidelines. Plaintiff also agreed to the right of his managers and supervisors to supervise him. Finally, Twine investigated Plaintiff's allegations of racial disparity and found none.

In March 2008, Plaintiff was nearly disciplined for eating a piece of cake in the kitchen. He was not disciplined because another employee offered a written statement which contradicted her earlier statement. Selka began investigating her inconsistent statements. He spoke with that employee and had Brazie take Plaintiff to an adjacent office at the same time. This was to prevent the two employees from conferring. Plaintiff claims that Brazie physically blocked the exit and refused innocuous requests to leave. Selka's questioning of the other employee concluded and he, along with another representative of Defendant and a union official, entered the office where Plaintiff waited. Plaintiff immediately demanded a different union representative. He then refused to answer any questions, even before he was informed of the reason for the questioning. His refusal persisted despite repeated warnings from all present that he could be subject to discipline. He then accused Selka of wanting to lynch him - Plaintiff admits making a lynching gesture, while Selka asserts it was accompanied with the words "hang me from a tree."

Selka told Plaintiff that he did not appreciate the lynching reference and then wrote down a description of the meeting. Selka then read the description aloud and when he reached the lynching accusation, Plaintiff made a remark to which Selka responded with a reference to Plaintiff's EEO complaint and his own intent to make use of the EEO office. Twine refused Selka's complaint due to his non-minority status.

As a result of his insubordination, Plaintiff received a ten day suspension. A union grievance succeeded in halving the time to five days. In July 2008, Plaintiff was counseled for tardiness and failure to prepare one of the items he was assigned.

In December 2008 Plaintiff was terminated for an inappropriate business relationship with a resident. He had asked a resident to change the stain on a desk. Plaintiff had provided all of the materials and expected to pay a fair price for the work. Before the end of the year, however, Plaintiff was reinstated pursuant to a last chance agreement.

On March 11, 2009, Defendant conducted a disciplinary hearing concerning one day when Plaintiff had to be reminded twice to cover his hair and issues regarding improper food preparation. Plaintiff admits that covering hair is an obvious requirement of his job for the sake of sanitation. He also admitted thirteen different occasions over the prior year when he had failed to follow food preparation instructions.

On March 16, 2009, Plaintiff resigned. He then filed a complaint with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission. After receiving a right to sue letter, he brought this action.


Summary judgment is appropriate where "the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c). The Court views the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). The moving party bears the initial responsibility of "informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of 'the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with theaffidavits, if any,' which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). The movant may meet this burden by demonstrating the absence of evidence supporting one or more essential elements of the non-movant's claim. Id. at 323-25.

Once the movant meets this burden, the opposing party "must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986) (quoting FED. R. CIV. P. 56(e)). The party opposing summary judgment cannot rest on its pleadings or merely reassert its previous allegations. It is not sufficient "simply [to] show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., 475 U.S. at 586. Rather, Rule 56(e) "requires the nonmoving party to go beyond the pleadings" and present some type of evidentiary material in support of its position. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324; see also Ciminillo v. Streicher, 434 F.3d 461, 464 (6th Cir. 2006); Harris v. General Motors Corp., 201 F.3d 800, 802 (6th Cir. 2000). Summary judgment must be entered "against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322.

"In considering a motion for summary judgment, the Court must view the facts and draw all reasonable inferences therefrom in a light most favorable to the nonmoving party." Williams v. Belknap, 154 F. Supp. 2d 1069, 1071 (E.D. Mich. 2001) (citing 60 Ivy Street Corp. v. Alexander, 822 F.2d 1432, 1435 (6th Cir. 1987)). However, "'at the summary judgment stage the judge's function is not himself to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter,'" Wiley v. U.S., 20 F.3d 222, 227 (6th Cir. 1994) (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249); therefore, "[t]he Court is not required or permitted . . . to judge the evidence or make findings of fact."Williams, 154 F. Supp. 2d at 1071; Bultema v. United States, 359 F.3d 379, 382 (6th Cir. 2004) . The purpose of summary judgment "is not to resolve factual issues, but to determine if there are genuine issues of fact to be tried." Abercrombie & Fitch Stores, Inc. v. Am. Eagle Outfitters, Inc., 130 F. Supp. 2d 928, 930 (S.D. Ohio 1999). Ultimately, this Court must determine "whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or whether it is so onesided that one party must prevail as a matter of law." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 251-52; see also Atchley v. RK Co., 224 F.3d 537, 539 (6th Cir. 2000).


Plaintiff's Complaint contains four causes of action under ...

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