Garcia v. Elf Atochem North America

Decision Date29 July 1994
Docket NumberNo. 93-1257,93-1257
Citation28 F.3d 446
Parties65 Empl. Prac. Dec. P 43,204 Freddy GARCIA, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. ELF ATOCHEM NORTH AMERICA, d/b/a Ozark Mahoney & Co., et al., Defendants-Appellees. Summary Calendar.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Fifth Circuit

Ronald P. McCluskey, El Paso, TX, for appellant.

A.J. Harper, II, Fulbright & Jaworski, Houston, TX, Don L. Graf, McCleskey, Harriger, Brazill & Graf, Lubbock, TX, for Elf Atochem, A.J. Harper and Jerry Mowell.

Don C. Dennis, Lubbock TX, for Rayford Locke.

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

Before GARWOOD, SMITH and DEMOSS, Circuit Judges.

GARWOOD, Circuit Judge:

Plaintiff-appellant Freddy Garcia (Garcia) filed this suit against defendants-appellees Elf Atochem North America, Inc. (Elf), Jerry Mowell (Mowell), and Rayford Locke (Locke) (collectively, the defendants), alleging that he had been sexually harassed during his employment in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. Sec. 2000e, et seq. (Title VII). The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants and dismissed Garcia's case. Garcia now appeals. We affirm.

Facts and Proceedings Below

Garcia began working at the Seagraves, Texas, plant of the Ozark Mahoney Company (Seagraves Ozark) in December 1984. Seagraves Ozark is a Delaware corporation, and is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Delaware Chemicals Corporation, which in turn is a subsidiary of Elf. Mowell was a plant manager at Seagraves Ozark during Garcia's employment there. Locke was a plant foreman at Seagraves Ozark during this same period, but left the plant in February 1992 and did not return. Although Locke was a supervisor at Seagraves Ozark, he was not Garcia's supervisor.

Garcia's employment at Seagraves Ozark was governed by a collective bargaining agreement between Seagraves Ozark and Local 826 of the International Union of Operating Engineers (the Union). The agreement contains provisions prohibiting sex discrimination and establishing a grievance and arbitration procedure.

On May 3, 1991, Garcia reported to his Union steward, Vick Cornett, who then reported to Mowell, that Locke had "sexually harassed" Garcia. Garcia alleged that on several occasions between March and May of 1991, Locke had approached Garcia from behind and "reach[ed] around and grab[bed] [Garcia's] crotch area and ma[de] sexual motions from behind [Garcia]." In response to Garcia's complaint, Seagraves Ozark reprimanded Locke and informed him that any further incidents would result in his termination. After he was reprimanded, no further incidents occurred between Locke and Garcia and Garcia continued to work at Seagraves Ozark.

Prior to Garcia's complaint, Seagraves Ozark had received two other arguably similar complaints about Locke's conduct: one in 1986 and one in 1988. The conduct complained of was viewed as "horseplay" and was not alleged to be sexually motivated. After these complaints, Locke was counselled about his behavior and informed that his conduct was not appropriate for a supervisor. Following this counselling, no further complaints were reported to Seagraves Ozark until Garcia's May 3, 1991, complaint.

On June 4, 1991, Garcia filed a charge of employment discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC). Thereafter, on June 30, 1992, Garcia filed the instant action. In his complaint, Garcia alleged that he had been sexually harassed in violation of Title VII, and named as defendants Elf, Mowell, and Locke. Garcia's complaint also alleged several state law causes of action. He sought compensatory and punitive damages, as well as costs, fees, and any "[i]njunctive relief the Court may deem just."

On February 1, 1993, Mowell and Elf filed a motion for summary judgment as to all claims. Locke filed a separate motion for summary judgment on that same date. On March 1, 1993, the district court granted the defendants' motions for summary judgment as to the Title VII claim. The court based its decision on its conclusions that (1) neither Garcia nor Locke were employees of Elf, but were instead employees of Seagraves Ozark; (2) Mowell took immediate corrective steps in response to Garcia's May 3, 1991, complaint; (3) Locke did not bother or attempt to harass Garcia after the warning and reprimand by Mowell in May of 1991; (4) Seagraves Ozark had a policy prohibiting sexual harassment posted on its bulletin board for several years prior to May 1991; and (5) because Garcia failed to name Locke as a respondent in his EEOC complaint, he had not exhausted his administrative remedies against Locke in the alleged sexual harassment claim. In addition to granting summary judgment on the Title VII claim, the district court dismissed the state law claims without prejudice.

The district court subsequently denied Garcia's motion for reconsideration which was directed to the Title VII claim only. On appeal, Garcia challenges only the summary judgment on the Title VII claim.

Discussion

This case comes to us from a grant of summary judgment against the party with the burden of proof at trial. In reviewing a summary judgment, we review the record de novo, see Topalian v. Ehrman, 954 F.2d 1125, 1131 (5th Cir.), cert. denied, --- U.S. ----, 113 S.Ct. 82, 121 L.Ed.2d 46 (1992), and we apply the same standard as the district court. Waltman v. Int'l Paper Co., 875 F.2d 468, 474 (5th Cir.1989). We must "review the facts drawing all inferences most favorable to the party opposing the motion." Reid v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 784 F.2d 577, 578 (5th Cir.1986). If the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational jury to find for the nonmoving party, there is no genuine issue for trial. Boeing Co. v. Shipman, 411 F.2d 365, 374-75 (5th Cir.1969) (en banc ). "Such a finding may be supported by the absence of evidence to establish an essential element of the nonmoving party's case." Hibernia Nat'l Bank v. Carner, 997 F.2d 94, 98 (5th Cir.1993) (citations omitted). Additionally, "[w]e may affirm a summary judgment on grounds other than those relied upon by the district court when we find in the record an adequate and independent basis for that result." Brown v. Southwestern Bell Tel. Co., 901 F.2d 1250, 1255 (5th Cir.1990) (citations omitted). Once a movant who does not have the burden of proof at trial makes a properly supported motion, the burden shifts to the nonmovant to show that a summary judgment should not be granted. Celotex Corporation v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 321-25, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 2552-53, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). A party opposing such a summary judgment motion may not rest upon mere allegations of his pleadings, but must set forth and support by summary judgment evidence specific facts showing the existence of a genuine issue for trial. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255-57, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2514, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986).

Title VII provides that where a court finds that an employer has engaged in unlawful employment practices, it may order action "which may include, but is not limited to, reinstatement or hiring of employees, with or without back pay, ... or any other equitable relief as the court deems appropriate." 42 U.S.C. Sec. 2000e-5(g). Compensatory and punitive damages are not available under Title VII for conduct occurring before the effective date of the Civil Rights Act of 1991. Landgraf v. USI Film Prods., 968 F.2d 427, 431 (5th Cir.1992), aff'd, --- U.S. ----, 114 S.Ct. 1483, 128 L.Ed.2d 229 (1994).

Since the conduct complained of by Garcia took place in May of 1991, and the damages provisions of the Civil Rights Act of 1991 did not become effective until November 21, 1991, Garcia could only seek equitable relief. Yet, because Garcia continued to work for Seagraves Ozark in the same position with at least the same compensation, and because Locke no longer works for Seagraves Ozark, neither an award of back pay nor any other form of injunctive relief would be appropriate. Thus, any harm Garcia may have suffered as a result of Locke's harassment is not redressible under Title VII. For this reason, Garcia's claim fails and we will uphold the summary judgment.

Garcia's Title VII claim was also properly dismissed because he did not establish a prima facie case against any of the defendants.

I. Defendants
A. Elf Atochem

Title VII prohibits an "Employer" from discriminating "against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual's ... sex." 42 U.S.C. Sec. 2000e-2(a)(1). The district court concluded that summary judgment was appropriate as to Elf in part because Title VII liability attaches only to the plaintiff's employer, and the court found that Elf was not Garcia's "Employer" for the purposes of the statute.

In his response to Elf's motion for summary judgment, Garcia argued that the district court should find that Elf was his employer based solely on Mowell's deposition testimony that (1) Garcia was employed by Seagraves Ozark, and (2) Seagraves Ozark is a wholly owned subsidiary of Elf. These two facts standing alone, however, are not enough to establish that Elf is Garcia's employer.

Apparently, Garcia's argument is that Elf and Seagraves Ozark are a "single, integrated enterprise," making Seagraves Ozark's status as Garcia's employer attributable to Elf. Although "[t]he term 'employer' as used in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act was meant to be liberally construed," 1 a parent and subsidiary cannot be found to "represent a single, integrated enterprise" in the absence of evidence of "(1) interrelation of operations, (2) centralized control of labor relations, (3) common management, and (4) common ownership or financial control." Trevino v. Celanese Corp., 701 F.2d 397, 403-04 (5th Cir.1983); see also Armbruster v. Quinn, 711 F.2d 1332 (6th Cir.1983) (parent and subsidiary which were highly integrated with respect...

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