McNealy v. Becnel, CIVIL ACTION NO. 14-2181 SECTION: "E" (2)

CourtUnited States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Louisiana)
Writing for the CourtSUSIE MORGAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
PartiesNEWTON MCNEALY, Plaintiff v. DARRYL J. BECNEL, ET AL., Defendants
Docket NumberCIVIL ACTION NO. 14-2181 SECTION: "E" (2)
Decision Date17 October 2016

NEWTON MCNEALY, Plaintiff
v.
DARRYL J. BECNEL, ET AL., Defendants

CIVIL ACTION NO. 14-2181 SECTION: "E" (2)

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT EASTERN DISTRICT OF LOUISIANA

October 17, 2016


ORDER AND REASONS

This matter comes before the Court on the Defendants' dispositive motions.1 The Defendants in this case are: (1) United Steel, Paper and Forestry, Rubber, Manufacturing, Energy, Allied Industrial and Service Workers International Union ("USW International"); (2) United Steelworkers Local Union, Local 750 ("Local Union"); (3) Motiva Enterprises, LLC ("Motiva"); (4) Shell Oil Co. ("Shell Oil"); (5) Shell Chemical LP ("Shell Chemical");2 (6) Saudi Refining, Inc. ("Saudi Refining"); (7) the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission; and (8) Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. ("Met-Life"). Each Defendant has filed at least one dispositive motion, and some have filed two.

FACTUAL & PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

This civil action involves claims of, among others, race discrimination, retaliation, and harassment, levied by the Plaintiff, Newton McNealy, against a number of entities.3 McNealy is an African-American male who previously worked as a machinist for Motiva at a Motiva-owned facility in Norco, Louisiana. McNealy alleges, on or about November

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7, 2011, while in the course and scope of his employment with Motiva, he was "victimized" and "struck in the head" by a crane control box at the hands of his white co-workers. After the attack, McNealy alleges he retreated to his personal vehicle to recover whereupon his co-workers "wrapped and sealed" him in the vehicle and "covered the window with some type of foam." McNealy also alleges, in the days that followed, he was verbally assaulted, threatened, sodomized, and sexually harassed by his white co-workers, which contributed to a hostile work environment. According to McNealy, he complained to his superiors on numerous occasions and filed formal complaints with his union, but the investigations into his complaints led nowhere. McNealy thus alleges the various Defendants condoned "inappropriate behavior in the workplace," and ultimately violated the Collective Bargaining Agreement between Motiva and his union.

McNealy alleges, as a result of the treatment he experienced, he developed and has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, paranoia, and depression, among other conditions. In light of his medical conditions, McNealy alleges he was placed on non-occupational disability in February of 2012 and remained on disability for over two years. According to McNealy, after having been on disability for an extended period of time, he was converted to "non-pay status," and he began experiencing other adverse employment actions by the Shell Defendants and Motiva. McNealy alleges, for example, the Shell Defendants and Motiva confiscated his ID badge and his company credit card and cancelled his insurance. These actions, according to McNealy, ultimately led to the termination of his employment at the Motiva facility.

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McNealy filed suit on September 22, 2014, and has been granted leave of court on multiple occasions to amend his complaint.4 McNealy filed his third-amended complaint on December 9, 2015. McNealy's third-amended complaint, like his prior complaints, is less than clear. In an Order dated June 30, 2016, the Court identified for McNealy the deficiencies in his third-amended complaint, citing Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a).5 The Court noted Rule 8(a) requires a pleading stating a claim for relief to include, inter alia, "a short and plain statement of [each] claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief" against each defendant.6 Considering the third-amended complaint in light of Rule 8(a), the Court found McNealy's third-amended complaint failed to clearly identify, with precision, the specific causes of action he is bringing against each Defendant and the laws or statutes pursuant to which those causes of action were filed. In sum, the Court found it unclear from the third-amended complaint which causes of action McNealy is bringing against each Defendant.

The Court convened a telephone status conference with counsel for the parties on July 8, 2016 to discuss the third-amended complaint. During the status conference, McNealy's attorney, Quiana Hunt, clarified the causes of action that McNealy claims he has brought against each Defendant. The Court memorialized this discussion in a Minute Entry, to which the Court attached a chart specifically identifying each cause of action

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McNealy claims to be pursuing against each Defendant.7 Without agreeing with McNealy that these causes of action are actually pleaded in the third-amended complaint, the Court will assume these are the causes of action pleaded therein for purposes of this decision.

LEGAL STANDARDS

I. Motions to Dismiss

Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a district court may dismiss a complaint, or any part of it, for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted if the plaintiff has not set forth factual allegations in support of his claim that would entitle him to relief.8 "To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'"9 "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged."10 The court, however, does not accept as true legal conclusions or mere conclusory statements, and "conclusory allegations or legal conclusions masquerading as factual conclusions will not suffice to prevent a motion to dismiss."11 "[T]hreadbare recitals of elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements" or "naked assertion[s] devoid of further factual enhancement" are not sufficient.12

In summary, "[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level."13 "[W]here the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer

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more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged—but it has not show[n]'—that the pleader is entitled to relief."14 "Dismissal is appropriate when the complaint 'on its face show[s] a bar to relief.'"15

II. Motions for Summary Judgment

Summary judgment is appropriate only "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."16 "An issue is material if its resolution could affect the outcome of the action."17 When assessing whether a material factual dispute exists, the Court considers "all of the evidence in the record but refrains from making credibility determinations or weighing the evidence."18 All reasonable inferences are drawn in favor of the nonmoving party.19 There is no genuine issue of material fact if, even viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, no reasonable trier of fact could find for the nonmoving party, thus entitling the moving party to judgment as a matter of law.20

If the dispositive issue is one on which the moving party will bear the burden of persuasion at trial, the moving party "must come forward with evidence which would 'entitle it to a directed verdict if the evidence went uncontroverted at trial.'"21 If the moving party fails to carry this burden, the motion must be denied. If the moving party successfully carries this burden, the burden of production then shifts to the nonmoving party to direct the Court's attention to something in the pleadings or other evidence in the

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record setting forth specific facts sufficient to establish that a genuine issue of material fact does indeed exist.22

If the dispositive issue is one on which the nonmoving party will bear the burden of persuasion at trial, the moving party may satisfy its burden of production by either (1) submitting affirmative evidence that negates an essential element of the nonmovant's claim, or (2) demonstrating there is no evidence in the record to establish an essential element of the nonmovant's claim.23 When proceeding under the first option, if the nonmoving party cannot muster sufficient evidence to dispute the movant's contention that there are no disputed facts, a trial would be useless, and the moving party is entitled to summary judgment as a matter of law.24 When, however, the movant is proceeding under the second option and is seeking summary judgment on the ground that the nonmovant has no evidence to establish an essential element of the claim, the nonmoving party may defeat a motion for summary judgment by "calling the Court's attention to supporting evidence already in the record that was overlooked or ignored by the moving party."25 Under either scenario, the burden then shifts back to the movant to demonstrate the inadequacy of the evidence relied upon by the nonmovant.26 If the movant meets this burden, "the burden of production shifts [back again] to the nonmoving party, who must

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either (1) rehabilitate the evidence attacked in the moving party's papers, (2) produce additional evidence showing the existence of a genuine issue for trial as provided in Rule 56(e), or (3) submit an affidavit explaining why further discovery is necessary as provided in Rule 56(f)."27 "Summary judgment should be granted if the nonmoving party fails to respond in one or more of these ways, or if, after the nonmoving party responds, the court determines that the moving party has met its ultimate burden of persuading the court that there is no genuine issue of material fact for trial."28

"[U]nsubstantiated assertions are not competent summary judgment evidence. The party opposing summary judgment is required to identify specific evidence in the record and to articulate the precise manner in which that evidence supports the claim. 'Rule 56 does not impose upon the district court a duty to sift...

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