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Oscar Ramirez v. W.B. Haughton

March 15, 2013


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Eric F. Melgren United States District Judge


Plaintiff Oscar Ramirez sued his former supervisor, Defendant W.B. "Bruce" Haughton III, for disparate treatment on the basis of national origin in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964,*fn1 42 U.S.C. § 1981, and the Kansas Act Against Discrimination.*fn2 Haughton now moves for summary judgment on the grounds that Ramirez has failed to make a prima facie showing of disparate treatment. Because the basis for Ramirez's claims are based solely on conclusory allegations, the Court grants Haughton's motion for summary judgment.

I. Factual Background*fn3

Plaintiff Oscar Ramirez began working for Defendant W.B. "Bruce" Haughton III on February 4, 2010. Haughton appears to be the owner of Precision Pipe Cover, Inc. ("PPC"), which has an operating division called ECO Strip.*fn4 PPC is located in Topeka, Kansas, and does contract work as a scrap recycler for the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company. Ramirez was initially hired as a temporary employee through a staffing agency, and was later hired as a full-time employee to perform contract work at Goodyear's Topeka plant.

On July 21, 2010, Haughton held an employee meeting regarding new procedures for PPC employees regarding their entry and parking at the Goodyear plant. A PPC secretary in attendance took notes of the meeting and later transcribed them. Ramirez attended the July 21 meeting and translated Haughton's comments for two of Ramirez's Spanish-speaking co-workers. Haughton read aloud a written notification that had been stapled to each employee's paycheck that day. The notice informed employees that they would now be required to use a badge to enter the Goodyear facility in the morning.

Haughton also explained rules regarding parking at the Goodyear facility. The plant has two adjacent lanes that enter a parking lot on the north side of the facility. One gate is for Goodyear employees and is blocked by a lift arm that opens via transponder technology. The second gate is for contractor's employees; it does not have transponder technology, but instead requires employees to check in with a security guard who is posted at the gate. It was a longstanding policy of both PPC and Goodyear that PPC employees were not allowed to drive their private vehicles onto Goodyear property. At the July 21 meeting, Haughton told the PPC employees that they were not allowed to drive their personal vehicles through the Goodyear gate, but should instead park in a lot to the west of the facility, walk to the security guard on the north side, and then present their badges to enter the Goodyear property. According to the transcribed minutes of the meeting, the following exchange then occurred between a PPC employee and Haughton:

[Employee] asked-"Can I cut thru [sic] the Goodyear gate to get to the contractor parking?"

Bruce's response-"No you must go to Indianola Road and around to get to the contract parking. If anyone drives through the Goodyear gate, everyone will have to park in the new contractor parking area and walk around to get to the guard shack. One person can mess this up for everyone if they do not follow these directions and everyone will have a farther distance to walk."*fn5

Ramirez was informed of parking procedures at some point during his employment, and he testified at his deposition that he knew he was not supposed to enter the Goodyear gate.*fn6

Ramirez does not, however, remember Haughton making the aforementioned comments at the July 21 meeting, nor was he told that termination would result from a parking violation.

On July 28, 2010-one week after Haughton explained the parking procedures to PPC employees-Ramirez drove his personal vehicle through the Goodyear gate and onto Goodyear property. Goodyear's Human Resources Manager, Charles Hollis, was in the area of the two entrance gates at the time Ramirez entered the property. According to his affidavit,*fn7 Hollis saw Ramirez drive his vehicle up the lane that led to the contractor gate. Another vehicle was in line ahead of Ramirez, waiting to clear security. Hollis then saw Ramirez pull his vehicle out of the lane for the contractor gate into the lane leading to the Goodyear employees' gate. Ramirez entered the Goodyear employee's entrance, trying to avoid the lift gate by driving around the arm, but the vehicle struck the gate's arm. Believing that he did not cause any damage to the gate, Ramirez continued driving onto the Goodyear property.

After Ramirez parked, Hollis confronted him. Using offensive language, Hollis asked Ramirez for his name and employer, which Ramirez relayed. Hollis then told Haughton that, due to the incident with the gate, Ramirez "was not to be assigned to work on the Goodyear Plant property in the future."*fn8 PPC had hired Ramirez as a permanent employee to perform work at Goodyear's Topeka plant. After the conclusion of the workday, Haughton called Ramirez and terminated his employment with PPC. Ramirez offered to pay for any damage that he caused to the gate and offered to work in Haughton's "shop" which was allegedly a facility separate from the Goodyear facility. Ramirez also told Haughton that other people improperly used the Goodyear employee gate. These pleas went unanswered.

Ramirez was born in Mexico and was brought to the United States as a child. He has remained in the country as an undocumented alien and is therefore unauthorized to work in the United States. At the time Haughton hired Ramirez for full-time employment, Haughton was aware that Ramirez was an undocumented worker. Ramirez claims that Haughton and other PPC employees made jokes about Hispanics that made Ramirez uncomfortable.

Ramirez recalls an incident involving a non-Hispanic PPC employee, Ryan Smith. Haughton personally witnessed an incident in which Smith damaged a PPC vehicle on Goodyear property. Smith was operating the PPC truck at an intersection on Goodyear property when the trailer sitting in front of Smith's truck came loose and rolled onto Smith's truck. Ramirez claims Smith was told not to park his truck behind the trailer. The accident involving Smith did not damage any Goodyear property or violate Goodyear policy. The accident did not involve the parking policy or the ...

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