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Camara v. Sanchez

United States District Court, D. Colorado

September 23, 2014

MAHAMET CAMARA, MOUSSA DEMBELE, ANDRE DeOLIVEIRA, BEMBA DIALLO, SALIF DIALLO, MACIRE DIARRA, ERNIE DUKE, MOHAMED KABA, DEAN PATRICELLI, and ERNEST WILLIAMS, Plaintiffs,
v.
CRESENCIO SANCHEZ, Intervenor Plaintiff,
v.
MATHESON TRUCKING, INC., a California corporation; and MATHESON FLIGHT EXTENDERS, INC., a California corporation, Defendants.

ORDER DENYING PARTIES' MOTIONS FOR PARTIAL SUMMARY JUDGMENT

CHRISTINE M. ARGUELLO, District Judge.

This is a race discrimination and retaliation case in which Plaintiffs-employees at a shipping company-allege that Defendants-Matheson Trucking and its subsidiary, Matheson Flight Extenders (MFE)-used a series of seemingly neutral employment policy proposals and actions as a means of effectively demoting and terminating certain employees because of their race or because they opposed discrimination. Plaintiffs further contend that this Court should find as a matter of law that the parent and subsidiary defendants should be considered a single or joint entity for purposes of determining liability on many of their legal claims. Finally, Plaintiffs allege that Defendants are precluded as a matter of law from asserting many of the affirmative defenses they raised earlier in the litigation.

Defendants contend that the potentially discriminatory employment actions were business judgments and, therefore, should not be scrutinized by this Court. They further argue that there are fact disputes on whether they should be considered as a single or joint employer. The factual disputes raised by the parties preclude granting summary judgment to either side. Both motions are denied.[1]

I. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Summary judgment is appropriate if the moving party demonstrates there is "no genuine issue as to any material fact" and that it is "entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). In applying this standard, the Court views the evidence and all reasonable inferences therefrom in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Adler v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 144 F.3d 664, 670 (10th Cir. 1998).

II. ANALYSIS

A. DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR PARTIAL SUMMARY JUDGMENT

First, the Court denies Defendants' motion for partial summary judgment. The Court need not explain the basis for finding genuine issues of material fact as to each claim but takes this opportunity, in light of the pending settlement conference and upcoming trial, to provide preliminary thoughts on what it believes are the issues central to the dispute between the parties.

An anchor of Plaintiffs' case is that Leslie Capra, the Manager at Defendants' Denver shipping facility from 2008-2011, intentionally created unfair employment policies targeting minority workers for demotions and reductions in hours. Specifically, Plaintiffs allege Capra intended to use a December 2010 work furlough and a 2011 shift-bid process as pretext for functionally eliminating or demoting unwanted minority employees. In response, Defendants claim that the policies they implemented were motivated by legitimate business goals, rather than discriminatory animus.

Based on the evidence in the record, a reasonable juror could find that Defendants' employment actions were not motivated by legitimate business reasons, but rather, were implemented for discriminatory purposes. One illustrative example concerns Defendants' proffered explanation for why they instituted the shift-bid process. Defendants allege that Leslie Capra, Denver Station Manager, enacted the shift bid system "on a facility-wide basis" in order "to appease employees' requests" to eliminate perceived favoritism and make new shifts available to everyone-and not as a means of effectively demoting, terminating, or promoting employees. (Doc. # 72 at 40.)

One problem with Defendants' theory, however, is that the evidence presented appears to contradict that justification. For example, consider the following passages from emails sent by Capra:

(1) Capra discussing why to pursue the "shift bid" plan-"We need to do this so I can get some of our people moved to regular employees." (Doc. # 85-10 at 20) (emphasis added)
(2) Capra discussing the "shift bid" plan:
It may be advantageous to us since some of the less productive people have already voiced they cannot work a full shift. These people would then go to an "on call" position. If we can maintain the productive workers and implement the bid ...

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