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Thomas v. Berry Plastics Corp.

United States Court of Appeals, Tenth Circuit

September 25, 2015

KARRY L. THOMAS, Plaintiff - Appellant,
v.
BERRY PLASTICS CORPORATION, Defendant - Appellee

Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Kansas. (D.C. No. 2:12-CV-02565-KHV).

Page 511

Alan V. Johnson (Danielle N. Davey, with him on the briefs) Sloan, Eisenbarth, Glassman, McEntire & Jarboe, L.L.C., Topeka, Kansas, for Plaintiff-Appellant.

Josh C. Harrison (Elmer E. White, III, The Kullman Firm, Birmingham, Alabama, and John T. Bullock, Stevens & Brand, L.L.P., Lawrence, Kansas, with him on the brief) The Kullman Firm, Birmingham, Alabama, for Defendant-Appellee.

Before TYMKOVICH, EBEL, and GORSUCH, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

Page 512

EBEL, Circuit Judge.

Plaintiff-Appellant Karry L. Thomas--who is African American--worked for Defendant-Appellee Berry Plastics Corporation (" Berry" ) from 2003 to 2010. Following his termination, Thomas sued Berry, alleging that Berry terminated him in retaliation for opposing racial discrimination within the company. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Berry. Exercising our jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1291, we AFFIRM.

I. Facts

Taking the facts in the light most favorable to Thomas, see Ward v. Jewell, 772 F.3d 1199, 1202 (10th Cir. 2014), the record established the following:

From 2003 to 2010, Thomas was employed by Berry, which owns and operates over seventy manufacturing plants throughout North America. Thomas was initially hired as a Printing Operator in Berry's Kansas facility, but after a few years, he was promoted to Printing Technician. As a Printing Technician, Thomas was responsible for setting up the machines and ensuring that they ran properly.

Over the course of Thomas's seven-year employment, eight different Berry supervisors initiated at least thirteen disciplinary actions against him. These actions ranged in severity from verbal coaching and written warnings to suspensions and final warnings.

According to Thomas, the series of events leading up to his termination began in May 2009, when Jason Morton became Thomas's group leader. As group leader, Morton had limited disciplinary authority. Although Morton's limited authority prevented him from independently issuing high levels of discipline (e.g., suspensions, last chance agreements, final warnings, and terminations), he nonetheless played some role in most of the disciplinary actions leading up to Thomas's termination in September 2010.

The most relevant of these actions began in July 2010, when Morton, after conferring with ...


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