defendant to articulate some legitimate, nondiscriminatory rationale for discharging the plaintiff. Weldon, 896 F.2d at 797; Butler, 765 F. Supp. at 246. Once the defendant makes this showing, the burden shifts back to the plaintiff to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the defendant's stated reason is a pretext for discrimination. Blanding, 811 F. Supp. at 1093-94. The plaintiff can either prove this directly, by making a showing that racial considerations motivated the defendant's actions, or indirectly, by showing that the rationale provided by the defendant is not credible. Weldon, 896 F.2d at 797.
Turning to the instant matter, we first conclude that Mr. Smith has successfully set forth a prima facie case. In making this conclusion, we note that Mr. Smith's burden in this regard "is not onerous." Id. It is enough if the evidence raises the inference of discrimination. Thus, we conclude first that Mr. Smith, as an African-American man, is a member of a protected class. Further, we conclude that Mr. Smith was qualified for the job from which he was discharged. The evidence shows that Mr. Smith had worked in his position for over 15 years, and that he consistently received performance evaluations reflecting his ability to reach at least the minimum level of proficiency required to accomplish his assigned tasks. Finally, the evidence shows that Mr. Smith was terminated while white employees in his position were retained.
Chevron contends that Mr. Smith was terminated as a result of his continued breaches of company policy, the culmination of which was the spill on the morning of November 15, 1991. Since this explanation is legitimate and nondiscriminatory, the burden rests with Mr. Smith to show that the rationale provided is pretextual. Mr. Smith has presented no evidence in direct support of his theory that he was terminated on racial grounds. Further, Mr. Smith does not contest the basic facts surrounding the incidents for which he was disciplined between 1986 and 1991. Instead, Mr. Smith attempts to meet his burden by arguing that white employees involved in the incidents for which Mr. Smith was disciplined received more lenient treatment than did Mr. Smith.
The plaintiff points to the fifth incident, in which he was assigned the task of lining up piping to facilitate the transfer of heavy naphtha to a barge. Mr. Smith blames the mishap on Mr. Knisely, who apparently left open a valve on a previous shift, one that is normally kept shut. Mr. Smith notes that while he received a five day suspension, Mr. Knisely received no discipline. The evidence revealed, however, that Mr. Smith alone was charged with ensuring that the line-up had been performed properly so that the transfer would occur without contamination of the heavy naphtha by another product. Proper alignment was important because, as Mr. Smith conceded, contamination of heavy naphtha by another product could render it useless. The mishap occurred on Mr. Smith's watch, while Mr. Knisely was off duty. The evidence further showed that Mr. Smith had been disciplined four times, with progressive severity, in the past. Under these circumstances, we conclude that Mr. Smith received the more severe treatment as a result of his exclusive responsibility to accomplish the task properly, his inattention to his duty, and his extensive disciplinary record, and not because Chevron unlawfully singled out a protected minority for disparate treatment.
Mr. Smith further notes that Mr. Knisely received only a written warning for his role in the November 15, 1991 spill, the incident directly proceeding Mr. Smith's discharge. The evidence demonstrates, however, that the spill occurred on Mr. Smith's watch, hours after Mr. Knisely had been relieved. And while Mr. Knisely may have been delinquent in the performance of his duties, there was little risk of a spill occurring on his watch. Further, and more telling, the evidence shows that Mr. Smith was discharged only after numerous breaches of company policy, that he was disciplined with increasing severity after each incident, and that white employees who were afforded more lenient treatment did not have a disciplinary history as rich as Mr. Smith's.
Mr. Smith makes similar arguments with respect to the other incidents, pointing to white employees who were involved in the incidents and treated more favorably. In each case, however, the evidence demonstrates that Mr. Smith's involvement and responsibilities were more closely associated with the incidents than were the white employees. Further, the evidence shows that Mr. Smith's disciplinary history was more extensive than the history of the various white employees Mr. Smith selects for comparison. That Mr. Smith received a more severe punishment is quite reasonable, and can hardly be interpreted as a pretext for discrimination. In other words, Mr. Smith failed to point to any employee, white or black, with a similar disciplinary history who was afforded more lenient treatment. Mr. Smith was disciplined fairly and in accordance with the company's procedures. As a result, we conclude that Mr. Smith has failed to prove that he was terminated on account of his race.
Accordingly, we make the following
CONCLUSIONS OF LAW
1. The Court has jurisdiction over this matter by virtue of 28 U.S.C. § 1331, 42 U.S.C. § 1981, and 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a).
2. Plaintiff has failed to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that he was terminated as a result of racial discrimination.
3. Judgement is entered in favor of Defendant on all counts of Plaintiff's Complaint.
An appropriate order follows.
AND NOW, this 16th day of February, 1995, following a non-jury trial in this matter and careful consideration of the parties' proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law, and for the reasons set for in the preceding Decision, it is hereby ORDERED that VERDICT and JUDGMENT are entered in favor of Defendant in no amount on all counts of Plaintiff's Complaint.
BY THE COURT:
J. Curtis Joyner, J.
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