The opinion of the court was delivered by: THOMAS O'NEILL, Senior District Judge
Plaintiff, Robert C. Nicholson, filed a complaint against defendant
Bradley Graphic Solutions, Inc., seeking compensatory damages, punitive
damages and other relief arising from defendant's alleged violation of
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq.
Presently before me is defendant's motion for summary judgment and
plaintiff's response thereto. For the reasons stated below, I will grant
Plaintiff alleges that his termination of employment with defendant was
based on race discrimination. He also alleges that defendant's
explanation for his termination was a pretext for race discrimination.
Plaintiff was employed with defendant Bradley Graphic Solutions, Inc. as
a bindery operator from April, 2000, until his termination on July 12,
2002. Robert J. Bradley, president of defendant, signed plaintiff's
termination letter, which stated that plaintiff was being fired because
of the "repeated intimidation and harassment of [plaintiff's] co-workers
which is clearly a violation of the Employee Handbook and of the working
environment that [defendant] strives [for in the workplace]." Bradley's affidavit also indicated
that his decision to terminate plaintiff's employment was because of the
"numerous complaints and instances involving verbal intimidation and
harassment by Mr. Nicholson."
During his employment with defendant, plaintiff was involved in several
documented confrontations with his co-workers in which he allegedly
engaged in verbal abuse and physical intimidation. On September 12, 2000,
an incident investigation report was filed against plaintiff for
threatening to file a complaint with OSHA and sue defendant company.
Defendant alleges that plaintiff argued with his supervisor, Robert F.
Weikel, about his unsatisfactory pay raise and threatened to sue if he
fell because of papers being left on the floor from the previous work
shift. During many work assignments the floor would get messy from
cutting, boxing, and shrink wrapping certain jobs. On November 16, 2000,
defendant issued an employee warning notice to plaintiff for an incident
where he engaged in a loud argument with Weikel. The notice warned
plaintiff that another similar action would result in a three day
Plaintiff was involved in another altercation on March 15, 2001. An
incident report was filed and signed by two bindery supervisors, Dave
Smolenski and Weikel, stating that plaintiff and Raymont Dickson, an
African-American co-worker, were arguing with each other. The report
stated that the two men were having a heated discussion and decided to go
"outside" to settle their differences. Smolenski and Weikel intervened
and attempted to solve the argument between the two workers. During their
intervention, plaintiff complained to the supervisor that he could slip
and fall from pieces of paper left on the floor. Plaintiff's words and
actions in that instance were viewed by defendant as an attempt to
threaten and intimidate the supervisors.
On June 11, 2001, Dickson filed an incident investigation report
stating that plaintiff threatened to harm him if he did not keep the floor clean. Dickson also
alleged that he requested plaintiff to stop harassing and threatening him
on a daily basis. When Dickson started to go home that day, plaintiff
allegedly followed him. Smolenski and Weikel stopped both men and
inquired about their argument. Dickson alleged that plaintiff responded
to the supervisors' intervention by threatening to harm him.
On September 5, 2001, defendant issued another warning to plaintiff
because he engaged in a "loud shouting match" with the plant manager. The
warning mentioned that plaintiff was continuously "confrontational with
his supervisor," and the continuance of this problem would "result in
termination of employment." Plaintiff refused to accept and sign the
document when defendant presented it to him.
On November 13, 2001, defendant filed an incident report alleging that
plaintiff and a co-worker, Barbara Russell, had an argument that began
because plaintiff was playing his radio too loudly. An unsigned witness
report from McCrosson, a shipper for defendant, noted that plaintiff and
Russell were arguing and yelling that neither of them "owned the place."
According to the incident reports submitted by plaintiff and Russell, the
two parties had different interpretations of what actually occurred
during their argument. Russell's incident report stated that she
requested plaintiff to lower his radio volume and he responded to her
request by saying that she could not tell him what to do. Russell also
alleged that, in the later part of the day, plaintiff remarked that she
was a weak woman with an attitude. Russell said that this remark caused
her to have another argument with plaintiff. She alleged that plaintiff
came across the room, reached within three inches from her and began to
point his finger toward her as he screamed and threatened her. In
Russell's account of this argument, she mentioned that plaintiff's
threats caused her to be afraid for her safety at work.
In contrast, plaintiff said that he did have his radio volume on loud,
but that he turned it down once his supervisor asked him to do so. His
account of what happened in the later portion of that day was different
from Russell's. He stated that Russell overheard a conversation he was
having with his supervisor about a particular task. Plaintiff contended
that he and his supervisor were trying to fix a problem with packaging
boxes and he suggested to his supervisor that Russell fill the boxes and
he would close them. He stated that Russell entered this conversation and
argued that she was not a "weakling." Plaintiff contended that Russell's
remarks began another argument. This confrontation ended with Russell
reporting the incident to another supervisor.
On May 23, 2002, defendant conducted plaintiff's performance appraisal.
Plaintiff received high marks in the areas of quality, productivity, job
knowledge, reliability, and adherence to policy in this performance
appraisal. However, he received a low mark, 65 out of 100 points, on
interpersonal relationships, demonstrating that plaintiff needed
improvement in this area.
In July 2002, there were several arguments reported between plaintiff
and co-workers Steven Snyder and Michael Grimshaw. On July 1, 2002,
Snyder filed an incident report regarding two separate incidents where
plaintiff allegedly threatened him. One incident involved plaintiff
allegedly threatening Snyder if he failed to replace a trash can in the
work area. In another incident, plaintiff allegedly threatened Snyder
because he wanted Snyder to do a job assignment in a certain way. Snyder
alleges that other similar incidents where plaintiff would confront him
about "trivial issues" were reported to supervisors. Grimshaw filed an
incident report on July 3, 2002, about another confrontation with plaintiff.
He alleges that plaintiff started an argument over sharing work space.
Grimshaw alleges that plaintiff got close to his face and threatened him
using vulgar words. He reported this incident to a supervisor.
On July 12, 2002, plaintiff was terminated. After plaintiff received
his termination letter from defendant, he filed a complaint with the U.S.
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. On February 14, 2003, the EEOC
closed its file on plaintiff's charge against defendant because it was
unable to ...