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NICHOLSON v. BRADLEY GRAPHIC SOLUTIONS

April 22, 2004.

ROBERT C. NICHOLSON
v.
BRADLEY GRAPHIC SOLUTIONS, INC



The opinion of the court was delivered by: THOMAS O'NEILL, Senior District Judge

MEMORANDUM

I. INTRODUCTION

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 defendant's motion.

  II. BACKGROUND

  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 suspension.

  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 ...


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