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Magana v. Coleman World Group, LLC

United States District Court, W.D. Texas, El Paso Division

August 31, 2017

JORGE MAGANA, Plaintiff,
v.
COLEMAN WORLD GROUP, LLC et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          DAVID BRIONES, SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         On this day, the Court considered Defendants Coleman World Group, LLC, Coleman American Moving Services, Inc., and Coleman American Companies, Inc.'s (collectively, "Defendants") "Motion for Summary Judgment" ("Motion"), filed in the above-captioned case on February 6, 2017. Therein, Defendants ask the Court to grant summary judgment in their favor on all of Plaintiff Jorge Magana's ("Mr. Magana") claims. On February 26, 2017, Plaintiff untimely filed his "Response to Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment" ("Response"). On March 6, 2017, Defendants filed their Reply to Plaintiff s Response. On March 13, 2017, Plaintiff filed two motions-one asking for leave to untimely file his Response and another asking for an extension of time to file his Response-which the Court denied on March 31, 2017. On April 3, 2017, the Court struck Plaintiffs Response from the record. That same day, the Court issued a short order granting summary judgment in favor of Defendants on all of Mr. Magana's claims. The Court indicated that it would later issue a memorandum opinion explaining the ruling's basis. This is the corresponding memorandum opinion.

         BACKGROUND

         This is an employment discrimination, minimum wage, and retaliation case. Mr. Magana is a fifty-nine-year-old Hispanic, Latin-American, and Mexican-American man with brown skin. Pl's Second Am. Compl. ¶ 8. He claims that while he worked for Defendants, they discriminated against him based on his age (in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, 29 U.S.C. § 623 ("ADEA")) and national origin and skin color (in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2 ("Title VII") and the Texas Commission on Human Rights Act, Tex. Lab. Code § 21.051 ("TCHRA")) by paying him less than younger white men and promoting them without advertising the positions. PI.' s Second Am. Compl. ¶¶ 47--48, 51. He also claims that Defendants did not pay him the minimum wage required by the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. § 215 ("FLSA"). Pl's Second Am. Compl. ¶ 52. When he complained about his pay and discrimination, he claims that Defendants retaliated against him in violation of Title VII, the TCHRA, and the FLSA. Id. ¶¶ 49-50, 53.

         Mr. Magana worked-through a staffing agency-as a temporary worker for Defendants beginning in April 2014. Id. ¶ 14; Defs.' Mot. Summ. J. 4. Defendants are a group of companies, collectively referred to as "Coleman, " which provide moving and storage services. Defs.' Mot. Summ. J. 2. Employees at Coleman serve in a variety of capacities including in administrative, driving, and warehouse roles. Id. at 2-3. Of these, warehouse associates, helpers, and packers assume similar tasks that are assigned interchangeably. Id. at 2.

         At some point while Mr. Magana was a temporary worker, Defendants hired a white man named James Silva ("Mr. Silva"). Id. at 4; Pl's Second Am. Compl. ¶ 17. Mr. Magana testified in a deposition that Defendants asked him to train Mr. Silva and that Mr. Silva told him that he earned $ 10 per hour. Defs.' Mot. Summ. J., Ex. C at 36. However, Defendants' business records reflect that they paid Mr. Silva $9 per hour. Id., Ex. A-2. Mr. Magana complained to his supervisor that "the good ole' boy system was alive and well at Coleman." Pl's Second Am. Compl. ¶ 22.

         On August 14, 2014, Defendants hired Mr. Magana as a full-time employee. Defendants agreed to pay Mr. Magana $9 per hour for warehouse work; this would be his regular wage. Defs.' Mot. Summ J., Ex. A at ¶ 7, Ex. A-l, Ex. A-6. Four other employees in Mr. Magana's position were paid more than $9 per hour and all of them were Hispanic and over forty years old. Id., Ex. A at ¶ 7, Ex. A-2. For work outside the warehouse, Defendants paid all employees, including Mr. Magana, according to the "hundredweight system." Id., Ex. A at ¶¶ 9-13, Ex. A-1, Ex. A-6. The hundredweight system determined an aggregate pay for all the workers in a shift based on the weight of the items in a shipment and then distributed that aggregate amount in proportion to each worker's regular wage. Id., Ex. A at ¶¶ 9-11. Under this system, for example, a worker whose regular wage was $20 per hour would make twice the amount of the worker whose regular wage was $ 10 per hour. Id., Ex. A at ¶ 11.

         When Mr. Magana worked shifts under the hundredweight system, he could make more or less than $9 per hour depending on how much work he and his team collectively completed. For some weeks in which Mr. Magana worked non-warehouse shifts, the hundredweight system resulted in a rate less than $7.25 per hour for those shifts. See id., Ex. A-6 (documenting payments on October 6, 2014, December 8, 22, and 29, 2014, and January 20, 2015, that compensated Mr. Magana less than $7.25 per hour under the hundredweight system). However, Mr. Magana's pay records reflect additional shifts at the $9-per-hour rate during each of those weeks. Id. As a result, the rate for all the shifts in each week exceeded $7.25 per hour.

         Defendants' pay records for Mr. Magana show that during his tenure at Coleman his pay fluctuated, both in terms of his gross weekly pay and his wage calculated on a weekly basis. For example, his gross weekly pay averaged $450.94 per week in September, $311.07 per week in October, $237.14 per week in November, $432.06 per week in December, and $256.91 per week in January. Id., Ex. A-6. At the same time, his three lowest-wage weekly paychecks occurred on October 6, 2014 ($7.65/hour), December 29, 2014 ($7.25/hour), and January 20, 2015 ($7.25/hour). His three highest-wage weekly paychecks occurred on October 27, 2014 ($12.83/hour), November 24, 2014 ($15.01/hour), and January 12, 2015 ($12.06/hour). Id. Despite the frequent fluctuation, his average weekly wage was higher in September through November than it was in December or January. See Id. (averaging $9.80/hour in September, $10.29/hour in October, $11.43/hour in November, $8.91/hour in December, and $9.26/hour in January).

         Mr. Magana lived about twenty-five miles from the Coleman worksites. Id., Ex. C at 31. Defendants did not pay Mr. Magana for his travel between his home and his work. Id. Sometimes Mr. Magana drove to work and did not receive a work assignment. Id. On a few occasions, Mr. Magana spent five to ten minutes waiting to see if an assignment was available or more time waiting for someone to drive him home after finding out that there was no assignment. Id., Ex. C at 33-34. Defendants did not pay Mr. Magana for this wait time. Id.

         From August 2014 to January 2015, there were no advertised promotions at the company. Id., Ex. A at ¶ 14; Pl's Second Am. Compl. ¶ 16. Mr. Magana claims that Defendants promoted his white coworkers through an informal word-of-mouth system. Pl's Second Am. Compl. ¶ 16. In a deposition, Mr. Magana stated that he assumed a younger white man named Matthew Bowland ("Mr. Bowland") had been promoted because he had started telling the other employees what to do. Defs.' Mot. Summ J., Ex. C at 42. Defendants' business records reflect that Mr. Bowland held the same position as Mr. Magana and was not promoted. Id., Ex. A-2. Mr. Magana also claimed in his deposition that although management never advertised a promotion, he thought that management was going to put a younger white man named Kyle Musser ("Mr. Musser") "in charge." Id., Ex. C at 44. Defendants' business records reflect that Mr. Musser held the same position as Mr. Magana. Id., Ex. A-2.

         Mr. Magana claims that in November 2014 he complained that the company was not paying him for all of his work. Pl's Second Am. Compl. ¶¶ 31-32. He claims that he complained again in November or December 2014, when he walked in on his coworkers complaining to his supervisor about pay discrepancies and racial discrimination and joined the conversation. Id. at ¶¶ 30(A)-30(B). Finally, he claims that on or about January 21, 2015, he complained to his superior, Chris Regan ("Mr. Regan"), about discrimination and retaliation and told Mr. Regan that he was filing a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Texas Workforce Commission. PI.' s Second Am. Compl. ¶ 38; Defs.' Mot. Summ. J., Ex. C at 51. That same day, Mr. Magana resigned from his job. PI.' s Second Am. Compl. ¶ 40.

         STANDARD

         "The court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). "A party asserting that a fact cannot be or is genuinely disputed must support the assertion by ... citing to particular parts of materials in the record. . . ." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1). "[T]he plain language of Rule 56[] mandates the entry of summary judgment, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986).

         "Initially, the moving party bears the burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact." Cannata v. Catholic Diocese of Austin, 700 F.3d 169, 172 (5th Cir. 2012) (citing Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323). Where, as here, the nonmoving party will bear the burden of proof at trial, the moving party may satisfy its summary judgment burden by "'showing'-that is, pointing out to the district court-that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case." Celotex, 477 U.S. at 325. While the moving party "must demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact, it does not need to negate the elements of the nonmovant's case." Duffie v. United States, 600 F.3d 362, 371 (5th Cir. 2010).

         A fact is "material" only if it would permit "a reasonable jury . . . [to] return a verdict for the nonmoving party" and "might affect the outcome of the suit." Douglass v. United Servs. Auto. Ass 'n, 65 F.3d 452, 458-59 (5th Cir. 1995), aff'd en banc, 79 F.3d 1415 (5th Cir. 1996) (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 250 (1986)). "If the moving party fails to meet its initial burden, the motion for summary judgment must be denied, regardless of the nonmovant's response." Duffie, 600 F.3d at 371 (internal quotation marks omitted). "When the moving party has met its Rule 56[] burden, the nonmoving party cannot survive a summary judgment motion by resting on the mere allegations of its pleadings." Id. The nonmovant "must identify specific evidence in the record and articulate [how] that evidence supports that party's claim." Id. "This burden is not satisfied with 'some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts, ' by 'conclusory allegations, ' by 'unsubstantiated assertions, ' or by 'only a "scintilla" of evidence.'" Id. (quoting Little v. Liquid Air Corp., 37 F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th Cir. 1994) (en banc)). "In deciding a summary judgment motion, the court draws all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party." Id. (citing Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. at 255).

         ANALYSIS

         1. Mr. Magana's Discrimination Claims

Defendants argue that the Court should grant summary judgment in their favor on all of Mr. Magana's discrimination claims. Defs.' Mot. Summ. J. 5. Mr. Magana claims that Defendants discriminated against him based on his national origin and skin color when they allegedly compensated him less than a white employee and based on his national origin and skin color and his age when they failed to promote him.[1] Pl. 's Second Am. Compl. ¶¶ 47-48, 51. Defendants argue that Mr. Magana cannot make a prima facie case of discrimination because he cannot identify specific instances in which someone outside his class was paid more or promoted. Defs. Mot. Summ. J. 7-9.

         When a plaintiff brings a Title VII or ADEA discrimination claim without direct evidence of discrimination, a court must apply the "McDonnell Douglas burden-shifting framework." Jenkins v. City of San Antonio Fire Dep %784 F.3d 263, 267 (5th Cir. 2015) (citing McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green,411 U.S. 792, 793 (1913)); Bauer v. Albemarle Corp., 169 F.3d 962, 966 (5th Cir. 1999) ("The same evidentiary procedure for allocating burdens of production and ...


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