United States District Court, W.D. Texas, Austin Division
LEO E. MURILLO, Plaintiff,
TRAVIS COUNTY, TEXAS, Defendant.
SPARKS, SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
REMEMBERED on this day the Court reviewed the file in the
above-styled cause, and specifically, Defendant Travis
County, Texas's Motion for Summary Judgment [#16],
Plaintiff Leo Murillo's Response [#20] in opposition, and
Travis County's Reply [#22] in support. Having reviewed
the documents, the relevant law, and the case file as a
whole, the Court now enters the following opinion and order.
January 2015, Travis County hired Murillo as a mailroom
assistant. Resp. Mot. Dismiss [#20-1] Attach. 1 at 5 (Murillo
Dep.). Murillo found the mailroom to be a jarring
place to work, with "loud and intense verbal arguments,
insults, and profanity." Resp. Mot. Dismiss [#20] at 7;
id. [#20-1] Attach. 1 at 65, 69-70 (Investigation
Report). More troublingly, Murillo's supervisor, Gary
Russell, and coworker, Kim Moore, regularly used racial slurs
and offensive language in the mailroom. Id. Russell
and Moore referred to Murillo as a "meskin" many
times "[b]ehind Murillo's back, " and on at
least four separate occasions, Russell told Murillo he was a
"meskin" and referenced Murillo's
"meskin" family. Resp. Mot. Dismiss [#20] at 5, 18;
id. [#20- 2] Attach. 2 at 10 (Frederick Aff.);
id. [#20-1] Attach. 1 at 54-58 (Murillo Aff.);
Murillo Dep. at 11. Additionally, Russell told Murillo the
mailroom was "English only" and that he could not
speak Spanish with a Hispanic summer intern. Murillo Aff.
Murillo also repeatedly witnessed Russell and Moore using
racial slurs to refer to an African American coworker, Leroy
Frederick. Investigation Report; Murillo Aff.
when Murillo had a disagreement with Russell at work, Murillo
told Russell "I'm not afraid of you." Murillo
Aff; Murillo Dep. at 11-12. In response, Russell pulled out a
large knife and showed it to Murillo. Id. On another
occasion, Murillo heard Russell tell Frederick that Russell
was not afraid of Frederick because "I've got a
knife." Murillo Dep. at 11-12. Murillo interpreted these
comments as implied threats of violence. Murillo Aff.
complained to Travis County on multiple occasions about
Russell and Moore's conduct in the mailroom. Murillo
initially followed Travis County's established complaint
procedure and contacted Travis County Human Resources (HR)
Representative Tony Robertson and HR Manager Tom Ashburn, on
at least two occasions in the spring and summer of 2015, to
complain about the racial slurs used in the mailroom as well
as Russell's brandishing of a knife. Murillo Dep. at 12,
33-34. At some point, Frederick also reached out to Robertson
and Ashburn to complain about the use of racist language in
the mailroom. Frederick Aff. No. action was taken with
respect to these complaints. Murillo Aff.
on August 18 or 19, 2015, Murillo delivered an anonymous
letter detailing his complaints about the mailroom
environment to various Travis County Commissioners, Director
Steven Broberg, and Robertson. Resp. Mot. Dismiss [#20-2]
Attach. 2 at 12-13 (August 2015 Letter); Investigation Report
at 63. Travis County quickly initiated an investigation into
the allegations described in Murillo's letter.
Investigation Report at 63. On September 9, 2019, after the
investigation had already begun, Murillo delivered a second
letter to the same officials and employees which identified
Murillo as the author of the first, anonymous letter.
Id. The investigation determined Murillo's
allegations of racial slurs, derogatory language, and
profanity in the workplace were accurate and concluded the
mailroom had become a hostile work environment as defined by
the EEOC. Id. at 69-70.
September 10, 2015, the mailroom staff was directed to attend
mediation to address the concerns raised in Murillo's
letter. Resp. Mot. Summ. J. [#20-2] Attach. 2 at 46-47
(Ashburn Aff). On September 30, 2015, Travis County delivered
a memo to Murillo informing him the County had completed its
investigation and "appropriate corrective action will be
taken." Id. [#20-2] Attach. 2 at 50 (Concluding
Memo). This corrective action included verbally counselling
Russell regarding his behavior in the workplace and holding
two trainings in October 2015 on discrimination, harassment,
and workplace civility. Ashburn Aff.
Russell discovered Murillo was responsible for lodging the
complaints with Travis County. Resp. Mot. Summ. J. [#20-2]
Attach. 2 at 52. On October 2, 2015, Russell confronted
Murillo about the complaints and asked why Murillo had
"stab [bed] [him] in the back." Id. When
Murillo explained he was offended by Russell's frequent
use of racial slurs, Russell laughed and told Murillo
"this is far from over." Id.
the investigation and remediation concluded, Russell began to
contact people to whom Murillo delivered mail and asked them
to inform him if Murillo made a mistake. Murillo Aff.
Additionally, Russell and Moore stopped speaking to Murillo
except when necessary, and Ashburn no longer went out of his
way to have conversations with Murillo. Murillo Aff; Murillo
Dep. at 29. Ultimately, Murillo reported Russell's
behavior to Robertson and Broberg. Murillo Aff. Travis County
took no action in response to this report from Murillo, and
in February 2016, Murillo submitted a letter of resignation.
Id. Upon receiving the news Murillo would be
retiring, Ashburn emailed Broberg and remarked, "This is
good news for everyone." Resp. Mot. Summ. J. [#20-2]
Attach. 2 at 57.
February 15, 2017, Murillo filed this Title VII lawsuit
alleging Travis County discriminated against him on the basis
of his national origin and then retaliated against him for
complaining. Compl. [#1] at 6. Travis County now moves for
summary judgment. Mot. Summ. J. [#16]. This pending motion is
ripe for review.
judgment shall be rendered when the pleadings, the discovery
and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show
that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and
that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of
law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett,477 U.S. 317, 323-25 (1986); Washburn v. Harvey, 504
F.3d 505, 508 (5th Cir. 2007). A dispute regarding a material
fact is "genuine" if the evidence is such that a
reasonable jury could return a verdict in favor of the
nonmoving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc.,477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). When ruling on a motion for summary
judgment, the court is required to view all inferences drawn
from the factual record in the light most favorable to the
nonmoving party. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith
Radio,475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986); Washburn, 504
F.3d at 508. Further, a court "may not make ...