United States District Court, S.D. Texas, Houston Division
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
F. ATLAS SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
employment discrimination case is before the Court on the
Motion for Summary Judgment (“Motion”) [Doc. # 9]
filed by Defendant Barrett Steel Energy Products, Inc.
(“Barrett Steel”), seeking summary judgment based
on a prior settlement of all claims in this lawsuit.
Plaintiff Anthony Simon filed a Response [Doc. # 11], and
Defendant filed a Reply [Doc. # 12]. Having reviewed the full
record and the applicable legal authorities, both governing
and persuasive, the Court grants
Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment.
January 2014, Plaintiff began working for Defendant in its
warehouse. In the fall of 2015, Plaintiff filed a Charge of
Discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity
Commission (“EEOC”), alleging discrimination
based on his African-American race. In connection with the
EEOC proceeding, the parties engaged in mediation on October
27, 2015. During a reduction in force involving multiple
employees, Plaintiff's employment with Barrett Steel
terminated on November 23, 2015. On April 19, 2016, Plaintiff
amended his EEOC Charge of Discrimination to include a
retaliation claim. Plaintiff alleged that his employment was
terminated because he refused to settle his claims against
Barrett Steel during the October 2015 mediation.
December 2015, Plaintiff's Attorney Darian Howard and
counsel for Barrett Steel exchanged emails regarding a
settlement agreement based on a monetary payment to Plaintiff
in exchange for Plaintiff's release of all claims against
Barrett Steel. Plaintiff subsequently refused to sign the
release and obtained new counsel. Plaintiff's new
attorney sent Defendant's counsel a demand letter dated
January 14, 2016. See January 14, 2016 Demand
Letter, Exh. I to Motion. Defense counsel responded that
Plaintiff, while represented by Attorney Howard, accepted
Barrett Steel's settlement offer and the matter was
concluded. See January 14, 2016 Email, Exh. I to
represented by his new attorney, filed this lawsuit on
December 20, 2017. He asserts claims of race discrimination
under Title VII, disability discrimination under the
Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), and
retaliation under Title VII. Plaintiff also asserts
corresponding claims under Texas state law. Defendant filed
the pending Motion for Summary Judgment, asserting with
supporting evidence that Plaintiff settled his claims in
December 2015. The Motion has been fully briefed and is now
ripe for decision.
SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD
of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure mandates the entry of
summary judgment against a party who fails to make a
sufficient showing of the existence of an element essential
to the party's case, and on which that party will bear
the burden at trial. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477
U.S. 317, 322 (1986); Little v. Liquid Air Corp., 37
F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th Cir. 1994) (en banc); see
also Curtis v. Anthony, 710 F.3d 587, 594 (5th Cir.
2013). Summary judgment “should be rendered if the
pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file,
and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to
any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment
as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); see
Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322-23; Curtis, 710 F.3d
deciding whether a genuine and material fact issue has been
created, the court reviews the facts and inferences to be
drawn from them in the light most favorable to the nonmoving
party. Reaves Brokerage Co. v. Sunbelt Fruit &
Vegetable Co., 336 F.3d 410, 412 (5th Cir. 2003). A
genuine issue of material fact exists when the evidence is
such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the
non-movant. Tamez v. Manthey, 589 F.3d 764, 769 (5th
Cir. 2009) (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc.,
477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)). The non-movant's burden is not
met by mere reliance on the allegations or denials in the
non-movant's pleadings. S e e Diamond Offshore Co. v.
A&B Builders, Inc., 302 F.3d 531, 545 n.13 (5th Cir.
2002); Chambers v. Sears, Roebuck and Co., 428
Fed.Appx. 400, 407 (5th Cir. June 15, 2011). Likewise,
“conclusory allegations” or
“unsubstantiated assertions” do not meet the
non-movant's burden. Delta & Pine Land Co. v.
Nationwide Agribusiness Ins. Co., 530 F.3d 395, 399 (5th
Cir. 2008). Instead, the nonmoving party must present
specific facts which show “the existence of a genuine
issue concerning every essential component of its
case.” Firman v. Life Ins. Co. of N. Am., 684
F.3d 533, 538 (5th Cir. 2012) (citation and internal
quotation marks omitted). In the absence of any proof, the
court will not assume that the non-movant could or would
prove the necessary facts. Little, 37 F.3d at 1075
(citing Lujan v. Nat'l Wildlife Fed'n, 497
U.S. 871, 888 (1990)).
SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT ANALYSIS
regarding the validity or enforceability of agreements to
settle federal claims are decided based on federal law.
See Quesada v. Napolitano, 701 F.3d 1080, 1083 (5th
Cir. 2012) (Title VII claims); Fulgence v. J. Ray
McDermott & Co., 662 F.2d 1207, 1209 (5th Cir.
1981); Mid-S Towing Co. v. Har-Win, Inc., 733 F.2d
386, 389 (5th Cir. 1984); Lozano v. Metro. Transit Auth.
of Harris Cty., 2016 WL 3906295, *2 (S.D. Tex. July 19,
2016) (Miller, J.). Under federal law, settlement agreements
are contracts. See Guidry v. Halliburton Geophysical
Servs., Inc., 976 F.2d 938, 940 (5th Cir. 1992);
Lozano, 2016 WL 3906295 at *2. A contract requires
an offer, acceptance, and a meeting of the minds on all
essential terms. Ibe v. Jones, 836 F.3d 516, 524
(5th Cir. 2016); Lozano, 2016 WL 3906295 at *3.
of an offer occurs when there is “manifestation of
assent that occurs in any reasonable manner.” See
Chen v. Highland Capital Mgmt., L.P., 2012 WL 5935602,
*2 (N.D. Tex. Nov. 27, 2012). A meeting of the minds on all
essential terms of a settlement agreement is generally
present “where the parties have agreed upon the
monetary amount of the settlement payment and the fact that
plaintiffs will release specific claims.” See In re
Deepwater Horizon, 786 F.3d 344, 357 n.26 (5th Cir.
2015); Neurovision Med. Prods., Inc. v. Medtronic Pub.
Ltd. Co., 2017 WL 1247139, *3 (E.D. Tex. Apr. 5, 2017).
Under federal law, a settlement agreement need not be reduced
to writing to be enforceable. See E.E.O.C. v. Phillip
Servs. Corp., 635 F.3d 164, 167 (5th Cir. 2011).
case, the uncontroverted evidence shows that Barrett Steel
offered Plaintiff - and other employees subject to the
November 2015 reduction-in-force - a severance payment.
Barrett Steel offered Plaintiff, who then was represented by
attorney Darian Howard, a different severance agreement that
would release all claims against Barrett Steel except
Plaintiff's race discrimination claim that was pending
before the EEOC. Plaintiff did not accept the revised
severance agreement by the deadline. See December
2015 Email String, Exh. A to Motion.
Steel then offered Plaintiff a settlement that would involve
a payment more than double the previously-offered amount in
exchange for a full release of all claims.
See Letter dated December 15, 2015, Exh. B to
Motion. Attorney Howard responded by email on December 18,
2015, at 5:50 p.m., that “Mr. Simon wants to sign at
[redacted] and will release all claims.” See
Howard Email, Exh. C to Motion. Nine minutes later, Attorney