United States District Court, W.D. Texas, El Paso Division
C. GUADERRAMA UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
before the Court is Defendants University of Texas at El Paso
("UTEP") and Dr. Chunqiang Li's ("Dr.
Li") "Motion for Summary Judgment"
("Motion") (ECF No. 31) filed on April 2, 2018.
Therein, Defendants request that the Court grant summary
judgment in their favor on each of Plaintiff Yong Dong
Wang's ("Dr. Wang") claims and dismiss the case
with prejudice. Mot. at 22. For the reasons that follow, the
Court GRANTS Defendants' Motion.
Wang is a Chinese national who was employed by UTEP as a
postdoctoral research scientist in El Paso, Texas. Am. Compl.
at 1, ECF No. 25. UTEP is a state university located in El
Paso, Texas. Id. Dr. Li is an Associate Professor of
Physics at UTEP. Mot, Ex. A ¶ 2. After receiving grants
in 2014, UTEP and Dr. Li sought to hire a postdoctoral
research scientist. Id. ¶ 4. Dr. Wang applied
for the position, and after evaluating his credentials, Dr.
Li offered him the job. Id. Dr. Wang began his
postdoctoral appointment at UTEP in March 2015, and Dr. Li,
satisfied with his performance, renewed his term for another
year in August 2015. Id. ¶¶ 5-6.
during the spring of 2016, Dr. Li and Dr. Wang's working
relationship began to sour. Id. Dr. Li states that
Dr. Wang's performance declined significantly and that he
was unable to present his research findings or answer
questions during the weekly team meetings. Id.
Further, in April 2016, according to Dr. Li and Aurelio Paez,
a Ph.D. student at UTEP, Dr. Wang acted aggressively,
unprofessionally, and disrespectfully toward Dr. Li during a
weekly team meeting. Id. ¶ 11; Mot., Ex. C
¶ 4. Dr. Li affirms that Dr. Wang's angry and
aggressive demeanor continued during a meeting in his office
after the weekly team meeting. Mot., Ex. A ¶ 11.
to his term expiring in August 2016, Dr. Wang approached Dr.
Li about the renewal of his postdoctoral appointment.
Id. ¶ 12. According to Dr. Li, he told Dr. Wang
that he was only going to renew his term for three months,
through the end of November 2016, to allow Dr. Wang to finish
his experiment because Dr. Wang's performance was
severely lacking. Id. Nevertheless, Dr. Li states
that following more angry and aggressive behavior at the
November 4 team meeting, he barred Dr. Wang from working in
the lab. Id. ¶¶ 13-14.
Dr. Wang's version of events differs greatly from Dr.
Li's. Dr. Wang alleges that Dr. Li promised to help him
get his HI B Visa and represented the term of appointment as
being for three years at the time of hiring, without
explaining that the term was renewable at the discretion of
UTEP each year. Am. Compl. at 2. Further, Dr. Wang asserts
that Dr. Li managed him differently after he notified Dr. Li
that he was being baptized, including trying to shorten the
term of his employment and treating him differently at the
team meetings. Id. at 2-3. For example, Dr. Wang
contends that Dr. Li berated him at the November 4 team
meeting for his demeanor not being submissive enough and his
performance. Id. at 3. Finally, Dr. Wang alleges
that Dr. Li fired him after the November 4 team meeting.
November 7, Dr. Wang stopped reporting to work. Mot., Ex. B
¶ 3. On November 10, Dr. Wang indicated to UTEP's
Office of Human Resources that he sought to file a complaint
against Dr. Li and that his relationship with Dr. Li had
changed after an incident at their church. Id.
Subsequently, Dr. Wang submitted his formal resignation to
UTEP on November 17 via email,  but UTEP continued to pay him
through the end of his appointment term later that month.
about February 17, 2017, Dr. Wang filed a complaint with the
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC")
alleging discrimination on the basis of his national origin
and religious beliefs. Am. Compl. at 3-4. On March 20, the
EEOC issued Dr. Wang a right-to-sue letter because it was
unable to resolve the dispute. Id. at 4. Dr. Wang
then filed a complaint in the 448th District Court of El Paso
County, Texas, alleging claims for discrimination under Title
VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e
et seq., and the Texas Commission on Human Rights
Act (the "TCHRA"), codified in Chapter 21 of the
Texas Labor Code; breach of contract; and defamation. Not.
Removal, Attach. 3 at 5-6, ECF No. 1. On July 7, Defendants
removed the cause to this Court on the basis of
federal-question jurisdiction. Not. Removal at 1-2.
judgment is appropriate when "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 genuine dispute of fact exists
when evidence is sufficient for a reasonable jury to return a
verdict for the non-moving party, and a fact is material if
it 'might affect the outcome of the suit.'"
Willis v. Cleco Corp., 749 F.3d 314, 317 (5th Cir.
2014) (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc.,
477U.S. 242, 248 (1986))). In deciding whether a genuine
dispute as to any material fact exists, a trial court
considers all of the evidence in the record and "draw[s]
all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving
party" but "refrain[s] from making credibility
determinations or weighing the evidence." Turner v.
Baylor Richardson Med. Ctr., 476 F.3d 337, 343 (5th Cir.
2007) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted).
Instead, the court "only 'give[s] credence to the
evidence favoring the nonmovant [and] that evidence
supporting the moving party that is uncontradicted and
unimpeached, at least to the extent that that evidence comes
from disinterested witnesses.'" Orr v.
Copeland, 844 F.3d 484, 490 (5th Cir. 2016) (second
alteration in original) (quoting Reeves v. Sanderson
Plumbing Prods., Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 150-51 (2000)).
the party moving for summary judgment "bears the initial
responsibility of informing the district court of the basis
for its motion, and identifying those portions of [the
record] which it believes demonstrate the absence of a
genuine issue of material fact." E.E.O.C. v. LHC
Grp., Inc., 773 F.3d 688, 694 (5th Cir. 2014)
(alterations in original) (quotation marks and citation
omitted). When the nonmoving party will bear the burden of
proof at trial, the moving party may satisfy this
responsibility by "point[ing] out the absence of
evidence supporting the nonmoving party's case."
Latimer v. Smithkline & French Labs., 919 F.2d
301, 303 (5th Cir. 1990); see also Boudreaux v. Swift
Transp. Co., 402 F.3d 536, 544-45 (5th Cir. 2005).
moving party succeeds, "the onus shifts to the nonmoving
party to go beyond the pleadings and by her own affidavits,
or by the depositions, answers to interrogatories, and
admissions on file, designate specific facts showing that
there is a genuine issue for trial." LHC Grp.,
173 F.3d at 694 (internal quotation marks and citation
omitted). However, the nonmoving party "cannot defeat
summary judgment with conclusory allegations, unsubstantiated
assertions, or only a scintilla of evidence." Davis
v. Fort Bend Cty., 765 F.3d 480, 497 n.20 (5th Cir.
2014) (quotation marks and citation omitted).
instant case, Dr. Wang has asserted claims for discrimination
under Title VII and the TCHRA, breach of contract, and
defamation. Am. Compl. at 4-5. Defendants ask the Court to
grant summary judgment in their favor on each of Dr.
Wang's claims and dismiss the case with prejudice. Mot.
at 22. As an initial matter, Defendants have notified the
Court that Dr. Wang did not respond to their requests for
admissions. Id. at 7. Thus, Defendants argue that
the requests should be deemed admitted. Id. Dr. Wang
concedes that he did not respond to the requests for
admissions, but cites his lack of understanding of the law
and difficulties with the English language as why his failure
should not be held against him. Resp. at 2, ECF No. 32. In
accordance with Fifth Circuit precedent, the Court deems the
requests admitted. See Hulsey v. State of Tex., 929