mechanic consistently assigned the "dirtiest" jobs to members of minority groups. Rodriguez Dec. P 10. Evidently this problem became so pronounced that, on separate occasions, plaintiff and three other minority workers complained to Williams. Id. P 11; Johnson Dec. P 8; Williams Dep. 32:24-33:5, 35:24-36:22, 39:1-40:14, 41:7-42:6.
Plaintiff and these other employees also complained separately to Miller, Williams' supervisor. Miller Dep. 48:5-21. According to Miller's notes of the meeting with plaintiff, plaintiff's complaints were too vague to warrant an investigation, and Miller asked plaintiff to come back later with more specific complaints. Pl.'s Ex. 1 to Miller Dep. Miller testified that plaintiff never returned. Miller Dep. 110:25-111:4, 112:7-14. The record does not indicate whether plaintiff in fact did come back to Miller with more specific complaints.
Plaintiff's discussion with Miller also focused on the second source of the Brake Shop's alleged racist atmosphere: racist jokes and comments made by the lead mechanic. Rodriguez Dec. PP 11, 12. For example, plaintiff alleges that Beaman, the lead mechanic, called plaintiff his "Puerto Rican houseboy," and told plaintiff that if plaintiff were to lose his job he could "go back to Texas and sell tacos." Id. P 6. In addition, plaintiff alleges that Beaman posted in the work area an offensive poster depicting Mexicans as shark bait. Id. P 9. It is unclear, however, whether plaintiff's statements to Miller during their discussion went into such detail, since Miller found most of plaintiff's allegations too vague to justify an investigation. Pl.'s Ex. 1 to Miller Dep. Moreover, Miller's investigation of the poster incident did not reveal the culprit, and Beaman's role in the incident remains speculative. Miller Dep. 74:11-76:8.
Plaintiff also targets Williams in his complaints of racial harassment. Plaintiff claims that Williams selectively reprimanded plaintiff for talking too much. Rodriguez Dep. 109:1-19. Plaintiff also claims that when he complained about Beaman's alleged racist conduct to Williams, Williams simply brushed off plaintiff's concerns. Id. 104:20-25.
Except for Williams' lack of concern about plaintiff's allegations of racial hostilities in the Brake Shop, plaintiff's evidence regarding management's condoning of racist conduct may not meet the "substantial factual evidence" test enunciated in Steckl. There is no evidence showing that plaintiff returned to Miller with more specific allegations as Miller requested. In addition, it is unclear whether plaintiff described the nature of his complaints made to Miller in sufficient detail to indicate the need for further investigation. Such evidence is critical for plaintiff's successful opposition to defendant's summary judgment motion.
Plaintiff asserted at oral argument that defendant's employees conducted the count card audit prior to plaintiff's termination in retaliation for his complaint to Miller about the Brake Shop's racially hostile environment. The greatest weakness of this argument, however, lies in the discrepancy regarding the date that plaintiff first made his complaint. Plaintiff alleges that he complained to Miller about racial harassment in the Brake Shop sometime in the summer of 1990. Rodriguez Dep. 72:16-23; see Rodriguez Dec. P 12. Yet, Miller claims that Rodriguez first came to him on September 4, 1990. Pl.'s Ex. 1 to Miller Dep.; see Miller Dep. at 79:21-26. Plaintiff's output was first audited on August 30, 1990, Williams Dec. P 9. This time frame, if accurate, precludes a finding of retaliation based on plaintiff's complaints.
Moreover, in his lengthy deposition, plaintiff himself never characterized the count card audit as motivated by management's retaliation for plaintiff's complaints about racial harassment in the Brake Shop. See Rodriguez Dep. 78:9-12, 85:14-21, 86:15-87:3; Miller Dep. 100:25-101:3. In fact, plaintiff has not attributed his termination to retaliation, but rather to the racially discriminatory atmosphere. Rodriguez Dep. 110:13-25, 112:22-113:4. Plaintiff has not yet come forward with substantial evidence demonstrating a cause-and-effect relationship between his complaint to Miller and his termination.
C. Disparate Treatment Relating to Unit Count Practices
Plaintiff's strongest case for discriminatory treatment lies in his allegations that other employees regularly include as complete those units on which they have done only a certain amount of work. However, he offers little evidence to support these allegations. For example, plaintiff claims that several workers have followed this counting practice, Rodriguez Dep. 208:22-209:16, 212:9-213:6; yet, nowhere in the record, is there evidence that the Brake Shop supervisors knew that these individuals were including uncompleted units in their count cards. Plaintiff also claims that management investigated one employee for falsification of company records but only gave that employee a reprimand, but plaintiff does not have firsthand knowledge of this incident. Rodriguez Dep. 211:16-212:8.
Plaintiff's strongest allegation is that in addition to plaintiff's faulty count cards, management discovered a discrepancy in another employee's count card during the audits, but that the employee, Laidler, was able to "explain" the discrepancy and was not terminated. Miller Dep. 88:3-7, 90:6-20; Williams Dep. 87:23-88:22, 104:21-106:7. If Laidler were non-Hispanic, this incident would create a strong case of disparate treatment. Nowhere in the record, however, is there any reference to Laidler's race or national origin.
Given the weaknesses cited above, and the difficulty inherent in proving an employer's discriminatory intent, the court is reluctant to rule on defendant's summary judgment motion without giving plaintiff the opportunity to strengthen his case. Accordingly, the court continues defendant's motion as to defendant's discriminatory conduct pending plaintiff's submission of additional evidence and defendant's response to plaintiff's submission.
Accordingly, the court DENIES defendant's summary judgment motion as to RLA preemption and continues defendant's motion pending the parties' submission of additional evidence regarding defendant's discriminatory conduct.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
Dated: JUL 14 1992
MARILYN HALL PATEL
United States District Judge