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Kallabat v. Michigan Bell Telephone Co.

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

June 18, 2015

BASIL KALLABAT Plaintiff,
v.
MICHIGAN BELL TELEPHONE COMPANY, a Domestic Corporation, Defendant.

ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT [#21]

DENISE PAGE HOOD, District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

This matter comes before the Court pursuant to Defendant Michigan Bell Telephone Company's Motion for Summary Judgment [Docket No. 21, filed February 28, 2014]. Plaintiff filed a Response to the Motion for Summary Judgment [Docket No. 24, filed April 7, 2014]. Defendant filed a Reply to the Response [Docket No. 27, filed April 21, 2014]. For the reasons stated below, Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment is DENIED.

II. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Basil Kallabat is Iraqi, has dark skin, and was perceived as being Muslim (Amended Complaint, ¶14). Defendant Michigan Bell Telephone Company is a domestic for-profit corporation and does business in the State of Michigan (Am. Compl., ¶3). Plaintiff began working at Defendant Michigan Bell in October, 2000, as a service technician (Am. Compl., ¶12). Plaintiff became a Customer Service Specialist (CSS) beginning in 2004 (Def.'s Br. in Supp. of Mot. for Summ. J., 2). Plaintiff alleges that during his employment, he experienced disparate treatment and/or a hostile work environment that included, among other things, unjustified discipline, vandalism of his property, and harassment (Am. Compl., ¶13).

Plaintiff grieved the disciplinary action against him through the process set forth in the Collective Bargaining Agreement between Plaintiff's Union and Defendant. The grievances were denied (Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J., ¶4). Plaintiff filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (hereinafter "EEOC") alleging discrimination on the basis of his national origin, color, and/or religion as a perceived Muslim (Am. Compl., ¶7).

Plaintiff brought the following claims against Defendant: (i) Discrimination based on color in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (hereinafter "Title VII"); (ii) Discrimination based on color in violation of the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act (hereinafter "ELCRA"); (iii) Discrimination based on national origin in violation of Title VII; (iv) Discrimination based on national origin in violation of the ELCRA; (v) Religious discrimination in violation of Title VII; and (vi) Religious discrimination in violation of the ELCRA.

Now, before the Court is Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment [Docket No. 21, filed February 28, 2014]. In its Motion, Defendant argues that it is entitled to summary judgment because there is no claim for discrimination based on "perceived religion, " and Plaintiff failed to identify any evidence that he was harassed because of the color of his skin (Defendant's Brief in Support of Motion for Summary Judgment, 1). Defendant also argues Plaintiff's unfair discipline claim is subject to pre-emption under Section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act (Id. ). The alleged harassment does not rise to the level of a hostile work environment and Defendant took appropriate remedial action (Id. ).

Plaintiff responded to the Motion for Summary Judgment [Docket No. 24, filed April 7, 2014]. First, Plaintiff argues that he has evidence that Defendant acted with discriminatory animus (Plaintiff's Brief in Opposition to Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment, 8). For example, Corey Fuson, one of Defendant's Customer Service Specialists ("CSS"), told Plaintiff he should not be working on certain jobs because he is Arab, and referred to Kallabat as Taliban (Id. at 9). Fuson was promoted to manager in 2007 and Plaintiff was required to report to him (Id. at 2).

Second, he argues that he has established a prima facie case for a Title VII violation, and that comparable white, non-Arab CSS's were given more lenient discipline (Id. at 11). Third, Plaintiff argues that the facts support that the Defendant disciplined him for discriminatory reasons (Id. at 12). For example, he was disciplined for failing to call before going home for lunch and for leaving his truck running. Plaintiff argues he was not told of the expectation and he parked and turned off the truck on the corner next to his house (Id. ). Other white, non-Arab CSS's were not disciplined for doing the same (Id. at 11).

Fourth, Plaintiff argues that his claims are not pre-empted by §301 of the LMRA since the case is primarily a discrimination matter, and not primarily a negotiated contract dispute (Id. at 17). Fifth, Plaintiff argues that there was a hostile environment as a result of severe or pervasive harassment and Defendant had both actual and constructive notice of the harassment (Id. at 18-23). Sixth, the Plaintiff argues that although there is no precedent in the Sixth Circuit regarding perceived religion as a basis for discrimination, the Third Circuit and the EEOC have permitted discrimination claims under the perceived religion theory (Id. at 23-24).

Defendant filed a Reply Brief in Support of Summary Judgment [Docket No. 27, filed April 21, 2014]. First, Defendant argues that the claims are timebarred and mischaracterized (Def.'s Reply Br. in Supp. of Summ. J., 1). Second, Plaintiff has failed to show that a genuine issue of material fact exists to establish the national origin and color discrimination claims (Id. ). Third, Plaintiff failed to establish he was subjected to severe or pervasive harassment required to establish a hostile environment claim and has failed to present any evidence that he was subjected to disparate treatment because of his national origin (Id. ). Fourth, Plaintiff's "perceived" religious discrimination claim has no supporting precedent in the Sixth Circuit and there is no evidence to support the claim.

III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Summary judgment is appropriate in cases where "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). The moving party bears the burden of demonstrating that summary judgment is appropriate. Equal Employment Opportunity Comm'n v. MacMillan Bloedel Containers, Inc., 503 F.2d 1086, 1093 (6th Cir. 1974). The Court must ...


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