Argued: September 27, 2016
from the United States District Court for the Western
District of Tennessee at Memphis. No. 2:13-cv-02277-John
Thomas Fowlkes, Jr., District Judge.
Oneal Sutter, SUTTER & GILLHAM, P.L.L.C., Little Rock,
Arkansas, for Appellant.
E. B. Gerth, WALLER LANSDEN DORTCH & DAVIS, LLP,
Nashville, Tennessee, for Appellee.
Oneal Sutter, SUTTER & GILLHAM, P.L.L.C., Little Rock,
Arkansas, Andrew C. Clarke, Memphis, Tennessee, for
E. B. Gerth, Aron Z. Karabel, WALLER LANSDEN DORTCH &
DAVIS, LLP, Nashville, Tennessee, for Appellee.
Before: GILMAN, GIBBONS, and STRANCH, Circuit Judges.
LEE GILMAN, CIRCUIT JUDGE.
Tennial is an African-American employee of United Parcel
Service, Inc. (UPS) who has served in various managerial
roles over the course of more than 30 years with the company.
After a number of service failures that occurred during his
time as Hub Manager of the Memphis Hub's "Twilight
Sort, " Tennial was placed on a Management Performance
Improvement Plan (MPIP) and eventually demoted to a
supervisor of the Oakhaven Hub, a position that he currently
holds. Although he acknowledges these service failures,
Tennial points to a number of Caucasian managers who were
allegedly responsible for similar failures, yet did not
suffer comparable adverse employment actions. He therefore
maintains that his placement on the MPIP and his subsequent
demotion were in fact motivated by race, age, and disability
discrimination, as well as by retaliation for taking medical
brought suit in the United States District Court for the
Western District of Tennessee against UPS and his
supervisors, Jim Cochran and Michael Slabaugh. UPS, Cochran,
and Slabaugh subsequently moved for summary judgment, which
the district court granted on all claims. For the reasons set
forth below, we AFFIRM the judgment of the
2009, Tennial began working as the Business Manager of the
Walnut Grove Packaging Center. His supervisors noted
performance deficiencies and serious service failures at that
facility over the next two years. Despite these service
failures, Tennial contends that his performance was on par
with other Caucasian managers.
2011, Tennial became the Hub Manager of the Twilight Sort,
where he worked under Hub Division Manager Richard Williams.
Tennial's performance and leadership deficiencies
persisted, and the Twilight Sort failed to meet performance
goals under his supervision. He claims, however, that the
Twilight Sort was in disarray before he took over and had
failed to meet its performance goals for many years prior to
September 2011, the Twilight Sort suffered particularly
severe service failures under Tennial's leadership,
including an incident in which over 200 packages were not
sorted in a timely manner. Tennial and Williams were summoned
to Nashville to meet with UPS supervisors and Ken Harms, UPS
District President, in order to discuss the 200 delayed
packages and other service failures at the Twilight Sort.
Although Williams had previously supervised managers who
missed loads, he had never before been summoned to the
District President's office to explain this type of
alleges that Harms told him during the meeting that, unless
he voluntarily stepped down as the Hub Manager, Harms would
make it "extremely difficult for him to be
successful." He refused to step down. Tennial now
contends that Harms followed through on his promise and
created an extremely hostile work environment. As a result,
Tennial requested leave for stress, depression, and anxiety
under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) shortly after this
meeting. He was granted leave and thus missed UPS's peak
holiday season, which is the company's busiest. Tennial
returned to his position as the Hub Manager of the Twilight
Sort in early 2012.
Williams's retirement later that same month, Cochran
became the Hub Division Manager for Memphis and Tennial's
direct supervisor. Cochran monitored and assessed
Tennial's performance throughout March and April 2012.
Numerous service failures were observed by Cochran, which
Tennial claims were partly due to inexperienced supervisors,
turnover, and a lack of capability at the Twilight Sort. In
April 2012, Cochran and District Hub Operations Manager
Slabaugh nonetheless decided to put Tennial on a MPIP. At a
meeting discussing his MPIP, Tennial took responsibility for
his service failures and committed to improving his
performance. He also acknowledged that a failure to meet the
goals stated in the MPIP could result in an adverse
employment action, including a demotion.
thereafter failed to meet the goals of his MPIP. He was
demoted in July 2012 from the Hub Manager at the Twilight
Sort to Full Time Hub Supervisor at the Oakhaven Hub. Cochran
testified that this demotion was performance-based, but
Tennial maintains that the MPIP goals were impossible to
attain because of the inexperienced supervisors at the
Twilight Sort, a lack of support, unpredictable volume, and
the desire of upper management to see him fail. Tennial
further asserts that previous and subsequent Caucasian Hub
Managers of the Twilight Sort also failed to meet performance
goals, yet were not demoted like he was.
B. Procedural background
Tennial's complaint, he first alleged that the defendants
discriminated against him based on his race, in violation of
42 U.S.C. § 1981, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of
1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., and the
Tennessee Human Rights Act (THRA), Tenn. Code Ann. §
4-21-101 et seq. He next brought claims under both
the THRA and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA),
29 U.S.C. § 623, for age discrimination, as well as
claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42
U.S.C. § § 12101-12213, for disability
discrimination. Finally, Tennial alleged that the defendants
interfered with his medical leave and retaliated against him,
in violation of the FMLA, 29 U.S.C. § 2615.
Cochran, and Slabaugh moved for summary judgment on all
counts in November 2014. Tennial opposed their motion and, in
June 2015, filed a motion under Rule 56(d) of the Federal
Rules of Civil Procedure asking the court to defer the
consideration of summary judgment in order for him to
supplement his response with additional discovery. According
to the motion, Tennial wished to depose three
managerial-level UPS employees regarding incidents that had
happened after the filing of the defendants' motion for
summary judgment. The defendants filed a response opposing
Tennial's motion, claiming in part that the information
that he sought to discover was irrelevant to his claims.
November 2015, the district court granted the defendants'
motion for summary judgment and denied Tennial's Rule
56(d) Motion. Following this decision, the defendants filed a
Bill of Costs with the Clerk of Court, seeking to recover
permissible costs due the prevailing party under Rule 54
(d)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Tennial
objected, arguing that the court should use its discretion
and refuse to tax costs against him because the costs sought
were unreasonable and unjustified. In February ...