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Williams v. Liberty Park of America

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

July 18, 2017




         Plaintiff Deano Williams filed this civil rights case against his employer under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Michigan Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act. His complaint alleges racial discrimination, harassment and retaliation by defendants Liberty Park of America, the Dugout and Mary Zolno. The matter is before the court on defendants' motion for summary judgment. For the reasons stated below, defendants' motion for summary judgment is GRANTED.


         Deano Williams is an African American man who was hired to work as a security guard for Liberty Park of America, an outdoor baseball and softball facility. Williams was hired as a short-term seasonal employee to work outside security at the venue. Work schedules were posted one week in advance. When he applied for the position, Williams committed to being available to work full-time.

         When he was hired, Williams was provided with Liberty's Hourly Employee Information Guide (the “Handbook”). The Handbook informs employees that excessive absenteeism is grounds for immediate termination. (Handbook at 5-6). The Handbook allows 3 absences a year, even with a phone call, before termination can occur. The Handbook also provides the employer's policy regarding discrimination and sets forth the procedure employees should follow if they feel they have been discriminated against. (Handbook at 2-4).

… Consequently, if you feel discriminated against or harassed (sexually or otherwise) by someone who is not a Liberty Park employee, but with whom you must interact as part of your duties and responsibilities, you should immediately report your concerns in accordance with the complaint procedure described below .....
If you believe you may have been discriminated against or harassed in violation of Liberty Park's Policy on Equal Employment Opportunity, you should report your concerns immediately to your supervisor, any other manager or supervisor, or a Vice President. . . .
If you are not entirely satisfied with how your complaint and/or concerns have been handled, please notify, in writing, as soon as possible, Liberty Park's attorneys … so that the matter can be investigated….

(Handbook at 3-4). The Handbook identifies Mary Zolno as Vice President and the only staff member that can authorize any change or deviation from the listed policies. (Handbook at 7).

         During his employment, which began April 11, 2014 and ended on October 9, 2014, Williams called in absent eight times. In the last month before his termination alone he called in four times. Williams was purportedly terminated for excessive absenteeism. The decision to terminate Williams was made by Dave Furman, who was the Chief of Security and is Caucasian. (Dave Furman Aff).

         After his termination, Williams met with Mary Zolno. He explained that he had endured racial discrimination and harassment by patrons and she offered him his job back. According to Williams, he told Zolno he would consider returning to his job and was given a start date, but ultimately he did not accept the position because he did not want to return to an environment that caused him so much stress. According to Zolno, she told Williams that any further call offs on his part would require documentation or lead to termination, and Williams agreed that was fair and was placed on the schedule. After he did not report for work, nor call off, on his first two scheduled days, he was considered to have voluntarily quit.

         Williams contends that throughout his employment at Liberty Park he was subjected to racial slurs and threats by patrons. In his job as a security guard, Williams occasionally had to eject drunk, unruly patrons from the ballpark. On June 17, 2014, Williams was escorting a patron to the parking lot when the patron made a racial epithet toward him and told him, “I have some hollow points for your ass, ” which he considered to be a threat on his life. Williams told his manager, Dave Smigiel, about the incident and contends that he asked Smigiel to call the police. Williams provided a written report of the incident to Smigiel. (Id. at 46). According to Williams, Smigiel did not call the police and told Williams to report back to his post. (Williams dep. 46-47). Smigiel did call the player and his team manager, and suspended the player from the park for the rest of the season.

         Williams made a police report about the June threat on his life on October 19, 2014, four months after the incident, and after he stopped working at Liberty Park. He alleges that the reason he delayed making the police report was because he was not able to obtain the name of the perpetrator who threatened to kill him until that time.

         Plaintiff refers to one other incident, which occurred in July of 2014 while plaintiff was escorting an intoxicated white player out of the park because he was involved in a fight. The player made racist comments to plaintiff, which were allegedly heard by his manager, Dave Furman. According to plaintiff, Furman told ...

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