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Harris v. TPUSA, Inc.

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

April 5, 2018

TONYA HARRIS, Plaintiff,
TPUSA, INC., Defendant.



         This matter is before the Court on Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment, (ECF No. 57), and Plaintiff's Motion for Order to Review Factual Evidence, (ECF No. 61). The parties have consented to proceed in this Court for all further proceedings, including trial and an order of final judgment. 28 U.S.C. § 636(c)(1). By Order of Reference, the Honorable Paul L. Maloney referred this case to the undersigned. For the reasons discussed herein, both motions are granted and this matter is terminated.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On July 15, 2016, Plaintiff initiated the present action against Defendant TPUSA, Inc. alleging that she had been subjected to unlawful discrimination. (ECF No. 1). On November 28, 2016, Plaintiff amended her complaint to assert three distinct claims: (1) Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA); (2) Race Discrimination; and (3) Retaliation. (ECF No. 26).

         In her First Amended Complaint, Plaintiff alleges the following. Plaintiff, an African-American woman, began working for Defendant in July 2014. During the course of Plaintiff's employment, “members of her management team made racially derogatory comments.” Plaintiff complained about these comments after which “Defendant's discriminatory practices escalated.” Plaintiff was subsequently denied a promotion “on the basis of her race.” As a result of this “wrongful treatment, ” Plaintiff “began to develop physical and mental pathologies” limiting her ability to work. Plaintiff's requests for accommodation of these limitations were refused. In June 2015, Defendant terminated Plaintiff's employment based upon “falsified evidence of unprofessional conduct.”

         On April 28, 2017, the Honorable Paul L. Maloney dismissed Plaintiff's ADA claim for failure to state a claim on which relief may be granted. (ECF No. 33). On December 29, 2017, Defendant moved for summary judgment on the ground that Plaintiff's action is untimely. The same day, Plaintiff moved for an order to “review factual evidence.”


         Summary judgment ''shall'' be granted ''if 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 party moving for summary judgment can satisfy its burden by demonstrating ''that the respondent, having had sufficient opportunity for discovery, has no evidence to support an essential element of his or her case.'' Minadeo v. ICI Paints, 398 F.3d 751, 761 (6th Cir. 2005). Once the moving party demonstrates that ''there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case, '' the non-moving party ''must identify specific facts that can be established by admissible evidence, which demonstrate a genuine issue for trial.'' Amini v. Oberlin College, 440 F.3d 350, 357 (6th Cir. 2006).

         While the Court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, the party opposing the summary judgment motion ''must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts.'' Amini, 440 F.3d at 357. The existence of a mere ''scintilla of evidence'' in support of the non-moving party's position is insufficient. Daniels v. Woodside, 396 F.3d 730, 734-35 (6th Cir. 2005). The non-moving party ''may not rest upon [his] mere allegations, '' but must instead present ''significant probative evidence'' establishing that ''there is a genuine issue for trial.'' Pack v. Damon Corp., 434 F.3d 810, 813-14 (6th Cir. 2006).

         Moreover, the non-moving party cannot defeat a properly supported motion for summary judgment by ''simply arguing that it relies solely or in part upon credibility determinations.'' Fogerty v. MGM Group Holdings Corp., Inc., 379 F.3d 348, 353 (6th Cir. 2004). Rather, the non-moving party ''must be able to point to some facts which may or will entitle him to judgment, or refute the proof of the moving party in some material portion, and. . .may not merely recite the incantation, 'Credibility, ' and have a trial on the hope that a jury may disbelieve factually uncontested proof.'' Id. at 353-54. In sum, summary judgment is appropriate ''against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial.'' Daniels, 396 F.3d at 735.

         While a moving party without the burden of proof need only show that the opponent cannot sustain his burden at trial, a moving party with the burden of proof faces a ''substantially higher hurdle.'' Arnett v. Myers, 281 F.3d 552, 561 (6th Cir. 2002). Where the moving party has the burden, ''his showing must be sufficient for the court to hold that no reasonable trier of fact could find other than for the moving party.'' Calderone v. United States, 799 F.2d 254, 259 (6th Cir. 1986). The Sixth Circuit has emphasized that the party with the burden of proof ''must show the record contains evidence satisfying the burden of persuasion and that the evidence is so powerful that no reasonable jury would be free to disbelieve it.'' Arnett, 281 F.3d at 561. Accordingly, summary judgment in favor of the party with the burden of persuasion ''is inappropriate when the evidence is susceptible of different interpretations or inferences by the trier of fact.'' Hunt v. Cromartie, 526 U.S. 541, 553 (1999).


         In her motion, Plaintiff requests that the Court review the arguments therein and attached materials which, according to Plaintiff, establish that she timely initiated the present action. Plaintiff's motion is granted in so far as the Court will consider this particular pleading as part of Plaintiff's response to Defendant's motion for summary judgment. As discussed below, however, the arguments and evidence contained in this pleading are insufficient to defeat Defendant's motion for summary judgment.


         The only two claims remaining in this matter are Counts II and III of Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint. Count II concerns Plaintiff's Race Discrimination claim and Count III concerns Plaintiff's Retaliation claim. Defendant argues that it is entitled to relief on the ground that Plaintiff did not timely assert these claims. To properly analyze this, it is ...

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