United States District Court, D. Nebraska
E. STROM, Senior Judge
matter is before the Court on the motion of defendants,
Hiland Roberts Dairy Co., and Hiland Dairy Foods Company, LLC
("Hiland" or "defendants"), for summary
judgment (Filing No. 29). The matter has been fully
briefed by the parties. See Filing Nos. 31, 33, and
37. After review of the motion, the parties’ briefs,
and the relevant law, the Court finds as follows.
15, 2014, plaintiff Zyeair Smith ("Smith" or
"plaintiff") filed a complaint alleging "a
single count of employment discrimination under
‘federal, state, and Omaha municipal law.’"
(Filing No. 31 at 2 (quoting Filing No. 1
at ¶ 29)). Plaintiff claims defendants’ decision
to terminate his employment was racially motivated (Filing
No. 1). "Smith seeks relief under Title VII of
the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Nebraska Fair Employment
Practices Act." (Filing No. 31 at 2 (quoting
Filing No. 1 at 4)).
facts surrounding Smith’s termination are largely
undisputed. See Filing Nos. 31, 33, and 37. On July
26, 2013, plaintiff was asked by another Hiland employee, Sam
Edwards ("Edwards"), to clock Edwards out in
violation of Hiland’s written company policy (Filing
No. 31 at 3-4; see also Filing No.
33 at 2 (admitting defendant’s statements of
material facts)). Smith used Edwards’ company-issued ID
badge to clock Edwards out after Edwards had already left
company premises. See Filing No. 31 at 3-4.
When Smith was later asked by Hiland managers whether he had
clocked Edwards out, he initially denied the allegation.
See Filing No. 33 at 3. After an internal
investigation, Hiland terminated plaintiff’s employment
on July 31, 2013. (Id.) Defendants contend plaintiff
was fired for "dishonesty and theft of company
time." (Filing No. 31 at 4).
disputes defendants’ contention that he helped Edwards
steal company time. Edwards claims he "was entitled to
extra break time because he had worked longer than 2 hours
than his [regular] shift and . . . had not used all of his
break time." (Filing No. 33 at 2). Defendants
counter that Edwards’ own admission provides that he
left work early, and "was paid for a quarter hour that
he was not entitled to." (Filing No. 37 at
2-3). Defendants further argue as to whether the extra time
worked entitled plaintiff to additional break time is
Edwards testified that he asked Smith to clock him out
because he ‘forgot’ to clock out, not because he
was entitled to additional break time . . . [and] breaks are
to be taken in the break room . . . and an employee who wants
to leave early would have to ask a supervisor for permission
and clock out.
(Id. at 4-5).
defendants terminated plaintiff’s employment, plaintiff
"filed a timely charge of discrimination . . . based on
his status as an African-American with the United States
Equal [Employment] Opportunity Commission and with the Omaha
Human Rights and Relations Department." (Filing No.
1 at 1). The Omaha Human Rights and Relations
Department ("OHHRD") found "reasonable cause
to believe that plaintiff’s race was a motivating
factor in his termination by the defendant."
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC")
"issued a right to sue letter on June 4, 2014."
(Id. at 2). This suit followed.
judgment is only proper when the Court determines the
evidence "show[s] that there is no genuine issue as to
any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment
as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a), (c); Semple
v. Federal Exp. Corp., 566 F.3d 788, 791 (8th Cir.
2009)(quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)). The evidence must be
viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party,
giving the nonmoving party the benefit of all reasonable
inferences. Kenney v. Swift Transp., Inc., 347 F.3d
1041, 1044 (8th Cir. 2003). At the summary judgment stage, it
is not the function of the Court to "weigh the evidence
and determine the truth of the matter but to determine
whether there is a genuine issue for trial."
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249,
106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). The United States
Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit has explicitly held
that "[t]here is no ‘discrimination case
exception’ to the application of summary judgment,
which is a useful pretrial tool to determine whether or not
any case, including one alleging discrimination, merits a
trial." Torgerson v. City of Rochester, 643
F.3d 1031, 1043 (8th Cir. 2011) (en banc) (internal marks and
VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e
et seq., prohibits racial discrimination in the
workplace. 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(1). Plaintiffs
alleging Title VII violations "must carry the initial
burden under the statute of establishing a prima facie case
of . . . discrimination." McDonnell Douglas Corp. v.
Green, 411 U.S. 792, 802, 93 S.Ct. 1817, 36 L.Ed.2d 668
(1973). This initial burden may be established either by
direct or circumstantial evidence. Twiggs v. Selig,
679 F.3d 990, 993 (8th Cir. 2012) (citing McDonnell
Douglas, 411 U.S. at 802-05). Claims not relying on
direct evidence are ...