District Court Judge in Tennessee Grants Summary Judgment in Discrimination Case Filed By White Male Employee

Few are aware that white male employees are among those protected by Title VII anti-discrimination language.  As long as that employee can show that he suffered adverse treatment due to his status, he may be entitled to relief.  The plaintiff in Kellett v. Memphis Light, Gas and Watertried to prove this was the case, but was unsuccessful.

Plaintiff Walter Kellett filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in March 2011, claiming reverse racial discrimination by his employer, Memphis Light, Gas and Water (MLGW).  Kellett argued that since his company’s reorganization, he had been treated differently than minority employees in similar positions.  This included not receiving timely compensation or reevaluation, and being retaliated against for filing internal complaints against the company.  The EEOC could not reach a conclusive determination on his claims and issued a Right to Sue notice in August 2011.  Kellett then filed a lawsuit in November 2011, alleging discrimination and retaliation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  Among other things, he argued that his employer retaliated against him by placing more employees under his supervision, while not doing the same for minority supervisors.

In March 2013, a Magistrate Judge reviewed the case and issued a recommendation in December that MLGW’s motion for summary judgment be granted, effectively ending the case.  Kellett objected to the recommendation, and the case came under the district court’s review.  The district court then reviewed the Magistrate Judge’s findings and Kellett’s objections.  The Magistrate Judge found that (1) any discrimination alleged before May 2010 was time barred; (2) Kellett never offered any direct evidence of adverse employment action, or identify a minority employer who was treated more favorably; and (3) Kellett could not make the basic “prima facie” case for discrimination.

Kellett disputed the findings, stating for instance that the Magistrate Judge failed to note a case where, in a dispute with a female minority supervisor, only Kellett received a reprimand, not the other supervisor.  Moreover, the Magistrate Judge failed to note that a female minority supervisor received a promotion despite Kellett being more qualified.  Finally, Kellett felt that the Magistrate Judge should have considered the fact that MLGW delayed his reevaluation and compensation for more than two-and-a-half years.

The district court ultimately rejected Kellett’s objections as “insignificant.”  It agreed that any incidents mentioned prior to 2010 were time barred, although it shifted the month from March to July.  Because that would cover most of the incidents asserted in Kellett’s complaint, his case was severely weakened.  Moreover, though the reevaluation and compensation delay fell within part of July 2010, the district court agreed with the Magistrate Judge’s finding that it was an “inconvenience” rather than an adverse employment action.  An adverse employment action should be more disruptive.  Therefore, the district court judge agreed with the Magistrate Judge and granted MLGW’s motion for summary judgment.

Parks, Chesin & Walbert represents plaintiffs in employment matters, including employment discrimination, wage and hour, FMLA, and more.  With offices in Atlanta and Nashville, we offer a client-centered philosophy and strive to accomplish our clients’ goals as if they are our own.  If you live in Georgia or Tennessee and need an experienced Atlanta employment law attorney, contact us today at 404-873-8048.

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