Curtis McNeil v. Sonoco Products Company
Per Curiam OPINION filed : AFFIRMED, decision not for publication. John M. Rogers and Helene N. White, Circuit Judges and The Honorable Arthur L. Alarcon, United States Circuit Judge for the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, sitting by designation.
NOT RECOMMENDED FOR FULL-TEXT PUBLICATION
File Name: 13a0465n.06
UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS
FOR THE SIXTH CIRCUIT
Plaintiff - Appellant,
SONOCO PRODUCTS COMPANY,
Defendant - Appellee.
May 09, 2013
DEBORAH S. HUNT, Clerk
ON APPEAL FROM THE UNITED
STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE
WESTERN DISTRICT OF TENNESSEE
Before: ROGERS, WHITE, and ALARCÓN,* Circuit Judges.
PER CURIAM. Plaintiff-Appellant Curtis McNeil appeals the district court’s grant of
summary judgment in favor of Defendant-Appellee Sonoco Products Company (“Sonoco”) in this
employment discrimination case. McNeil worked as a machine operator for eighteen years at
Sonoco’s manufacturing facility in Memphis, Tennessee, until he was discharged. McNeil’s
complaint alleged that Sonoco discharged McNeil on the basis of his race, in violation of Title VII
of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et seq.; age, in violation of the Age
Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”), 29 U.S.C. §§ 621–634; and disability, in violation
of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. § 12112. McNeil also alleged that he
The Honorable Arthur Alarcón, United States Circuit Judge for the Ninth Circuit Court of
Appeals, sitting by designation.
McNeil v. Sonoco Products Co.
was discharged in retaliation for complaining about Sonoco’s previous failure to accommodate a
The district court granted summary judgment in Sonoco’s favor on all claims, concluding that
McNeil abandoned his age and disability claims and failed to meet his burden of establishing a prima
facie case of race discrimination. McNeil appeals the grant of summary judgment as to his race
discrimination claim.1 We AFFIRM.
We review the district court’s grant of summary judgment de novo, Lautermilch v. Findlay
City Schools, 314 F.3d 271, 274 (6th Cir. 2003), viewing the evidence in the light most favorable
to McNeil, Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986).
Summary judgment is appropriate when there is no genuine issue of material fact and the moving
party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c).
Title VII prohibits an employer from “discharg[ing] any individual . . . because of such
individual’s race [or] color. . . .” 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(1). Absent direct evidence of racial
discrimination, to establish a prima facie case of race discrimination, McNeil must demonstrate he:
At summary judgment, the district court deemed McNeil’s age and disability claims
abandoned. In his opening brief before this Court, McNeil focuses only on his race discrimination
claim. By failing to raise any specific challenges to the district court’s ruling that he abandoned his
age and disability claims, McNeil has waived those challenges. Kuhn v. Washtenaw Cnty., 709 F.3d
612, 624 (6th Cir. 2013) (“This court has consistently held that arguments not raised in a party’s
opening brief, as well as arguments adverted to in only a perfunctory manner, are waived.”) (citation
omitted); Dillery v. City of Sandusky, 398 F.3d 562, 569 (6th Cir. 2005) (holding an argument
waived where the plaintiff “wholly fail[ed] to address th[e] issue in her appellate brief”).
McNeil v. Sonoco Products Co.
(1) was a member of a protected class; (2) was discharged; (3) was qualified for the position; and
(4) either was replaced by a person outside of the protected class or was treated differently than
similarly situated non-protected employees. Russell v. Univ. of Toledo, 537 F.3d 596, 604 (6th Cir.
2008); Mitchell v. Toledo Hosp., 964 F.2d 577, 582 (6th Cir. 1992).
For purposes of summary judgment, Sonoco conceded the first two elements—that McNeil
is a member of a protected group, African-American, and that his discharge was an adverse
The district court concluded that questions of fact remained as to the third element, whether
McNeil’s serial absences rendered him unqualified for his position, but that McNeil failed to
establish the fourth element of his prima facie race-discrimination case because he was not replaced
by a person outside of the protected class. There is no dispute that McNeil’s position ultimately was
filled by an African-American. Consequently, the district court correctly concluded that McNeil
failed to establish he was replaced by a worker outside his protected class.
McNeil alternatively could satisfy the fourth prima facie element by proffering evidence “that
a comparable non-protected person was treated better” in all relevant respects. Mitchell, 964 F.2d
at 582–83 (internal quotation marks omitted). McNeil failed to proffer any evidence that a similarly
situated employee outside of his protected class was treated more favorably and instead
relied—impermissibly—on argument and the allegations in his complaint. See id. at 584 (“It is now
quite well-established that, in order to withstand a motion for summary judgment, the party opposing
McNeil v. Sonoco Products Co.
the motion must present ‘affirmative evidence’ to support his/her position.”) (citations omitted).
Thus, the district court properly held that McNeil failed to make out a prima facie case of race
Even had the district court credited McNeil’s affidavit in its totality, McNeil would not have
satisfied the fourth prima facie element, as the affidavit did not address whether he was replaced by
a person outside the protected class, and set out only vague, conclusory statements that unnamed
white employees “are allowed to clock in late, if at all,” and are “not written-up for every little
infraction like blacks are.” R. 22-1 at 4.
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