Cox v. LogiCore Corporation
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER - For the reasons stated above, the Court GRANTS IN PART and DENIES IN PART LogiCores motion for summary judgment. The Court DISMISSES WITH PREJUDICE Mr. Coxs retaliation claim. Mr. Coxs claims for Title VII and § 19 81 race discrimination will proceed to trial. The Court will set those claims for a jury trial. The Court will provide the parties with additional instructions in a forthcoming pre-trial order. Signed by Judge Madeline Hughes Haikala on 5/18/2016. (KEK)
2016 May-18 AM 11:57
U.S. DISTRICT COURT
N.D. OF ALABAMA
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
Case No.: 5:13-cv-02132-MHH
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Plaintiff Damiun Cox is a former employee of defendant LogiCore
He is African-American.
Mr. Cox contends that LogiCore
terminated him because of his race, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981 and Title VII.1
LogiCore has filed a motion for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 56. Because genuine issues of material fact preclude summary
judgment, the Court denies LogiCore’s motion.
SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD
“The court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is
no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as
In his complaint, Mr. Cox also asserted a retaliation claim. In his summary judgment response,
Mr. Cox abandoned this claim. Therefore, the Court dismisses that claim upon LogiCore’s
motion and will not address it in this opinion.
a matter of law.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). To demonstrate that there is a genuine
dispute as to a material fact that precludes summary judgment, a party opposing a
motion for summary judgment must cite “to particular parts of materials in the
record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information,
affidavits or declarations, stipulations (including those made for purposes of the
motion only), admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials.” Fed. R. Civ.
P. 56(c)(1)(A). When considering a summary judgment motion, a court must view
the evidence in the record and draw reasonable inferences in the light most
favorable to the non-moving party. White v. Beltram Edge Tool Supply, Inc., 789
F.3d 1188, 1191 (11th Cir. 2015).
“The court need consider only the cited
materials, but it may consider other materials in the record.” Fed. R. Civ. P.
LogiCore’s Contract with AMCOM
LogiCore is a company based in Huntsville, Alabama. LogiCore contracts
with the government to provide logistics services in several locations worldwide.
(Doc. 23-3, p. 6).
One of those contracts involves the Theater Aviation
Maintenance Program (“TAMP”). (Id.). Under TAMP, LogiCore must provide
maintenance and supply support for Army rotary-wing and fixed-wing aircraft on
military bases in Iraq, Kuwait, and Afghanistan. (Doc. 23-3, pp. 6, 8). LogiCore’s
customer under the contract is the United States Army Aviation and Missile
Command (“AMCOM”), the entity responsible for development and production of
all U.S. Army aviation and missile systems. (Docs. 23-3, p. 5; 23-4, ¶¶ 1–2).
AMCOM is a government civilian entity separate from the Army. (Doc. 23-3, p.
LogiCore has three primary contacts at AMCOM: Chris Oyelette, the
AMCOM deputy director of logistics, a Hispanic man (Docs. 23-1, p. 23; 23-8, p.
28); Janet Huys, the contracting officer’s representative, a white woman (Doc. 233, p. 9); and Tim McLeod, a technical director, a white man (Docs. 23-1, p. 23; 235, ¶ 2). Oyelette, Huys, and McLeod primarily work from Huntsville. (Doc. 23-3,
AMCOM works closely with LogiCore, but AMCOM does not have
authority to hire or fire LogiCore employees. (Docs. 23-8, p. 17; 23-13).
LogiCore employs a program manager who oversees TAMP. The project
manager is based in Huntsville. (Doc. 23-3, p. 9). LogiCore’s lead employee in
southwest Asia is known as the in-theater lead, and he is responsible for all
LogiCore TAMP employees in Iraq, Kuwait, and Afghanistan. (Doc. 23-3, p. 15).
Employees assigned leadership responsibilities on particular bases are called
Forward Operating Base Representatives (“FOB Reps”). (Id.).
Military personnel on the bases supported by TAMP are part of the Theater
Aviation Support Maintenance Group (“TASMG”). (Doc. 23-3, p. 35). TASMG
personnel are normally part of national guard units, and the TASMG commander is
the highest-ranking officer on the base.
(Doc. 26-6, pp. 6, 8).
employees work closely with TASMG personnel on-base to assist with procuring,
shipping, and receiving aviation parts. (Doc. 23-8, p. 13).
Mr. Cox’s Employment with LogiCore
LogiCore hired Mr. Cox in 2010 to serve as an FOB Rep on a base in
Afghanistan. (Docs. 23-6, p. 32; 26-2, p. 218). Mr. Cox was involved in shipping,
receiving, locating, and keeping inventory of aircraft parts. He was responsible for
keeping the Army aircraft adequately supplied and maintained. (Docs. 23-6, p. 9;
26-3, p. 147).
Mr. Cox received several commendations, awards, and strong
evaluations during his employment, (Doc. 26-3, pp. 107–27), and he was
eventually promoted to Afghanistan lead in June 2011. (Doc. 26-2, p. 221). As
Afghanistan lead, he continued his FOB Rep responsibilities and essentially served
as the in-theater lead over the Afghanistan bases while Kevin Traylor (black male)
served as the in-theater lead for the bases in Iraq and Kuwait. (Docs. 23-6, p. 37;
23-7, p. 6). Mr. Cox worked closely with Mr. Traylor and with Al Hopkins and
Byron Hatfield (both black males), who served as program managers at different
times while Mr. Cox worked for LogiCore. (Docs. 23-1, p. 5; 23-3, p. 7; 23-6, p.
Complaints About Mr. Cox
Soon after Mr. Cox’s promotion, Mr. McLeod began complaining about
him. Mr. Hopkins testified that Mr. McLeod voiced displeasure at Mr. Cox’s
promotion, stating – without providing details – that he did not think that Mr. Cox
was the best selection. (Doc. 23-7, p. 7). Mr. McLeod approached Mr. Hopkins a
few weeks after Mr. Cox’s promotion and complained that Mr. Cox did not speak
up and answer a question posed by a general during a conference call when Mr.
Cox knew the answer. (Doc. 23-7, p. 8). Mr. Hopkins testified that Mr. Cox
should have answered the question, but Mr. Hopkins spoke to Mr. Cox about the
issue and did not consider it serious.
(Doc. 23-7, p. 9).
Mr. McLeod also
mentioned that he understood that Mr. Cox had been performing personal services
for military personnel on the base, an act prohibited by the contract between
LogiCore and AMCOM. When Mr. Hopkins requested details, Mr. McLeod only
mentioned that Mr. Cox had been making coffee for servicemen, though Mr.
Hopkins did not think such behavior was inappropriate.
(Doc. 23-7, p. 11).
According to Mr. Hopkins, Mr. McLeod continued to argue for Mr. Cox’s
removal, doing so three or four more times. Mr. McLeod became upset when Mr.
Hopkins stated his belief that there was no justifiable reason to remove Mr. Cox
from the program. (Doc. 23-7, p. 9).
Mr. McLeod’s complaints continued after Mr. Hatfield took over as program
manager. Mr. Hatfield testified that Mr. McLeod renewed his complaint about Mr.
Cox’s failure to speak up in a meeting, but Mr. Hatfield thought that Mr. Cox
actually did speak up, though Mr. McLeod may not have heard the answer. (Doc.
23-12, p. 6). Mr. McLeod also mentioned the issue with coffee and personal
services, including an allegation that Mr. Cox picked up dry cleaning for military
officials, but Mr. Hatfield investigated and found nothing inappropriate. (Id.). Mr.
McLeod then told Mr. Hatfield that he thought Mr. Cox was trying too hard, taking
on tasks beyond his responsibility. (Id.). Mr. Hatfield testified that Mr. McLeod
brought up Mr. Cox during every conversation, likely six or seven times within a
six-month period, asking about a timetable for Mr. Cox to be removed from the
project. (Doc. 23-12, pp. 7–8).
Mr. McLeod stated that he also complained to Mr. Hopkins and Mr. Hatfield
that Mr. Cox was unresponsive to his attempted communications and that Mr.
Cox’s unresponsiveness continued after his complaints. (Doc. 23-5, ¶ 8). Neither
Mr. Hopkins nor Mr. Hatfield, however, testified that Mr. McLeod made those
complaints known to them.
LogiCore’s Termination of Mr. Cox
LogiCore replaced Mr. Hatfield with Ken Spier, a white male, as program
manager in May 2012. (Docs. 23-1, p. 23; 23-8, p. 4). Soon after his promotion,
Mr. Spier had an introductory meeting with Mr. McLeod and Ms. Huys.
According to Mr. Spier, Mr. McLeod and Ms. Huys expressed extreme
dissatisfaction with Mr. Cox. They mentioned, but only vaguely, issues with Mr.
Cox’s performance and perceptions of improper relations with military members.
When Mr. Spier pressed them for details, Mr. McLeod and Ms. Huys only brought
up the teleconference meeting issue. Mr. Spier testified that Mr. McLeod did most
of the complaining in that meeting. (Doc. 23-8, pp. 25–26). The next week, Mr.
Spier again met with AMCOM, with Mr. Oyelette in attendance as well as Ms.
Huys and Mr. McLeod. As the second item of business, Mr. Oyelette asked, “Are
you going to take care of that problem in Afghanistan?” Mr. Spier took the
comment to clearly indicate that they wanted Mr. Cox removed from his TAMP
assignment. (Doc. 23-8, pp. 28–29).
Mr. Spier testified that he found the relationship between Mr. Cox and
AMCOM to be unsalvageable after that meeting and decided to recommend that
Mr. Cox be terminated. (Doc. 23-8, pp. 29–30). Mr. Spier recommended Mr.
Cox’s termination to Fred Frost (black male), LogiCore’s vice president and COO.
(Docs. 23-3, p. 6; 23-8, p. 30).
Mr. Spier testified that he recommended
termination simply because AMCOM wanted Mr. Cox off the program – he did
not review Mr. Cox’s personnel file, independently evaluate his performance, or
investigate the allegations because the customer’s decision was firmly made.
(Doc. 23-8, p. 33). Mr. Frost agreed with Mr. Spier and signed the termination
papers, though he too was unaware of the specifics or veracity of the allegations.
(Doc. 23-3, p. 28). Mr. Frost testified that he relied heavily on Mr. Spier’s
recommendation in making the termination decision. (Doc. 23-3, p. 26). Mr. Spier
then traveled to Afghanistan and notified Mr. Cox of his termination. Mr. Spier
met with sharp resistance from high-ranking military personnel who worked
closely with Mr. Cox. (Doc. 23-8, p. 42). LogiCore gave Mr. Cox no official
reason for his termination. (Docs. 26-3, p. 5; 23-6, p. 31). A white employee
replaced Mr. Cox.
Mr. Traylor testified that AMCOM selected Mr. Cox’s
replacement. LogiCore disputes this point. (Docs. 23-8, p. 44; 26-6, p. 22).
Mr. Cox’s Allegations
After his termination, Mr. Cox contacted several high-ranking LogiCore
employees to protest his firing. He did not mention in his initial complaints that he
suspected race discrimination. Instead, he argued that the accusations against him
were meritless and that he was respected and did good work. (Doc. 26-3, pp. 101–
02). Afterwards, Mr. Cox filed a charge of discrimination with the EEOC alleging
that he was terminated because of his race. (Doc. 23-2, p. 3). In this action, Mr.
Cox claims that AMCOM believed that LogiCore employed too many AfricanAmericans and that LogiCore, with full knowledge of this belief, terminated Cox
to appease its customer. He relies on statements made by AMCOM and LogiCore
employees and other on-base personnel to support this claim, as well as the
concurrent termination or demotion of other black LogiCore TAMP employees 2
and the pretextual nature of LogiCore’s stated reasons for termination. According
to Mr. Cox, Mr. Hopkins, Mr. Hatfield, Mr. Traylor, other LogiCore employees,
and sergeants on-base told him that AMCOM, particularly Mr. McLeod, was
unhappy with the racial makeup of LogiCore employees on TAMP and that too
many African-Americans were in charge at LogiCore. (Doc. 23-6, pp. 12–13, 32–
34, 37). Mr. Cox testified that, shortly before Mr. Spier’s promotion, Mr. Spier
said that he was going to meet with Mr. McLeod because AMCOM was not happy
that there was not a “balance” on the program. Mr. Spier allegedly told Mr. Cox
that things would change after he returned from the meeting. (Doc. 23-6, p. 27).
Mr. Hatfield testified that, in a meeting with Mr. Spier and Mr. Frost, Mr.
Spier mentioned a perception in theater that LogiCore is prejudiced and hires too
many blacks. (Doc. 23-12, p. 9). This comment is corroborated by the declaration
of Wintry Drake, a black former LogiCore employee. (Doc. 26-11, ¶ 7). Mr. Spier
admits hearing a comment about that perception but denies bringing it up to Mr.
Frost. (Doc. 23-8, p. 23). Ms. Drake and Michelle Nobles, also a black former
LogiCore employee, averred that Mr. Hopkins told them that AMCOM only wants
a “white boy” to lead TAMP. (Docs. 26-10; 26-11). According to Mr. Hatfield,
Mr. Frost has occasionally made comments that Mr. Hatfield believes to be racist
Because the Court finds that genuine issues of material fact preclude summary judgment
without considering this contention, the Court expresses no view on its validity.
against African-Americans. During one incident, Mr. McLeod did not allow Ms.
Nobles to work from the TAMP facility in Huntsville. When Mr. Hatfield brought
up the issue to Mr. Frost, Mr. Frost said, “Byron, you know, a n----r is a n----r, no
matter how you look at it.” (Doc. 23-12, pp. 16–17). According to Ms. Nobles,
when Mr. Frost was discussing the same issue but was interrupted by another
employee, Mr. Frost angrily said, “This is what I’m talking about, this is why the
government don’t want them n----rs over there any way.” (Doc. 23-10, ¶ 4).
Mr. Frost, Mr. Spier, Mr. McLeod, and Ms. Huys all deny that Mr. Cox’s
race played any part in their actions. All but Mr. Spier deny even knowing Mr.
Cox’s race because they had no face-to-face interaction with him. (Docs. 23-2; 234; 23-5; 23-8, p. 27). Essentially all of the alleged comments are disputed, and Mr.
Hopkins and Mr. Traylor, both still employed with LogiCore, testified that they do
not think that Mr. Cox’s termination was racially motivated. (Docs. 23-7, pp. 3,
14–15; 26-6, pp. 4, 18).
A plaintiff may establish a claim of discrimination “through direct evidence,
circumstantial evidence, or through statistical proof.” Rioux v. City of Atlanta,
Ga., 520 F.3d 1269, 1274 (11th Cir. 2008). Mr. Cox first seeks to establish his
claim through direct evidence. “Direct evidence is evidence that establishes the
existence of discriminatory intent behind the employment decision without any
inference or presumption.” Standard v. A.B.E.L, 161 F.3d 1318, 1330 (11th Cir.
1998). “[O]nly the most blatant remarks, whose intent could be nothing other than
to discriminate on the [protected classification] are direct evidence of
discrimination.” Scott v. Suncoast Beverage Sales, Ltd., 295 F.3d 1223, 1227 (11th
Cir. 2002) (internal quotations and citation omitted). The Eleventh Circuit has
recently held that a derogatory racial statement did not qualify as direct evidence of
employment discrimination because the statement did not directly refer to the
plaintiff or the plaintiff’s position. See Quigg v. Thomas Cty. Sch. Dist., 814 F.3d
1227, 1241 n.11 (11th Cir. 2016). Mr. Cox seeks to rely on Mr. Frost’s racial slurs
as direct evidence of discrimination, but the alleged statements were not aimed at
Therefore, these statements do not constitute direct evidence with
respect to Mr. Cox’s termination.
Nevertheless, those statements are circumstantial evidence of racial
discrimination. Mr. Cox relies upon
discrimination, as well.
The Court must evaluate his circumstantial evidence
claims through the burden shifting framework established in McDonnell Douglas
Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 802–05 (1973).3 LogiCore concedes that Mr. Cox
Quigg held that the McDonnell Douglas framework does not apply to mixed-motive
discrimination claims based on circumstantial evidence. 814 F.3d at 1237–42. Not all race
discrimination claims are mixed-motive claims; a plaintiff may proceed under either a single- or
has established a prima facie case of discrimination. The burden thus shifts to
LogiCore to articulate a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for firing Mr. Cox.
Alvarez v. Royal Atl. Developers, Inc., 610 F.3d 1253, 1264 (11th Cir. 2010).
LogiCore “need not persuade the court that it was actually motivated by the
proffered reason, but need only present evidence raising a genuine issue of fact as
to whether it discriminated against [Mr. Cox].” Id. (internal citations omitted).
“The reason offered by an employer for an action does not have to be a reason that
the judge or jurors would act on or approve . . . . Instead all that matters is that the
employer advance an explanation that is not discriminatory in nature.” Schoenfield
v. Babbitt, 168 F.3d 1257, 1269 (11th Cir. 2000) (internal quotations and citations
omitted). If LogiCore can satisfy its burden, then the burden shifts back to Mr.
Cox to produce evidence that shows that LogiCore’s “proffered reason was not its
true reason, which merges with [Mr. Cox’s] ultimate burden of persuading the
court that [LogiCore] intentionally discriminated against [him].” Alvarez, 610 F.3d
mixed-motive theory. See Woods v. Austal USA, LLC, No. 09–0699–WS–N, 2011 WL 1380054,
at *10 (S.D. Ala. Apr. 11, 2011) (quoting with approval a case finding “alternative ways of
establishing liability under Title VII, including mixed-motive and traditional single-motive
theories”) (internal quotations omitted); see also Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins, 490 U.S. 228,
260 (1989) (White, J., concurring in the judgment) (“The Court has made clear that ‘mixedmotives’ cases, such as the present one, are different from pretext cases such as McDonnell
Douglas and Burdine. In pretext cases, ‘the issue is whether either illegal or legal motives, but
not both, were the “true” motives behind the decision.’ In mixed-motives cases, however, there is
no one ‘true’ motive behind the decision. Instead, the decision is a result of multiple factors, at
least one of which is legitimate.”) (quoting NLRB v. Transp. Mgmt. Co., 462 U.S. 393, 400 n.5
(1983)). Because Mr. Cox’s claim is a single-motive claim, not a mixed-motive claim, the Court
will apply the McDonnell Douglas framework.
LogiCore contends that it fired Mr. Cox because of its “honest belief that its
customer was unhappy with Cox’s performance because they believed Cox was
violating terms of the contract.” (Doc. 22, pp. 23–24). According to LogiCore,
“[i]t was the government’s perception that Cox was not responsive to their
communication with him and that he was performing personal services.” (Doc. 22,
Based upon this evidence, the Court concludes that LogiCore has
articulated a non-discriminatory reason for Mr. Cox’s termination. Therefore, to
survive summary judgment, Mr. Cox “must introduce significantly probative
evidence showing that the asserted reason is merely a pretext for discrimination.”
Brooks v. Cty. Comm’n, 446 F.3d 1160, 1163 (11th Cir. 2006) (quoting Clark v.
Coats & Clark, Inc., 990 F.2d 1217, 1228 (11th Cir. 1993)).
Mr. Cox may prove pretext “either directly by persuading the court that a
discriminatory reason more likely motivated the employer or indirectly by showing
that the employer’s proffered explanation is unworthy of credence.” Tex. Dep’t of
Cmty. Affairs v. Burdine, 450 U.S. 248, 256 (1981). Viewing the record in the
light most favorable to Mr. Cox, as the Court must at the summary judgment stage,
the Court finds that Mr. Cox has presented probative evidence that he was actually
terminated because LogiCore acted on the known desire of AMCOM to reduce the
number of African-Americans assigned to the TAMP contract.
Mr. Cox has
presented ample evidence of a widespread perception that key AMCOM
employees, Mr. McLeod in particular, felt that LogiCore employed too many
African-Americans. Mr. Cox has presented evidence that this sentiment was
expressed by Mr. Frost (Doc. 23-10, ¶ 4), Mr. Spier (Docs. 23-6, p. 27; 23-12, p.
9), Mr. Hopkins (Doc. 23-6, p. 12), Mr. Hatfield (Doc. 23-6, p. 32), Mr. Traylor
(Doc. 23-6, p. 37), LogiCore employee Mark Lynn (Doc. 23-6, p. 35), and two
sergeants on base (Doc. 23-6, p. 33). There also is ample evidence that Mr. Frost
and Mr. Spier terminated Mr. Cox based on AMCOM’s complaints without any
independent evaluation of Cox’s performance or investigation into the allegations.4
(Docs. 23-3, p. 28; 23-8, p. 33). Mr. Spier’s “balance” comment further suggests
that his actions may have been motivated by this perception. This is enough to
establish a triable issue of pretext.
Ms. Huys and Mr. McLeod have both disavowed knowledge of Mr. Cox’s
race prior to his termination,5 and Mr. Cox has produced little evidence of
statements actually made by Ms. Huys or Mr. McLeod demonstrating their racial
This suggests that LogiCore’s given reasons for termination are unworthy of credence,
indirectly demonstrating pretext. Also indirectly suggesting pretext is the fact that LogiCore did
not employ its typical employee discipline process with Mr. Cox, which according to Mr. Frost,
requires that the employee be given an opportunity to improve before performance-based action
may be taken. (Doc. 23-3, p. 12).
Mr. Frost’s similar disavowal is of limited value, given that Mr. Spier, who heavily informed
Mr. Frost’s termination decision, undisputedly knew of Mr. Cox’s race.
preference.6 Knowledge of Mr. Cox’s race and potential racist intent, however, are
not the key inquiry. What is paramount is LogiCore’s perception of a racist intent
on the part of AMCOM and action based upon that perception to appease the
customer. Because Mr. Cox has presented significantly probative evidence of such
perception and action, LogiCore is not shielded by Ms. Huys’s and Mr. McLeod’s
averred lack of knowledge.
The Court understands that most of the statements presented by Mr. Cox
have been denied by the purported speakers.
Those denials do not rob the
statements of all value; instead, they create a triable issue of fact that must be
decided by a jury, not by the Court.
Nor are the statements necessarily
inadmissible hearsay. A statement is hearsay only if it is offered to prove the truth
of the matter asserted, but many of the disputed statements have value apart from
their truth. For instance, the statements about AMCOM’s beliefs could be offered
to demonstrate LogiCore’s perception, even if the statements could not be offered
to demonstrate the actual existence of the beliefs. LogiCore will have a full and
fair opportunity to refute Mr. Cox’s claims and evidence at trial.
For the reasons stated above, the Court GRANTS IN PART and DENIES
While such statements have not been presented, Mr. McLeod’s persistence in complaining
about Mr. Cox, coupled with his inability or unwillingness to provide details about the basis for
his displeasure, cuts against his assertion that the issues were simply performance-related.
IN PART LogiCore’s motion for summary judgment. The Court DISMISSES
WITH PREJUDICE Mr. Cox’s retaliation claim. Mr. Cox’s claims for Title VII
and § 1981 race discrimination will proceed to trial. The Court will set those
claims for a jury trial. The Court will provide the parties with additional
instructions in a forthcoming pre-trial order.
DONE and ORDERED this May 18, 2016.
MADELINE HUGHES HAIKALA
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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