Benford v. Schneider National Carriers, Inc.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER : IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Defendant Schneider National Carriers, Inc.'s Motion for Summary Judgment, Doc. 48 , is GRANTED. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment, Doc. 46 , is DENIED. An appropriate Judgment will accompany this Memorandum and Order. Signed by District Judge Matthew T. Schelp on 7/19/2021. (KCD) Modified on 7/19/2021 (KCD).
Case: 4:19-cv-00550-MTS Doc. #: 66 Filed: 07/19/21 Page: 1 of 9 PageID #: 555
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI
JESSIE SAMUEL RUFUS BENFORD,
SCHNEIDER NATIONAL CARRIERS,
Case No. 4:19-cv-00550-MTS
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
This matter is before the Court on the parties’ dueling summary judgment Motions, Docs.
 and . After considering the Motions and all related materials, the Court finds, based on
the undisputed facts, that Defendant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law, so the Court will
grant Defendant’s Motion and deny Plaintiff’s Motion.
A brief recounting of the posture of this case may be useful for clarifying both the factual
and procedural background here. In his Complaint, Plaintiff Benford claimed, among other things,
that Defendant Schneider National Carriers, Inc., his former employer, discriminated against him
on the basis of race, religion, color, and gender, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of
1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e–2000e-17. Doc. . Plaintiff’s claims of race, color, and gender
discrimination, as well as his claims of harassment and a hostile work environment, were dismissed
sua sponte by the Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e) because he failed to exhaust his
administrative remedies before bringing the claims in this Court. See Docs. ;  at 1. After
the Court dismissed those claims, Defendant moved to dismiss Plaintiff’s claim of religious
discrimination, the only claim remaining before the Court. Doc. . The Court denied the
Case: 4:19-cv-00550-MTS Doc. #: 66 Filed: 07/19/21 Page: 2 of 9 PageID #: 556
Motion to Dismiss, but it was careful to explain that it was “skeptical of [the religious
discrimination] claim,” noting that it was “altogether unclear” that Plaintiff invoked his religion
by simply asking his supervisor, Jack Filina, to “speak to [him] with respect, as [he] speak[s] to
[Filina] with respect via Christ’s command of love your neighbor as yourself.” See Docs.  at
5;  at 7. The Court further observed that, according to Plaintiff’s Complaint, it was Plaintiff,
not Filina, who inserted the issue of religion into their argument. Doc.  at 5. For those reasons,
the Court explained that, though Plaintiff’s “bare allegations appear too tenuous to hold defendant
responsible for discrimination,” it would deny the Motion to Dismiss “out of an abundance of
Both parties moved for summary judgment. In support of his Motion, Plaintiff attached
only the following documents: (1) what appears to be a statement of facts from Plaintiff’s statecourt appeal of the denial of his application for unemployment benefits, Doc. [47-1] at 4–6; (2) a
one-page excerpt of a brief in that appeal, id. at 7–8; (3) an excerpted transcript of testimony for
the appeal, id. at 10–13; (4) a copy of the Court’s Memorandum and Order denying Defendant’s
Motion to Dismiss in this case, id. at 14–19; and (5) a copy of Defendant’s Memorandum in
Support of its Motion to Dismiss, id. at 20–23. Plaintiff makes hardly any argument in the
Memorandum in support of his Motion, instead making conclusory allegations and statements
indicating a misunderstanding of the Court’s denial of the Motion to Dismiss. See id. at 2–3. The
attached statement of facts—which appears to be taken from Plaintiff’s appeal of the denial of
unemployment benefits—cites to a transcript that is not in the record before the Court. Plaintiff
has thus failed to comply with the requirement in Local Rule 4.01(E) that any statement of
uncontroverted material fact must state “how each fact is established by the record, with
appropriate supporting citation[s].” For that reason, the Court will not heed Plaintiff’s recitation
Case: 4:19-cv-00550-MTS Doc. #: 66 Filed: 07/19/21 Page: 3 of 9 PageID #: 557
of the facts. See Cigainero v. Carnival Corp., 426 F. Supp. 3d 1299, 1301 (S.D. Fla. 2019) (“The
Court notes that several of Plaintiff’s facts in her responsive statement of facts are unsupported by
record citations. The Court has no obligation to go digging through the record to find the support
that Plaintiff has omitted and therefore ignores those factual assertions.” (citation omitted) (citing
Johnson v. City of Fort Lauderdale, 126 F.3d 1372, 1373 (11th Cir. 1997))); Moreillon v. United
States, 2020 WL 2494646, at *2 n.2 (N.D. Ill. May 14, 2020) (“The Court has not considered any
assertions or denials in [plaintiff’s] response to the government’s statement of facts that are
unsupported by record cites.”); Meehan v. United Consumers Club Franchising Corp., 312 F.3d
909, 914 (8th Cir. 2002) (“All civil litigants are required to follow applicable procedural rules.”).
Defendant, meanwhile, supported its statement of uncontroverted facts with specific
citations to the record. See generally Doc. . In violation of Local Rule 4.01(E) and Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c)(1), Plaintiff failed to respond to several of Defendant’s factual
assertions and again cited nothing in the record to support his position. See Docs. , . For
those reasons, “[a]ll matters set forth in [Defendant’s statement of facts] shall be deemed admitted
for purposes of summary judgment.” L.R. 4.01(E); see Freeman v. Adams, No. 1:12-cv-86-SNLJ,
2014 WL 1056760, at *5 n.4 (E.D. Mo. Mar. 19, 2014) (“The movant’s statement of facts are
deemed admitted if not specifically controverted by the party opposing the motion with specific
references to portions of the record as required by Local Rule 4.01(E) and Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 56(c)(1).”). The Court will thus set out the undisputed and relevant factual background
as supplied by Defendant in its Motion for Summary Judgment and statement of facts.
Defendant hired Plaintiff in July 2018 as a truck driver. Doc.  ¶ 7. At some point
thereafter, Plaintiff stopped reporting to work. Id. ¶ 10. Plaintiff’s supervisor sent him a letter on
October 24, 2018 stating that he had tried to contact Plaintiff multiple times and that if he did not
Case: 4:19-cv-00550-MTS Doc. #: 66 Filed: 07/19/21 Page: 4 of 9 PageID #: 558
hear from him by October 30, 2018, he would assume Plaintiff chose to “voluntarily terminate
[his] employment with [Defendant].” Id. ¶ 11. Plaintiff contacted the supervisor and requested a
transfer to Defendant’s Home Depot account because it was closer to his home. See id. ¶ 12. The
supervisor referred Plaintiff to Jack Filina, a driver business leader for the Home Depot account,
and Filina told Plaintiff he would have to commit to working six days a week and complete three
consecutive days of Moffett training 1 to be qualified for the position. Id. ¶¶ 13–15. Plaintiff began
his Moffett training on November 7, 2018; he did not complete a full day of training on November
8, so he made that day up on November 9. See id. ¶¶ 20–23. He was scheduled to complete the
required third day of his training on November 13, 2018, but, claiming car troubles, he did not
report to work that day. He likewise did not report the following day despite Filina’s offer to have
someone pick him up to drive him to the training. Id. ¶¶ 24–25. Plaintiff did not report to work
or attend any training on November 15, 16, 19, 20, or 21, and he never completed the required
Moffett training. Id. ¶¶ 26–27.
Filina called Plaintiff on November 19 and 20, 2018 but did not reach him. Id. ¶ 28.
Plaintiff called Filina back on November 21. What was said on that phone call is at the center of
Plaintiff’s religious discrimination claim. On the call, Filina emphasized to Plaintiff “it was critical
[he] reported to work on time and asked if he was committed to the Home Depot account.” Id.
¶ 30. According to Plaintiff, Filina also instructed Plaintiff that it should not have taken so long
to complete the Moffett training, that Filina did not believe Plaintiff was willing to “bust his ass”
for the Home Depot account, and that Filina had “no more work” for him. Id. ¶¶ 32. Plaintiff then
requested that Filina “speak to [him] with respect, as [he] spoke to [Filina] with respect via Christ’s
command of love your neighbor as yourself.” Doc.  at 7; Doc.  ¶ 33. Filina reiterated that
According to Defendant, “[a] Moffett is a specialized form of forklift movement which requires specialized
training to be able to operate.” Doc.  ¶ 16.
Case: 4:19-cv-00550-MTS Doc. #: 66 Filed: 07/19/21 Page: 5 of 9 PageID #: 559
he had no more work for Plaintiff and that he felt Plaintiff was not qualified for the position. Id.
¶ 34; Doc. [50-2] at (119:12–120:7). At no point during the call did Filina mention religion, nor
had he previously discussed religion with Plaintiff, and he asserts that he is unaware of Plaintiff’s
religion. Doc.  ¶¶ 35–38. Plaintiff’s employment with Defendant ended after that phone call;
Plaintiff insists that he was fired, while Defendant maintains that Plaintiff resigned. Doc.  at
12. Plaintiff urges that Defendant discriminated against him on the basis of his religion, grounding
that assertion on his own invocation of Christ in the November 21, 2018 phone call.
Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, a court must grant a motion for summary
judgment if it finds “that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party
is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986).
“A genuine issue of material fact exists if a reasonable jury could return a verdict for” the nonmovant. Cockram v. Genesco, Inc., 680 F.3d 1046, 1051 (8th Cir. 2012) (quoting Humphries v.
Pulaski Cnty. Special Sch. Dist., 580 F.3d 688, 692 (8th Cir. 2009)).
The moving party bears the initial burden of “informing the district court of the basis for
its motion, and identifying those portions of the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories,
and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, which it believes demonstrate the
absence of a genuine issue of material fact.” Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323 (internal quotations marks
omitted). The burden then shifts to the non-movant to “present specific evidence, beyond ‘mere
denials or allegations [that] . . . raise a genuine issue for trial.’” Farver v. McCarthy, 931 F.3d
808, 811 (8th Cir. 2019) (quoting Wingate v. Gage Cnty. Sch. Dist., 528 F.3d 1074, 1079 (8th Cir.
2008)). “Only disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing
law will properly preclude” summary judgment. Wierman v. Casey’s Gen. Stores, 638 F.3d 984,
Case: 4:19-cv-00550-MTS Doc. #: 66 Filed: 07/19/21 Page: 6 of 9 PageID #: 560
1002 (8th Cir. 2011) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)). “The
mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the plaintiff’s position will be insufficient;
there must be evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the plaintiff.” Liberty Lobby,
477 U.S. at 252. “Self-serving, conclusory statements without support are not sufficient to defeat
summary judgment.” Shirrell v. Saint Francis Med. Ctr., 24 F. Supp. 3d 851, 855 (E.D. Mo. 2014).
The undisputed facts here lead the Court to conclude that Plaintiff’s claims fail as a matter
of law. To succeed on a Title VII claim of discrimination, a plaintiff must demonstrate that there
is “direct evidence of unlawful discrimination or create an inference of unlawful discrimination
under the burden-shifting framework established in McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S.
792 (1973).” Shirrell, 24 F. Supp. 3d at 858. Because Plaintiff, not Filina, brought religion into
their phone conversation, and Filina had never before discussed religion with Plaintiff, Plaintiff
has not provided any direct evidence of discrimination. Cf. Twymon v. Wells Fargo & Co., 462
F.3d 925, 933 (8th Cir. 2006) (“Direct evidence does not include . . . statements by
nondecisionmakers.” (cleaned up) (quoting Browning v. President Riverboat Casino-Mo., Inc.,
139 F.3d 631, 635 (8th Cir. 1998))). As such, the Court will analyze his claim under the burdenshifting framework of McDonnell Douglas. See Gibson v. Concrete Equip. Co., 960 F.3d 1057,
1062 (8th Cir. 2020).
To succeed on his claim under McDonnell Douglas, Plaintiff must first establish a prima
facie case of discrimination by showing that (1) he is a member of a protected class; (2) he was
meeting Defendant’s legitimate job expectations; (3) he suffered an adverse employment action;
and (4) similarly situated employees outside the protected class were treated differently. See id.
If Plaintiff makes that showing, the burden shifts to Defendant to rebut the presumption of
Case: 4:19-cv-00550-MTS Doc. #: 66 Filed: 07/19/21 Page: 7 of 9 PageID #: 561
discrimination by providing a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for any adverse employment
action. Id. Finally, if Defendant rebuts that presumption, the burden shifts back to Plaintiff to
show pretext. Id.
Plaintiff has failed to even make a prima facie case for his claim of religious discrimination.
Even assuming he is a member of a protected class and that he suffered an adverse employment
action, 2 the evidence before the Court makes clear that he was not meeting Defendant’s legitimate
job expectations, and Plaintiff has provided no evidence of any similarly situated employees
outside the protected class who Defendant treated differently. Plaintiff failed to show up to work
numerous times, prompting his supervisor to call him and warn that Defendant would consider
him “voluntarily terminated” if he did not hear from him. It appears, then, that Plaintiff was on
notice that he needed to show up for work, and if he did not, Defendant might fire him. Then, after
Defendant agreed to transfer Plaintiff to a new account, Filina made clear to Plaintiff that his new
position required three consecutive days of Moffett training and a commitment to work six days a
week. Plaintiff nonetheless never completed his Moffett training, though it appears Defendant
gave him multiple opportunities to do so. And Plaintiff himself stated that Filina told Plaintiff that
Plaintiff was “unqualified” for the position. It is not the role of district courts to usurp the decision
whether to fire an employee, particularly where that employee has not met the employer’s explicit
requirements for the job. See Grabovac v. Allstate Oms. Co., 426 F.3d 951, 955–56 (8th Cir. 2005)
(“It is well-established ‘that the employment discrimination laws have not vested in the federal
courts the authority to sit as super-personnel departments reviewing the wisdom or fairness of the
As noted, Plaintiff claims Defendant fired him, though he points to no record evidence in support of that claim, and
Defendant contends he resigned. Cf. Curby v. Solutia, Inc., 351 F.3d 868, 872 (8th Cir. 2003) (“Because she resigned,
[plaintiff] cannot show she suffered an adverse employment action.”); Thompson v. Kanabec Cnty., 958 F.3d 698, 707
(8th Cir. 2020). This dispute is immaterial, however, since the undisputed facts demonstrate that Plaintiff has not
established the remaining elements of his claim.
Case: 4:19-cv-00550-MTS Doc. #: 66 Filed: 07/19/21 Page: 8 of 9 PageID #: 562
business judgments made by employers, except to the extent those judgments involve intentional
discrimination.’” (quoting Hutson v. McDonnel Douglas Corp., 63 F.3d 771, 781 (8th Cir. 1995))).
Plaintiff plainly was not meeting his employer’s reasonable job expectations, and he has not
pointed to any similarly situated employees who Defendant treated differently than it treated him.
It is Plaintiff’s burden to establish a prima facie case of discrimination, and he has not done so
Even if Plaintiff had carried his burden of establishing a prima facie case of religious
discrimination, for the reasons already discussed, Defendant has carried its burden of
demonstrating a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for firing Plaintiff: he failed to report to
multiple days of work and failed to complete required training for his position. Under McDonnell
Douglas, the burden would then shift back to Plaintiff to show that those reasons for firing him
were pretextual. But, as the undisputed record reflects that Filina never mentioned or alluded to
Plaintiff’s faith either prior to, during, or after the November 21, 2018 phone call, Plaintiff has not
provided any evidence of pretext here. Instead, the record suggests that Plaintiff’s failure to meet
the requirements of his job led to the end of his employment with Defendant. Cf. Shirrell, 24 F.
Supp. 3d at 860–61. The Court therefore cannot grant Plaintiff’s Motion for Summary Judgment,
as no reasonable trier of fact could find for him on his claim for religious discrimination. By the
same token, Defendants are due judgment as a matter of law.
Plaintiff failed to provide sufficient evidence in support of his claims for religious
discrimination; he has neither provided direct evidence of religious discrimination nor established
a prima facie case of discrimination. Defendant, meanwhile, has demonstrated that Plaintiff’s
employment with Defendant ended after Plaintiff failed to meet Defendant’s reasonable
Case: 4:19-cv-00550-MTS Doc. #: 66 Filed: 07/19/21 Page: 9 of 9 PageID #: 563
requirements for his employment and also after he failed to report to work on multiple occasions.
The Court has no grounds for finding that Defendant discriminated against Plaintiff on the basis
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Defendant Schneider National Carriers, Inc.’s Motion
for Summary Judgment, Doc. , is GRANTED.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Plaintiff’s Motion for Summary Judgment, Doc. ,
An appropriate Judgment will accompany this Memorandum and Order.
Dated this 19th day of July, 2021.
MATTHEW T. SCHELP
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?