United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Asheville Division
COGBUM JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
MATTER comes before the Court on a Motion for
Summary Judgment by Defendant Yale Security, Inc. (Doc. No.
16). Plaintiff Edgar Roberts is represented by Geraldine
Sumter of the law firm of Ferguson, Chambers & Sumter,
P.A. Defendant Yale Security is represented by Kelly Hughes
of the law firm of Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak &
Edgar Roberts filed this action on February 5, 2018, bringing
a race discrimination action against his former employer
Defendant Yale Security, Inc., pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
1981. Defendant filed the pending summary
judgment motion on March 1, 2019. (Doc. No. 16). On March 14,
2019, Plaintiff filed a motion for extension of time to file
a response to the summary judgment motion. (Doc. No. 18). On
March 20, 2019, this Court granted Plaintiff's motion,
giving Plaintiff until April 12, 2019, to file the response.
(Doc. No. 19). Plaintiff has not filed a response and the
time to do so has passed. Thus, this matter is ripe for
Plaintiff's Allegations in his
Plaintiff has not responded to the summary judgment motion
with his own summary judgment evidence, the Court has before
it on summary judgment only the allegations made in his
Complaint. Plaintiff alleges in the Complaint that Defendant
hired him in September 2007 as a design/quality engineer.
Plaintiff worked in a department in which he was the only
African-American and one of only two African-American
engineers in the company in Monroe, North Carolina.
alleges that he performed his work in a satisfactory manner.
He alleges that on February 10, 2014, he was advised that he
was subject to a layoff. Plaintiff further alleges that
Defendant retained white employees in Plaintiff's
department whose work performance was not equal to his and
who had caused substantial expenditures of money by Defendant
without producing a suitable project. Finally, Plaintiff
alleges that no other person in Plaintiff's department
was subject to a layoff, and that all other employees
retained their positions. Plaintiff alleges that, in being
laid off, he was subjected to race discrimination, in
violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981.
Summary Judgment Materials
Yale Security's summary judgment evidence shows that
Defendant hired Plaintiff in September 2007. (Doc No. 16-2,
Def. Ex. A: Pl. Dep. at 23:11 to 23:12). Plaintiff worked for
a business unit of Yale Security, Norton Door Controls
(“Norton”), at a facility in Monroe, North
Carolina. (Doc. No. 16-3, Def. Ex. B: Dietrich Decl.
at ¶¶ 2-3; Pl. Dep. 30:21 to 30:23). Yale Security
offered a broad portfolio of door hardware and locks for
residential and commercial uses. (Doc. No. 16-4, Def. Ex. C:
Sejourne Decl. at ¶ 3). Norton's business was (and
is) specifically dedicated to the design, manufacture, and
distribution of door closers. (Id.). Following a
corporate reorganization in 2018 that split the lock
businesses and accessories/door controls businesses into
different entities and operational subgroups, Yale Security
changed its corporate name to ASSA ABLOY Accessories and Door
Controls Group, Inc. and retained the Norton business.
his employment with Norton, Plaintiff was a Design/Quality
Engineer. (Pl. Dep. 27:24 to 28:1). As a Design/Quality
Engineer, Plaintiff initially performed design engineering
work in the purchasing profit center, while also performing
quality engineering work in the quality profit center.
(Id. at 28:2 to 28:9). Joe Viola was Plaintiff's
manager during this time, and Plaintiff got along “very
well” with him. (Id. at 28:18 to 28:22, 36:4
around 2011, Brian Norman became Plaintiff's manager.
(Pl. Dep. 36:11 to 36:20). At the time, according to
Plaintiff in his deposition, all engineers were pulled from
their individual profit centers and combined under one
department reporting to Mr. Norman. (Id. at 37:3 to
37:8). Mr. Norman eventually left the company and, in June
2012, Kurt Dietrich became the Engineering Manager.
(Id. at 41:1 to 41:8; Dietrich Decl. ¶¶
2-3). In this role, Mr. Dietrich managed the Research and
Development (“R&D”) team, composed solely of
engineers (including Plaintiff), and the Technical Product
Support (“TPS”) team. (Dietrich Decl. at ¶
3). Mr. Dietrich was Plaintiff's manager until
Plaintiff's separation in February 2014. (Id. at
¶ 2; Pl. Dep. 100:3 to 100:16). Plaintiff describes his
relationship with Mr. Dietrich as “excellent.”
(Pl. Dep. 42:7 to 42:9). When asked during his deposition to
evaluate his own performance, Plaintiff testified that he
“never” made any mistakes-either at Norton or at
any other company for which he has ever worked. (Id.
at 88:7 to 88:18).
time of the February 2014 layoff, Yale Security (including
its business unit Norton) fell beneath the Architectural
Hardware Group (“AHG”), an operational subgroup
of the ASSA ABLOY Group's Americas division. (Sejourne
Decl. at ¶ 2). At the time, Eric Sejourne was AHG's
Vice President of Operational Excellence and Doug Millikan
was AHG's President. (Id. at ¶ 3). Mr.
Millikan passed away in March 2015. (Id. at ¶ 4
n.1). By virtue of their roles and the organizational
structure, both Mr. Sejourne and Mr. Millikan had
responsibility for Norton. (Id. at ¶¶
around January 2014, Mr. Sejourne became aware that ASSA
ABLOY's global headquarters issued a directive to reduce
costs at the Americas divisional level. (Id. at
¶ 5). This directive was issued in response to slowing
demand and, in turn, declining income and weakening profit.
(Id.). As a result, Mr. Millikan and the other
subgroup Presidents within the Americas division were tasked
with reducing costs through downsizing and other cost-saving
measures. (Id.). In addition, around the time of
this mandate, Norton discovered that it had made an
accounting error, which resulted in the business having less
money than expected and further contributed to the need to
reduce costs. (Id.).
response to this directive, Mr. Millikan requested that Mr.
Sejourne conduct what is called a “workout
session” with respect to salaried employees, as well as
factory indirect employees, of the Norton business unit.
(Id. at ¶ 6). Plaintiff was a salaried employee
of Norton. (Dietrich Decl. at ¶ 3). The workout session
is designed to evaluate the organization holistically and to
determine whether greater organizational efficiencies can be
achieved, including through potential labor reduction.
(Id. at ¶ 6).
advance of the workout session, Norton managers, including
Mr. Dietrich, were directed to rate their team members based
on their assessment of the employees' performance, as
well as to identify projects on which they were working.
(Id. at ¶ 7; Dietrich Decl. at ¶ 6). With
respect to the assessment, the managers were directed to
assign each team member an “A, ” “B,
” or “C” rating. (Id.). This
rating was then affixed to a card containing each
employee's name, title, picture, and a listing of their
current assigned work/responsibilities. (Sejourne Decl. at
¶ 7). At the workout session, which was held off site in
a hotel conference room, these cards were used to recreate a
large organizational chart, which was affixed to the
conference room wall. (Id.).
with the directive, Mr. Dietrich identified the projects that
each of his direct reports was working on at the time,
including all members of the R&D team. (Dietrich Decl. at
¶ 7). In addition to identifying the projects of each
employee, he assigned them an “A, ” “B,
” or “C” rating based on his assessment of
each associate's performance. (Id. at ¶ 8).
At the time, Mr. ...