United States District Court, D. Utah
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER
KIMBALL, United States District Judge
matter comes before the court on Defendant Coates Electrical
& Instrumentation Inc.'s (“Coates”)
Motion to Dismiss claims brought by Plaintiff James Allen
Evans (“Evans”) pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure on the grounds that Evans
failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.
court held a hearing on the motions on June 1, 2017. At the
hearing, Evans was represented by Neil Skousen and Coates was
represented by Ashley Leonard. The court took the motion
under advisement. Having heard arguments and considered the
motions, memoranda, facts, and relevant law, the court DENIES
Defendant's Motion to Dismiss as to the discrimination
and retaliation claims and GRANTS Defendant's Motion to
Dismiss as to the hostile work environment claim.
staffing agency, TradeForce, assigned him to work as an
Apprentice Electrician for Coates in April 2015. On April 8,
2015, Evans had an interaction with a Coates Project Manager
named Brandon Hansen (“Hansen”), which resulted
in this suit.
alleges his supervisor sent him to retrieve a tool from the
toolshed. Hansen saw Evans in the toolshed and asked what
Evans was doing. Evans told Hansen he was looking for a tool
as directed by his supervisor. Hansen responded, “Boy,
you work for me.” Evans requested Hansen not call him
“boy.” When Hansen did not stop using the term,
Evans told Hansen he was going to complain to Coates and
TradeForce about race discrimination. In response, Hansen
said, “Boy, take off that harness. You are out of here.
You're fired.” Evans complained to Coates and
TradeForce, but nothing was done to address his
discrimination complaint. TradeForce refused to assign Evans
to any more job openings for projects associated with Coates.
Plaintiff complained to the EEOC and, after receiving his
Notice of Right to Sue letter, filed his Complaint.
Complaint includes three causes of action under Title VII of
the Civil Rights Act and the Utah Anti-Discrimination Act
(“UADA”): race discrimination, hostile work
environment, and retaliation.
12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure allows the
court to dismiss any part of a complaint that “fail[s]
to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.”
Khalik v. United Air Lines, 671 F.3d 1188, 1190
(10th Cir. 2012). The court accepts all well-plead
allegations of the complaint as true and views the complaint
in a light most favorable to the non-moving party.
Berneike v. CitiMortgage, Inc., 708 F.3d 1141, 1144
(10th Cir. 2013). To survive dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6),
plaintiffs must “nudge their claims across the line
from conceivable to plausible.” Bell Atlantic Corp.
v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). “A claim has
facial plausibility when the [pleaded] factual content . . .
allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the
defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.”
Berneike, 708 F.3d at 1144-45 (quoting Ashcroft
v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)).
Motion to Dismiss the Discrimination Claim
seeks to dismiss Evans' claim for failing to provide
facts suggesting Hansen used the term “boy” in a
racist manner. Coates explains that in Ash v. Tyson
Foods, Inc., the court held that, even with contextual
evidence of racism, a reasonable jury could find that use of
the term “boy” was not enough evidence of
discrimination. 664 F.3d 883, 897 (11th Cir. 2011). Thus, it
argues, the facts Evans alleges surrounding his interaction
with Hansen do not rise to the level needed to plead a
discrimination claim. The court disagrees.
procedural history of Ash is complicated. After the
very first trial, a jury returned a verdict in favor of the
plaintiffs' discrimination claims, which involved their
employer's use of the term “boy.” Ash v.
Tyson Foods, Inc., Civ.A. 96-RRA-3257-M, 2004 WL 5138005
at *1 (N.D.Ala. 2004). However, the United States
District Court, District of Alabama held that use of the term
“boy” without any modifications, qualifications,
or racial classifications was not enough evidence of
discrimination and granted defendant's motion for
judgement as a matter of law. Id. at *6, *10.
Circuit Court affirmed. After granting certiorari, the
Supreme Court held that the term “boy, ” standing
alone, is not always benign. Ash, 126 S.Ct. 1195,
1197 (2006). The Supreme Court stated that
“[t]he speaker's meaning may depend on various
factors including context, inflection, tone of voice, local
custom, and historical usage.” Id. The court
then vacated and remanded the case back to the Circuit Court,
which held that there was no evidence to support the term was
used in a racist context. Ash, 190 F.App'x 924,
927 (11th Cir. 2006). The Circuit Court reinstated its
earlier decision and remanded to the District Court for a new
trial to resolve disputes in damages claims.
new trial, a jury again returned a verdict in favor of one of
the plaintiffs' discrimination claims and awarded
damages. The district court allowed the compensatory damages,
but set aside the punitive damages. The parties again
appealed, and the appellate court reversed and remanded,
holding that no reasonable jury could have found that racial
discrimination motivated the failure to promote plaintiffs in
that case. Ash, 392 F.App'x 817, 833 (11th Cir.