United States District Court, D. Delaware
TYRONE C. ROBERSON, Plaintiff,
BARRETTS BUSINESS SERVICES, INC., et al., Defendants.
C. Roberson, Magnolia, Delaware; Pro Se Plaintiff.
M. Willoughby, Esquire, Young, Conaway, Stargatt & Taylor
LLP, Wilmington, Delaware. Counsel for Defendants.
ANDREWS, U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE
Tyrone C. Roberson, who proceeds pro se, filed this
action alleging employment discrimination pursuant to 42
U.S.C. §§ 2000e, et seq. (D.I. 2, 5).
Before the Court are the parties' cross-motions for
summary judgment. (D.I. 23, 24). The motions have been fully
who is African-American, was employed by Defendant Barretts
Business Services, Inc. ("BBSI") until his
discharge from employment on November 30, 2015. (D.I. 21 at
28). Plaintiff alleges discrimination, based upon race and
color, and retaliation, resulting in his wrongful
termination. (D.I. 2 at 4).
submitted an application for employment with BBSI on December
22, 2014. (D.I. 26 at 5-6). Defendant Larry Lewis interviewed
Plaintiff and offered him a position as an on-site shift
supervisor for the night shift at Playtex Energizer,
BBSI's client. (D.I. 26 at 22, 44, 82). Lewis supervised
Plaintiff. (Id. at 82). He also made the decision to
terminate Plaintiffs employment on November 30, 2015.
on-site shift supervisor, Plaintiff was expected to supervise
on-site staff, conduct customer service, manage the daily
shift operations, and ensure that BBSI employees complied
with client (i.e., Playtex) rules and regulations.
(Id. at 82). Plaintiffs assigned work hours were
7:00 p.m. until at 3:00 a.m., making him responsible for
supervising part of the second shift and part of the third
shift. (Id. at 38, 45, 61, 62). According to Lewis,
when Plaintiff began working for BBSI, his performance was
generally acceptable for a new hire, although he did
occasionally display a lack of judgment and, in general,
below-average supervisory skills. (D.I. 26 at 82).
February 2015, Lewis began receiving complaints from Playtex
regarding the workers on the third shift, the shift for which
Plaintiff was partly responsible. (Id. at 83). too
was supervised by Lewis. (Id. at 80). Brown received
complaints from Playtex management regarding Plaintiffs
performance and relayed the information to Plaintiff so that
Plaintiff could try to solve the problems management was
noticing. (Id. at 81). Plaintiff testified that in
February and March 2015, Brown relayed complaints that
included Plaintiffs sleeping on the job, disciplining
employees, failing to fill out certain training forms, and
not properly handling employees who "were on their
phones, they were lollygagging, not doing the job."
(D.I. 26 at 48-54; see also D.I. 21 at 111-16
(emails in February 2015)). In a February 27, 2015 email,
Brown apologized to Plaintiff "for the true lack of
training that was given." (D.I. 21 at 6). At the time,
Plaintiff did not attribute the complaints to racial animus.
(Id. at 50).
was a complaint in June 2015 when Plaintiff met with two
Playtex supervisors to discuss a BBSI employee who was
accused of sleeping in a car and improperly using a
co-worker's identification card to swipe in and out of
the building. (Id. at 56-57). Plaintiff testified
that Brown accused him of lying about the incident. (D.I. 26
at 58; see also D.I. 21 at 120-21 (emails in June
2015)). Plaintiff testified that thereafter, he and Brown had
a disagreement following a miscommunication over whether
employees were allowed to bring their cell phones into the
building, and Brown called Plaintiff incompetent.
(Id. at 58-60; see also D.I. 21 at 118
(email in June 2015)). Plaintiff testified that he found
Brown's concerns and criticisms "deceitful,"
and that Brown tried to blame things on him. (D.I. 26 at
also testified that Brown was a liar, he had caught Brown in
lies, and that Brown lied to cover himself. (Id. at
72). Plaintiff testified that he thought Brown was deceitful
in his relationship with him. (Id.). Plaintiff
decided to work things out with Brown and go forward.
(Id. at 73). When Plaintiff spoke to Brown during a
June 2015 telephone call, he did not tell Brown that he felt
Brown had some kind of racial animus against him.
hours were changed on August 3, 2015, to begin at 9:00 p.m.
and end at 5:00 a.m., making him primarily responsible for
supervising the third shift. (Id. at 67). After he
made the shift change, there continued to be problems with
cell phone use, constant turnover, and employees sleeping in
their cars. (Id. at 68-70). On the morning of August
12, 2015, Brown sent an email to Lewis regarding problems
with Plaintiff, suggesting that they need to "sit down
and develop a strategy to what we need to do moving
forward." (D.I. 21 at 123).
shared a desk with Brown, but they worked different shifts so
there was not a lot of face-to-face interaction. (D.I. 26 at
46, 80). Plaintiff left his phone charger in the desk drawer
and told Brown that he could use the charger whenever he
liked. (Id. at 46). Plaintiff testified that
explicit racial bias occurred on August 12, 2015. He arrived
at work for his 9 p.m. shift and found the cell phone charger
cord in the desk drawer had been made into a noose.
(Id. at 74-76). Plaintiff did not show the noose to
anyone. (Id. at 47). He first called Vontray
Alexander, the third shift manager for Playtex, but she did
not answer her phone. (Id. at 47). The next morning,
Plaintiff sent Lewis a text to talk to him about the
"noose incident." (Id.). Plaintiff
testified that Lewis called him, told Plaintiff that he would
look into the situation, and would get back to Plaintiff.
(Id.). Plaintiff testified that, instead, he
received a call from Brown. (Id.). Brown understands
that Plaintiff "contends" that Brown "left a
phone charger cord in the shape of a hangman's noose in
the desk [they] shared." (Id. at 81). Brown
states, "I did no such thing. I never discriminated
against [Plaintiff], or anyone else, because of their
states that he never witnessed any employees harassing
Plaintiff. (Id. at 83). He states that BBSI has a
strong EEO policy and a system in place for making complaints
and that Plaintiff was aware of the policy when he signed his
antidiscrimination policy. (Id.) Lewis states that
Plaintiff never made a formal complaint of discrimination.
testified that other incidents took place between September
and November where Brown criticized Plaintiff's
performance. (D.I. 26 at 71; see also D.I. 21 at
125-28 (emails in September 2015)).
testified that he was neither aware, nor told, of contacts
from Playtex to Brown or Lewis complaining about his
performance. (Id. at 70-71). Plaintiff also
testified that he saw notes on the desk he shared with Brown
that mentioned "Tyrone being replaced," and
"Tyrone is not doing his job," as well as emails on
Brown's BBSI email account that stated, "What are we
doing with Tyrone? Tyrone seems to be the problem."
(D.I. 26 at 71). Plaintiff testified that there was a
"glitch" in the computer that he and Brown shared
that allowed Plaintiff to see Brown's emails.
(Id. at 55). In the later part of his employment, he
saw emails from Brown stating that Plaintiffs performance was
not satisfactory. (Id. at 71-72).
to Lewis, he worked with Plaintiff by giving him regular
feedback and coaching him to try to improve his performance.
(Id. at 83). Lewis stated that after a certain
point, he realized that coaching was not going to make a
difference and that Plaintiff lacked the skill set and
judgment required of the position. (Id.). According
to Lewis, Plaintiff was failing in the most important areas
he was responsible for, and it was causing "enormous
strain on Playtex and the relationship between Playtex and
BBSI." (Id. at 83). BBSI has no written
documentation regarding Plaintiffs performance or counseling
reports. (D.I. 21 at 18).
made the decision to terminate Plaintiffs employment with
BBSI due to unresolved performance issues. (D.I. 26 at 83).
According to Lewis, at no time did race play any role in this
decision. (Id.). When Plaintiff was terminated on
November 30, 2015, he was "told it was the consensus of
Playtex with Joe Brown that [his] services were no longer
needed. It was not so much what [Plaintiff had] done, . . .
just it didn't workout." (Id. at 71).
January 28, 2016, Plaintiff filed a charge of discrimination
with the Delaware Department of Labor which was
simultaneously dual-filed with the Equal Employment
Opportunity Commission. (D.I. 26 at 7). A notice of suit
rights issued and Plaintiff commenced this action.