Racial retaliation claim against mover proceeds to trial

April 20, 2015
A moving company that allegedly permitted an environment of open racial hostility toward two African-American employees must face a jury on a complaint alleging discriminatory retaliation, a federal judge has ruled.
Calvin Jackson and Calvin Cartlidge claimed they were paid less, denied raises and fired in retaliation for complaining about racial slurs they endured from co-workers. A judge granted summary judgment in favor of Morse Moving & Storage Inc., Indianapolis, on the plaintiffs’ pay claims, but not on the retaliation claim.
The mover “is not entitled to judgment as a matter of law on Plaintiffs’ retaliation claim, and that claim will proceed to trial,” District Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson ordered Friday in Calvin Jackson and Calvin Cartlidge v. Morse Moving & Storage Inc., 1:13-CV-148.
“To be sure, there is disturbing evidence of racial animus in this case, but Plaintiffs have not tied that evidence to their claim that Morse discriminated against them in connection with their initial pay rate,” Magnus-Stinson wrote. Evidence also was insufficient to prove denial of raises could be linked to discrimination. 
Jackson and Cartlidge allege they were subjected to a hostile workplace in which co-workers frequently used racial slurs – behavior they claim was condoned and covered up by supervisors. They claim they were fired after complaining about the treatment, even as other co-workers encouraged them to report the discriminatory remarks. 
The record indicates the plaintiffs repeatedly complained to supervisors, to little avail.
Morse claims Jackson and Cartlidge were terminated for cause after a trouble-plagued Nov. 6, 2012, move, and that the workers failed to call a job line where workers are informed if they were scheduled. The trip began with Jackson and Cartlidge driving a pre-loaded truck that twice broke down as they were routed to deliver the move to the customer’s old address.  
In letting the retaliation claim proceed, Magnus-Stinson wrote there was evidence that the workers also had reported to work or called the job line.  
“Additional evidence supports Plaintiffs’ claim that Morse retaliated against them for complaining about racial animus,” Magnus-Stinson wrote, noting a supervisor had informed some workers that he would not schedule them to work with Jackson and Cartlidge. 
Magnus-Stinson also noted that another Morse employee “testified that when he complained regarding the co-workers’ treatment of Plaintiffs, his hours were cut. Further, the evidence at this stage of the case shows that Morse management did nothing to address Plaintiffs’ concerns about racial animus.
“… Because Plaintiffs have sustained their burden under the direct method of proof for their retaliation claim, the Court need not consider whether Plaintiffs have demonstrated a prima facie case under the indirect method or whether Morse’s stated reasons for terminating them were pretext for discrimination,” the judge wrote in denying summary judgment for Morse on the retaliation claim.

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