7th Circuit affirms ruling for employer on discrimination claims

December 28, 2017

Indiana’s Southern District Court properly granted summary judgment to a black man on a discrimination case against his former employer after finding the man failed to prove his termination was based on discriminatory practices, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled.

In Abdullah Ennin v. CNH Industrial America, LLC, 17-2270, Abdullah Ennin, a naturalized American citizen from Ghana, worked for CNH Industrial America, LLC as an export second shift operations supervisor and served as the only black supervisor at the Lebanon facility. After an argument with another supervisor in 2014, Ennin received his first written warning for misconduct that May.

The following November, Ennin’s car broke down on the way to work, so he sought the help of Gonzalo Chavez, an hourly worker who had already clocked in. When the two returned to work, Ennin swiped Chavez back into the building with his supervisor badge and failed to adjust Chavez’s timesheet for the time he had lost while helping Ennin with his car, all in violation of company policy.

When Ennin’s actions with Chavez were reported to his supervisors, they decided after a meeting with Ennin on Nov. 19 that they would fire him the following day, but did not inform him of that decision.

Ennin then failed to come to work on Nov. 20, and instead rescheduled a previously planned medical procedure for Nov. 21 and requested leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act from CNH’s third-party administrator.

Thus, CNH was unable to inform Ennin of his termination on Nov. 20, and later learned on Dec. 1 that Ennin had also been approved for short-term disability benefits. The company sent Ennin a letter informing him of his termination the same day and wrote that the decision had been made on Nov. 19.

Ennin sued, alleging he was fired due to his race, national origin, disability and his decision to take FMLA leave. He specifically tried to introduce evidence that CNH did not decide to terminate him until Dec. 1, thus proving he was fired after taking FMLA leave.

In response, CNH claimed Ennin’s evidence was unauthenticated hearsay, but Ennin failed to file a surreply to that argument, as allowed by the Southern District Court. Thus, the district court determined Ennin had waived his evidentiary arguments and granted summary judgment to CNH.

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld that decision Wednesday, with Judge Daniel Manion agreeing with the district court that because Ennin had the opportunity to file a surreply, yet failed to do so, he waived his evidentiary arguments. Further, Ennin “failed to point to any admissible evidence that CNH didn’t fire him because of the November … incident with Chavez,” Manion said, so summary judgment was proper on his discrimination claims.

Finally, because Ennin’s federal employment rights were not violated, the court determined his federal conspiracy and state law negligent supervision claims also have to fail because they were derivative of the underlying claims.




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