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Mayes v. Amazon.Com.Dedc LLC

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle

June 4, 2019

MARK MAYES, Plaintiff,
v.
AMAZON.COM.DEDC LLC, Defendant.

          ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          MARSHA J. PECHMAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         THIS MATTER comes before the Court on Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. No. 63), Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment, and Defendant's Motion to Strike (Dkt. No. 80). Having reviewed the motions, the responses (Dkt. Nos. 69, 70, 76), the replies (77, 78, 82), and all related papers, the Court GRANTS Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment and Motion to Strike and DENIES Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment.

         Background

         For Plaintiff Mark Mayes, who is African-American, the problems began almost immediately after he started working as a full-time Fulfillment Associate for the Defendant, Amazon.com.dedc LLC (“Amazon”). (Dkt. No. 1 ¶ 6; Dkt. No. 64, Declaration of Jeff Heckel (“Heckel Decl.”), Ex. D at 40.)

         During his first week, Mr. Mayes approached an HR Administrative Assistant, whose shirt said “gangsta napper, ” thinking that the shirt said “gangsta nigger.” (Dkt. No. 68, Declaration of Linda Walton (“Walton Decl.”), Ex. Z at 138:20-139:13; Dkt. No. 65, Declaration of Keiko Napier (“Napier Decl.”) ¶ 2 Ex. U.) This conversation took place in front of a message board that Mr. Mayes believed referred to the exclusively Caucasian managers in the fulfillment center as “owners.” (Walton Decl., Ex. Z at 138:25, 199:20-25.) Amazon claims the referenced “owners” are any employee who acts in response to a comment posted on the board. (Heckel Decl. ¶ 11, Ex. C at 45-47.)

         The following day, Mr. Mayes received his first write-up for making four errors, caught by Amazon's automated system that monitors errors and timing as employees scan products. (Heckel Decl., Ex. E at 53-54; Id. ¶ 8.) Other new employees also received write-ups in their first weeks. (Walton Decl., Ex. Z at 182:6-13, 204:19-205:6.) Between June 11 and June 24, Mr. Mayes received additional write-ups for not wearing his badge, (Id., Ex. Z at 205:20-25), taking a break at the wrong time (Heckel Decl. Ex. G), making quality errors, (Id. Ex. H), and for performing at only 50% of the speed expectation (Id.).

         Mr. Mayes also asked his manager “to meet outside in the parking lot, ” which prompted a response from Senior Human Resources Assistant, Emily Larsen. (Walton Decl. Ex. Z at 143:18-22.) Mr. Mayes apologized during a meeting in Ms. Larsen's office but as he was leaving Ms. Larsen, while making a gun symbol with her hand, said, “We're gunning for you.” (Id. at 146:22-24; 148:9-11.) Mr. Mayes took Ms. Larsen's comment as a threat and was so terrified he “went back to [his] station and[] almost passed out.” (Id. at 148:7-24.)

         Mr. Mayes called the Kent Police Department to report Ms. Larsen's comment and another comment from a manager allegedly telling Mr. Mayes he had “14 bullets” for him. (Walton Decl., Ex. BB.) Ms. Larsen explained that she meant she was rooting for Mr. Mayes and did not mean to threaten him. (Id. at 86.) The manager denied using the phrase “14 bullets” but said if he had used the term he was referring to 14 action items that would help Mr. Mayes succeed. (Id.) Mr. Mayes later acknowledged that the comment, “I got 14 bullets for you, ” was a reference to “the bullets of the topics that he went over.” (Id., Ex. Z at 149:20 22; 200:16 18.) The Kent Police Department closed the case. (Id. at 227:4-228:23, Ex. BB at 86-87.)

         In response to the disproportionate HR activity surrounding Mr. Mayes, a senior operations manager initiated an investigation that found Mr. Mayes received several unwarranted reprimands. (Declaration of Aaron Reynolds (“Reynolds Decl.”), Ex. Y at 8.) The manager concluded, “I can completely understand how [Mr. Mayes] feels like we are ‘badgering' him, especially with the frequency of documented feedback[] in this one week period.” (Id.) After the meeting, several of Mr. Mayes's write-ups were exempted and he was reassigned to a new manager, although his performance remained in the bottom five percent of all fulfilment center employees. (Id. at 9, 10.)

         In the following days, Mr. Mayes met separately with an operations manager and an HR business partner, making the statements: “I just can't do this anymore” and “I don't know how I can keep up.” (Heckel Decl. Ex. P at 4.) Then, on July 7, 2017-five weeks after Mr. Mayes began working for Amazon-he told his manager he was unable to work because of a doctor-prescribed boot he was wearing to ease pain from an earlier surgery. (Id. Ex. O at 1.) Mr. Mayes was escorted to the onsite medical office where he was given paperwork for a worker's compensation claim. (Id.) He left after the meeting without completing the paperwork and never returned to Amazon. (Id. ¶¶ 25-27, Ex. R at 151.) Mr. Mayes was notified of his “voluntary resignation due to job abandonment” on October 18, 2017. (Id., Ex. S.)

         Mr. Mayes now brings claims for (1) discrimination on the basis of race in violation of Title VII of the 1964 Civil rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq.; (2) creating a hostile work environment due to race or color in violation of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq.; (3) retaliation in violation of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 2000, and; (4) race discrimination and wrongful termination in violation of the Washington State Law Against Discrimination, RCW chapter 49.60. (Dkt. No. 19.) Both parties seek summary judgment on all claims. (Dkt. No. 63, 71.)

         Discussion

         I. Amazon's Motion to Strike

         As an initial matter, Defendant moves to strike one of Plaintiff's many surreplies (Dkt. No. 78), which contains 11 pages of substantive argument. (Dkt. No. 80 at 1-3.) As there can be no dispute that new arguments raised in a surreply are improper, see, e.g., Amazon.com LLC v. Lay, 758 F.Supp.2d 1154, 1171 (W.D. Wash. 2010); Zamani v. Carnes, 491 F.3d 990, 997 (9th Cir. 2007), the Court GRANTS the Motion to ...


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