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ANDERSON v. ANHEUSER-BUSCH

October 15, 1999

JOSEPH ANDERSON, JR., PLAINTIFF,
v.
ANHEUSER-BUSCH, INC., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sweet, District Judge.

  OPINION

Defendant Anheuser-Busch, Inc. ("ABI") has moved, pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, for summary judgment to dismiss the complaint of plaintiff Joseph Anderson, Jr., pro se ("Anderson"), which alleges a discriminatory discharge on the basis of race in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-1, et seq. ("Title VII"). For the reasons set forth below, the motion will be granted, and the complaint dismissed with prejudice.

Title VII has been a breeding ground for challenging issues, particularly where, as here, the plaintiff is proceeding pro se. The instant motion raises difficult questions arising from the interplay between the state and federal administrative agencies having responsibility in this field, from Anderson's conduct in pursuing his claims (for which ABI has asserted a laches defense), and from the determination and application of the facts in a summary context to the legal sufficiency of Anderson's complaint. What follows, hopefully, will reveal the complexity of these issues and set forth appropriately the reasoning on which Anderson will be denied the relief he has sought.

The Parties

Anderson, who is black, was employed by ABI for approximately four years. He was fired in November 1985 under circumstances which he alleges constitute a violation of Title VII.

ABI is a Missouri corporation selling its products nationally. ABI maintained a national sales force in which Anderson was employed at the time of his discharge.

Prior Proceedings

On January 7, 1998, Anderson filed a complaint alleging that he was discriminatorily discharged by ABI in November 1985. ABI defaulted in early pretrial proceedings, but the default was vacated by order of June 22, 1998. Discovery disputes were subsequently resolved.

ABI's instant motion for summary judgment was filed on June 4, 1999. Papers were received through August 30, 1999, at which point the motion was deemed fully submitted.

The Facts

Pursuant to Local Rule 56.1, ABI has submitted a statement of material facts, and Anderson has submitted correspondence with exhibits which will be treated as a counter-designation of facts. What follows is gleaned from these submissions, with any factual inferences drawn in Anderson's favor.

In September 1981, ABI hired Anderson as an area manager at its Pearl River, N.Y. office. In August 1983, ABI promoted Anderson to national accounts zone manager, a position which entailed cultivating and maintaining relationships with ABI's national accounts, which are companies having sales or distribution responsibilities overlapping a division or region. James Cloud ("Cloud"), ABI's Director of National Sales East and Anderson's direct supervisor, made the decision to promote Anderson to zone manager.

In December 1984, Cloud promoted Anderson from zone manager to zone manager two, which made Anderson responsible for larger accounts and resulted in a raise. Prior to the fall of 1985, ABI had been generally satisfied with Anderson's job performance. Anderson described his first four years at ABI as "very positive" and "exciteful."

In the fall of 1985, ABI was notified — in a manner not clear on the record before the Court — that Stephen Anglim ("Anglim"), a representative from the Long Island Railroad, one of ABI's national accounts for which Anderson was responsible, had apparently not seen Anderson for approximately three months, which Anglim found unusual.

Anglim's comment prompted ABI to review Anderson's call and expense reports. A "call report" is a document on which ABI managers are required to identify the accounts with whom they have met or "called upon" during a particular week. An "expense report" is a document ABI managers submit seeking reimbursement for business-related expenses. As a zone manager, Anderson was required to submit a "weekly reporting package" that included a call report, an expense report, and a summary cover sheet for Cloud's review, in order to keep Cloud abreast of Anderson's schedule. Cloud reviewed Anderson's call and expense reports and found them inconsistent with Anglim's complaint since the reports indicated several recent meetings with Anglim.

Cloud consulted Daniel Williams ("Williams"), ABI's Director of Technical Assistance, who was black, about conducting an investigation of the apparent discrepancies in Anderson's call and expense reports. ABI's Auditing and Systems Department was directed to conduct an audit of Anderson's call and expense reports for the previous ten months — January 1 through October 1, 1985. ABI's Audit Department found that Anderson's restaurant receipts were suspect because he had used receipts "indiscriminately" to support entertainment charges. The Audit Department concluded that Anderson's entertainment charges were not adequately supported and should be disallowed.

On October 23, 1985, Cloud and Paul Morrissey ("Morrissey"), an ABI Vice-President, summoned Anderson to ABI headquarters in St. Louis. Anderson apparently went under the impression that he was going to be given a raise. However, Cloud and Morrissey told him that ABI had reason to believe he had falsified his call and expense reports relating to several accounts, including Convenient Food Markets, Melmarkets, the Long Island Railroad, Nassau Coliseum, and the Michelob Gold Tournament. Anderson was further told that, in accordance with ABI's Dismissal and Suspension Policy, he was suspended for 30 days with pay to provide ABI additional time to investigate the apparent discrepancies in his reports. ABI's Dismissal and Suspension Policy provides that falsification of documents, such as call and expense reports, may be grounds for termination. At the meeting, Cloud and Morrissey instructed Anderson that he was not to contact his accounts during his 30-day uspension. Anderson requested but did not receive any documentation of the charges against him. Anderson also requested that Cloud or Morrissey call Anderson's accounts right there to verify the supposed falsifications, but Cloud and Morrissey declined to do so.

By letter dated October 30, 1985, Anderson informed Cloud that he had contacted several of his accounts on October 24, 1985, the day after he was told not to contact his accounts for the next 30 days. Those contacted included Keith Gooden of Harbor Distributing, Richard Makse of the Long Island Railroad, Brian Conlon of Nassau Coliseum, and Larry Wright of Convenient Foodmart. Anderson asked these accounts to write letters of support for him. The letters were not provided to ABI until the hearings before the New York State Department of Human Rights ("NYSDHR") described below.

Anderson was also shown a call report dated July 24, 1985, indicating he had met with Anglim and Makse, and an expense report, for which he was reimbursed $70.00, indicating that on July 25, 1985, he entertained Makse and Anglim at Louie's Shore Restaurant. Anderson admitted he did not entertain Makse or Anglim on July 25, 1985.

Anderson was further questioned about an expense report indicating he had entertained a representative of Harbor Distributors on October 17, 1985 at McCauley's Restaurant. Anderson stated that he had not entertained anyone from Harbor Distributors at McCauley's Restaurant in October 1985, but, rather, had bought lunch at McCauley's for a representative of Beck's, an ABI competitor. He admitted that he had submitted false documents to the company, exercised "bad judgment" in deliberately listing the wrong individuals on several of his call and expense reports, and knew his actions were wrong. On November 25, 1985, Anderson was discharged by ABI.

On December 20, 1985, Anderson forwarded a 20-page "statement" to Edward W. Foles ("Foles"), a supervisor in NYSDHR's New York City office, recounting the circumstances of the termination of his employment at ABI. In his letter, Anderson stated his responsibilities with respect to the development of the market for ABI in the black community and stated, in addition, that:

  During the week of October 27, 1985, he contacted his
  accounts to ask them if they had complained about him
  to Mr. Cloud;

At least one of his call reports was inaccurate;

  Two of his expense reports were "in fact false as to
  the extent that [he] did not enter the proper names
  of the parties with whom [he] dined";
  He ate lunch with a competitor but "was afraid" to
  include the competitor's name in his expense report,
  so he included a false name in his report seeking
  reimbursement for the meal;
  He ate lunch with a "black tavern owner and
  businessman," but "was afraid" to include his name on
  his expense report, so he included a false name in
  his report seeking reimbursement for the meal; and

He submitted expense reports with false information.

In his letter Anderson questioned why he was terminated rather than reprimanded and noted that he was the one black employee in a department of fifty, that only blacks had been interviewed for the position for which he was employed, and that five members had been reprimanded or demoted for misconduct without discharge.

On December 27, 1985, Anderson filed a charge of discrimination with the EEOC's Newark office, alleging that ABI had terminated his employment based on his race. In his charge, Anderson alleged:

  I believe that I was suspended and subsequently
  terminated because of race (black) for ...

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