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Gregory T. Jackson v. Seneca Foods Corp

November 20, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Siragusa, J.



This is an action in which the pro se Plaintiff is suing his former employer for alleged workplace discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et seq. Now before the Court is Defendant Seneca Foods' motion for summary judgment, filed February 16, 2010, ECF No. 19. The application for summary judgment is granted.


Unless otherwise noted, the following facts are taken from Defendant Seneca Foods Corp.'s ("Seneca Foods") Statement of Undisputed Facts, ECF No. 19-2.

Seneca Foods is in the business of canning and freezing vegetables, and it operates twenty--two facilities throughout the United States.On June 5, 2007, Plaintiff was hired as a forklift operator at Seneca Foods' facility in Geneva, New York. Prior to his hire, Plaintiff had worked as a forklift operator at two other businesses for periods of a few months each. At Seneca Foods, Plaintiff was given formal classroom training and practical training on forklift operation prior to assuming his duties.

In addition to its vegetable processing operation, the Geneva facility operates a distribution center where product from the Geneva plant and other Seneca Foods' plants is stored and shipped to customers. Plaintiff was assigned to load and unload trailers at the distribution center's shipping dock on the second shift, where he was supervised by Gary Britt ("Britt"). It was Seneca Foods' expectation that, within a month, a new forklift operator should attain sufficient proficiency to load or unload a trailer in one hour or less. Asbrand Aff. ¶ 7. Plaintiff frequently took one-and-one-half to two hours to complete this task. Id.

On July 24, 2007, Plaintiff hit a warehouse support pole, resulting in damage to the forklift he was driving. Defendant issued him a Notice of Citation and Verbal Warning, which Plaintiff signed. Just over a week later, on August 2, 2007, Plaintiff abruptly stopped his forklift while loading a truck, causing a pallet of canned vegetables to fall to the ground, where many were damaged. Britt prepared an incident report, which Plaintiff signed.

Thereafter, Plaintiff was absent from work, from September 6, 2007, to February 26, 2008, due to a non-work related disability. Two days after his return, on February 28, 2008, the pallet on Plaintiff's forklift came into contact with another forklift, requiring that some product be repackaged. Asbrand Aff. ¶ 10, Ex. 7. Britt issued an incident report, which Plaintiff signed.

As Plaintiff continued to work on the shipping dock, his times for loading and unloading trucks did not significantly improve. Defendants decided to transfer Plaintiff from the shipping dock to the "Case and Label" operation where he was to drive a "tugger" and pull a train of carts loaded with product to and from the line. The transfer took place in late March or early April of 2008, and Plaintiff was assigned to the night shift, where he was supervised by Neil Hoppough ("Hoppough"). Three incidents involving Plaintiff's operation of a tugger occurred in quick succession.

On April 10, 2008, Plaintiff scraped a steel support post with a loaded train cart. On April 29, 2008, he struck and damaged a pallet of label line supplies. On April 30, 2008, he failed to unhook a safety chain running from the tugger to the cart train, damaging the hook on the cart when he drove away. Hoppough issued incident reports for each occurrence, all of which Plaintiff signed.

Plaintiff received a Notice of Citation, designated as a written warning, on or about May 1, 2008. The Notice listed the four safety violations that had occurred in 2008, since Plaintiff returned from leave. Defendant wrote that the incidents "have been without injury or massive damage, but a pattern like this could lead to a major incident-you must be much more careful, Immediately!" Asbrand Aff. Ex 8 (emphasis and capitalization in original). The Notice also warned that further violation could result in discipline, including suspension or termination. Id. Plaintiff signed the Notice.

Approximately two weeks later, Hoppaugh issued Plaintiff two more incident reports: for failing to sound his horn while entering an intersection on May 14; and for sideswiping a loaded pallet causing damage to labeled product on May 15, 2008. Plaintiff initialed both reports. Because of these further safety violations, Plaintiff was issued a Notice of Citation on May 16, 2008, which stated "[t]his unsafe type of action can not continue as you may cause injury to you and or a co-worker." Asbrand Aff. Ex. 9. The Notice, which Plaintiff signed, contained the same warning relative to further violations and was designated as a final written warning. Id.

On May 16, 2008, Plaintiff failed to attach the safety chains from his tugger to the carts he was towing. As he made a turn, the carts detached from the tugger and damaged product stacked on the floor. A Notice of Citation was issued on May 19, 2008. Plaintiff was suspended through May 22, 2008, and advised that he should call Mark Asbrand, who was then the Warehouse Manager at the Geneva facility, prior to the start of his ...

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