United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER ON DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR
RICHARD G. STEARNS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Eric Beasley worked in the plumbing department at Lowe's
Home Center in North Weymouth, Massachusetts for
approximately three years. From May of 2011, until he
submitted his resignation on June 17, 2012, Beasley claims
that he was “subjected to a campaign of racial slurs,
repeated threats to kill him, humiliating retaliation for
availing himself of Family and Medical Leave benefits, . . .
repeated race discrimination . . . and adverse employment
actions in retaliation for his discrimination
complaints.” Pl.'s Opp'n at 1-2. Beasley filed
a charge of discrimination with the Massachusetts Commission
Against Discrimination (MCAD) in 2012. He filed this
Complaint on June 19, 2015. The Complaint asserts seven
claims against Lowe's, Margaret Miller (a Lowe's
human resources manager), and Michael Medico (Beasley's
former supervisor). They are: Race Discrimination (Count I);
violations of the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) (Count II);
violations of the Massachusetts Civil Rights Act (MCRA)
(Count III); Interference with Advantageous Contractual
Relations (Count IV); Defamation (Count V); Retaliation in
violation of Federal Title VII and Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 151B
(Count VI), and Outrage/Infliction of Emotional Distress
(Count VII). Defendants move for summary judgment on all
claims, arguing that they are time-barred, lacking in factual
support, and improperly pled. The court heard oral argument
on the motion on April 20, 2017.
Complaint contains twelve pages of tenebrous allegations
largely untethered to dates or context (the Opposition
Memorandum is of little help in deciphering the claims). As
best as can be discerned from the hodgepodge of pleadings and
exhibits, the facts are as follows. Beasley began working for
Lowe's, a national retailer of home improvement products,
in October of 2009, as a “Plumbing Pro.” In June
of 2010, he was promoted to the position of “Sales
Specialist.” Defendant Medico became his supervisor.
occasions in early May of 2011, Beasley found threatening
messages (“You're gonna die”) in his locker
in the break room. On May 19, 2011, someone placed an
offensive note in his locker (“you're a n****r - U
haitian n****r”), followed by a drawing of a
monkey's head. Around the same time, a
“racist” drawing was found in the employee's
restroom (which an African-American co-worker, Julius Frank,
believed was directed at him). Sometime thereafter, Beasley
received a threatening telephone call while at work in the
plumbing department. Beasley reported some of these incidents
to defendant Miller, the store's human resources manager.
Miller undertook an investigation, interviewing Beasley and
several other employees. Miller noted that Beasley “was
very upset . . . . Does not know anyone who would do this,
gets along with everyone. No one has been treating him any
differently. Does not know anyone having a problem with
Julius [Frank] who would take it out on him.” Miller
was unable to identify a perpetrator, and the incidents
stopped. (That is, in May of 2011). Beasley Dep. 103.
fall of 2011, Beasley was approved to take FMLA leave.
According to Beasley, prior to his return, Medico told other
employees that Beasley needed to get back to work or he would
lose his job. Beasley Dep. at 13-15. Beasley returned to
work on October 12, 2011, as planned. On November 26, 2011,
Beasley requested a work accommodation from Miller, namely to
be exempted from heavy lifting and allowed to sit every
ninety minutes. Miller granted the request and agreed to
re-assess Beasley's physical condition in 30 days.
See Defs.' Ex. L.
claims that sometime in October of 2011, Medico called him a
“stupid n****r.” Beasley Dep. at 40-41. Beasley
informed Miller of Medico's use of a racial epithet.
(Medico denies making any offensive statement). Beasley avers
that Medico retaliated by subjecting him to “a
relentless campaign of racial harassment.” Compl.
¶ 12. Beasley states that in April of 2012, a co-worker
(Steve Coyne) told him that he “had a bull's-eye on
[his] back” and that Medico was trying to get rid of
Compl. ¶ 13; Beasley Dep. at 64-66. Beasley alleges that
Medico ordered him “do things out of [his] job title
such as cutting wood, ” and complained (gratuitously)
about the appearance of the plumbing department shelves.
Id. at 111-118. Beasley also alleges that when he
took three days from work to take a stress test in
“March or April of 2012, ” Medico told co-workers
Steve Coyne and Andlee Cribb that Beasley's medical
condition was “faked.” Compl. ¶ 11; Beasley
Dep. at 59. Finally, Beasley complains that Miller refused
him permission to trade a work day in May or June of 2012 so
that he could attend a NBA basketball game.
personnel file at Lowe's contains two written warnings -
one for his failure to complete inventory replenishment
sheets; the other a warning for poor attendance. These were
written up in October and November of 2010. The file also
contains nine commendations for job performance awarded
between December of 2011 and May of 2012. On March 3, 2012,
Beasley received an increase in pay.
Miller “and the company all the best, ” Beasley
submitted a letter of resignation to Miller on June 17, 2012,
telling her that “resigning from [his] position at
Lowe's . . . was not an easy decision. . . . The several
years [he had] been at Lowe's had been very rewarding and
he had enjoyed representing Lowe's, ” but
Lowe's had not “treated him fairly” during
the final three months of his employment.
and Beasley's accounts of the circumstances of his
resignation differ, although in nonmaterial respects. Beasley
states that his resignation effectively amounted to a
constructive discharge because he had become uncomfortable at
the prospect of remaining at Lowe's. He also claims
(somewhat inconsistently) that Miller warned him that he
would likely be impacted by an anticipated layoff, and that
by resigning, he would improve his chances of being recalled.
Miller agrees that she told Beasley of the expected layoff,
but states that Beasley told her that he had plans to move to
Atlanta to care for his ill sister. His question whether if
he did so, Lowe's would be willing to take him back,
prompted her advice regarding a letter of
left Lowe's on July 1, 2012, and applied for unemployment
benefits. Lowe's (it is unclear from the record whether
it was Miller or an Ernst and Young employee, Kim Pistole)
told the Division of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) that
Beasley had “quit” his job. Although Beasley was
initially denied unemployment benefits, he appealed and DUA
reversed course, after finding that he had “left work
for good cause attributable to the employer or for an urgent,
compelling, and necessitous reason which rendered his
separation involuntary.” DUA Dec. at 2 (Dkt #43-3 at 31);
Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 151A, § 25C(2). Beasley states that
he looked for other employment for nearly a year, but that at
least one of his applications was rejected because of
“an untrue negative reference from
Lowe's.”Eventually, he found a job at Walmart.
filed a charge of discrimination with the MCAD on December
10, 2012. Pursuant to a work-sharing agreement, the charge
was cross-filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity
Commission (EEOC). App. at 4-8 (Charge). On June 19, 2015,
Beasley brought this action and notified the MCAD that he was
withdrawing the charge. The MCAD dismissed the charge on
December 18, 2015.
completion of discovery, Lowe's filed this motion for
summary judgment, asserting that Beasley has failed to
administratively and factually support his claims of