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Henderson v. Irving Materials, Inc.

329 F. Supp. 2d 1002 (2004)

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Henderson v. Irving Materials, Inc.

United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana

329 F. Supp. 2d 1002 (2004)

Facts

Nathaniel Henderson (plaintiff) worked as a concrete truck driver for Irving Materials, Inc., doing business as SouthSide Ready Mix Concrete, Inc. (SouthSide) (defendant). Henderson was SouthSide’s first and only Black employee. Two White employees, Mitchell Santerre and Reed Moistner (defendants) repeatedly harassed Henderson. The harassment included racist jokes and racial slurs as often as nine times per month, Santerre’s claim that no one wanted Henderson there and he should get another job, and insinuations that Moistner belonged to the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) and wanted to drag Henderson from the back of Moistner’s pick-up truck. The harassment also included physical threats and pranks: Henderson found the buttons cut off of several of his work shirts, grease all over his work truck’s interior, and four dead mice wrapped in napkins inside his truck. Moistner invited Henderson to the field behind the plant for a fight, and Santerre twice attempted to run over Henderson in the plant’s parking lot. Willie Taylor, plant manager and Henderson’s immediate supervisor, was present during many of the racist jokes and threatening comments, and Taylor acknowledged to Henderson that Moistner belonged to the KKK. After Henderson complained to Taylor about the dead mice, SouthSide posted a sign that reminded employees to keep mice away from their trucks and not to “expose any other employee to rodents.” Henderson then sent a complaint letter to Gordon Goins, SouthSide’s general manager, outlining the harassment. After Goins met with Henderson, Goins issued separate written warnings to Moistner and Santerre. But two days later, Goins rescinded his reprimands and apologized for overreacting in written letters, claiming that he was unable to substantiate Henderson’s complaints. Moistner and Santerre than sued Henderson in small-claims court, and at the courthouse, Moistner called Henderson a racial slur. Henderson filed a Title VII lawsuit alleging a racially hostile work environment, and SouthSide, Moistner, and Santerre filed a summary-judgment motion.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Hamilton, J.)

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