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Lopez v. Union Tank Car Co.

8 F. Supp. 2d 832 (1998)

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Lopez v. Union Tank Car Co.

United States District Court for the Northern District of Indiana

8 F. Supp. 2d 832 (1998)

Facts

Robert Lopez (plaintiff) worked for Union Tank Car Co. (Union) (defendant) for over 18 years before being terminated from his position in the drafting department. Lopez was Hispanic by ethnicity and suffered from polio and from a condition that sometimes occurs after the initial infection. Employees sometimes referred to Lopez using profanity combined with ethnic slurs, and they belittled him because of his physical ailment. In 1992 Lopez’s group leader, Richard Benak, rated him superior on his annual evaluation and recommended him for a promotion to the new supervisor, Dennis Chansler, who had once “asked Lopez ‘if he was good at picking lettuce.’” Chansler became supervisor of the drafting department in 1992, and each year thereafter, he rated Lopez negatively. Chansler did not promote Lopez in 1992, reduced the rating that Benak gave him in 1993, and prepared his own negative evaluation of Lopez in 1994 without consulting Benak. Chansler rated Lopez’s performance as only marginal, indicating a need for improvement. Chansler did consult another group leader who had often referred to Lopez using ethnic slurs and who once entered a meeting where both Chansler and Lopez were present, announcing “no spics allowed.” Lopez complained to other company leaders that his negative evaluations were “not objective” and “demeaning,” but he did not report discrimination or harassment to these leaders, and he did not report derogatory comments to Chansler. A few months later, Lopez was terminated. Lopez brought suit alleging a hostile work environment based on race or ethnicity. Chansler denied knowledge of harassing comments made by employees, and Union moved for summary judgment for that reason.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Moody, J.)

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