Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eleventh District, Trumbull
Appeal from the Trumbull County Court of Common Pleas, Case
No. 2015 CV 01882.
D. Spitz and Fred M. Bean, The Spitz Law Firm, LLC, (For
Patrick O. Peters and Michael Joseph Kozimor, Jackson Lewis,
V. GRENDELL, J.
Plaintiff-appellant, Ronnie Grubbs, appeals the judgment of
the Trumbull County Court of Common Pleas, granting summary
judgment in favor of defendants-appellees, Delphi Automotive
Systems, LLC, Thomas E. Flak, George (Geoffrey) Svirbely, and
Dominic Amato. The issue before this court is whether
evidence that a minority employee was treated less favorably
than nonminority employees, received disciplines that were
either not merited or not proportionate to the alleged
misconduct, and was recalled to work after nonminority
employees with less seniority, is sufficient to raise a
genuine issue of material fact with respect to claims of
racial discrimination and retaliation. For the following
reasons, we reverse the decision of the court below and
remand this matter for further proceedings consistent with
On October 19, 2015, Grubbs filed a Complaint for Damages and
Injunctive Relief in the Trumbull County Court of Common
Pleas against Delphi, Flak, Svirbely, and Amato. Grubbs
raised claims of Race Discrimination (Count I), Wrongful
Termination based on Race Discrimination (Count II),
Retaliation (Count III), and Intentional Infliction of
Emotional Distress (Count IV).
On December 18, 2015, the defendants collectively filed an
Answer and Affirmative Defenses to Plaintiffs Complaint.
On August 18, 2017, the defendants filed a Motion for Summary
On September 7, 2017, Grubbs filed a Brief in Opposition.
On September 11, 2017, the defendants with leave of court
filed a Reply.
The following pertinent evidence was presented by the
Grubbs is an African-American. In 1997, he began work as a
tool and die maker at Delphi's Plant 11 in Warren and
became a member of the Industrial Division of the
Communications Workers of America Local 717. He was
discharged in 2014. Between 2007 and 2014, Grubbs was
disciplined sixteen times. Ten of these disciplines were
ultimately removed from his record generally through the
union's grievance procedure. Grubbs returned to work in
December 2015 as the result of an agreement negotiated
between the union and Delphi.
Defendant Flak was the general supervisor at Plant 11 from
2006 through 2013. According to Grubbs, Flak "always had
it in for me and my race." Grubbs also claimed that
several plant supervisors, including Amato and Paulette Clay,
advised him that Flak had a personal bias against him and
sought opportunities to discipline him.
Defendant Svirbely was a labor relations representative at
Plant 11 between 1995 and 2009 and again after 2011. Grubbs
alleges that Svirbely has failed to represent him impartially
as a labor relations representative.
Defendant Amato was a supervisor at Plant 11 since 1999.
Grubbs complains that Amato would address him as
"bro" and "brother" rather than a proper
name. Grubbs alleges that Amato began to show bias towards
him after he recorded Amato being verbally abusive toward
another Delphi employee.
In November 2008, Grubbs was disciplined by supervisor Bob
Poweski for violating Shop Rule 20 ("wasting time or
loitering in toilets or on any company property during work
hours") and sent home for the balance of his shift. On
this occasion, Grubbs explained that Flak had instructed
another employee (Mike Long) to operate his press while he
was at lunch, although he was not authorized to have Long
start a press assigned to another employee. When the press
produced bad parts, "they didn't want to admit that
they ran the machine for 40 minutes without [him] signing off
on it" so they lied and claimed Grubbs had run the
press. When the lie was exposed, Flak instructed Poweski to
write Grubbs up so that he would get "some kind of
In January 2009, Grubbs was disciplined by Flak for violating
Shop Rule 22 ("threatening, intimidating, coercing, or
interfering with fellow employees on the premises at any
time") and sent home for the balance of his shift plus
fourteen days. Grubbs explained that a supervisor from
another area who was covering in Grubbs' department had
instructed some employees to operate a machine that was not
safe and/or functioning properly. Grubbs advised the
operators about the condition of the machine and suggested
that they contact a union representative. When Grubbs
protested to Flak that the supervisor ...