Laborde v. The City of Houston ( 2001 )


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  •                         UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS
                                 For the Fifth Circuit
    
    
    
                                       No. 00-20592
                                   Summary Calendar
    
    
                                   Leland Laborde,
    
                                                          Plaintiff-Appellant,
    
    
                                          VERSUS
    
    
                        The City of Houston, Joe Martinez,
                  Dorothy Rhyens, Melvin Barron, Manuel Campos,
                 Robert Elder, Roger Hulbert, and Fred Perrenot,
    
                                                          Defendants-Appellees.
    
    
    
    
               Appeal from the United States District Court
           For the Southern District of Texas, Houston Division
                                    (H-98-CV-1904)
                                   December 6, 2001
    Before DeMOSS, PARKER, and DENNIS, Circuit Judges.
    
    PER CURIAM:*
    
          This     is   a   “reverse    discrimination”   case   in   which   the
    
    appellant, Leland Laborde, alleges that his former employer, the
    
    City of Houston (“the City”), fired him because he is white.              At
    
    the close of evidence, the district court granted the City’s Rule
    
    
    
      *
       Pursuant to 5TH CIR. R. 47.5, the Court has determined that this
    opinion should not be published and is not precedent except under
    the limited circumstances set forth in 5TH CIR. R. 47.5.4.
    50(a) motion for judgment as a matter with regards to Laborde’s
    
    race discrimination claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act,
    
    42 U.S.C. § 1983, and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth
    
    Amendment.   Laborde now appeals the court’s Rule 50(a) ruling,
    
    arguing that it misconceived Laborde’s evidentiary burden and that
    
    it improperly found that Laborde was not treated differently than
    
    a similarly situated coworker.        We affirm the district court’s
    
    ruling.
    
                                     I.
    
         Rule 50(a) states that "[i]f during a trial by jury a party
    
    has been fully heard on an issue and there is no legally sufficient
    
    evidentiary basis for a reasonable jury to find for that party on
    
    that issue, the court may determine the issue against that party
    
    and may grant a motion for judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R.
    
    Civ. P. 50(a).   This Court reviews de novo the trial court's ruling
    
    on a Rule 50(a) motion.   Siler-Khodr v. University of Tex. Health
    
    Science Ctr. San Antonio, 
    261 F.3d 542
    , 545 (5th Cir. 2001).
    
    Moreover, in reviewing a Rule 50(a) motion, this Court "should
    
    review all of the evidence in the record . . . [but] must draw all
    
    reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party, and it may
    
    not make credibility determinations or weigh the evidence." Reeves
    
    v. Sanderson Plumbing Prod., Inc., 
    530 U.S. 133
    , 150 (2000).
    
    "Credibility determinations, the weighing of the evidence, and the
    
    drawing of legitimate inferences from the facts are jury functions,
    
    not those of a judge."    Id. at 150-51 (citing Anderson v. Liberty
    Lobby, Inc., 
    477 U.S. 242
    , 250-51 (1986)).
    
                                        II.
    
         A Title VII plaintiff bears the burden of showing throughout
    
    the trial that the defendant intentionally discriminated against
    
    him on the basis of race.     Texas Dept. of Community Affairs v.
    
    Burdine, 
    450 U.S. 248
    , 256 (1981).        Discriminatory purpose implies
    
    that the   decision-maker   fired    the     employee   at   least    in   part
    
    “because of,” not merely “in spite of,” its adverse effect on a
    
    identifiable group.   Personnel Administrator of Massachusetts v.
    
    Feeney, 
    442 U.S. 256
    , 279 (1979).         A plaintiff’s subjective belief
    
    of race discrimination cannot alone establish that he has been a
    
    victim of intentional discrimination.          Ray v. Tandem Computers,
    
    Inc., 
    63 F.3d 429
    , 435 (5th Cir. 1995).
    
         Drawing all reasonable inferences in favor of Laborde, we find
    
    no evidence that the City fired him on the basis of his race.              The
    
    City established legitimate reasons for Laborde’s discharge, namely
    
    that he had a ten year history of making racial slurs and engaging
    
    in other abusive conduct toward subordinates.           At trial, Laborde
    
    offered little more than his subjective belief that some of his
    
    superiors recommended firing him based on his race.                  Laborde’s
    
    argument that Melvin Barron, an African American coworker, was not
    
    fired after engaging in similar conduct is unfounded.            Barron was
    
    not a similarly situated employee.          Unlike Laborde, he was never
    
    accused of making racial slurs and his past disciplinary reprimands
    
    related to safety violations.       See Green v. Armstrong Rubber Co.,
    
    612 F.2d 967
    , 968 (5th Cir. 1980) (holding that a plaintiff does
    
    not establish a prima facie case of discrimination when employees
    
    charged with dissimilar conduct are given dissimilar punishments).
    
    Furthermore, Laborde and Barron held different positions and were
    
    on different pay scales.     See Kendall v. Block, 
    821 F.2d 1142
    , 1147
    
    (5th Cir. 1987) (stating the employees at different levels of
    
    seniority     and   at   different   pay   scales   are   not   “similarly
    
    situated”).
    
         We therefore AFFIRM the district court’s decision to grant the
    
    City’s Rule 50(a) motion for judgment as a matter of law.