University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
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Case Name EEOC v. Tri-State Plumbing, Heating & Air conditioning Contractors EE-TN-0123
Docket / Court 2:05-cv-02717 ( W.D. Tenn. )
State/Territory Tennessee
Case Type(s) Equal Employment
Special Collection EEOC Study -- in sample
Attorney Organization EEOC
Case Summary
On September 29, 2005, the Memphis District Office of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee. The EEOC sued Tri-State Plumbing, Heating & Air Conditioning Contractors, Inc. ("Tri-State"); United ... read more >
On September 29, 2005, the Memphis District Office of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee. The EEOC sued Tri-State Plumbing, Heating & Air Conditioning Contractors, Inc. ("Tri-State"); United Association Of Plumbers, Pipefitters and Sprinklerfitters Plumbers, Local Union No. 17 (Local No. 17); and United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry of the United States and Canada, AFL-CIO ("United Association"). The case was assigned to Judge J. Daniel Breen. The complaint alleged racial and sex discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and violations of equal protection rights under the Fourteenth Amendment. Specifically, it alleged that the employer Tri-State, a construction firm, subjected a group of African-American employees--seven male, one female--to multiple forms of racial discrimination, culminating in their dismissal once they complained; it also alleged that the female employee was additionally discriminated against due to her gender. The complaint also said that the local plumber's union failed to represent the workers because of their race and denied them work referrals because they complained of discrimination. The EEOC sought monetary and injunctive relief for the employees.

The employees all worked on the FedEx Forum arena construction site in Memphis, Tennessee from 2003 to 2004, where they said their co-workers made racially derogatory comments towards them and drew racist graffiti. Their employer allegedly assigned them the most dangerous tasks due to their race, and denied them the opportunity to work overtime while allowing the same to their white colleagues. They complained to their local union in May 2004, but they said that the union rather than advocating for them, alerted Tri-State, who subsequently fired them that June in retaliation. In the months that followed, the union's business manager allegedly told them there was no work, yet other union members who had not complained were being referred to jobs. They filed a formal charge against both Tri-State and the local union with the EEOC (the exact date is unclear based on the available documents from the case). After an investigation, the EEOC concluded that there was reasonable cause to believe that they had been unlawfully discriminated against. Negotiations between the EEOC and Tri-State to reach a conciliation agreement were ultimately unsuccessful, leading the EEOC to file this lawsuit.

The eight employees moved to intervene as plaintiffs on December 2, 2005. Although the precise reasons for their motion could not be confirmed from the available documents in the case, their motion was granted by Magistrate Judge Tu M. Pham on January 6, 2006. They filed their own complaint on March 8, 2006, largely reiterating the same allegations from that filed by the EEOC.

United Association filed a motion to dismiss on March 13, 2006; it argued that the intervening plaintiffs allegations, if true, failed to establish either that Local No. 17 was acting as its agent or that the plaintiffs exhausted all their administrative remedies before filing suit. United also filed an answer to the intervening plaintiffs' complaint that same day denying their pertinent allegations in full.

On May 12, 2006 the intervening plaintiffs filed their response rebutting each of United's principal arguments. They also indicated their intention to file an amended complaint that would clarify their specific complaints against United, and did just that on July 12; the amended complaint added more detail about Local No. 17's agency relationship with United and about their actions before contacting the EEOC.

Tri-State filed its own motion to dismiss on Sept. 14, 2006, this one responding to both the intervening plaintiff's and the EEOC's complaints. Tri-State alleged that the EEOC and the intervening plaintiffs' attorney conspired to ensure the failure of conciliation efforts, and that such bad faith activity was fatal to the lawsuit.

District Judge J. Daniel Breen denied United Association's motion to dismiss on February 27, 2007 and Tri-State's on August 21. Judge Breen noted that none of the cases relied on by United Association in its motion were directly applicable to the precise issue raised in this case. 2007 WL 649088. As for Tri-State, he found that its assertions that the EEOC negotiated in bad faith was largely contradicted by correspondence between the two parties in the run-up to the EEOC's filing of the lawsuit. 502 F. Supp. 2d 767.

For the next few months, the parties undertook discovery. On May 21, 2008 the case was reassigned to Judge S. Thomas Anderson, a newly appointed district court judge.

On November 5, 2008, the court approved a consent decree between the defendants, the EEOC, and all but one of the intervening plaintiffs. Among its provisions, the decree required Tri-State and the Local Union to update their anti-discrimination policies and provide anti-discrimination trainings to their members. Tri-State and the Local Union also agreed to pay a total of $360,000 to be distributed among the intervening plaintiffs as directed by their counsel and the EEOC. The consent decree was to last for three years, during which the court would retain jurisdiction for enforcement. Two weeks after the consent decree was entered, the EEOC and seven of the eight intervening plaintiffs voluntarily dismissed their claims. Discovery then continued with all defendants and the one remaining plaintiff representing himself pro se.

On September 10, 2010, the defendants filed a motion to compel discovery and sanction Hunt for failing to attend his deposition. The plaintiff filed no response to the motion, and the court granted the defendants’ motion on October 12. The defendants rescheduled the deposition, but Hunt again failed to show up without notice. After Hunt did not respond to the defendants' motion to dismiss on October 29, the court finally dismissed the case on December 3.

The consent decree expired in 2011, and the case is now closed.

Kevin Wilemon - 08/04/2008
Rebecca Strauss - 07/05/2018
Alexander Walling - 08/17/2018


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Affected Gender
Female
Constitutional Clause
Equal Protection
Content of Injunction
Develop anti-discrimination policy
Discrimination Prohibition
Follow recruitment, hiring, or promotion protocols
Goals and Timekeeping
Hire
Provide antidiscrimination training
Reporting
Retaliation Prohibition
Training
Discrimination-area
Discharge / Constructive Discharge / Layoff
Harassment / Hostile Work Environment
Hiring
Other Conditions of Employment (including assignment, transfer, hours, working conditions, etc)
Promotion
Seniority
Discrimination-basis
Race discrimination
Sex discrimination
EEOC-centric
Direct Suit on Merits
Private Party intervened in EEOC suit
General
Disparate Treatment
Retaliation
Plaintiff Type
EEOC Plaintiff
Private Plaintiff
Race
Black
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1981
Title VII (including PDA), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e
Defendant(s) Tri-State Plumbing, Heating & Air Conditioning Contractors, Inc.
United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry of the United States and Canada, AFL-CIO
United Association Of Plumbers, Pipefitters and Sprinklefitters, Plumber's Local Union No. 17
Plaintiff Description Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, on behalf of African American employees who allege discrimination on the basis of race
Indexed Lawyer Organizations EEOC
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Damages
Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Settlement
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Voluntary Dismissal
Order Duration 2008 - 2011
Filing Year 2005
Case Closing Year 2011
Case Ongoing No
Docket(s)
2:05-cv-02717-JDB-tmp (W.D. Tenn.)
EE-TN-0123-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 12/14/2010
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Intervenors' Complaint [ECF# 14-1]
EE-TN-0123-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/08/2006
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Intervenors' First Amended Complaint [ECF# 41]
EE-TN-0123-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 07/12/2006
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Denying Motion to Dismiss [...] [ECF# 66] (2007 WL 649088 / 2007 U.S.Dist.LEXIS 14561) (W.D. Tenn.)
EE-TN-0123-0004.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 02/27/2007
Order Denying Motion to Dismiss of Defendant Tri-State Plumbing, Heating & Air Conditioning Contractors, Inc. [ECF# 70] (502 F.Supp.2d 767) (W.D. Tenn.)
EE-TN-0123-0003.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 08/21/2007
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Consent Decree [ECF# 87] (W.D. Tenn.)
EE-TN-0123-0005.pdf | Detail
Date: 11/05/2008
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order of Dismissal [ECF# 119] (W.D. Tenn.)
EE-TN-0123-0006.pdf | Detail
Date: 12/02/2010
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges Anderson, S. Thomas (W.D. Tenn.)
EE-TN-0123-0005 | EE-TN-0123-0006 | EE-TN-0123-9000
Pham, Tu M. (W.D. Tenn.) [Magistrate]
EE-TN-0123-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Cooper, Ronald S. (Tennessee)
EE-TN-0123-0005
Kores, Katharine W. (Tennessee)
EE-TN-0123-9000
Lee, James (Tennessee)
EE-TN-0123-0005 | EE-TN-0123-9000
Marshall, Michael R. (Tennessee)
EE-TN-0123-0005 | EE-TN-0123-9000
Owen, Carson L. (Tennessee)
EE-TN-0123-0005 | EE-TN-0123-9000
Rapport, Adele (Tennessee)
EE-TN-0123-9000
Reams, Gwendolyn Young (Tennessee)
EE-TN-0123-0005 | EE-TN-0123-9000
Sharp, Kevin Hunter (Tennessee)
EE-TN-0123-0005 | EE-TN-0123-9000
Smith, Deidre (Tennessee)
EE-TN-0123-0005
Williams, Faye A. (Tennessee)
EE-TN-0123-0005 | EE-TN-0123-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Beard, Craig M. (Tennessee)
EE-TN-0123-9000
Femia, Nicholas R. (District of Columbia)
EE-TN-0123-9000
Godwin, Deborah E. (Tennessee)
EE-TN-0123-9000
Taylor, Timothy P. (Tennessee)
EE-TN-0123-0005 | EE-TN-0123-9000
Velander, David A. (Kentucky)
EE-TN-0123-0005 | EE-TN-0123-9000

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