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Bryant v. Compass Group USA, Inc.

United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

June 16, 2005, Filed

No. 04-40569

Opinion

 [*473]  EMILIO M. GARZA, Circuit Judge:

Compass Group USA Inc., individually, doing business as Chartwells ("Chartwells"), appeals the jury verdict in favor of Brandon Bryant ("Bryant") for unlawful termination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq.  [*474]  Chartwells challenges the jury's finding that it terminated Bryant either because of his race or because he had filed an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") charge of discrimination.

Chartwells employed Bryant, a white male, as a cook at their Lamar University food services operation. Chartwells provides food and beverage services to educational facilities as an independent contractor.

Bryant sought promotion at Chartwells to an open executive [**2]  chef position, which was ultimately filled by Ricardo Saldana, an Hispanic employee. One month later, Chartwells transferred Francelia Madrigal, Saldana's sister-in-law, to its Lamar operation. Bryant filed a discrimination charge with the EEOC on March 26, 2002, alleging reverse race discrimination. Specifically, he claimed that Chartwells subjected him to disparate terms and conditions of employment--including by Saldana and Madrigal--and that Chartwells' management denied him a promotion to the executive chef position because of his race.

Ten days later, on April 6, 2002, Bryant, Madrigal, and Saldana worked at a bat mitzvah at a recreational area on the Lamar Campus. After the event, Madrigal informed Saldana that she had observed Bryant take an envelope from the gift table and suspected that he had disposed of the envelope in the trash behind the dining hall. Madrigal claims she looked for the envelope, but it was too dark to see anything, so she returned the following day and found three envelopes and three checks in the trash. She informed Saldana about the checks and provided a statement to Max Mitchell, the food services director for Chartwells at Lamar. Maria Ortiz, another [**3]  Chartwells employee who worked at the bat mitzvah the night before, gave a statement to Lamar University police officer Daniel Bowden.

Bryant was asked to speak with Bowden the following day when he arrived at work. Bryant agreed to pay back the $ 26 that he claimed represented the missing cash from the envelopes but he included a note to the girl's mother stating that he was paying the money under duress and that he maintained his innocence. Bowden informed Chartwells that Bryant confessed to taking the money and agreed to make restitution. Chartwells terminated Bryant's employment, claiming the termination was based on the police officer's statement that Bryant confessed to the theft.

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413 F.3d 471 *; 2005 U.S. App. LEXIS 11419 **; 95 Fair Empl. Prac. Cas. (BNA) 1804; 86 Empl. Prac. Dec. (CCH) P42,101

BRANDON L BRYANT, Plaintiff-Appellee-Cross-Appellant, versus COMPASS GROUP USA INC, individually, doing business as Chartwells, Defendant-Appellant-Cross-Appellee.

Subsequent History: US Supreme Court certiorari denied by Bryant v. Compass Group USA, Inc., 2006 U.S. LEXIS 50 (U.S., Jan. 9, 2006)

Prior History:  [**1]  Appeal from the United States District Court For the Eastern District of Texas.

CORE TERMS

termination, theft, retaliation, conspiracy, employees, reasonable jury, district court, decisionmakers, motivating factor, disparate treatment, non-discriminatory, confessed, promotion, envelope, damages, pretext, argues, food

Labor & Employment Law, Statutory Application, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Color & Race, Discrimination, General Overview, Retaliation, Title VII Discrimination, Civil Procedure, Appeals, Standards of Review, De Novo Review, Criminal Law & Procedure, De Novo Review, Trials, Judgment as Matter of Law, Evidence, Weight & Sufficiency, Substantial Evidence, Sufficiency of Evidence, Evidence, Burdens of Proof, Burden Shifting, Racial Discrimination, Employment Practices, Discharges, Reverse Discrimination, Wrongful Termination, Defenses, Employee Misconduct, Disparate Treatment, Burdens of Proof, Adverse Employment Actions, Discipline