Court Opinions: 10th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion for Nov. 29

The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals

Editor’s Note: Law Week Colorado edits court opinion summaries for style and, when necessary, length.


Flowers v. United Parcel Service

Randy Flowers was a business manager at UPS’s distribution facility in Las Cruces, New Mexico. On Aug. 3, 2017, another UPS employee tipped off Flowers that a third-party safety auditor would arrive at the Las Cruces facility later that day for a surprise audit. Flowers learned some of the safety paperwork for the drivers hadn’t been completed. His regional supervisor told Flowers to recreate the paperwork.

Flowers assigned the task to two employees that worked under him, Patrick Wood and Christopher Rivera, and told them to meet with the relevant drivers, review the paperwork and obtain the signatures. 

Wood and Rivera didn’t meet with the drivers and instead prepared the paperwork, backdated it and forged the needed signatures. Then they gave the paperwork to Flowers. Flowers knew they’d prepared the paperwork that day, but there’s no record that Flowers knew they forged the signatures. Regardless, there was no UPS policy for recreating paperwork if the training happened, and Flowers believed it had. 

A few days after the audit, Rivera reported to a UPS human resources officer that Flowers had instructed him and Wood to fabricate the records. UPS assigned three of its employees to investigate. They interviewed everyone involved. 

Rivera and Wood essentially told the same story after Flowers instructed them to get the paperwork, they responded that some of the drivers hadn’t completed the training. Flowers then told them to “do what you have to do to get it done,” so they fabricated the documents and Flowers knew that. 

Flowers said the instructions for the paperwork came from the regional supervisor and the training did happen, and he never instructed or hinted that the two fabricate paperwork. The regional supervisor denied instructing Flowers to create paperwork. Another supervisor, who claimed to be a part of the paperwork recreation, said Flowers instructed them that they could recreate paperwork for training that had occurred, but she wasn’t instructed to fabricate anything. 

The investigators decided that Rivera and Wood were credible and Flowers wasn’t and sent a recommendation that Flowers be terminated. UPS fired Flowers on March 27, 2018, for violating the integrity policy. UPS decided one other involved employee had violated the policy but didn’t discipline them. 

Flowers claimed his firing was motivated by his age — he was 52 at the time — or in retaliation for complaining about age discrimination and complained about it several times to UPS before filing a charge with the EEOC and reporting safety violations to OSHA. Flowers also filed suit in New Mexico state court, pleading age discrimination, retaliation for opposing age discrimination and retaliation for reporting age discrimination and safety problems. UPS moved for summary judgment on all claims, which was granted by the district court.

A 10th Circuit Court of Appeals panel out of Las Cruces wrote that under the circumstances, no reasonable jury could infer age discrimination and affirmed the district court’s motion to grant summary judgment. 

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