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Gaines v. Johnson

United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Northeastern Division

August 26, 2014

GEORGE T. JOHNSON, et al., Defendants

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Henry Joseph Gaines, Plaintiff, Pro se, Huntsville, AL.

For George T Johnson, Johnson Pools & Spas, Defendants: John A Wilmer, LEAD ATTORNEY, WILMER & LEE PA, Huntsville, AL; Kimberly N Kelley, WILMER & LEE, Huntsville, AL.

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Plaintiff Henry Joseph Gaines (" Gaines" ) brings this action against his former employer, Johnson Pools and Spas (" JPS" ), and George T. Johnson (" Johnson" ) for race discrimination pursuant to Section 1981 of the Civil Rights Act of 1866 (" § 1981" ), 42 U.S.C. § 1981.[1] (Doc. 21). JSP has moved for summary judgment on Gaines's remaining claims. (Doc. 59).[2] Gaines has also moved for summary judgment on his claims. (Doc. 63).[3] For the reasons stated below, Defendants' motions for summary judgment are due to be GRANTED.

I. Standard of Review

Under Rule 56(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, summary judgment is proper " if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." " Rule 56(c) mandates the entry of summary judgment, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the

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burden of proof at trial." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 2552, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). The moving party bears the initial burden of proving the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Id. at 323, 106 S.Ct. at 2553. The burden then shifts to the nonmoving party, who is required to " go beyond the pleadings" to establish that there is a " genuine issue for trial." Id. at 324, 106 S.Ct. at 2553. (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). A dispute about a material fact is genuine " if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2510, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986).

The court must construe the evidence and all reasonable inferences arising from it in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 157, 90 S.Ct. 1598, 1608, 26 L.Ed.2d 142 (1970); see also Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255, 106 S.Ct. at 2514 (all justifiable inferences must be drawn in the non-moving party's favor). Any factual disputes will be resolved in Plaintiff's favor when sufficient competent evidence supports Plaintiff's version of the disputed facts. See Pace v. Capobianco, 283 F.3d 1275, 1276-78 (11th Cir. 2002) (a court is not required to resolve disputes in the non-moving party's favor when that party's version of the events is supported by insufficient evidence). However, " mere conclusions and unsupported factual allegations are legally insufficient to defeat a summary judgment motion." Ellis v. England, 432 F.3d 1321, 1326 (11th Cir. 2005) (per curiam) (citing Bald Mtn. Park, Ltd. v. Oliver, 863 F.2d 1560, 1563 (11th Cir. 1989)). Moreover, " [a] mere 'scintilla' of evidence supporting the opposing party's position will not suffice; there must be enough of a showing that the jury could reasonably find for that party." Walker v. Darby, 911 F.2d 1573, 1577 (11th Cir. 1990) (citing Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252, 106 S.Ct. 2512).

II. Factual Background

JPS is a pool design, installation, and retail business that has been operating in North Alabama since 1977. (Doc. 61-1 at ¶ 3). Johnson is president of G.T. Johnson Construction, Inc., which owns JPS, and he operates the construction side of JPS. ( Id. at ¶ ¶ 2 & 5). Johnson and his wife, Penny Johnson, are the only people with the authority to hire or terminate employees. ( Id. at 5). Johnson supervises all of JPS's construction employees. ( Id. at 6).

Gaines worked with JPS in 1981 as part of a prisoner work-release program. (Doc. 61-4 at 21 (81-82)). He voluntarily left JPS and returned to Louisiana after his release in 1983. ( Id. at 21 (83-84)). He returned to Alabama, and Johnson authorized his re-hire as a Laborer at JPS in 1988. ( Id. at 24 (94)). As a Laborer, Gaines was responsible for the manual labor involved with constructing swimming pools and the hardscape around them, including mixing cement, moving dirt, helping to lay decks, cleaning up job sites, or any other task the supervisor assigned. ( Id. at 24 (95); doc. 61-1 at ¶ 6).

Gaines voluntarily left again in 1991, (doc. 61-4 at 26 (101)), and applied to be re-hired a third time on July 21, 1995, ( id. at 26 (102)). Although Gaines's driver's license was suspended and company policy required all employees to have a valid license, Johnson re-hired Gaines as a Laborer. ( Id. at 28 (112)).

On September 24, 1996, Gaines was arrested for possession of illegal drugs. ( Id. at 29 (113-14, 116)). He never told JPS about the arrest and subsequent indictment. ( Id. at 29 (114)). Gaines tested positive for drugs in December ...

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