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Strickland v. Board of Trustees of University of Alaabama

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

December 1, 2014

BLAKE STRICKLAND, Plaintiff,
v.
BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF THE UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA, et al., Defendants

For Blake Strickland, Plaintiff: Brett M Bloomston, LEAD ATTORNEY, Alyson M Hood-Rains, BLOOMSTON & BASGIER, Birmingham, AL; J Flint Liddon, LEAD ATTORNEY, BEAR & LIDDON, Birmingham, AL; Joseph James Basgier, III, LEAD ATTORNEY, BLOOMSTON AND BASGIER, Birmingham, AL.

For Chief Anthony Purcell, Individually and in his official capacity, Deputy Chief Marvin Atmore, individually and in his official capacity, Board of Trustees of the University of Alabama, Defendants: David R Mellon, LEAD ATTORNEY, University of Alabama System - Counsel Office, Birmingham, AL; Earlisha S Williams, LEAD ATTORNEY, The University of Alabama System, Office of Counsel, Birmingham, AL.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

WILLIAM M. ACKER, JR., UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

This court, pursuant to its plenary power over interlocutory orders, see Toole v. Baxter Healthcare Corp., 235 F.3d 1307, 1315 (11th Cir. 2000), hereby substitutes the following opinion and accompanying order for its prior order (Doc. 17), now finally deciding the motion to dismiss (Doc. 9) filed by defendants University of Alabama at Birmingham (" UAB"), Board of Trustees of the University of Alabama (" the Board"), Anthony Purcell, and Marvin Atmore. For the reasons that follow, defendants' motion will be granted in part and denied in part.

BACKGROUND[1]

Plaintiff Blake Strickland, a white male, has served as a law enforcement officer with the UAB Police Department since July 2007. (Doc. 1 at 4, ¶ 14). Since Strickland began employment with UAB, he has sought promotion many times. He was granted a promotion at least twice (Doc. 1 at 5, ¶ ¶ 15, 16), but the defendants denied his application at least eight times (Doc. 1 at 6, ¶ 19).

Eventually Strickland began to notice a pattern in these repeated rejections. According to Strickland, each time he was denied a promotion, the defendants selected instead a " less qualified, less experienced" African American for the position. (Doc. 1 at 6, ¶ 19). He provides an example. In March 2013, Strickland applied for the Captain position, but Chief Purcell, an African American male, instead promoted an African American female who " had never supervised anyone in her career." (Doc. 1 at 7, ¶ 21). To accomplish this, Chief Purcell unilaterally reclassified her from her position of " officer" to " sergeant" without her being formally interviewed and promoted, in violation of the department's internal policies. (Doc. 1 at 7, ¶ 21).

The UAB Police Department consists of 66% African American officers, 29% white officers, and (presumably) 5% officers of other races. (Doc. 1 at 6, ¶ 18). The command staff is made up of Chief Purcell, an African American, Deputy Chief Atmore, an African American, five Captains, all African Americans, and one Lieutenant, an African American. (Doc. 1 at 5-6, ¶ 18). When a position becomes available, applicants are interviewed by a panel. (Doc. 1 at 5, ¶ 17). The panel consists of Chief Purcell and three individuals of his choosing, who are not associated with the police department; Chief Purcell selects new panel members for each interview session. (Doc. 1 at 5, ¶ 17). Chief Purcell retains final decision-making authority on all promotions. (Doc. 1 at 5, ¶ 17).

After growing tired of being repeatedly passed over, Strickland filed a Charge of Discrimination with the EEOC on April 24, 2013. (Doc. 1 at 8, ¶ 25). Five days later, after Strickland informed the department of the EEOC charge, an African American captain, under orders from Deputy Chief Atmore, issued Strickland a written reprimand for " failing to cancel a vehicle pursuit" approximately a month earlier. (Doc. 1 at 9, ¶ ¶ 27-28). Strickland's reprimand was the only reprimand regarding a vehicle pursuit issued in at least six years. (Doc. 1 at 10, ¶ 32). When the reprimand was issued, Strickland claimed that the reprimand was in retaliation to his EEOC charge and that he would appeal the reprimand to UAB Human Resources; the Captain " sincerely encouraged [him] to do so." (Doc. 1 at 9, ¶ 28).

To prepare for the appeal of his reprimand, Strickland requested a recording of the radio communication during the pursuit. Chief Purcell and/or Deputy Chief Atmore denied his request. (Doc. 1 at 10-11, ¶ 32). During the hearing, Strickland was not allowed to confront evidence or testimony presented against him or listen to the radio communication. His appeal was denied. (Doc. 1 at 11-12, ¶ 35).

Subsequent to his EEOC charge, Strickland was placed on the night shift indefinitely, despite the fact that another officer had specifically requested that shift. (Doc. 1 at 10, ¶ 30). He was also denied permission to teach various courses to other UAB police officers, even though he had taught them in the past and failure to conduct the classes would result in decreased resources for the department. (Doc. 1 at 10, 12, ¶ ¶ 31, 36). For at least one of the courses, he was the only certified instructor in the department. (Doc. 1 at 10, ¶ 31). He was also prevented from applying for at least one promotion due to the above-described reprimand. (Doc. 1 at 11, ¶ 33).

DISCUSSION

Strickland commenced this action on July 18, 2014, alleging (1) harassment and hostile work environment under 42 U.S.C. § § 1981, 1983; (2) discrimination and retaliation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964; (3) discrimination under 42 U.S.C. § § 1981, 1983; (4) retaliation under 42 U.S.C. § § 1981, 1983; (5) the Alabama tort of outrage; (6) failure to train, supervise, and discipline under 42 U.S.C. § 1983; and (7) ...


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