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Adams v. Housing Authority of City of Bessemer

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

January 21, 2015

TARA ADAMS, Plaintiff;
v.
HOUSING AUTHORITY OF THE CITY OF BESSEMER, ALABAMA, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OF OPINION

L. SCOTT COOGLER, District Judge.

Before the Court is Defendant Housing Authority of the City of Bessemer, Alabama's ("BHA") Motion for Summary Judgment. (Doc. 25.) Plaintiff Tara Adams ("Adams") brought this civil rights action against BHA, alleging gender discrimination and retaliatory conduct in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. ยง 2000e et seq. ("Title VII"). Despite being specifically reminded by the Court to provide a response and being granted sua sponte an extension of time in which to file a response, Adams, acting pro se, has failed to file any response to BHA's motion. Therefore, the Court's consideration of the motion is based solely on BHA's motion and the Court's own review of the attached evidentiary material and examination of the relevant law. For the reasons discussed below, the motion is due to be granted.

I. Background[1]

A. Employment History

Adams, a female, was hired by BHA as an assistant property manager for Brasswell Homes on October 24, 2006. In February of 2012, Adams was promoted to interim property manager at Southside Homes, after being recommended for that position by BHA's Director of Property Management, Julius Howard ("Howard"). Adams' offer letter stated that her promotion would be for a three month interim period, and would then be reevaluated.

Adams was then transferred to Sunset Homes, where she also held the position of property manager, and remained at that location from April 2012 to January 2013. Adams swapped positions with Jeffrey Wheeler ("Wheeler"), BHA's only male property manager, who was transferred from Sunset to replace her at Southside. On June 12, 2012, Duffey sent Adams a letter extending her interim period for another 60 days. In January of 2013, Adams was transferred back to Southside Homes, and Wheeler was transferred to another property.

On June 10, 2013, Adams filed a complaint against BHA with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). Adams was then terminated on June 13, 2013 for insubordination and lack of cooperation. Adams returned to the EEOC to sign her complaint on June 17, 2013. Adams' EEOC claim was filed within 180 days of the last allegedly discriminatory act, and her suit was filed on October 30, 2013, within 90 days of receipt of her right-to-sue letter.

B. Alleged Discrimination and Insubordination

Adams' first supervisor at the BHA was Toni Williams ("Williams"), another woman. Adams believed that Williams routinely violated company policy, and verbally reported Williams for these violations a number of times. In July of 2009, Williams placed a verbal warning for insubordination in Adams' personnel file; Adams denies ever being told about the warning and denies the insubordination. Adams received no further punishment or reprimand at that time.

In October of 2009, Mary Fortson ("Fortson"), Williams' supervisor, sent Adams an "Employee Notification of Intent to Separate" memo, which stated that Adams had expressed dissatisfaction with the BHA and was conducting a search for outside employment using BHA computers. Adams testified that she had actually expressed dissatisfaction only with Williams' improper conduct. Adams admits that she used BHA computers to investigate a position in Birmingham with the Department of Housing and Urban Development, but says that other BHA employees did the same thing. The memo stated that the matter would be "assessed during the next 30 days, " and Adams recalls speaking to Fortson about the problem being "squashed" and them "moving on." (Doc. 25-1 at 19.)

Shortly after her promotion to interim property manager in February of 2012, Adams sent an email to several people within BHA, including Howard and Sharon Duffey ("Duffey") from Human Resources. In that email, Adams complained that "Malcolm, " an outside landscaping vendor, had mentioned to her that her promotion was on a three-month trial basis. Adams wrote that she was "disappointed in the lack of professionalism" in disclosing the terms of her promotion, and asked that "the same professionalism and respect given to other employees be given to me." (Doc. 25-2 at 28.)

After receiving the June 12, 2012 email from Duffey extending her interim positing for 60 days, Adams sent Howard an email asking for more details of the interim nature of her position. She also asked if she was being "singled out" or treated with the same procedure as other BHA employees who had been promoted. Adams wrote that she was having a "hard time understanding what looks to me like I am being picked on or discriminated against for some reason." (Doc. 25-4 at 2.) Adams also copied a real estate broker in Birmingham with the email, because Adams trusted the broker and wanted an outside witness to her complaint. A meeting was held between Adams, Howard, and Duffey following the email, where Adams reiterated that she felt she was being discriminated against for some reason. Following the meeting, Howard issued Adams a written warning for violating company policy by copying a non-BHA employee on her email.

Adams has expressed her belief that her transfer to Sunset in itself was discriminatory, because the property had previously flooded and had numerous mildew and mold problems. The previous manager, Wheeler, also managed Sunset under those conditions.

Adams also believes that she was experiencing discrimination during her time as property manager at the BHA because she was not provided with the same training as other managers. Adams was provided with no formal training to be a property manager. She was not sent to a class to enable her to receive a public housing designation that all other BHA manager's possessed, and was not given the opportunity to shadow another property manager, as some other employees had been given after their promotions. She also states that she was not given proper support when she asked Howard for advice on how to deal with certain issues. Adams also believes that the rules that applied ...


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