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Shaw v. Mobile County Pub. Sch. Sys.

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

February 2, 2015

SUELLEN SHAW, Plaintiff,

For Suellen Shaw, Plaintiff: Mary E. Pilcher, LEAD ATTORNEY, Stein and Pilcher, LLC, P. O.

For Mobile County Public School System, Defendant: K. Paul Carbo, Jr., LEAD ATTORNEY, The Atchison Firm, Mobile, AL.



This case concerns a claim of discriminatory hiring practices within the Mobile County Public School System. Suellen Shaw (" Plaintiff" ) alleges the Mobile County Public School System (" Defendant" ) hires male driver's education teachers so they can coach football or other male sports. As a result, Plaintiff contends Defendant unlawfully discriminated against her based on her gender when she applied for certain driver's education positions. Before the Court are Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 35) and supporting materials (Docs. 36 - 39), Plaintiff's response in opposition to the motion (Doc. 44) and supporting materials (Docs. 45 - 51), and Defendant's reply. (Doc. 52). Upon careful consideration and for the reasons set forth herein, Defendant's motion for summary judgment is due to be denied.

I. Procedural History

Plaintiff filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (" EEOC" ) on December 16, 2013. (Doc. 1, p. 3). After the EEOC issued a right-to-sue letter (Doc. 1, Exh. 1, p. 1), Plaintiff filed her complaint on March 11, 2014. (Doc. 1, p. 3). Plaintiff initially sued the Mobile County Board of School Commissioners in their individual and official capacities, but the parties agreed to dismiss the individual defendants. (Docs. 10, 12, 13, 17). Plaintiff maintains her claim against the Mobile County Public School System.

In her complaint, Plaintiff alleges Defendant unlawfully discriminated against her based on her gender, violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.[1] (Doc. 1, p. 8). Plaintiff specifically alleged " Defendant has engaged in a pattern and practice of discrimination based on sex," and " Plaintiff was rejected for the position of Driver's Education Teacher by Defendant based on her sex." (Doc. 1, p. 8). This caused Plaintiff to suffer mental anguish, loss of dignity, embarrassment, humiliation, severe emotional distress, and other injuries. (Doc. 1, p. 9). Through this lawsuit, Plaintiff seeks to redress this alleged discrimination. (Doc. 1, p. 8).

Following discovery, Defendant filed a motion for summary judgment arguing (1) Plaintiff " may only recover for discrete acts of discrimination that occurred on or after June 16, 2013" (Doc. 37, p. 5), (2) Plaintiff cannot show she suffered an adverse employment action (Doc. 37, p. 4), and (3) even if Plaintiff timely filed her EEOC complaint and suffered an adverse employment action, Defendant has presented legitimate non-discriminatory reasons for its hiring decisions. (Doc. 37, p. 7; Doc. 52, pp. 2 - 5). Plaintiff responded to the motion, stating she need only " demonstrate that gender was a motivating factor for the employment practice, even though other factors also motivated the practice." (Doc. 44, p. 1). Plaintiff also argues that she suffered an adverse employment action because the duties and responsibilities of the desired positions were materially different than the position she held. (Doc. 44, p. 8). Plaintiff contends there are disputed issues of material fact that prohibit granting Defendant's motion for summary judgment as a matter of law. (Doc. 44, p. 20).

II. Standard of Review

The court must " grant summary judgment 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." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). Rule 56(c) governs procedures and provides that a party seeking summary judgment bears the initial responsibility of informing the court of the basis for its motion. This includes " identifying those portions of the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact." Clark v. Coats & Clark, Inc., 929 F.2d 604, 608 (11th Cir. 1991) (quoting Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986)). The mere existence of a factual dispute will not automatically necessitate denial; rather, only factual disputes that are material preclude entry of summary judgment. Lofton v. Sec'y of Dep't of Children & Family Servs., 358 F.3d 804, 809 (11th Cir. 2004).

The substantive law of the plaintiff's cause of action determines which facts are material and which are irrelevant. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). If a non-moving party fails to make a sufficient showing on an essential element of its case on which it has the burden of proof, the moving party is entitled to summary judgment. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. In reviewing whether a non-moving party has met its burden, the Court must stop short of weighing the evidence and determining credibility. Instead, the Court must draw all justifiable inferences in favor of the non-moving party. Tipton v. Bergrohr GMBH-Siegen, 965 F.2d 994, 998 - 99 (11th Cir. 1992) (internal citations and quotations omitted). Thus the inquiry is " whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law." Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. at 251-52.

III. Facts[2]

Plaintiff is certified to teach physical education, driver's education, and act as a school counselor. (Doc. 36, p. 1). Plaintiff currently works as a physical education teacher at Baker High School.[3] (Doc. 36, pp. 1 - 2). Baker High School is located in Mobile County, Alabama, as are each of the high schools discussed in this case. Prior to working at Baker, Plaintiff worked as a driver's education teacher at Satsuma High School. (Doc. 45, p. 3). Plaintiff transferred to Satsuma in 2011 through Defendant's mandatory transfer process. (Doc. 45, p. 3; Doc. 46, Exh. 1, pp. 1 - 2). While teaching driver's education at Satsuma, Plaintiff received state recognition for her work. (Doc. 44, p. 6; Doc. 46, Exh. 1, p. 2). Before working at Satsuma, Plaintiff worked at B.C. Rain High School from 2000 to 2011. (Doc. 45, p. 3). B.C. Rain classified Plaintiff as a driver's education teacher, but she also coached girls' sports and taught physical education courses there. (Doc. 45, p. 3). Plaintiff alleges she could not return to B.C. Rain after working at Satsuma because B.C. Rain " needed a slot for a football coach," so " they waited for somebody to get certified" to teach driver's education. (Doc. 45, p. 3; Doc. 46, Exh. 8, p. 3).

On May 15, 2012, Plaintiff asked Defendant about available driver's education positions, observing " since Feb. 6th you and HR knew you needed to place me in a Driver Education position due to the Satsuma split. Since that time, a 'hiring freeze' has been put into place yet two (2) Driver Education positions, Blount and Baker, have been filled with hires from outside the system." (Doc. 48, Exh. 12, p. 2). John Powell, Personnel Administrator with the Mobile County Public Schools, replied to Plaintiff's inquiry and stated, " As I said previously I will try to find you a position to your liking. As you have ...

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