United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Eastern Division
VALECIA R. WILLIAMS, Plaintiff,
NEA FOOD SERVICES, LLC, JOEL MARLER, CEO, Defendants.
VIRGINIA EMERSON HOPKINS, District Judge.
This employment discrimination action was filed on December 19, 2012, by the plaintiff, Valecia R. Williams, against the defendants, NEA Food Services, LLC ("NEA") and Joel Marler. Although the complaint contains three counts, the exact statutory basis for any of the counts is unclear. For one thing, in the "Jurisdiction" section of the complaint, the following language appears:
This is a suit for relief from race discrimination instituted pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Acts of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. Section 2000e et. seq. and 42 U.S.C. Section 1983. The jurisdiction of this Court is based on 42 U.S.C. Section 1981.
(Doc. 1 at 1) (emphasis added). Thereafter, the plaintiff sets out three counts, none of which discuss either Title VII or Section 1983.
Count One of the complaint alleges that the plaintiff was subjected to "adverse job actions because of her race, " and that the defendants' stated reasons for their conduct were a "pretext for race discrimination." (Doc. 1 at 4). No statutory or other basis for relief under this count appears until its request for relief which, among other things, seeks a declaration that the defendants' alleged conduct was "in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1866 (as amended by the Civil Rights Act of 1991) hereinafter cited as 42 U.S.C. § 1981; and all other applicable federal laws." (Doc. 1 at 6). The only other statutory relief requested in the count is for "attorney's fees and costs... in accordance with 42 U.S.C. Section 1988; and all other applicable federal laws." (Doc. 1 at 6).
Count Two alleges "[t]he [d]efendants retaliated against [p]laintiff for engaging in protected activity." (Doc. 1 at 7, ¶ 16). That count alleges that the plaintiff "engaged in activity protected by 42 U.S.C. Section 1981." (Doc. 1 at 6). Then, like Count One, the count seeks a declaratory judgment under Section 1981, and "all other applicable federal laws" (doc. 1 at 8), and "attorney's fees and costs... in accordance with 42 U.S.C. Section 1988; and all other applicable federal laws." (Doc. 1 at 8). Count Three alleges that
[d]efendant failed to adequately train [d]efendants Calvert and Marler/or failed to take corrective actions to prevent [d]efendants Calvert and Marler from engaging in racial discriminatory practices in the workplace against the [p]laintiff and/or failed to prevent [d]efendants Calvert Marler [sic] from engaging in retaliatory actions against the [p]laintiff.
(Doc. 1 at 9, ¶ 24). Although this count seems to be solely a solely state-law negligence based claim, the count seeks the same declaratory relief and attorneys fees under Section 1981, 1988, "and all other applicable federal laws" (doc. 1 at 10) as is sought in the first two counts.
Counts One and Two are brought against both defendants. Count Three appears to be brought only against NEA.
The case comes before the court on the motion for summary judgment filed by the defendants. (Doc. 26). For the reasons stated herein, the motion will be GRANTED, and this case will be DISMISSED with prejudice.
Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, summary judgment is proper if there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986) ("[S]ummary judgment is proper if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.") (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). The party requesting summary judgment always bears the initial responsibility of informing the court of the basis for its motion and identifying those portions of the pleadings or filings that it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. Once the moving party has met its burden, Rule 56(e) requires the non-moving party to go beyond the pleadings in answering the movant. Id. at 324. By its own affidavits-or by the depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file-it must designate specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Id.
The underlying substantive law identifies which facts are material and which are irrelevant. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). All reasonable doubts about the facts and all justifiable inferences are resolved in favor of the non-movant. Chapman, 229 F.3d at 1023. Only disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. A dispute is genuine "if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Id. If the evidence presented by the non-movant to rebut the moving party's evidence is merely colorable, or is not significantly probative, summary judgment may still be granted. Id. at 249.
How the movant may satisfy its initial evidentiary burden depends on whether that party bears the burden of proof on the given legal issues at trial. Fitzpatrick v. City of Atlanta, 2 F.3d 1112, 1115 (11th Cir. 1993). If the movant bears the burden of proof on the given issue or issues at trial, then it can only meet its burden on summary judgment by presenting affirmative evidence showing the absence of a genuine issue of material fact-that is, facts that would entitle it to a directed verdict if not controverted at trial. Id. (citation omitted). Once the moving party makes such an affirmative showing, the burden shifts to the non-moving party to produce "significant, probative evidence demonstrating the existence of a triable issue of fact." Id. (citation omitted) (emphasis added).
For issues on which the movant does not bear the burden of proof at trial, it can satisfy its initial burden on summary judgment in either of two ways. Id. at 1115-16. First, the movant may simply show that there is an absence of evidence to support the non-movant's case on the particular issue at hand. Id. at 1116. In such an instance, the non-movant must rebut by either (1) showing that the record in fact contains supporting evidence sufficient to withstand a directed verdict motion, or (2) proffering evidence sufficient to withstand a directed verdict motion at trial based on the alleged evidentiary deficiency. Id. at 1116-17. When responding, the non-movant may no longer rest on mere allegations; instead, it must set forth evidence of specific facts. Lewis v. Casey, 518 U.S. 343, 358 (1996). The second method a movant in this position may use to discharge its burden is to provide affirmative evidence demonstrating that the non-moving party will be unable to prove its case at trial. Fitzpatrick, 2 F.3d at 1116. When this occurs, the non-movant must rebut by offering evidence sufficient to withstand a directed verdict at trial on the material fact sought to be negated. Id.
A. Facts Proffered by the Defendants and Deemed Admitted
Regarding any response brief filed in response to a motion for summary judgment, the court's summary judgment scheduling order, issued in this case on December 19, 2012, provides that:
Each party opposing a summary judgment motion also must submit a statement of facts divided as follows.
The first section must consist of only the non-moving party's disputes, if any, with the moving party's claimed undisputed facts. The non-moving party's response to the moving party's claimed undisputed facts shall be in separately numbered paragraphs that coincide with those of the moving party's claimed undisputed facts. Any statements of fact that are disputed by the non-moving party must be followed by a specific reference to those portions of the evidentiary record upon which the dispute is based. All material facts set forth in the statement required of the moving party will be deemed to be admitted for summary judgment purposes unless controverted by the response of the party opposing summary judgment.
(Doc. 3 at 17) (italics in original).
The following facts were proffered by the defendants, and are deemed to be admitted since they were not addressed, and therefore not disputed by the plaintiff:
1. NEA provides food service to the National Guard, as a subcontractor to the State of Alabama.
2. Defendant Joel Marler is blind.
3. Kerri Calvert ("Calvert"), NEA Human Resources Manager, has more than 30 years of food service experience.
4. Calvert has been a leader or manager for more than twenty years.
5. Calvert keeps Marler apprised of all discipline and management issues.
6. Marler has the power to terminate employees.
7. NEA has a policy of nondiscrimination and nonretaliation.
8. From 2010 to 2012, NEA had six (6) African-American and one
(1) white food service manager.
B. Plaintiff's Personal and Employment History
9. Plaintiff is African-American.
10. Plaintiff worked as a hostess, cleaner, and cook at fast food restaurants early in her career.
11. Plaintiff worked at Tysons processing chicken from 1987 to 1994 on and off.
12. Prior to [being hired] at NEA, [p]laintiff had been on federal disability for about 10 years.
13. Plaintiff did not work during the ten-year period of her federal disability.
14. NEA was the only place [p]laintiff applied after disability.
15. Plaintiff had a criminal complaint [filed] against her in 1987 for fighting, including hitting and raising her voice.
16. In 2011, while she was employed at NEA, [p]laintiff was arrested for domestic violence.
17. Plaintiff pled guilty and attended an anger management course in a deal with the prosecutor.
18. The anger management course is a psycho-educational program to help both men and women stop their abusive behavior and emphasizes the importance of learning more constructive ...