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Rose v. Wal-Mart Stores East, Inc.

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

March 23, 2015

LESIA A. ROSE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
WAL-MART STORES EAST, INC., DEFENDANT

MEMORANDUM OPINION

JAMES H. HANCOCK, Senior District Judge.

The court has before it the Motion (Doc. #27) for Summary Judgment filed by Defendant Wal-Mart Stores East, Inc. ("Walmart") on December 29, 2014. Pursuant to the court's order of January 5, 2015 (Doc. #30), the motion for summary judgment is now under submission and is considered herein without oral argument.

Having considered the briefs and evidentiary submissions, the court finds that Walmart's motion for summary judgment is due to be granted for the reasons outlined below.

I. Procedural History

Plaintiff Lesia A. Rose commenced this action on June 6, 2013 by filing a single count complaint for "retaliation" in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. and 42 U.S.C. § 1981. Specifically, Plaintiff asserts in her complaint that she was subjected to racially motivated termination, "as she was terminated in retaliation for having made race based EEOC complaints under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964." (Compl., ¶ 17).

Defendant's December 29, 2014 Motion (Doc. #27) for Summary Judgment asserts that no genuine issue of material fact exists and that Walmart is entitled to judgment as a matter of law as to all claims asserted against it.

The parties have each filed briefs and submitted evidence in support of their respective positions concerning the pending motion for summary judgment. On December 29, 2014, Walmart submitted evidence[1] (Doc. #29, Exhs. A-E) in support of the motion and also filed a supporting memorandum brief (Doc. #28). Plaintiff filed a Response (Doc. #33) in Opposition to Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment on February 9, 2015. On February 17, 2015, Walmart filed a Reply (Doc. #34) in Support of its Motion for Summary Judgment.

II. Legal Standards for Evaluating a Summary Judgment Motion[2]

Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c), summary 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 judgment as a matter of law." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). The party asking for 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 which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. See id. at 323. Once the moving party has met her burden, Rule 56(e) requires the non-moving party to go beyond the pleadings and by her own affidavits, or by the depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, designate specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. See id. at 324.

The substantive law will identify which facts are material and which are irrelevant. See 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. See Fitzpatrick v. City of Atlanta, 2 F.3d 1112, 1115 (11th Cir. 1993). A dispute is genuine "if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. If the evidence is merely colorable, or is not significantly probative, summary judgment may be granted. See id. at 249.

The method used by the party moving for summary judgment to discharge her initial burden depends on whether that party bears the burden of proof on the issue at trial. See Fitzpatrick, 2 F.3d at 1115-17 (citing United States v. Four Parcels of Real Property, 941 F.2d 1428 (11th Cir. 1991)(en banc)). If the moving party bears the burden of proof at trial, then it can only meet its initial burden on summary judgment by coming forward with positive evidence demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact; i.e. facts that would entitle it to a directed verdict if not controverted at trial. See Fitzpatrick, 2 F.3d at 1115. Once the moving party makes such a showing, the burden shifts to the non-moving party to produce significant, probative evidence demonstrating a genuine issue for trial.

If the moving party does not bear the burden of proof at trial, she can satisfy her initial burden on summary judgment in either of two ways. First, the moving party may produce affirmative evidence negating a material fact, thus demonstrating that the non-moving party will be unable to prove its case at trial. Once the moving party satisfies its burden using this method, the non-moving party must respond with positive evidence sufficient to resist a motion for directed verdict at trial. The second method by which the moving party who does not bear the burden of proof at trial can satisfy its initial burden on summary judgment is to affirmatively show the absence of evidence in the record to support a judgment for the non-moving party on the issue in question. This method requires more than a simple statement that the non-moving party cannot meet its burden at trial but does not require evidence negating the non-movant's claim; it simply requires that the movant point out to the district court that there is an absence of evidence to support the non-moving party's case. See Fitzpatrick, 2 F.3d at 1115-16. If the movant meets her initial burden by using this second method, the non-moving party may either point out to the court record evidence, overlooked or ignored by the movant, sufficient to withstand a directed verdict, or the non-moving party may come forward with additional evidence sufficient to withstand a directed verdict motion at trial based on the alleged evidentiary deficiency. However, when responding, the non-movant can no longer rest on mere allegations, but must set forth evidence of specific facts. See Lewis v. Casey, 518 U.S. 343, 358 (1996) (citing Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 561 (1992)). The court is aware that the summary judgment rule applies in job discrimination cases just as in other cases. Chapman v. AI Transport, 229 F.3d 1012, 1025 (11th Cir. 2000) (rejecting an earlier, contrary general rule and emphasizing that no thumb is to be placed on either side of the scale).

III. Relevant Undisputed Facts[3]

A. Plaintiff's Employment History with Walmart

Plaintiff Lesia Rose was hired as a Bay Technician at Walmart Store #2111 in Hoover, Alabama. (Rose Dep. at 62-63). As a Bay Technician, Rose worked in the Tire, Lube, and Express ("TLE") Department, which provides automotive care to customers. (Rose Dep. at 62-63). In or around 2002 or 2003, Rose was promoted to the position of Service Writer in the TLE Department. (Rose Dep. at 64-65). Rose remained a Service Writer for approximately three years until she asked to make the lateral move to TLE cashier, a position she held until the termination of her employment with Walmart in 2011. (Rose Dep. at 66-67). As a TLE Cashier, Rose was responsible for answering telephones, cleaning and running the register, stocking ...


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