United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Northeastern Division
ABDUL K. KALLON, District Judge.
Leslie Atkins, a 54 year old African-American who has worked for the United States Department of the Army for over twenty years, claims that her supervisors denied her promotions and training, and reassigned her to a less desirable job because of her race and age. Doc. 15. Accordingly, Atkins pursues claims against the Secretary of the Army, John McHugh, for alleged violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"), 42 U.S.C. 12101 et seq. Doc. 15. The Secretary moved for summary judgment, doc. 28, which is due to be granted for the reasons below.
I. STANDARD OF REVIEW FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
Under Rule 56(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, summary judgment is proper "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." To support a summary judgment motion, the parties must cite to "particular parts of materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations, admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials." FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c). Moreover, "Rule 56(c) mandates the entry of summary judgment, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). The moving party bears the initial burden of proving the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Id. at 323. The burden then shifts to the nonmoving party, who is required to "go beyond the pleadings" to establish that there is a "genuine issue for trial." Id. at 324 (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). A dispute about a material fact is genuine "if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). The court must construe the evidence and all reasonable inferences arising from it in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Adickes v. S. H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 157 (1970); see also Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255 (all justifiable inferences must be drawn in the non-moving party's favor). However, "mere conclusions and unsupported factual allegations are legally insufficient to defeat a summary judgment motion." Ellis v. England, 432 F.3d 1321, 1326 (11th Cir. 2005) (per curiam) (citing Bald Mountain Park, Ltd. v. Oliver, 863 F.2d 1560, 1563 (11th Cir. 1989)). Furthermore, "[a] mere scintilla' of evidence supporting the opposing party's position will not suffice; there must be enough of a showing that the jury could reasonably find for that party." Walker v. Darby, 911 F.2d 1573, 1577 (11th Cir. 1990) (citing Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252).
II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND
Atkins's allegations center around her experiences while working as an administrative assistant in the Department of Public Works ("DPW") of the U.S. Army Garrison at Redstone Arsenal ("Redstone"). Atkins joined Redstone in 1995 as a secretary for the Fox Army Health Center, and in 2003 transferred to DPW to work as an Office Automation Assistant. Doc. 29-3 at 14-15. Redstone categorized the Office Automation Assistant Position as a "GS-5" grade level position. Id. In October 2006, Atkins earned a promotion to a GS-6 Administrative Support Assistant for the Engineering Division of DPW. Id. at 16. Atkins remained in that position for five years, consistently earning pay raises until she reached the maximum salary allowed for a GS-6 position. Id.
In 2011, Redstone received instructions from its Installation Management Command to "reduce its overall size" by eliminating personnel in excess of the "table distribution of allowances" ("TDA"). Docs. 29-6 at 24, 67; 29-8 at 12. In compliance with this mandate, Redstone's Garrison Commander, Colonel John Hamilton, eliminated many clerical positions which were "less critical" to the organization-including Atkins's position at DPW. Doc. 29-8 at 17. As a result, Colonel Hamilton transferred Atkins laterally with no loss in pay to a vacant GS-6 Administrative Support Assistant position with the Installation Safety Directorate (the "Safety Office"). See docs. 29-3 at 18; 29-6 at 67; 29-8 at 18. Atkins contends, however, that the Safety Office is "one of the lowest branches within" Redstone and believes Colonel Hamilton transferred her because of her race and age. Doc. 29-3 at 40, 56.
Atkins also believes that Redstone denied her training because of her race and age throughout her tenure as a GS-6 employee, which presumably prevented her from qualifying for a promotion to a higher grade level. Id. at 26. Specifically, Atkins purportedly requested training from two supervisors-Joey Skinner and Keith Cook-but never received that training because her supervisors told her "they didn't have the funding." Id. at 26, 77. Meanwhile, Atkins's "general belief" is that Redstone offered training to four other Caucasian and/or younger employees,  who were then able to successfully compete for promotions. Id. at 30. According to Atkins, Redstone "preselected" these employees for those higher level positions by "fixing" the job announcements. Id.
The four employees Redstone trained and promoted purportedly because of their race and/or age are:
1. Margaret Ingram
Margaret Ingram purportedly received training to help her advance from a GS-7 Environmental Protection Specialist Assistant position to a GS-9 Specialist Assistant position. Id. at 28-30. To support this contention, Atkins claims that she "just [feels] like" Ingram received training. Id. at 29.
2. Teresa Dail
Teresa Dail began working at Redstone in 2006 as a GS-7 Management Assistant. Doc. 29-10 at 4. Two years later, Dail successfully applied for a GS-9 Program Analyst Position. Id. Atkins generally believes that Redstone trained and preselected Dail for the GS-9 position because she "would have to get some on-the-job training or some training somewhere... [since] she doesn't have any education in order to qualify her for the [GS-9] job." ...