United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
VIRGINIA EMERSON HOPKINS United States District Judge.
INTRODUCTION AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
a civil action filed by the Plaintiff, James Strong, against
the Defendant, Blue Bell Creameries. The Complaint alleges
that the Defendant discriminated against Strong on the basis
of his race in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act
of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. Section 2000e, et
seq. (“Title VII”), and 42 U.S.C. §
1981. (Count One). The Complaint also alleges that the
Defendant has discriminated against Strong due to his
disability, and failed to reasonably accommodate his
disability, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities
Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12112, et seq. (the
“ADA”), and the amendments thereto. (Count
Two). Both counts arise out of the
Plaintiff's employment with the Defendant.
21, 2016, this Court held that “the Plaintiff has
failed to properly allege facts which plausibly support a
claim for wrongful discharge, ” and dismissed any such
claim. (Doc. 29 at 13). The Plaintiff subsequently flied a
motion to amend the Complaint (doc. 31), which this Court
denied (doc. 33 at 11). The parties now agree that the
Complaint alleges only two claims-one for an alleged
discriminatory demotion asserted under Title VII and Section
1981 (Count One), and one for constructive discharge asserted
under the ADAAA (Count Two). The Plaintiff admits that the
only remaining claim in this case is Count One,
alleging race discrimination under Title VII and Section
1981, based upon his alleged demotion.
case comes before the Court on the motion for summary
judgment filed by the Defendant. (Doc. 34). For the reasons
stated herein, the motion will be GRANTED in part and DENIED
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(c) 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.
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.
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).
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.
Strong began working for Blue Bell in the year 2000 and took
the position of over-the-road Truck Driver beginning in 2005.
Strong was employed by the Defendant for approximately
fourteen years in the following positions, General Laborer,
Palletizer, Yard-Dog, and finally over-the-road Truck Driver.
was informed on May 14, 2014, that he was being moved to a
Palletizer position. Strong received the same hourly rate of
pay as a Palletizer that he received as a truck driver. (Doc.
36-1 at 1, ¶4). However, as a truck driver Strong
“routinely worked 5 to 6 hours of overtime per
day.” (Doc. 39-1 at 3). The Defendant told Strong that
he was being moved “because of working too much
overtime.” (Doc. 39-1 at 3, ¶8). When Strong was
moved to the Palletizer position, but before he began working
in that position, Blue Bell “informed [Strong] that
[he] would not receive any more overtime.” (Doc. 39-1
at 3-4, ¶9).
first reported to work as a Palletizer on May 22, 2014, and
worked that day and the next day, May 23, 2014. Strong was
clocked in for approximately nine hours on both May 22 and
May 23, 2014. (Doc. 36-1 at 2, ¶6). Beginning May 24,
2014, Strong did not report to work again, and resigned in
July 2014 without ever returning to work at Blue Bell. In
other words, Strong only worked two days in the Palletizer