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Jones v. University of North Alabama

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

February 6, 2017

ISAAC JONES, JR., Plaintiff,
v.
THE UNIVERSITY OF NORTH ALABAMA, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          ABDUL K. KALLON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Isaac Jones, Jr., filed this lawsuit against the University of North Alabama (“UNA”), alleging one count of sex discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. (“Title VII”). Doc. 1. The court has for consideration UNA's motion for summary judgment, doc. 21, which is fully briefed, docs. 22; 25; 27, and ripe for review. For the reasons stated more fully below, the motion is due to be granted.

         I. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a), 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.” “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) (alteration in original). The moving party bears the initial burden of proving the absence of a genuine dispute of material fact. Id. at 323. The burden then shifts to the non-moving party, who is required to go “beyond the pleadings” to establish that there is a “genuine issue for trial.” Id. at 324 (internal citations and 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 244 (all justifiable inferences must be drawn in the non-moving party's favor). Any factual dispute will be resolved in the non-moving party's favor when sufficient competent evidence supports that party's version of the disputed facts. But see Pace v. Capobianco, 238 F.3d 1275, 1276-78 (11th Cir. 2002) (a court is not required to resolve disputes in the non-moving party's favor when that party's version of events is supported by insufficient evidence). 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) (citing Bald Mountain Park, Ltd. v. Oliver, 863 F.2d 1560, 1563 (11th Cir. 1989)). Moreover, “[a] mere ‘scintilla' of evidence supporting the opposing party's position will not suffice; there must be enough of a showing that a 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

         Jones, who is a male and an alumnus of UNA, see doc. 23-1 at 7-8, applied for a position as a buyer in UNA's procurement office, see doc. 23-1 at 47.[1] The position advertised a maximum salary of $57, 388. See doc. 26-2 at 2. Jones submitted an application, resume, and cover letter, in which Jones stated that he has a bachelor's degree in business administration with a major in accounting, doc. 23-1 at 8, and decades of experience in various positions related to procurement/buying for state and federal governmental agencies, see generally doc. 23-1 at 46-62. In his ten-page resume, see doc. 23-1 at 53-62, Jones repeatedly described his experience in handling “multi-million” and “multi-billion” dollar transactions, see Id. at 53-56, 59, 62. Jones's cover letter stated, in part:

My education, job experience, and qualifications greatly exceed the “Buyer” job requirements. As a UNA alumnus, I would like to give back to UNA, in the form of heavily discounted expert procurement services, by processing UNA's procurements in the most complete, timely, and accurate manner, in full compliance with all policies, rules, regulations, and statues [sic] (both state and federal). I understand and acknowledge the posted position is a “Buyer” and I would be honored to fulfill those requirements while maintaining the highest professional standards I have clearly demonstrated over the past 30 years.
In addition to completing assigned acquisitions, I could be a valuable internal resource for the most complex acquisition UNA may be occasion [sic]. I have been a principle [sic] participant in awarding and administering (from cradle to death) many multimillion dollar long term complex acquisitions with all of the major State of Alabama's Universities and am familiar with the unique and, in some cases, novel procurement requirements that UNA must meet.

Doc. 23-1 at 46. Jones also listed his “most recent salary” as “$100/hr.” See doc. 23-1 at 48.

         The Hiring Committee, which was comprised of four females and one male, see doc. 23-3 at 7, used a scoring system that allocated points based on the following fifteen criteria: vendor management experience; communication skills; attention to detail within documentation; experience working with a variety of people and personalities as internal or external customers; organization skills; evidence of sustainability within a task or profession; valuable commodity knowledge; “seems like a good fit for UNA environment”; “seems like a good fit for the Procurement Office”; evidence of innovation and creativity; evidence of some autonomy and self-motivation; evidence of good decision-making skills and good use of resources; evidence of good computer skills; evidence of strong business ethics; and professionalism. Doc. 23-2 at 43. The Committee awarded Jones a score of “4” (or “excellent”) in the categories of “vendor management experience, ” “valuable commodity knowledge of some kind, ” and “evidence of some autonomy and self-motivation.” See doc. 23-3 at 9. Jones received a score of “0” (or “poor”) in the categories of “seems like a good fit for UNA environment” and “seems like a good fit for the Procurement Office, ” and a score of “1” (or “not very good”) in the categories of “communication skills, ” “professionalism, ” and “attention to detail within documentation.” See docs. 23-3 at 9; 23-2 at 17-19. The scores resulted in Jones being ranked twentieth out of the forty candidates the Committee deemed minimally qualified for the position. Doc. 23-2 at 41.

         Cindy Conlon, UNA's Assistant Vice President of Business Services and chair of the Hiring Committee, testified that the Committee “viewed [Jones's] cover letter as arrogant because [Jones] suggested that his qualifications ‘greatly exceed' the posted job requirements, he would provide UNA ‘heavily discounted expert procurement services' and he repeatedly referenced his negotiation of multi-million and multi-billion dollar deals.” Doc. 23-3 at 7; see also doc. 23-2 at 18 (wherein Conlon testified that Jones's submission “presented itself in an arrogant manner”). Conlon stated that the Committee “had concerns about placing any employee in a position who believes that they are taking a position beneath them or that they are not being paid for what they determine their value to be.” Id. Conlon also cited “errors in [Jones's] submission, ” for instance, that he had misspelled the word “statutes” in the “very sentence where he guaranteed accuracy and completeness of his work, ” failed to capitalize the word “Huntsville” in his application, and misspelled the word “principal” for the pertinent context. See Id. at 7-8. Finally, Conlon noted that Jones's resume was “ten pages long and [Jones] did not seem to [display] any effort . . . to tailor [it] to this particular job.” Id. at 8. Another Committee member, Melissa Williams, mentioned during the hiring discussions that Jones's employment history reflected annual salaries exceeding $100, 000, which far surpassed the approximately $50, 000 salary range assigned to the buyer position. See doc. 23-3 at 9.

         Because the Hiring Committee invited only the top nine candidates to interview, see doc. 23-3 at 10, Jones did not receive an interview. Doc. 23-2 at 9. The Committee ultimately interviewed three candidates, all of whom were female, id., and selected Dana Peeden from that group. See doc. 23-3 at 11. Peeden's application stated that she earned an annual salary of $28, 600 in her current position, doc. 23-3 at 12, had “experience working with vendors and managing equipment” and “inventory experience that would fit with the requirement that she monitor the bills to make sure [UNA] was getting what it paid for, ” and “had handled many aspects of secretarial and administrative tasks.” Doc. 23-3 at 11. Significantly, Peeden's application materials, like Jones's, contained several grammatical and typographical errors. For example, Peeden typed “i.e, ” instead of “i.e., ” see doc. 23-2 at 25, misspelled the word “database, ” see id., and wrote “August, 2001 to November 2003, ” see Id. at 27. Conlon admitted during her deposition that Peeden's errors did not demonstrate “good attention to detail.” Doc. 23-2 at 27.

         III. ...


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