United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division
CARLOS J. TORRES-SANCHEZ, Plaintiff,
JEFFERSON COUNTY BOARD OF HEALTH, et al., Defendants.
DAVID PROCTOR, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
action arises from Plaintiffs failure to obtain a promotion
to a health services administrator position. Plaintiff
insists that he did not receive this promotion because
Defendants Jefferson County Board of Health ("Health
Board") and Jefferson County Department of Health
("Health Department") discriminated against him due
to his race and national origin. Plaintiff also claims that
Defendants denied him this promotion in retaliation for
filing grievances with the Personnel Board of Jefferson
County ("Personnel Board") and the Equal Employment
Opportunity Commission ("EEOC").
December 14, 2016, the Magistrate Judge entered a Report and
Recommendation (Doc. # 39), recommending that Defendants'
Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. # 21) be granted in part
and denied in part. Specifically, the Magistrate Judge
recommended that the court grant Defendants summary judgment
on Plaintiffs hostile work environment claim and deny summary
judgment on Plaintiffs race discrimination, national origin
discrimination, and retaliatory failure to promote
claims. (Doc. # 39 at 12, 19-20). The Magistrate
Judge provided the parties fourteen days in which to file
objections. Defendants have objected to the Magistrate
Judge's recommendation and argue that the court should
grant summary judgment as to Counts One, Two, and Four. (Doc.
# 40 at 1). The parties have fully briefed the objections.
(Docs. # 40-1, 42, 43). After careful review, and with the
benefit of oral argument, the court concludes that
Defendants' objections are due to be sustained in part
and overruled in part.
Standard of Review
court reviews Defendants' objections, which contest the
Magistrate Judge's legal conclusions, de novo.
28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). Since Defendants have not
objected to the Magistrate Judge's factual findings, they
are adopted and incorporated herein. Certain facts are
re-stated here for emphasis, and additional facts relevant to
Plaintiffs Title VII retaliation claim are
Statement of Facts
2006, the Health Department hired Plaintiff as an
international program manager. (Doc. # 39 at 3). It assigned
Plaintiff to the Community Health Service Center
("Community Health"). (Id.). Dr. Teri
Chafin supervised Plaintiff while he worked for Community
October 2011, Dr. Mark Wilson was appointed as the health
officer for the Health Department. (Id. at 4). Dr.
Chafin recommended during a January 2012 meeting that
Plaintiff, Charline Whyte, and Tammie Sawyer be promoted to
new positions in Community Health. (Id. at 5).
Sawyer was an African-American employee, while Plaintiff and
Whyte were Latino employees. (Id. at 6). Dr. Wilson
attended the meeting with Dolores Johnson, a health services
administrator for the Health Department, and Judy Madison,
the Health Department's chief accountant. (Id.
was interviewed for a nurse practitioner position and
promoted to nurse practitioner in January 2012. (Doc. # 21-1
at 16). Dr. Chafin requested Sawyer's promotion, and her
promotion was approved by the Health Department in January
2012. (See Docs. # 22-3 at 2-3; 22-11
parties strongly dispute whether the Health Department
approved a health services administrator position for
Community Health in its 2013 budget, whether a request for
that position was properly submitted by the Health
Department, whether the Health Department implemented a
hiring freeze, and when the Health Department decided to not
approve a health services administrator position for
Community Health. When viewed in the light most favorable to
Plaintiff, the Rule 56 record indicates that Madison informed
Chafin on June 22, 2012 that the Health Department had
approved a budget for Community Health that included a new
health services administrator position. (Doc. # 22-15 at
3-6). The approved budget proposed that Plaintiff would be
promoted to the administrator position. (Id. at 5).
30, 2012, Community Health prepared a request for position
form for the health services administrator position. (Doc. #
22-4 at 2). The Health Department's human resources
division approved the request. (Id.). Johnson
confirmed that she approved the request. (Id.). The
Personnel Board assigned a certification number for the
position. (Id.). On September 6, 2012, Johnson
requested that the Personnel Board cancel the certification
for the health services administrator position because it
allegedly had been "entered in error." (Doc. # 22-5
at 2). The Personnel Board cancelled this certification
before October 2012. (See Doc. # 21-2 at 147
("I called the Personnel Board and talked to Jim Austin.
. . . Mr. Austin said that the [Health Department's]
request to fill the position has been withdrawn and has not
been reinstated.")). Johnson informed Dr. Chafin on
September 24, 2012 that the position request had been removed
because it was entered in error. (Doc. # 22-2 at 8).
Nevertheless, Johnson also told Dr. Chafin that Community
Health's health services administrator position had been
placed on hold while the deputy health officer determined
whether she needed a health services administrator.
(Id. at 3, 9). The Personnel Board determined that
Plaintiff was qualified for the health services administrator
position on October 22, 2012. (Doc. # 22-17 at 2-3).
October 5, 2012, Plaintiff met with Johnson and Rodney
Holmes. (See Doc. # 21-2 at 142-43 (referring to
statements made by Plaintiff during the meeting)). At that
meeting, Plaintiff complained that Johnson had "a
personal agenda" against him. (Id. at 143).
Most significantly, Plaintiff claimed that Johnson abused
"her position of power at the Health Department to
promote her personal agenda and to advance people of her own
racial background while excluding others who are not
black." (Id.). During a deposition, Johnson
recalled a meeting where Plaintiff had "called me a
racist and incompetent." (Doc. # 22-1 at
30-31). After the meeting, Holmes stated that he
needed to discuss time and attendance issues with Plaintiff
and had intended to discuss them during the October 5th
meeting, but declined to discuss those issues without Johnson
being present. (Doc. # 21-2 at 142).
filed a grievance with the Personnel Board on October 8,
2012. (Doc. # 22-19 at 2-3). In his grievance, Plaintiff
complained that Johnson had created a hostile work
environment and that Holmes refused to meet with him without
Johnson being present. (Id. at 3). According to
Plaintiff, supervisors at the Health Department were
instructed to not contact African-American employees after
those African-American employees presented discrimination
complaints. (Id.). Plaintiffs contention in the
grievance was that Holmes only mentioned the time and
attendance issues after Plaintiff had raised his complaints
against Johnson. (Id.). On October 8th, Johnson
informed Dr. Chafin that approval of the health services
administrator position would be delayed "due to the need
for structured interview training." (Doc. # 22-2 at 9).
Wilson appointed an Executive Management Team that began
meeting in July 2012. (Doc. # 21-2 at 6, 9). Johnson was a
member of the Executive Management Team. (Doc. # 22-1 at 33).
Holmes was also a member of the executive team. (Doc. # 22-2
at 11). On October 9, 2012, Holmes asked Dr. Chafin to
present an organizational chart of her proposal for Community
Health and a business justification for all of her new
proposed positions. (Id. at 9-10). Dr. Chafin met
with the Executive Management Team on October 23rd.
(Id. at 11). The management team primarily discussed
the proposed promotions for Plaintiff and Charline Whyte
during that meeting. (Id. at 11-12). Dr. Chafin also
met with Dr. Wilson on October 24th. (Id. at 12).
Dr. Wilson asked Dr. Chafin whether she believed Johnson
discriminated against Plaintiff; Dr. Chafin responded that
Johnson had discriminated against Plaintiff and Whyte.
October 2012, Dr. Wilson asked the Executive Management Team
to review the Community Health center and make independent
recommendations to him. (Doc. # 21-2 at 10). The Executive
Management Team recommended that Dr. Wilson dissolve
Community Health and reassign its employees to other
divisions. (Doc. # 22-1 at 12). Dr. Wilson informed Dr.
Chafin of his decision to dissolve Community Health on
November 15th. (Doc. # 22-2 at 12). Dr. Wilson said that Dr.
Chafin's proposals for new positions were still being
considered, but Plaintiff and Whyte probably would not be
promoted. (Id.). Dr. Wilson commented on some
ongoing investigations by the Health Department into
Community Health and Plaintiffs grievance during that
meeting. (Id. at 12-13).
Health Department reassigned Plaintiff to the Quality
Improvement/Decision Support Service Center. (Doc. # 21-2 at
11-12). It is undisputed that, after this transfer from
Community Health, Plaintiff remained in the same job
classification, received the same salary, and continued to
perform the same duties. (Id. at 12, 18).
Analysis of ...