Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Samuels v. City of Birmingham

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

October 1, 2017

RENDA SAMUELS, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF BIRMINGHAM, a Municipal Corporation, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          MADELINE HUGHES HAIKALA, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Renda Samuels works for the City of Birmingham's Traffic and Engineering Department. According to Ms. Samuels, the City and her supervisors discriminated against her because she is a female, and they retaliated against her after she objected to and reported acts of discrimination.[1] Ms. Samuels asserts Title VII claims against the City and § 1983 claims against the City and her supervisors, Kelvin Blevins, Will Goodman, and Thomas Stinson.[2] [3]

         Pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the defendants ask the Court to enter judgment in their favor on all of Ms. Samuels's claims against them. (Doc. 22). The defendants also ask this Court to strike all or part of five affidavits Ms. Samuels submitted in response to their motion for summary judgment. (Doc. 32). For the reasons explained below, the Court denies the defendants' motion to strike, and the Court grants in part and denies in part the defendants' motion for summary judgment.

         I. SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD

         The court shall grant summary judgment 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.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). To demonstrate that there is a genuine dispute as to a material fact that precludes summary judgment, a party opposing a motion for summary judgment must cite “to particular parts of materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations (including those made for purposes of the motion only), admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(A). “The court need consider only the cited materials, but it may consider other materials in the record.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(3). When considering a summary judgment motion, the Court must view the evidence in the record in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and draw reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party. White v. Beltram Edge Tool Supply, Inc., 789 F.3d 1188, 1191 (11th Cir. 2015).

         II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         A. Ms. Samuels's Employment History with the City

         Ms. Samuels began working for the City of Birmingham in 1994 in the Department of Public Works. (Doc. 28-1, p. 16). In 1996 or 1997, she transferred to the City's Traffic and Engineering Department and worked as a parking enforcement officer for six months before becoming a laborer in the traffic department. (Id., pp. 17-18).

         After her transfer, Ms. Samuels applied for several open positions in the traffic department, including a position as a traffic signal worker. (Doc. 28-1, p. 21). The City did not interview Ms. Samuels for any of the open positions even though her name appeared in certification lists of qualified applicants. (Doc. 28-1, p. 21-22, 24).[4] Consequently, Ms. Samuels filed a gender discrimination charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) in 2008 or 2009. (See id., p. 22). After Ms. Samuels filed her EEOC charge, the City promoted her. She became a traffic signal worker, effective January 16, 2009, and she has worked as a traffic signal worker since that time. (Doc. 28-1, pp. 24-25, 104; Doc. 28-46).[5]

         Ms. Samuels is the only female traffic signal worker in the traffic department. (Doc. 28-1, pp. 27-28; Doc. 28-20, pp. 7-8). As a traffic signal worker, Ms. Samuels works in the field to install traffic signals, change bulbs in traffic signals and crosswalks, and perform preventative maintenance on traffic signals, among other things. (Doc. 28-36, p. 1).

         Ms. Samuels's immediate supervisors are defendants Kelvin Blevins and Thomas Stinson; defendant Will Goodman is the chief of operations for the traffic department. (Doc. 28-1, p. 39; Doc. 28-29, p. 7). Before he became the chief of operations in approximately 2009, Mr. Goodman was a traffic control technician and was one of Ms. Samuels's immediate supervisors. (See Doc. 28-29, pp. 8-9; Doc. 28-30, pp. 52-53).

         Mr. Goodman often refers to Ms. Samuels as “little lady” when he sees her. (Doc. 28-29, p. 17). When he was her immediate supervisor, Mr. Goodman told Ms. Samuels that she “should work in the office somewhere and not out in the field with all the men.” (Doc. 28-3, pp. 4, 17).[6] Mr. Goodman also commented on Ms. Samuels's clothes and told her to be careful about what she wore to work around the men. (Doc. 28-30, pp. 50-54).[7]

         B. Ms. Samuels's 2014 Application and Interview for a Promotion

         In January or February 2014, Ms. Samuels applied for a promotion to a traffic control technician position in the traffic department. (Doc. 28-2, p. 2; Doc. 28-31). A traffic control technician's duties include receiving job assignments, working with crews in the field, installing control boxes, and wiring signal lights and traffic control boxes. (Doc. 28-1, p. 31; Doc. 28-2, pp. 2-3; Doc. 28-35). The traffic department has no female traffic control technicians. (Doc. 28-29, p. 7). According to Ms. Samuels, she has been performing some of the duties of a traffic control technician, including working inside the traffic control boxes, since 2006. (Doc. 28-1, pp. 30-33).[8]

         The Jefferson County Personnel Board certified Ms. Samuels as qualified for the traffic control technician position and placed her name on the list of qualified applicants. (Doc. 28-31). Mr. Goodman, Mr. Blevins, and Mr. Stinson reviewed the certification list and selected five candidates from the list to interview. (Doc. 28-29, p. 19). The five included Ms. Samuels and two men who worked in the traffic department. (Doc. 28-2, p. 11; Doc. 28-31). According to Mr. Goodman, the department generally “interview[s] anyone that [they] find on the list in house” because “it's fair, and it's good for morale.” (Doc. 29-29, p. 20).

         Before the interviews, Mr. Goodman prepared “job rating factors, ” or interview questions, for the traffic control technician position, and the Personnel Board approved the questions. (See Doc. 28-10, p. 17; Doc. 28-29, p. 23; Doc. 28-30, p. 34; Doc. 28-38). The Personnel Board also approved a list of expected responses to the interview questions and grading standards for the applicants' responses. (See Doc. 28-11, p. 18; Doc. 28-39). The interviewers compare an applicant's responses to the interview questions with the expected responses and then score the applicant's responses based upon the approved grading standards. (See Doc. 28-11, pp. 18-19; Doc. 28-29, p. 23; Doc. 28-39). There are three possible scores for a job rating factor: (i) does not meet job requirements, (ii) meets job requirements, or (iii) exceeds job requirements. (See Doc. 28-39).[9]

         Mr. Goodman, Mr. Blevins, and Mr. Stinson all asked questions and took notes during the interviews for the traffic control technician position. (Doc. 28-2, p. 11; Doc. 28-11, pp. 12-13; Doc. 28-28, pp. 16, 24-25; Doc. 28-29, p. 24). All three men recorded their notes on applicant rating forms that identify the eleven job rating factors for the position. (Doc. 28-28, pp. 23-25; see also Doc. 28-32). The applicant rating forms have space for the interviewers to record an applicant's responses to the interview questions and space to score the applicant's responses. (See Doc. 28-29, p. 23; Doc. 28-32; Doc. 28-38; Doc. 28-39; Doc. 28-40; Doc. 28- 41). Mr. Stinson destroyed his notes at some point after the interviews. (See Doc. 28-28, pp. 17, 22). The defendants contend that Mr. Stinson destroyed his notes because he had not taken a required class on structured interviews and was sitting in on the interview for training purposes. (See Doc. 28-11, p. 13; Doc. 28-28, p. 16; Doc. 28-29, pp. 24, 26).[10]

         Ms. Samuels's interview for the traffic control technician took place on February 20, 2014, and Mr. Goodman, Mr. Blevins, and Mr. Stinson conducted the interview. (Doc. 28-2, pp. 3, 11; Doc. 28-32). According to Ms. Samuels, Mr. Goodman's and Mr. Blevins's notes from the interview do not accurately reflect her complete responses to the questions. (Doc. 23-2, pp. 6-9). For example, Ms. Samuels testified that Mr. Goodman and Mr. Blevins did not record her full response to the second question or job rating factor on her applicant rating forms. (Id.; see also Doc. 28-32).

         Ms. Samuels's applicant rating forms reflect that Mr. Goodman and Mr. Blevins scored her response to the second interview question as “does not meet the job requirements.” (Doc. 28-32, pp. 1, 3). This was the only job rating factor for which Ms. Samuels did not meet the job requirements for the traffic control technician position. (Id.). If Mr. Goodman and Mr. Blevins had recorded Ms. Samuels's full response to the second question accurately (accepting as true for purposes of summary judgment Ms. Samuels's statement that they did not), then Ms. Samuels could have scored better on the second job rating factor. (See Doc. 28-39, p. 1; Doc. 28-2, p. 6).

         Mr. Goodman and Mr. Blevins did not credit Ms. Samuels for giving any of the expected responses to the second interview question. (See Doc. 28-32, pp. 1, 3; Doc. 28-39, p. 1). But Ms. Samuels states that she gave a response that included information corresponding to the expected responses. Ms. Samuels's applicant rating forms and testimony reflect that she gave the following information in response to the second job rating factor or interview question:

(1) She had “knowledge of electronic circuits.” (Doc. 28-32, p. 1).
(2) She has experience testing the 170 controllers. (See Doc. 28-32, p. 1; see also Doc. 28-11, p. 31; Doc. 28-12, p. 1).
(3) She has experience repairing chips inside the 170 controllers. (Doc. 28-32, pp. 1, 3).
(4) She had knowledge and experience working with meters “to test the AC and DC voltage to make sure you're getting the correct input coming in.” (Doc. 28-2, p. 6).

         Knowledge of electronic circuits, the first response above, is one of the expected responses to the second interview question. (Doc. 28-39, p. 1). Ms. Samuels said she has experience testing the 170 controllers, which requires using a meter or oscilloscope. (See Doc. 28-12, p. 2). Experience using an oscilloscope is an expected response to the second question. (Doc. 28-39, p. 1). Ms. Samuels also said she has experience repairing chips, which are the same as microprocessors. (Doc. 28-10, p. 16; Doc. 28-11, p. 31). Knowledge of microprocessors is an expected response to the second question. (Doc. 28-39, p. 1). Finally, one of the expected responses to the second question is “work experience using analog/digital multimeters to test DC/AC voltage, current and resistance, ” which is similar to Ms. Samuels's fourth response above. (Doc. 28-39, p. 1). If Mr. Goodman or Mr. Blevins gave Ms. Samuels credit for three of the four responses described above, then Ms. Samuels would have scored “exceeds job requirements” for the second job rating factor. (See Doc. 28-39, p. 1).

         After the interviews, Mr. Goodman, Mr. Blevins, and Mr. Stinson discussed all of the candidates' responses and selected a candidate for the position. (Doc. 28-11, p. 18; Doc. 28-29, p. 24; Doc. 28-4, p. 4). Ms. Samuels did not receive the promotion. Instead, the defendants selected Henry Ray, Jr. for the traffic control technician position. (Doc. 28-31; Doc. 28-42). The Personnel Board approved the promotion decision effective March 8, 2014. (Doc. 28-42).

         C. Ms. Samuels's 2014 EEOC Charges

         On June 25, 2014, George Singleton, the lead technician with whom Ms. Samuels was working, told Ms. Samuels that she probably needed to go home because she had spots on her pants due to her menstrual cycle. (Doc. 28-2, p. 25). Ms. Samuels told Mr. Singleton that she was going home and would not be back to work that day. (Id.). The next day, she received a verbal reprimand from Mr. Goodman, which was memorialized in a writing signed by Mr. Blevins and Mr. Stinson. (Doc. 26-1, p. 2; Doc. 28-5). Ms. Samuels received the reprimand for two reasons: (1) for not maintaining the required minimum amount of sick leave and (2) for leaving work without proper management authorization. (Doc. 26-1, p. 2; Doc. 28-5).[11] Ms. Samuels refused to sign the reprimand because she did not believe that she violated City policies. (Doc. 28-2, p. 27; see also Doc. 28-5).

         After she received the verbal reprimand, Ms. Samuels filed an EEOC charge on June 30, 2014 alleging gender discrimination and retaliation. (Doc. 28-18). In her EEOC charge, Ms. Samuels asserts that she was discriminated and retaliated against based on the City's failure to promote her to the traffic control technician position in February 2014 and on the City's June 26, 2014 reprimand. (Id.).

         In October 2014, the City had a second opening for a traffic control technician position. (See Doc. 28-43). The Personnel Board placed Ms. Samuels's name on the certification list for the position based upon her application for the first opening. (Doc. 28-43; see also 28-31). Ms. Samuels did not receive the position. On October 27, 2014, the defendants selected Rayburn Moore, III for the second traffic control technician position. (Doc. 28-4; Doc. 28-47).[12] The Personnel Board approved the promotion decision effective November 15, 2014. (Doc. 28-47). After the City passed over Ms. Samuels for the second traffic control technician position, she filed an amended EEOC charge on November 25, 2014, in which she added allegations related to the October 2014 promotion decision. (Id.).

         Since Ms. Samuels filed her 2014 EEOC charges, the City has had two more openings for the traffic control technician position. (Doc. 28-24; Doc. 28-26). Ms. Samuels did not receive either position. The City hired two men to fill the positions. (See id.). The Personnel Board approved Kenneth McKenzie for one of the positions effective June 1, 2015, and approved Jeremy Copeland for the other position effective October 31, 2015. (Id.).

         The EEOC concluded its investigation into Ms. Samuels's discrimination and retaliation charge and issued a right to sue letter on May 20, 2015. (Doc. 25-11). This action followed.

         D. Allegedly Retaliatory Acts

         According to Ms. Samuels, the City's retaliatory actions continued after the EEOC concluded its investigation of her charges. On October 8, 2015, the City followed and monitored the truck that Ms. Samuels usually was assigned to work in. (Doc. 28-2, p. 33). Ms. Samuels did not work on October 8 because she had called in sick that morning. (Id.). The City employees who were working on the truck that day did not do the work assigned to them, but instead were photographed “loafing around” and using the truck to drive to lunch outside the city limits. (Doc. 28-2, p. 38).

         Second, on approximately March 16, 2016, Mr. Goodman informed Mr. Stinson that Ms. Samuels could not sit in her car in the afternoon to wait for the end of her shift as she had been doing. (Doc. 28-3, pp. 5-6; Doc. 28-21). Mr. Stinson sent a text to Ms. Samuels telling her that she could not sit in her car at the end of the day. (Doc. 28-21).

         Next, the City did not provide Ms. Samuels with enough uniforms to wear during the week. (Doc. 28-3, p. 12). Ms. Samuels needed four sets of uniforms for the week, but the City provided only three. (Id.). Even though Mr. Goodman knew the City had not given Ms. Samuels four sets of uniforms, he gave Ms. Samuels a verbal warning for not wearing her uniform pants to work every day. (Doc. 28-29, p. 54). Finally, Ms. Samuels attests that “[a]fter the depositions in this case, [Mr.] Goodman sent orders that [she is] not allowed to work inside the boxes on the side of the road . . . .” (Doc. 28-53, p. 2).

         III. ANALYSIS

         A. Motion to Strike

         The defendants ask the Court to strike all or part of five affidavits that Ms. Samuels relies upon in her response to the defendants' motion for summary judgment. (Doc. 32).[13] Specifically, the defendants object to statements contained in the affidavits of Ms. Samuels, Willie Kelly, Rozell Ravell, Nathaniel Stanley, and George Singleton on the grounds that they are inadmissible hearsay, lack foundation, and are immaterial. (Id.). Under Rule 56(c)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, at the summary judgment stage, “[a] party may object that the material cited to support or dispute a fact cannot be presented in a form that would be admissible in evidence.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(2). These objections function like trial objections adjusted for the pretrial setting, and “[t]he burden is on the proponent to show that the material is admissible as presented or to explain the admissible form that is anticipated.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(2) advisory committee's note (2010 amendments).

         Rule 56(c)(2) enables a party to submit evidence that ultimately will be admissible at trial in an inadmissible form at the summary judgment stage. Under the rule, “‘a district court may consider a hearsay statement in passing on a motion of summary judgment if the statement could be reduced to admissible evidence at trial or reduced to admissible form.'” Jones v. UPS Ground Freight, 683 F.3d 1283, 1293-94 (11th Cir. 2012) (quoting Macuba v. Deboer, 193 F.3d 1316, 1322 (11th Cir. 1999)). A district court has broad discretion to determine at the summary judgment stage what evidence it will consider pursuant to Rule 56(c)(2). See Green v. City of Northport, 2014 WL 1338106, at *1 (N.D. Ala. March 31, 2014).

         The defendants first object to statements in Ms. Samuels's affidavit on the grounds that the statements are inadmissible hearsay. (Doc. 32, pp. 4-5). Specifically, the defendants object to Ms. Samuels's statement that co-workers left work early for the day after telling only a “lead” on their truck and her statement that Mr. Goodman “sent orders that she is not allowed to work inside the boxes on the side of the road . . . anymore.” (Id. (citing Doc. 28-53)).[14] Even if in their current form the statements constitute inadmissible hearsay, see Fed. R. Evid. 801(c), Ms. Samuels may avoid a hearsay objection at trial by calling her co-workers and Mr. Goodman as witnesses.

         The same analysis applies to the statement in Mr. Kelly's affidavit that he overheard “bits and pieces of conversations that Mr. Goodman had, and [Mr. Goodman] did not want any females in the [traffic] department, ” (Doc. 28-6, p. 1), and to the statements in Mr. Singleton's affidavit that a new co-worker did not like working with Ms. Samuels because she is female and that Mr. Singleton overheard Mr. Ray cursing at other employees. (Doc. 28-9, p. 2). Ms. Samuels may ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.