United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division
MEMORANDUM OF OPINION
SCOTT COOGLER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Angela Kitchens (“Kitchens”) brings this action
against her employer, Jefferson County Board of Education
(“the Board”), alleging that she suffered
discrimination on the basis of her gender in violation of
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §
2000e et seq. (“Title VII”). Before this
Court is the Board's Motion for Summary Judgement. (Doc.
14.) For the reasons explained herein, the Board's motion
is due to be GRANTED.
Summary of Relevant Facts
is a physical education teacher at McAdory Middle School (the
“Middle School”) and has been employed by the
Board since 2004. In addition to teaching, Kitchens was the
head softball coach at the Middle School and the assistant
volleyball coach at McAdory High School (the “High
School”); she is also a school bus driver. In May 2015,
Jennifer Smith (“Smith”), the head varsity
softball coach at the High School, informed Brent Shaw
(“Shaw”), who was the principal of the High
School at the time, that she was not going to continue
coaching softball in the following school year. In order to
hire a new varsity softball coach for the High School, Shaw
“posted” the position on “SearchSoft,
” which is an intranet system used by the Alabama
Department of Education. Shaw eventually received three
applications for the position from (1) Kitchens, (2) Joshua
Coffelt (“Coffelt”), and (3) K.R. Battles
(“Battles”). At the time of the application,
Coffelt was a science teacher as well as the assistant
varsity softball coach and the assistant boys' basketball
coach at the High School. Battles was an English teacher and
the head varsity volleyball coach at the High School.
conducting an initial round of interviews with other
employees of the Board, Shaw chose Coffelt to be the interim
varsity head softball coach for the High School during the
summer. Prior to this recommendation, Shaw had informed his
superior that he had been hired to be a principal at a
different high school. Shaw wanted the new principal for the
upcoming year to make a final hiring decision for the
softball coach position.
Humphries (“Humphries”), a former assistant
principal at Pleasant Grove High School, was chosen to be the
new principal at the High School in July 2015. Humphries
interviewed the same three candidates and received
recommendations from Shaw, Kane, Powell, and Storie about who
they thought should have the position. He ultimately decided
to hire Coffelt as the varsity softball coach and informed
Kitchens of his decision on or about August 6, 2015.
then filed a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity
Commission (“EEOC”) on September 25, 2015,
alleging she was not selected to be the head softball coach
on account of her sex. She was mailed her right to sue letter
from the EEOC on May 2, 2016, and then instituted this suit.
Hiring Practices by the Board and at the High School
Board has no standard process for the hiring of coaches for
the schools in the district. Instead, the principal of each
school is given discretion to post jobs, conduct interviews,
and make initial hiring recommendations. (Storie Depo. at
19.) The Board typically only advertises head varsity
football or basketball coaching positions, as these positions
have a teaching position attached to them. Id. For
other coaching positions, the general practice is for the
school administrator to first look to current faculty of the
school to fill the position, but teachers are often hired
from other schools to fill coaching vacancies. Id.
at 19-20. At the High School in 2015, there were coaches who
taught at other schools in the Jefferson County school
system. The Board's only qualification to be a coach was
for the applicant to have a teaching certificate. (Doc. 16.
principal makes hiring decisions for coaches, he submits a
list of his selections to the Board so they may receive a
monetary supplement for coaching. Upon the principal's
submission, the Board's athletic department reviews the
candidates and assigns them a supplemental salary based on an
internal pay schedule. (Storie Depo. at 27.) The athletic
department gives the list to the Board's human resources
department, who forwards the list to the superintendent who
in turn recommends the coaches to the Board for approval.
Once approved, the coaches receive a supplemental salary for
performing their coaching duties. In Kitchens' case, the
Board did not independently investigate or interview any of
the candidates for the position. (Doc. 16 ¶ 14.) In
regards to Board approval of principals' coaching
assignments, the director of athletics, Ken Storie
(“Storie”), does not recall an instance where a
principal's recommendation for a coaching supplement was
denied by the Board. (Storie Depo. at 33.)
The Shaw Interview
first interview of candidates for the head varsity softball
coach position was conducted by Shaw, David Powell
(“Powell”), Kim Kane (“Kane”), and
Storie. At the time of the interview, Shaw was principal of
the High School, Powell was the High School Athletic
Coordinator; Kane was the Board Athletic Department
Supervisor; and Storie was the Board Athletic Director, among
other roles. (Doc. 16 ¶ 5.) The interview began with the
same six questions that were asked to each applicant,
followed by an opportunity for the interviewee to ask
questions or make additional statements. (Kane Aff. ¶
4.) The four interviewers took notes on the interviewees'
answers and additional questions the interviewers wished to
ask the interviewees.
the six questions asked to each applicant was “[w]alk
us through a typical practice, beginning at 3:00.”
(Kane Aff. Ex. A.) As summarized by Kane's notes for the
interview, Kitchens answered that the running, stretching,
and throwing part of the practice would be directed by an
assistant, as Kitchens would be driving her bus route. (Kane
Aff. ¶ 4, Ex. A.; Kitchens Depo. at 85.) Kitchens'
bus route generally ran from 2:55 PM when she left the Middle
School to 3:45 PM when she returned to the Middle School and
conducted a post-trip inspection of the bus. (Kitchens Depo.
at 56-58.) Both Storie and Shaw's interview notes
indicate concern with Kitchens' bus route. (Storie Depo.,
Ex. 3 “Follow up . . . *Plans to continue bus
route.”; Shaw Aff. ¶ 13, Ex. A “Any
questions: [Kitchens] [b]rings up bus route. She [Kitchens]
plans to still have bus route.”) Coffelt did not drive
a bus at the time of his interview or hiring. (Humphries Aff.
interviewers also asked about the interviewee's previous
experience in athletics, with a specific focus on softball.
Kitchens listed her extensive experience playing and coaching
softball. She played softball while attending the University
of Alabama-Huntsville. (Kitchens Aff. ¶ 1.) Before
applying for the coaching position at the high school, she
had previously been the head softball coach at Calera High
School, Shades Valley High School, Bragg Middle School, Bob
Jones High School, and co-coached varsity softball at
Limestone High School. Id. Kitchens was the head
softball coach of the Middle School's team since 2006.
Id. at ¶ 2.
assistant coach for the High School varsity softball team for
the past two years, Coffelt also had requisite coaching
experience in softball, although it does not appear that he
had ever played softball. (Smith Aff. ¶ 3.) The outgoing
head coach of the softball team, Smith, informed Powell and
Shaw that she did not receive any complaints about Coffelt
when he was her assistant coach and that “he was ready
to be the head varsity softball coach.” (Smith Aff.
conducting the three interviews, Shaw, Powell, Kane, and
Storie all felt that Coffelt should be hired as the varsity
softball head coach. Storie recommended Coffelt because he
thought that Coffelt was the best fit for the school's
students and the program. Specifically, Storie liked that
Coffelt was already familiar with the team. (Storie Depo at
105.) Storie additionally felt that Coffelt was a better
choice because Coffelt worked at the High School.
Id. at 106. The High School runs on a five-period
day, and the fifth period is often designated for athletics.
Varsity coaches at the High School were able to begin
practice during the fifth period, thus allowing the team to
complete practice earlier. Id. at 106. Storie felt
that early practices were advantageous because it allowed the
players to return home, focus on their studies, and rest.
Id. In relation to Kitchens, who worked at a
different school with a different schedule and drove a bus,
Storie believed Coffelt would be able to begin practice hours
earlier. Adding to the chances of scheduling problems,
Kitchens' employment at the Middle School would not allow
her to coordinate as easily with the administrators at the
High School and could potentially lead to issues scheduling
games with other coaches during playoffs. Id. at
felt that Kitchens appeared “haughty” during the
interview; as though she “felt like she was owed the
position.” Id. at 109. Additionally, when
asked about her position as an assistant varsity
volleyball coach, Kitchens stated that she actually ran the
program. Id. Storie felt that Kitchens had
overstated her role because the program was actually headed
by another coach, Ms. Battles. Id.
Powell, and Kane also recommended Coffelt over Kitchens for
the same reasons as Storie. They felt that Kitchens'
answer that she would miss part of practice due to her bus
route put her at a disadvantage to Coffelt, who would be able
to conduct early practices and attend games. (Kane Aff.
¶ 6; Powell Aff. ¶ 6; Shaw Aff. ¶¶
19-20.) Coffelt was at the High School, whereas Kitchens was
at the Middle School. (Kane Aff. ¶ 6; Powell Aff. ¶
6; Shaw Aff. ¶ 20.) Kane felt that Kitchens came across
in the interview as if she felt that she was “entitled
to the job and should not have been interviewed.” (Kane
Aff. ¶ 7.) Shaw essentially echoes Kane's opinion of
Kitchens: he felt that Kitchens did not appear to be a
“team player” and that Coffelt had a better
interview than Kitchens. (Shaw Aff. ¶ 20.) Shaw and
Powell also added that Smith, the former coach, had
recommended Coffelt to be the new varsity head coach.
herself felt that the interview was poorly conducted. She
stated that the interviewers did not appear to be
“sincere or concerned about the program.”
(Kitchens Depo. ¶¶ 82, 93.) Kitchens could not
recall whether she was asked about the bus route during the
interview, but admitted that if she discussed the bus route,
it would be in relation to the scheduling of practices.
(Kitchens Depo. ¶ 88.) She also disputed the four
interviewers' characterization of her answer about her
role on the volleyball team. According to Kitchens, her
answer that she “basically . . . run[s] the
program” was in regards to a question of whether she
had any experience running a sports program. (Kitchens Depo.
stated that following the interview she texted Shaw to ask
him if he would be appointing the new head varsity softball
coach. She also wanted to know why no one had asked her
during the interview whether she would be willing to give up
the bus route. (Kitchens Depo. ¶¶ 97-98.) Shaw said
that because he was leaving the school the next principal
would decide who would be the head coach. Id. at 97.
He also asked whether Kitchens would be willing to give up