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Burton v. Miles College

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

December 11, 2017

ABRAHAM BURTON, Plaintiff,
v.
MILES COLLEGE, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          MADELINE HUGHES HAIKALA, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This case is before the Court on defendant Miles College's motion for summary judgment. (Doc. 39). The college argues that plaintiff Abraham Burton cannot prove the elements of his age and sex discrimination claims and cannot establish that the college's legitimate, non-discriminatory reasons for its employment actions were mere pretext. For the reasons stated below, the Court finds that Mr. Burton cannot establish a prima facie case of discrimination. Therefore, the Court will grant the college's motion for summary judgment.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         “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). When considering a summary judgment motion, the Court must view the evidence in the record and draw reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. White v. Beltram Edge Tool Supply, Inc., 789 F.3d 1188, 1191 (11th Cir. 2015). “The court need consider only the cited materials, but it may consider other materials in the record.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(3).

         BACKGROUND

         Mr. Burton is a 58-year-old man. (Doc. 30-1, p. 2). He works for Miles College as an assistant dormitory director. (Doc. 38-4, p. 2).[1] The following chart details the age, gender, and pay rate of the college's assistant dormitory supervisors, including Mr. Burton, sorted by pay rate, as of the date the college produced this information during discovery in this case (Doc. 34-2, p. 10):

Employee

Date of Hire

Gender

Age

Pay Rate

Marcia Holloway

4/5/2008

F

50

$7.25

Shirley Lewis

11/2/2007

F

68

$7.92

Saundra Thompson

9/15/2007

F

51

$7.92

Gwen Roger

7/31/2006

F

65

$8.16

Darren Young

10/9/2013

M

56

$8.40

Plaintiff Abe Burton

8/11/2009

M

56

$8.74

James Moore

1/13/2003

M

55

$8.78

Brenda Peoples

1/7/2013

F

58

$9.00

Ebonie Batie

8/4/2015

F

39

$9.27

Kenneth Sellers

9/23/2010

M

31

$9.55

Joseph Dotson

8/31/1992

M

58

$10.19

(See Doc. 38-4, p. 2).[2]

         Mr. Burton filed an EEOC charge of discrimination against the college on January 2, 2014. (Doc. 29-1, p. 12; Doc. 30-1, p. 2). He filed this action on December 24, 2014. (Doc. 1). Mr. Burton alleges that Miles College pays him less per hour than it pays similarly situated younger employees and similarly situated female employees. (Doc. 1, p. 1).

         Miles College asks the Court to grant its motion for summary judgment because it asserts that Mr. Burton has not presented sufficient evidence to make a prima facie case of discrimination under either Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) or the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA).[3]

         ANALYSIS

         Under Title VII, an employer may not “fail or refuse to hire” or “discharge any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual's race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.” 42 U.S.C. § 2000e- 2(a)(1). Similarly, under the ADEA, an employer may not “fail or refuse to hire” or “discharge any individual or otherwise discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual's age.” 29 U.S.C. § 623(a)(1); Kentucky Ret. Sys. v. E.E.O.C., 554 U.S. 135, 141 (2008). A plaintiff who alleges employment discrimination, whether under Title VII or the ADEA, must prove that the defendant intentionally discriminated against him. Trask v. Sec'y, Dep't of Veterans Affairs, 822 F.3d 1179, 1191 (11th Cir. 2016), cert. denied, __ U.S. __, 137 S.Ct. 1133 (2017).

         Mr. Burton relies on circumstantial evidence of discrimination.[4] “When, as here, a Title VII or ADEA plaintiff's employment discrimination claim is based on circumstantial evidence, courts apply the burden-shifting framework set out in McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792[] (1973).” Trask, 822 F.3d at 1191. “Under the McDonnell Douglas framework, a plaintiff must first create an inference of discrimination through [his or] her prima facie case.” Id. “Once the plaintiff has made a prima facie case, a rebuttable presumption arises that the employer has acted illegally.” Id. (quoting Alvarez v. Royal Atl. Developers, Inc., 610 F.3d 1253, 1264 (11th Cir. 2010)). “The employer can rebut that presumption by articulating one or more legitimate non-discriminatory reasons for its action.” Id. (quoting Alvarez, 610 F.3d at 1264). If the employer does so, then “the burden shifts back to the plaintiff to produce evidence that the employer's proffered reasons are a pretext for discrimination.” Id. (quoting Alvarez, 610 F.3d at 1264). “Although intermediate evidentiary burdens shift back and forth under this framework, ‘[t]he ultimate burden of persuading the trier of fact that the defendant intentionally discriminated against the plaintiff remains at all times with the plaintiff.'” Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 143 (2000) (quoting Texas Dep't of Cmty. Affairs v. Burdine, 450 U.S. 248, 253 (1981)).

         To make a prima facie case of discrimination, Mr. Burton must show that he was treated less favorably “under circumstances which give rise to an inference of unlawful discrimination.” Burdine, 450 U.S. at 253. “[T]he prima facie case ‘raises an inference of discrimination only because we presume these acts, if otherwise unexplained, are more likely than not based on the consideration of ...


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