United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division
CRAIG D. LAWRENCE, SR., Plaintiff,
LAWSON STATE COMMUNITY COLLEGE, ET AL, Defendants.
K. KALLON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Craig Lawrence, Ph.D., alleges that his employer, Lawson
State Community College, and his supervisors, Dr. Perry Ward,
Ph.D., and Sharon Crews, in violation of Section 1981 of the
Civil Rights Act of 1866 as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 1981,
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §
2000e-2, and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29
U.S.C. § 623, failed to promote him, subjected him to a
hostile work environment because of his race, age, and/or
gender, and retaliated against him when he complained. Doc.
15. The Defendants have filed a motion for summary judgment,
doc. 20, which is fully briefed and ripe for consideration,
docs. 21; 26; & 28. After reading the briefs, viewing the
evidence, and considering the relevant law, the court finds
that the motion is due to be granted.
LEGAL STANDARD FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
Rule 56(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, 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.” Fed.R.Civ.P.
56. “Rule 56 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
issue of material fact. Id. at 323. The burden then
shifts to the nonmoving party, who is required to “go
beyond the pleadings” to establish that there is a
“genuine issue for trial.” Id. at 324
(internal quotations 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).
summary judgment, 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 255. Any factual disputes will be
resolved in the non-moving party's favor when sufficient
competent evidence supports the non-moving party's
version of the disputed facts. See Pace v.
Capobianco, 283 F.3d 1275, 1276, 1278 (11th Cir. 2002).
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) (per curiam) (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 the 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)).
Lawrence is a 61 year old Caucasian male currently employed
as the Director of Financial Services and Risk Assessment at
Lawson State. Doc. 26 at 9. Dr. Lawrence started his career
as a professor at Bessemer State Technical College, where he
ultimately became the Chief Financial Officer. Docs. 21 at 7;
26 at 9-10. He joined Lawson State when it merged with
Bessemer Tech in 2005 and hoped to oversee general
accounting, auditing, and auxiliaries as the Director of
Financial Services. Docs. 21 at 6-7; 22-1 at 26-27; 22-3 at
13; 22-5 at 8; 26 at 9-11. Instead, Lawson State made Dr.
Lawrence the “Director of Financial Services -
Auxiliaries, ” charging him with operation of the
bookstores, cafeterias, copy centers, and post offices. Docs.
21 at 7-8; 26 at 10-12.
State named a younger African American woman as Director of
Accounting, a position that oversaw the college's
accounting functions. Docs. 21 at 8; 26 at 12. This woman had
served as Internal Auditor at Lawson State prior to the
merger. Doc. 22-5 at 24-26. When she resigned in 2010, Lawson
State hired another African American woman as her
replacement. Docs. 21 at 9; 26 at 12.
Lawrence believes that the President and Vice President of
Lawson State, Dr. Perry Ward and Sharon Crews, who are both
African American, relegated him to auxiliaries oversight to
“ostracize” him from the college's main
business affairs. Doc. 26 at 11. For their part, Dr. Ward and
Crews testified that Vice Chancellor Debbie Dahl instructed
them not to involve Dr. Lawrence in the business office
affairs or financial operations of the merged institution.
Docs. 22-3 at 13; 22-5 at 8. Crews claims that Dahl had cited
Dr. Lawrence's “non-responsiveness” as the
reason for her directive, doc. 22-5 at 8, while Dr. Ward
cites problems with the audits at Bessemer Tech, doc. 22-3 at
13. However, Dr. Lawrence's relevant evaluations note
that he led Bessemer Tech to three straight successful
audits. Doc. 22-6 at 27.
Dr. Lawrence applied for the posted position of Dean of
Career and Technical Education. Docs. 21 a 9; 26 at 18. Instead
of reviewing any of the roughly thirty applications, Dr. Ward
closed the search and requested authorization to reorganize
existing positions to cover the duties of the vacant
position. Docs. 21 at 9; 26 at 19. As justification for his
decision, Dr. Ward claims that the posting created a
It got to be a problem for me because a number of our
personnel on campus started what I call posturing for the
position saying-from what I heard, they were going to get the
position, they needed the position, they weren't going to
work for this particular person if they got it. It started to
be extremely disruptive to the campus community.
Doc. 22-3 at 5. As a result of the reorganization, Dr. Ward
changed the title and respective duties of two employees:
Donald Sledge (a sixty four year old African American
man)-from Assistant Dean of Career and Technical Education,
to Associate Dean of Career and Technical Education; and
Nancy Wilson (a fifty year old Caucasian woman)-from
Chairperson for Manufacturing and Engineering, to Assistant
Dean of Career and Technical Education. Docs. 21 at 10; 26 at
Lawrence believes that racial animus motivated Dr. Ward's
decision to close the search and to reorganize the duties
instead. Doc. 26 at 31-32. Dr. Lawrence also alleges that in
2015 Dr. Ward excluded him for racial reasons from the group
of eighteen “backups” Dr. Ward selected for
higher level employees (at least sixteen of whom were African
Americans). Docs. 15 at 13; 26 at 13, 34.
Crews, Dr. Lawrence maintains that she
“undermined” his authority daily by ignoring the
chain of command in the bookstore. Doc. 26 at 16. Allegedly,
when one of Dr. Lawrence's subordinates repeatedly
directed her questions and work-related issues to Crews
instead of to Dr. Lawrence, Crews reprimanded him instead of
the employee. Doc. 26 at 17. Also, Crews apparently
excluded Dr. Lawrence from meetings and decisions about the
bookstore, including whether to outsource the operations.
Docs. 15 at 14-15; 22-5 at 44. Crews also purportedly
assigned Dr. Lawrence “demeaning” duties, such as
maintaining the student information kiosks and answering the
suggestion boxes. Doc. 15-1 at 5; 21 at 11-12. Finally, in an
email to Dr. Lawrence regarding his absence from the
bookstore on one occasion, Crews warned Dr. Lawrence that she
could review the surveillance camera to verify his response.
Docs. 15 at 15; 22-1 at 39; 22-5 at 37; 22-6 at 123. Dr.
Lawrence contends that race, gender, and/or age based animus
motivated Crews' actions, noting in support that
Crews' “cabinet” is “made up
exclusively of African Americans, ” that Crews has
hired mostly African American women for the business office,
and that Crews made a “negative racial comment”
in a meeting that another white male employee “was not
going to push this black girl around.” Doc. 26 at 18,
addition to these alleged instances of discrimination, Dr.
Lawrence contends that Dr. Ward and Crews retaliated against
him for filing a charge with the Equal Opportunity Employment
Commission by engaging in “further harassment and
discrimination.” Doc. 15-2. Allegedly, Crews (1)
removed him from an email chain about a grant project, (2)
directed him to conduct an internal audit without first
informing the affected employees to expect a call ...