United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Northern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
KEITH WATKINS, CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
the court are Defendant City of Montgomery's motion for
summary judgment (Doc. # 52), which is supported by a brief
(Doc. # 53), Plaintiff's response (Doc. # 62), and
Defendant's reply (Doc. # 63). Upon consideration of the
arguments of counsel, the relevant law, and the evidence, the
court concludes that the motion is due to be granted.
JURISDICTION AND VENUE
jurisdiction is exercised pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331,
and 28 U.S.C. § 1343. Personal jurisdiction and venue
are not contested.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
succeed on a motion for summary judgment, the moving party
must demonstrate “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). The court
views the evidence, and all reasonable inferences drawn from
it, in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party.
Jean-Baptiste v. Gutierrez, 627 F.3d 816, 820 (11th
party seeking summary judgment always bears the initial
responsibility of informing the district court of the basis
for its motion . . . .” Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). This responsibility
includes identifying the portions of the record illustrating
the absence of a genuine dispute of material fact.
Id. Alternatively, a movant who does not have a
trial burden of production can assert, without citing the
record, that the nonmoving party “cannot produce
admissible evidence to support” a material fact.
movant meets its burden, the burden shifts to the nonmoving
party to establish-with evidence beyond the pleadings-that a
genuine dispute material to each of its claims for relief
exists. Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 324. A genuine
dispute of material fact exists “if the nonmoving party
has produced evidence such that a reasonable factfinder could
return a verdict in its favor.” Waddell v. Valley
Forge Dental Assocs., 276 F.3d 1275, 1279 (11th Cir.
Gwendolyn Gray is an African-American female who was born in
1967. She has worked for Defendant City of Montgomery since
before 2006. Plaintiff contends (1) that she was subjected to
race discrimination in October 2014when Defendant did not allow
her to interview for a promotion; (2) that she was subjected
to race and gender discrimination when she was denied an
award for Dispatcher of the Year in 2016; (3) that, since
2006, she has been subjected to a hostile work environment on
the basis of her age, race, gender, and protected activities;
and (4) that, at the end of May 2014, she was denied equal
protection based on her race and gender when she was
suspended from work for one day. (Doc. # 26 at ¶¶
30-31, 38, 55-74.)
Plaintiff alleges that Defendant denied her rights guaranteed
under the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”),
29 U.S.C. §§ 2601, et seq., by refusing to
grant twenty-six hours of earned sick leave after incorrectly
applying FMLA leave to an earlier health-related absence.
Title VII/§ 1983: Race and Gender Discrimination
Claims (Failure to Interview)
brings her race and gender discrimination claims under Title
VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C.
§§ 2000e et seq., and the Fourteenth
Amendment's Equal Protection Clause as enforced by 42
U.S.C. § 1983. She seeks to prove these claims with
circumstantial evidence. “The elements of a section
1983 claim of race or gender discrimination are the same as
the elements of a Title VII disparate treatment
action.” Rice-Lamar v. City of Fort
Lauderdale, 232 F.3d 836, 843 n.11 (11th Cir. 2000)
(citing Cross v. Alabama, 49 F.3d 1490, 1507-08
(11th Cir. 1995)); see also Harris v. Shelby Cnty. Bd. of
Educ., 99 F.3d 1078, 1082-83 (11th Cir. 1996) (“We
evaluate Title VII and 42 U.S.C. § 1983 race
discrimination claims supported by circumstantial evidence
using the framework set out by the United States Supreme
Court in McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S.
792 . . . (1973).”); see also Quigg v. Thomas Cty.
Sch. Dist., 814 F.3d 1227, 1236-37 (11th Cir. 2016)
(noting that “Title VII and [§] 1983 claims have
the same elements [of proof] where the claims are based on
the same set of facts”).
on the foregoing, Plaintiff's race and gender
discrimination claims under Title VII and § 1983 are
subject to the three-step burden-shifting analytical
framework outlined in McDonnell Douglas, and its
progeny. (See Doc. # 62, at 8 (invoking the
McDonnell Douglas framework for the analyses of
Plaintiff's discrimination claims).) First, a Title VII
plaintiff “must carry the initial burden . . . of
establishing a prima facie case of racial
discrimination.” McDonnell Douglas Corp., 411
U.S. at 802. Second, if the plaintiff establishes such a
prima facie case, “thereby raising an inference that
[s]he was the subject of intentional race [or gender]
discrimination, the burden shifts to the defendant to rebut
this inference by presenting legitimate, non-discriminatory
reasons for its employment action.” Holifield v.
Reno, 115 F.3d 1555, 1564 (11th Cir. 1997) (per curiam)
(citing Tex. Dep't of Cmty. Affairs v. Burdine,
450 U.S. 248 (1981)). Third, “[w]here the defendant
meets this burden, the plaintiff has the opportunity to
demonstrate that the defendant's articulated reason for
the adverse employment action is a mere pretext for
discrimination.” Id. at 1565 (citing
McDonnell Douglas, 411 U.S. at 804; Roberts v.
Gadsden Mem'l Hosp., 835 F.2d 793, 796 (11th Cir.
1988)). “Put another way, once the employer succeeds in
carrying its intermediate burden of production, the ultimate
issue in the case becomes whether the plaintiff has proven
that the employer intentionally discriminated against h[er]
because of h[er] race” or gender. Id. (citing
Turnes v. AmSouth Bank, N.A., 36 F.3d 1057, 1061
(11th Cir. 1994)).
Title VII and § 1983: Failure to
Counts I and VI, Plaintiff asserts a claim pursuant to Title
VII and an equal protection claim pursuant to § 1983,
alleging that Defendant discriminated against her on the
basis of race when, in October 2014, she was not
interviewed for a promotion to sergeant. (Doc. # 26 at
¶¶ 30, 77.)
in its opening brief, argues that Plaintiff cannot
demonstrate a prima facie case because she is unable to
“identify an individual not of her protected class who
was treated more favorably than she was.” (Doc. # 52,
at 2; accord Doc. # 53, at 13.) This argument hones
in on the fourth element of the prima facie case; hence, for
purposes of this opinion, it is assumed arguendo
that Plaintiff meets the other elements of the prima facie
satisfy the fourth element of the prima facie case in a
failure-to-promote case, the plaintiff must show that
“other equally or less-qualified employees outside her
class were promoted, ” Brown v. Ala. Dep't of
Transp., 597 F.3d 1160, 1174 (11th Cir. 2010), or that,
“after her rejection, the position remained open and
the employer continued to seek applicants from persons of
complainant's qualifications, ” Wall v. Tr. Co.
of Georgia, 946 F.2d 805, 809 (11th Cir. 1991). But, as
here, “[o]n a defendant's motion for summary
judgment, the plaintiff need not come forward initially to
present its prima facie case. Rather, the defendant carries
the burden of demonstrating that the plaintiff lacks evidence
which could establish a prima facie case.” Dickson
v. Amoco Performance Prod., Inc., 845 F.Supp. 1565, 1569
(N.D.Ga. 1994) (citing Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323);