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Jones v. City of Birmingham

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

June 7, 2018

EDWIN JONES, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF BIRMINGHAM, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          R. DAVID PROCTOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This case is before the court on Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. # 16) and Defendant's Motion to Strike (Doc. # 20). The parties have fully briefed the motions (see Docs. # 17, 19-21, 23), and they are under submission. The court held oral argument on these motions on May 29, 2018. After careful review, and for the reasons explained below, the court concludes that the Motion for Summary Judgment is due to be granted in part and denied in part. The Motion to Strike is due to be denied as moot.

         I. Motion to Strike

         Defendant asks the court to strike two exhibits filed with Plaintiff's opposition to the summary judgment motion. (Doc. # 20). The court has reviewed the exhibits and finds that the statements provided in them are mostly duplicative of Plaintiff's testimony. The court does not require any evidence provided in the exhibits to rule on the issues presented in the pending summary judgment motion and chooses to not consider the challenged exhibits for purposes of deciding this motion.[1] Therefore, Defendant's Motion to Strike (Doc. # 20) is due to be denied as moot. See Porterfield v. Flowers Baking Co. of Opelika, L.L.C., No. 2:05-CV-937-MEF, 2007 WL 4373006, at *9 (M.D. Ala. Dec. 12, 2007) (denying motion to strike paragraph of an affidavit as moot because the court found the testimony unhelpful and chose not to consider it).

         II. Factual Background[2]

         In 2014, the City of Birmingham Police Department (“Police Department”) hired Plaintiff, a black male, as a police officer. (Jones Deposition at 23, 26-27).[3] Plaintiff initially worked as a patrol officer for eight weeks, and the Police Department then transferred him to the West Precinct Task Force (“Task Force”). (Id. at 23-24, 95-96). Plaintiff worked on the day shift (8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.) while assigned to the Task Force. (Id. at 96).

         On March 2, 2015, Plaintiff bent down to converse with another officer who was sitting at a desk. (Id. at 26). Officer Nathan Duclos, a white male, positioned himself behind Plaintiff and made grinding sounds and pelvic thrusts. (Id. at 27-28). Plaintiff responded by telling Duclos, “I don't play that gay stuff, don't do me like that.” (Id. at 28). Duclos laughed at Plaintiff's reaction. (Id. at 29). Plaintiff then told him, “you think it's funny but it ain't funny with me.” (Id.).

         Lieutenant Julie Quigley-Vining overheard the interaction between Plaintiff and Duclos from her office.[4] (Quigley-Vining Deposition at 25-26).[5] Quigley-Vining did not observe Duclos's actions, and Duclos was no longer present by the time Quigley-Vining left her office. (Id. at 26). Plaintiff has testified that Quigley-Vining yelled at him and ordered him to come to her office. (Jones Deposition at 29-30). According to Plaintiff, Quigley-Vining discussed Plaintiff's comment with him and explained that Plaintiff had disrespected her family and her. (Id. at 30). Quigley-Vining also told Plaintiff that she could not “stand you people” and spit on his face. (Id. at 30-31). Plaintiff recalls Quigley-Vining using profanity during the exchange. (Id. at 31). Ultimately, though, Quigley-Vining did not discipline Plaintiff for his conduct that day. (See Quigley-Vining Deposition at 41).

         On March 3, 2015, Plaintiff submitted a written complaint to Lieutenant Mike Acton regarding Quigley-Vining's conduct. (Jones Deposition at 36-37). Although the written complaint discussed Duclos's conduct, Plaintiff only complained about Quigley-Vining's actions. (See Doc. # 17-1 at 50). Acton told Plaintiff that a captain needed to handle the investigation. (Jones Deposition at 37-38). The Police Department's internal affairs department handled the investigation, during which they questioned Quigley-Vining. (Quigley-Vining Deposition at 38).

         On June 27, 2015, while the investigation into the March 2015 complaint was ongoing, Plaintiff addressed two sergeants who were speaking with each other. (Jones Deposition at 39-40). He recalls that Quigley-Vining turned her back to him and was conversing on her cell phone when he approached the other officers. (Id. at 39, 41). When Plaintiff clocked in for an overtime shift, Quigley-Vining confronted him for not respecting her. (Id. at 40-41) (discussing allegations in the Complaint). Plaintiff did not respond to her because Police Department personnel gave him an order to not have direct contact with Quigley-Vining. (Id. at 41-42). Plaintiff began writing down information, and Quigley-Vining angrily told him that she did not care what he wrote down. (Id. at 42). Finally, Quigley-Vining warned Plaintiff that she would write him up if he acted similarly again. (Id.). According to Plaintiff, she yelled, “[y]ou can take this as your verbal warning. The next time I will write you up.” (Id. at 44). (See also Doc. # 17-1 at 54).

         Plaintiff reported this confrontation to Sergeant Timothy McCord. (Jones Deposition at 42). McCord advised Plaintiff to report the confrontation to his supervisor. (Id. at 43). Plaintiff complained to Police Department personnel that Quigley-Vining did not threaten white officers with discipline for disrespecting her. (Id. at 44-45). On June 29, 2015, Plaintiff submitted his written complaint against Quigley-Vining to Captain James Blanton. (Doc. # 17-1 at 54).

         That same day, Quigley-Vining issued Plaintiff a letter of counseling for his conduct and deportment during the June 27th incident discussed above. (Doc. # 17-1 at 55). According to Plaintiff, Quigley-Vining approached him as he left the precinct building and handed him the letter. (Jones Deposition at 46). She reminded him of her verbal warning. (Id.). Plaintiff refused to sign the counseling letter. (Id. at 47). Quigley-Vining documented that Plaintiff had refused to sign the counseling letter. (Doc. # 17-1 at 55). On June 30, 2015, Plaintiff submitted a written complaint to Blanton about Quigley-Vining's counseling letter. (Id. at 56).

         On July 7, 2015, Police Department Chief A.C. Roper reprimanded Plaintiff for the March 2015 incident. (Doc. # 17-1 at 52-53). Roper reprimanded Plaintiff for his lack of courtesy, poor manner, unkind remarks, harassment, and use of coarse language. (Id.). To justify the reprimand, Roper recounted Plaintiff's statement to Duclos and an additional statement that he did not “believe in gay marriage.” (Id. at 53). Roper explained that several officers heard the statements and that Plaintiff failed to “consider[ ] the diversity of [his] fellow employees.” (Id.). That same day, Roper also reprimanded Quigley-Vining for the March 2015 incident. (Doc. # 17-2 at 34-35). He wrote that Quigley-Vining had lost her temper, “berated [Plaintiff] within earshot of several other officers and a trustee, ” and “unnecessarily brought your domestic situation into the matter.” (Id.).

         On July 30, 2015, Plaintiff submitted a discrimination charge to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”). (Doc. # 17-1 at 47-48). His EEOC charge discussed the March 2015 encounter, Quigley-Vining's verbal warning to him on June 27, 2015, and the June 29, 2015 written reprimand. (See id.). Within a few days of Plaintiff's EEOC charge, the Police Department transferred Quigley-Vining to a different precinct. (Quigley-Vining Deposition at 56-57; Jones Deposition at 49).

         Plaintiff has testified that, on August 10, 2015, Sergeant Carl Walker asked him whether he had filed an EEOC complaint. (Jones Deposition at 56-57). At that time, Walker was Plaintiff's direct supervisor. (Id. at 57-58). Plaintiff told Walker that he had filed an EEOC complaint. (Id. at 57). Walker has confirmed that he discussed the EEOC complaint with Plaintiff, but explains that he did so to dissuade Plaintiff from discussing his business with others in the office. (Doc. # 17-3 at 47-48).

         On August 18, 2015, the Police Department reassigned Plaintiff from the Task Force to a patrol unit. (Doc. # 17-4 at 1). Plaintiff asked Acton about the transfer. (Jones Transcript at 63). Acton told him that he was being transferred because Walker did not like him and did not want him on the Task Force. (Id. at 63-64). According to Plaintiff, Acton then asked him whether he had filed an EEOC complaint, and Plaintiff affirmed that he had done so. (Id. at 64).

         Plaintiff testified that he was scheduled to work an overnight shift (11:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m.) after being placed on the patrol unit. (Id. at 72). He did not receive weekends off while working on that unit, but had weekends off while assigned to the Task Force. (Id. at 71). Plaintiff was assigned to answer more calls, such as domestic disturbances, while working for the patrol unit. (Id. at 67). When he worked for the Task Force, his responsibilities primarily concerned burglary calls and stopping cars to check individuals for warrants. (Id. at 66-67).

         While Plaintiff worked for the Task Force, he was able to sign up for overtime work after his shift ended at 5:00 p.m. (Id. at 70-71). Conversely, Plaintiff could sign up for evening overtime shifts while he worked on the Task Force. (Id. at 77). After his transfer to the patrol unit, Plaintiff attempted to sign up for overtime, but he was unable to do so, even though he observed open overtime shifts. (Id. at 74-76). Plaintiff asked Sergeant Pier Walker (i.e., a different officer than Sergeant Carl Walker) why he could not sign up for overtime shifts at the Crossplex in Birmingham. (Id. at 77-78). Carl Walker was responsible for coordinating security at the Crossplex. (Doc. # 17-3 at 69-70). Plaintiff explained that Pier Walker tried to sign him up for overtime at the Crossplex, but she could not get him approved for overtime. (Jones Deposition at 79). According to Plaintiff, Pier Walker confronted Carl Walker, and Carl said that Plaintiff would not work at the Crossplex “as long as I'm over it.” (Id.).

         On January 6, 2016, Plaintiff submitted a second charge to the EEOC, this one complaining of retaliation he claims to have suffered for filing his earlier EEOC charge. (Doc. # 17-4). Plaintiff asserted in his second charge that he had been moved from the Task Force to a patrol unit, and that he had been denied opportunities for “side jobs.” (Id.). On January 18, 2016, Plaintiff asked his supervisor for a letter of recommendation to work an overtime detail for the “High Intensity Community-Oriented Policing” program. (Jones Deposition at 88-89). His supervisor refused to submit a recommendation letter, but provided no reason for the refusal. (Id. at 90-91). In April 2016, Plaintiff received a right-to-sue letter from the EEOC regarding his July 2015 EEOC charge. (Doc. # 1-2). In July 2016, Plaintiff filed this lawsuit. (Doc. # 1).

         III. Standard of Review for ...


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