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Martin v. Lawson State Community College

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

July 27, 2018

BRIAN MARTIN, Plaintiff,
v.
LAWSON STATE COMMUNITY COLLEGE, and LIEUTENANT ROBERT TATE Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          KARON OWEN BOWDRE CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter is before the court on Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment. (Doc. 21). Plaintiff Brian Martin sued Defendants Lawson State Community College and Lieutenant Robert Tate under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981 and 1983. He alleges that he was removed from the work schedule as a police officer at Lawson State on the basis of his race. As explained below, the court finds that no genuine issue of material fact exists and Defendants are entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Therefore, the court will GRANT the motion.

         I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Brian Martin is a Caucasian police officer who has worked a variety of jobs- both full and part-time-providing law enforcement and security services for various entities. He worked full-time for the Pell City Police Department from October 2011, until the spring of 2015. And beginning on July 7, 2011, he supplemented those hours by working at Lawson State Community College.

         Initially, Mr. Martin worked the 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. shift for Pell City. (Doc. 22 at 3). At the end of each shift, he would return to the office to debrief, and then depart the station at approximately 6:15 a.m. After leaving his Pell City shift, Mr. Martin would then drive approximately one hour to Lawson State to work his 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. shift. (Id. at 3-4). This scheduling conflict resulted in Mr. Martin consistently arriving late to his job at Lawson State. (Doc. 29 at 5).

         During the majority of the time that Mr. Martin was employed at Lawson State, Chief Williams was the chief of the college's police force. Mr. Martin always called when he was going to arrive late for his shift at Lawson State, and he asserts that he and Chief Williams operated under this arrangement for nearly four years. Chief Williams resigned in February 2014, and was replaced by Lieutenant Robert Tate, a 21-year employee of Lawson State. (Doc. 22 at 2). At least initially, Mr. Martin enjoyed the same flexibility under Lieutenant Tate as he had while Chief Williams was in charge: he provided Lieutenant Tate with his availability, and Lieutenant Tate would place him on the schedule accordingly. (Doc. 29 at 11-12).

         In March 2014, Mr. Martin began working two day shifts per week from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at the St. Clair County Sherriff's Department. (Doc. 22 at 4). This employment supplemented his full-time employment with Pell City and his part-time contract services with Lawson State. As a result, his availability to work for Lawson State decreased. (Doc. 23-2 at 17).

         Then, in June 2014, Lieutenant Tate informed Mr. Martin that he was taking him off the schedule. (Doc. 29 at 6). Lieutenant Tate told Mr. Martin that the Lawson State administration wanted him removed from the payroll; other officers had complained that he frequently arrived late but was not reprimanded the same way they were; and the police department needed a regularly-scheduled employee. (Docs. 23-2 at 13; 29 at 6).

         Lieutenant Tate also terminated at least two other officers in 2014. He fired Jady Pipes- the only other Caucasian officer working at Lawson State during Mr. Martin's time there-in late June 2014 (doc. 29 at 6; 30-2 at 2), and he fired Fredtonio Coleman, an African American, sometime between February and May 2014. (Docs. 29 at 4; 22 at 6; 23-1). The Defendants allege Lieutenant Tate fired Mr. Pipes over a uniform dispute, but Mr. Pipes' affidavit states that he was never provided with that reason. The parties do agree, however, that Lieutenant Tate fired Mr. Coleman for arriving late to work.

         After terminating Mr. Martin, Lieutenant Tate increased the department's use of SanGuard Security, a company that provides Lawson State with extra unsworn officers to cover unfilled areas of the schedule when needed. (Doc. 22 at 6; 23-1 at 10). Lieutenant Tate had no control over the race of the officers that SanGuard provided, and did not know the officers' race until they arrived for work.

         In October 2015, James Blanton replaced Lieutenant Tate as the Chief of the Lawson State Police Department. (Doc. 23-1 at 5). Chief Blanton hired eight police officers, only one of whom was white. (Docs. 29 at 7; 32-1 at 1-2). The officers were hired to begin working at Lawson State between January 2016 and October 2016. As of December 20, 2016, Lawson State was still using SanGuard Security to fill uncovered areas of its schedule. (Doc. 23-1 at 10).

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         When a district court reviews a motion for summary judgment, it must determine two things: whether any genuine issues of material fact exist, and whether the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56.

         The court must “view the evidence presented through the prism of the substantive evidentiary burden” to determine whether the non-moving party presented sufficient evidence on which a jury could reasonably find for the nonmoving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986). The court must not weigh the ...


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