United States District Court, S.D. Alabama, Southern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
V. S. GRANADE, SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter is before the Court on Defendant's motion for
summary judgment (Doc. 40), Plaintiff's opposition
thereto (Doc. 48), and Defendant's reply (Doc. 52). For
the reasons explained below, the Court finds that summary
judgment should be granted in favor of Defendant.
Plaintiff in this case is a black female who alleges she was
discriminated against by her employer, Austal, USA, LLC
(“Austal”) on the basis of her race and gender
when she was denied a promotion from a Test and Activation
Specialist I (“Specialist I”) to a Test and
Activation Specialist II (“Specialist II”), in
2015. (Doc. 1). Austal, headquartered in Mobile, Alabama, is
the prime contractor, designer and manufacturer of the U.S.
Navy's Independence-variant Littoral Combat Ship
(“LCS”). (Doc. 42-1, ¶ 2). Plaintiff became
employed with Austal in March 2011 as an electrical
Apprentice and later became a Specialist I on April 7, 2014.
(Doc. 42-1, ¶ 5).
Bell, who was Austal's Vice President of Operations,
Steve Williamson, Austal's Director of Tests and
Activation, and Scott Brown, Austal's Hull Tests Manager
determined the need for multiple Specialist II positions.
(Doc. 42-2, ¶ 7). Bell and Williamson gave Brown the
direction and authority to move forward in that regard and
gave Brown full authority to make the selection decision with
feedback from Senior Specialists Jarrod Stubbs and Conrad
Harris. (Doc. 42-2, ¶ 7). On April 16, 2015, Austal
posted internally a list of job openings that included
openings for the position of Test and Activation Specialist
II. (Doc. 42-1, p. 7). The qualification, knowledge and
experience listed for the position included:
Two (2) to four (4) solid years Test and Activation
experience in a shipyard environment OR Test training
equivalent to 2 years technical trade school or military
technical school, AND/OR-Navy, Coast Guard or Merchant
Mariner experience. …
(Doc. 42-1, p. 8). According to Brown, the “keystone
factor” he was looking for in any applicant that had
worked as a Specialist I “was a demonstrated readiness
to ‘own' a system.” (Doc. 42-3, ¶ 3).
Brown explained this factor as follows:
… whereas a Specialist I is an entry-level testing
position working under close supervision to perform routine
test technician duties in support of Test Engineers and
higher-level Specialists, the Specialist II works under
limited supervision to perform moderately complex test
technician duties on the system(s) that he/she
“owns:” based on a combined assessment of skill,
proficiency, experience, and interest, a Specialist II is
assigned “ownership” of one or more of the
ship's systems, in which case that employee has the
primary responsibility for seeing the system's testing
through to successful fruition and completion. … I was
looking to promote the Specialist Is who already had been
acting and performing as a system owner even before formally
promoting to a Specialist II.
(Doc. 43-3, ¶ 3). Brown reports that he gave no
consideration to how long an applicant had been employed at
Austal or as a Specialist I. (Doc. 43-3, ¶ 4).
Motivation and self-drive were key factors in determining the
applicants that got selected for the promotions. If the
applicant had not shown that he/she was ready to own a
system, regardless of the extent of his/her tenure at Austal,
time as a Specialist I, or prior work history or experience,
I was not going to promote him/her.
(Doc. 42-3, ¶ 4). Brown conferred with Stubbs and Harris
and Brown made the selection decision. (Doc. 42-3, ¶ 5).
applied for the Specialist II promotion on April 21, 2015, by
submitting a resume that showed she had approximately one
year of testing experience by virtue of her tenure as a
Specialist I since April 2014 and did not mention any prior
testing experience or testing equivalent. (Doc. 42-1, ¶
5; Doc. 42-3, ¶ 6). Plaintiff listed her experience as
an Electrical Apprentice at Austal but did not include the
fact that she had performed connectivity or continuity tests
as an electrical Apprentice. (Doc. 42-3, ¶ 6, Doc. 42-3,
pp. 17-18). Plaintiff testified at her deposition that as an
electrical apprentice she conducted connectivity tests and
continuity tests but according to Defendant, her reported
“tests” are really just “checks” and
are not the same as the “formalized, documented, and
witnessed Stage Tests” that Specialists conduct. (Doc.
42-4, p. 1; Doc. 42-2, ¶ 3).
reports that he still considered Plaintiff's application
as if she was qualified, but he did not believe she was among
the most qualified applicants because she had not
demonstrated her readiness to “own” a system.
(Doc. 42-3, ¶ 7). Stubbs, who was the Senior Specialist
with testing oversight of a vessel on which Plaintiff had
worked as a Specialist I, did not recommend Plaintiff for the
promotion because he also did not believe she was among the
most qualified applicants because she had not demonstrated
her readiness to “own” a system. (Doc. 42-5,
¶ 4). Brown assessed Plaintiff's work as a
Specialist I and her readiness to be promoted to a Specialist
II as follows:
As a Specialist I, Ms. Wesley was assigned to support the 60
Hz, AFFF, Bilge, HFP, and Water Mist systems. In supporting
those systems, I did not assess that she was proactive in
initiating testing activity to take ownership of those
systems. Ms. Wesley did not look ahead of the schedule and
plan tasks according to the work that was lying ahead, rather
she simply waited to be assigned testing tasks to complete,
which is consistent with the expectations of a Specialist I
but not consistent with the expectations of a Specialist I
striving to advance to a Specialist II. I observed that Ms.
Wesley was productive as long as she was assigned tasks and
that she was willing to help out as long as assistance was
needed within her comfort zone, but I was looking to promote
the Specialist Is who had sought growth within the department
by volunteering or requesting stretch assignments beyond
their Specialist I job description, which Ms. Wesley had not
done. More specifically, I observed that Ms. Wesley showed
little-to-no interest, drive, or ability to become a lead by
initiating testing tasks vis-a-vis working from limited
documentation, schematics, diagrams, notes, production
prints, or layouts, performing operational/functional tests,
troubleshooting or debugging assemblies, subassemblies, and
systems to isolate faults and determine remedies for
malfunctions, setting-up specialized test equipment for
checkout of non-routine assemblies and systems, utilizing
normal or specialized manufacturing tests or diagnostic
equipment specific to the products, preparing diagnostic
tests or assisting in the design, construction, test, or
checkout of complex test equipment and test procedure
development, or utilizing a wide variety of
developmental/manufacturing test or diagnostic equipment to
checkout, test, and troubleshoot complex or complete systems.
Whether because of her perceived disinterest in taking on
system ownership or because she, in fact, lacked a more
advanced skillset, either way Ms. Wesley only demonstrated to
me a limited ability to read and interpret electrical and
piping system diagrams, schematics and drawings, and testing
procedures, as well as only cursory knowledge of marine
equipment operation, mechanical and electrical propulsion and
electrical power-generating equipment, industrial or marine
ancillary machinery systems installation and operation, and
diesel engines or gas turbines. In short, she simply did not
show me that she was ready for the next step, and I genuinely
did not believe that she was among the most qualified of the
applicants, if she was qualified at all.
(Doc. 42-3, ¶ 8). Plaintiff admits that
“sometimes” she lacked motivation to offer
“assistance to team members” when she worked as a
Specialist I. (Doc. 42-4, p. 5).
employees were considered as applicants. Twenty-three of
those applicants, including Plaintiff, were considered
minimally qualified and moved forward for consideration and
twenty of those were ultimately selected for the Specialist
II positions. Of the twenty, fourteen were Caucasian males,
three were African-American males, one was an
African-American female, and two ...