United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Northeastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
K. KALLON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Fortenberry worked for RCF, LLC as a purchasing manager at a
plant operated by Gemstone Foods, LLC. Fortenberry asserts
that Gemstone and RCF violated the Equal Pay Act, 29 U.S.C.
§ 206(d), and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964,
42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq., when, in contrast
to her male counterparts, they refused to pay her for weekend
work. Docs. 13; 30. Presently before the court are the
defendants' motions for summary judgment. Docs. 31; 34.
In a nutshell, Gemstone contends that it is not liable
because it was not Fortenberry's employer. Docs. 34; 35.
For its part, RCF argues that it paid only production
managers for weekend work. Docs. 31; 32; 42. For the reasons
explained below, Gemstone's motion, which Fortenberry
does not oppose, is due to be granted, and RCF's motion
is due to be denied.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
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(a). "Rule 56(c) 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). The moving party
bears the initial burden of proving the absence of a genuine
dispute of material fact. Id. at 323. The burden
then shifts to the non-moving party, who is required to go
"beyond the pleadings" to establish that there is a
"genuine issue for trial." Id. at 324
(internal citations and quotation marks 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).
court must construe the evidence and all reasonable
inferences arising from it in the light most favorable to the
non-movant. Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398
U.S. 144, 157 (1970). 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) (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 a 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).
hired Fortenberry in January 2015 as a purchasing assistant
and promoted her to the purchasing manager position one month
later when Gary Hill, the prior purchasing manager, resigned.
Docs. 40-1 at 1; 40-2 at 4. RCF, which has a contract to
provide employees to Gemstone, assigned Fortenberry to one of
Gemstone's poultry processing plants. Docs. 40-1 at 1; 32
at 1. As purchasing manager, Fortenberry received a flat
salary. Docs. 40-1 at 1. Her duties included ordering
everything, other than poultry, that the plant needed and
taking inventory of the plant's supplies. Docs. 40-1 at
1; 40-2 at 11; 40-3 at 91. Although Fortenberry had no duties
directly related to the production of poultry, she visited
the production area every morning to note the quantities of
ice and C02, and she occasionally delivered
supplies, such as gloves or knives, to the production
employees. Docs. 40-1 at 1; 40-2 at 14; 40-3 at 91.
to Fortenberry, her supervisors required her to work on
weekends at the end of each month, without any additional
pay, to conduct an inventory and also on other weekends when
"inventory counts were off. . . ." Docs. 40-1 at 1;
40-2 at 9-10. See also doc. 40-3 at 91
(Fortenberry's job description that the purchasing
manager "[m]ust be available to perform after hours or
weekend work as necessary"). Two and a half years into
her employment, Fortenberry learned that RCF paid male
managers for hours they worked on weekends. Id. The
discovery led Fortenberry to ask her direct supervisor,
Jordan Scott, for weekend pay. Docs. 40-1 at 1; 40-2 at 6,
35. Scott denied Fortenberry's request and informed her
that RCF was phasing out weekend pay. Docs. 40-1 at 1-2; 40-2
at 6, 35. The next day Fortenberry resigned, doc. 40-2 at 7,
36, and subsequently filed a charge of discrimination with
the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for sex
discrimination. Doc. 26-2 at 2. This lawsuit followed.
court turns now to the pending motions and notes initially
that Fortenberry concedes that summary judgment is due on her
claims against Gemstone. Doc. 41. Indeed, because Gemstone
never employed Fortenberry, see doc. 40-1 at 1, her
claims against Gemstone fail as a matter of law, see
29 U.S.C. § 206(d); 42 U.S.C § 2000e(2)(a);
Busby v. City of Orlando, 931 F.2d 764, 772 (11th
Cir. 1991) ("[R]elief granted under Title VII is against
the employer . . . .") (emphasis in original).
RCF, Fortenberry asserts a Title VII claim and an Equal Pay
Act claim based on her contention that RCF failed to pay her
for hours she worked on weekends. Docs. 13; 30. "Title VII
and the Equal Pay Act exist side by side in the effort to rid
the workforce of gender-based discrimination."
Miranda v. B&B Cash Grocery Store, Inc., 975
F.2d 1518, 1527 (11th Cir. 1992). Because "[t]he burdens
of proof are different under the two laws," id.
at 1526, the court will address Fortenberry's claims
Equal Pay Act
Equal Pay Act prohibits an employer from paying an employee
less than employees of the opposite sex for equal work. 29
U.S.C. § 206(d)(1); Miranda, 975 F.2d at 1526.
To establish a prima facie case under the Act, a
plaintiff'"must show that an employer pays different
wages to employees of opposite sexes for equal work on jobs
[that] require equal skill, effort, and responsibility, and
which are performed under similar working
conditions.'" Miranda, 975 F.2d at 1532
(quoting Corning Glass Works v. Brennan, 477 U.S.
188, 195 (1974)). The jobs at issue do not have to be
identical, only substantially equal. Id. at 1533; 29
C.F.R. § 1620.13(a). Even so, "[t]he standard for
determining whether jobs are equal in terms of skill, effort,
and responsibility is high." Waters v. Turner, Wood
& Smith Ins. Agency, Inc., 874 F.2d 797,
199 (11th Cir. 1989). See also Miranda, 975 F.2d at
1526 ("A plaintiff suing under the Equal Pay Act must
meet the fairly strict standard of proving that she performed
substantially similar work for less pay."). But, a
plaintiff does not have to show discriminatory intent to
prove her prima facie case. Mitchell v. Jefferson Cty.
Bd. of Educ, 936 F.2d 539, 547 (11th Cir. 1991).
Whether Fortenberry's job is substantially equal to a