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Collier v. Alabama Department of Transportation

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

December 18, 2018




         Plaintiffs Willie Collier and Collier Welding, LLC filed a complaint in this court[1] against the Alabama Department of Transportation (“ALDOT”) alleging violations of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VI”).[2] (Doc. 1).[3]The court has before it the June 22, 2018 motion for summary judgment filed by ALDOT. (Doc. 59). The motion has been fully briefed (docs. 60, 66, 67), and is now ripe for decision. For the reasons set forth below, the motion is due to be denied.


         Plaintiff Willie Collier is an African American and the owner of Collier Welding, LLC. (Doc. 1 ¶ 5; Doc. 61-1 (“Collier Dep.”) at 35). Defendant ALDOT is a state agency responsible for the administration of federally funded highway construction contracts in accordance with state and federal law. Eligibility for federal funds requires ALDOT to implement a Disadvantaged Business Enterprise program (“DBE”) to promote the hiring of minority businesses in the construction industry. Collier Welding, LLC was certified as a DBE by ALDOT. (See Doc. 66-1 at 2).

         On March 27, 2015, ALDOT opened bidding for a project for a bridge replacement and approaches on 31st Street North over Interstate 59/20 and on 12th Avenue North over Interstate 59/20 in Birmingham, Alabama. (Doc. 61-2 (“McBrien Aff.”) ¶ 5; Doc. 66-1 at 4-5). Construction for the bridge project was set to begin on August 3, 2015. (Doc. 61-4 (“Powe Aff.”) ¶ 6). The project was awarded to Bell Construction and Associates on May 13, 2015. (Doc. 6-1 at 4-5).

         In August or September 2015, Collier met with Casey Mims from Bell Construction. (Collier Dep. at 83, 104, 109-10). Collier told Mims he wanted to submit a quote to perform welding work on the project. (Id. at 109-110). During this meeting, Collier gave Mims his welding certificate, DBE certification, LLC formation papers, and his state and county business licenses. (Id. at 82, 84). Mims told Collier he had to verify Collier's eligibility to work on an ALDOT project as a welder. (Id. at 83, 103).

         ALDOT verified that Collier was qualified to participate in ALDOT's DBE program, but stated that Collier was not certified to work as a welder on any ALDOT projects. (Doc. 61-8 (“Pickett Aff.”) ¶ 7; Collier Dep. at 65-66). No. one at Bell Construction requested that Collier be tested to gain ALDOT certification. Collier was not hired by Bell Construction to work on the project, resulting in the instant complaint.


         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c), summary judgment is proper “if the pleading depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). The party seeking summary judgment bears the initial burden of informing the court of the basis for its motion and identifying the portions of the pleadings or filings which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Id. at 323. Once the movant has met its initial burden, the non-moving party must go beyond the pleading and by his own affidavits, or by the depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, designate specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue suitable for trial. See Id. at 324; see also Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 56(e).

         Substantive law identifies which facts are material and which are irrelevant. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). All reasonable doubts about the facts and all justifiable inferences must be resolved in favor of the non-movant. See Fitzpatrick v. City of Atlanta, 2 F.3d 1112, 1115 (11th Cir. 1993). A dispute is genuine “if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. If the evidence is merely colorable, or is not significantly probative, summary judgment may be granted. See Id. at 249.


         Plaintiffs contend that ALDOT discriminated against them in violation of the Title VI on the basis of race when “it informed Bell Construction that [Collier] was ineligible to work as a welder on [ALDOT] projects because he lacked the proper welding certification.” (Doc. 66 at 1). Section 601 of Title VI provides that no person shall, “on the ground of race, color, or national origin, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity” covered by Title VI. 42 U.S.C. § 2000d; Alexander v. Sandoval, 532 U.S. 275, 279 (2001). A plaintiff may only bring claims for intentional discrimination under Title VI. Sandoval, 532 U.S. at 293. Title VI “requires that a person prove that he was denied participation, based on his race, in a federally funded program for which he was otherwise qualified.” Humphrey v. United Parcel Serv., 200 Fed.Appx. 950, 952 (11th Cir. 2006) (citing 42 U.S.C. § 2000d).[4]

         To establish a prima facie case under Title VI, Collier must show (1) ALDOT received federal funds, (2) Collier was discriminated against, and (3) Collier's race, color, or national origin was the motive behind ALDOT's alleged discriminatory conduct. See Walton v. Secretary Veterans Admin, 187 F.Supp.3d 137, 1331 (N.D. Ala. 2016). It is undisputed that ALDOT receives federal funds. The last two elements are in dispute, however.

         Collier argues that ALDOT discriminated against him when it told Bell Construction that he was not qualified to work on the bridge project as a welder. As a result, Collier contends he was not given the opportunity to bid on the project. Collier testified that he was certified as a welder and had, in fact, worked on an ALDOT project in the past with the American Welding Society ...

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