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Hall v. Alabama State University

United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Northern Division

January 8, 2019

TELMA HALL, Plaintiff,
v.
ALABAMA STATE UNIVERSITY, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          GRAY M. BORDEN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Pending before the court is a Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Defendant Alabama State University (“ASU”). Doc. 20.[1] Plaintiff Telma Hall filed this lawsuit on July 19, 2016, alleging discrimination on the basis of her gender and retaliation for complaining about different treatment on the basis of gender in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq. (“Title VII”). Doc. 1.[2] Specifically, Hall, who formerly served as ASU's head softball coach, brings a claim of discrimination on the basis of gender for the following actions: paying her less than similarly situated male employees, denying her contracts with the same terms and benefits, providing her sport with less financial support, suspending her, terminating her employment, failing to follow university policies, and subjecting her to stricter scrutiny (Count I), and a claim of retaliation also based on actions taken against her during her employment (Count II). The parties have consented to jurisdiction in this court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). After careful consideration of the parties' submissions, the applicable law, and the record as a whole, the court finds that the Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 20) is due to be GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.

         I. JURISDICTION AND VENUE

         The court has subject-matter jurisdiction over the claims in this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(f)(3) and 28 U.S.C. § 1331. The parties do not contest personal jurisdiction or venue, and the court finds adequate allegations to support both.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Summary judgment is appropriate “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). “Only disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A dispute of material fact is genuine only if “the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Id. at 248.

         The moving party “always bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine [dispute] of material fact.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986) (internal quotation marks omitted). In responding to a properly supported motion for summary judgment, the nonmoving party “must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material fact.” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). Indeed, the nonmovant must “go beyond the pleadings” and submit admissible evidence demonstrating “specific facts showing that there is a genuine [dispute] for trial.” Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324 (internal quotation marks omitted). If the evidence is “merely colorable, or is not significantly probative, summary judgment may be granted.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249 (citations omitted).

         When a district court considers a motion for summary judgment, it “must view all the evidence and all factual inferences reasonably drawn from the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, and must resolve all reasonable doubts about the facts in favor of the nonmovant.” Rioux v. City of Atlanta, Ga., 520 F.3d 1269, 1274 (11th Cir. 2008) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). The court's role is not to “weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249. “If a reasonable fact finder evaluating the evidence could draw more than one inference from the facts, and if that inference introduces a genuine issue of material fact, then the court should not grant summary judgment.” Allen v. Bd. of Pub. Educ. for Bibb Cnty., 495 F.3d 1306, 1315 (11th Cir. 2007) (citation omitted). Importantly, if the nonmovant “fails to adduce evidence which would be sufficient . . . to support a jury finding for [the nonmovant], summary judgment may be granted.” Brooks v. Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Fla., Inc., 116 F.3d 1364, 1370 (11th Cir. 1997) (citation omitted).

         III. FACTS

         The facts, taken in a light most favorable to the non-movant, are as follows:

         Hall was a female employee of ASU who served as the softball head coach from October 17, 2005 until May 2, 2014. Hall also served as an adjunct professor beginning in the summer of 2013, teaching physical education and wellness classes. Doc. 26-1 at 28:20-29:3. During her tenure, Hall served first under Athletic Director Stacy Danley and then Athletic Director Melvin Hines. Doc. 26-1 at 68:1-13.

         As an adjunct professor, Hall was a part-time, at-will employee. The length of a contract for an adjunct professor is one semester.[3] As a coach, Hall was classified as a Special Athletic Appointee. Doc. 20-3 at 15. Head coaches at ASU are responsible for their programs, including recruiting, making sure athletes have a rewarding experience, requesting budgets, and reporting NCAA violations. Doc. 20-6 at 42 & 102:19-103:12.

         Salaries and fringe benefits of coaches at ASU are set when the coaches are hired. Each head coach is given a salary pool that the head coach can divide among the number of paid assistant coaches the NCAA allows for that sport. Doc. 20-6 at 105:6-16. ASU's President and Board of Trustees have to approve the assistant coach salaries, however. Each sports team's travel and recruitment budgets are established with a specific amount set out in the total sport budget. Doc. 20-6 at 57:23-58:20.

         Hall was hired at a salary of $34, 000 a year with no performance-based bonuses and no car allowance. Doc. 26-5 at 119.

         In June 2011, Hall made a request that the salary of the softball assistant coach be increased. Doc. 26-8 at 142. In July of that year, she emailed Danley, who was then the Athletic Director, about increasing the budget and salaries for the softball program. Doc. 26-8 at 144. Hall had been making $38, 079 since October 1, 2007, but her salary was raised to $45, 000. Doc. 26-5 at 122:23-123:2.

         Mervyl Melendez was a male employee of ASU who was hired as the baseball head coach in 2011 at a base annual salary of $125, 000 with a car allowance, a signing bonus, and additional bonuses and performance bonus opportunities. Doc. 26-5 at 124. Jose Vazquez and Drew Clark were hired as Associate and Assistant Coaches for baseball, respectively. Vazquez was hired at $80, 000 per year and Clark was hired at $40, 000 per year. Doc. 26-5 at 115.

         In November 2011, Hall filed a complaint with Danley about gender equity and salary concerns related to the softball program.

         In January 2012, Hall filed an internal Title IX complaint (Doc. 20-3 at 43), which was denied on April 12, 2012, and she was told that there is no avenue for appealing that decision. Doc. 26-8 at 173.

         Hines became Acting Athletic Director in September 2012. He was hired into the position of Athletic Director in 2014.

         In February 2013, Hall filed an EEOC charge alleging gender discrimination in pay and terms of employment. Doc. 26-8. In her EEOC charge, Hall complained that the baseball head coach had a salary of $125, 000 in 2012, whereas Hall's salary was $38, 079 and she did not have bonuses.

         Hall then signed her first contract that included both performance-based bonuses for her and her assistant coaches and a car allowance. Doc. 26-5 at 122. One bonus was based on the Academic Progress Rate (“APR”) of the athletes. Doc. 26-5 at 122. Melendez's contract still included bonuses and bonus opportunities that Hall's contract did not contain. Doc. 26-5 at 124.

         A July 24, 2013 Office of Civil Rights (“OCR”) Resolution Agreement entered into by ASU required it to “improve its hiring practices to attract more qualified coaches to the women's programs, by seeking coaches with more coaching experience by increasing compensation packages and other conditions of employment so that the positions offered are equivalent to those provided to coaches hired for the men's teams, ” but did not require that Hall's salary be increased. Doc. 26-8 at 191-3.

         In August 2013, Hines conducted a performance appraisal of Hall and she received a rating of “Requires Improvement” in the areas of quantity and quality of work, and policies and procedures. Doc. 20-2 at 119:7-11. The appraisal noted that Hall's overall record as a softball coach was below 40%. Doc. 20-2 at 119:12-17. In addition, the APR rate was below the NCAA's requirement. Doc. 20-2 at 119:7-120:17.

         In February 2014, Gwendolyn Boyd became the President of ASU. Doc. 26-3 at 106:10-13.

         On March 2, 2014, the first of two parents complaining about Hall sent an e-mail to ASU. Doc. 20-2 at 127:3-18. The second e-mail complaint followed on March 3, 2014. Doc. 20-2 at 135:17-22. The parents' complaints included allegations that Hall did not provide sufficient food to the athletes during team travel, that athletes were left on a bus, and that practice hours prevented students from eating in the cafeteria. Doc. 20-2 at 129:2-23 & 138:10-14.

         On March 4, 2014, ASU sent a letter to Hall placing her on administrative leave with pay. Doc. 26-1 at 80. The letter further stated that Hall was not “to contact any student at Alabama State University.” Doc. 26-1 at 80. It is undisputed that Hall was not allowed on campus to teach or to continue to take her own graduate-level classes.

         Hall testified in her deposition that while she was at ASU, the tennis coach and a baseball coach, Larry Watkins, were allowed to teach classes after they had been removed as coaches. Doc. 26-1 at 258:8-12.

         Willie Dixon, the Director of Human Resources at ASU, testified in deposition that whether a coach who also is a teacher would be entitled to remain on duty as a teacher if removed as a coach would be a decision for the Provost. Doc. 26-7 at 148:3-13.

         Hall presents evidence that a parent complained that Melendez was requiring athletes to use performance-enhancing drugs (Doc. 26-24 at 7) and was investigated for possible NCAA violations, but was not banned from campus or students. Hall also states that Reggie Barlow and Craig Payne, both of whom were football coaches, were investigated after they left ASU for NCAA violations. Hall contends that Brian Jenkins was hired by ASU as a football coach when he had pending allegations of NCAA violations against him.

         On April 28, 2014, Hines recommended to John Knight, ASU's Executive Vice President/Chief Operating Officer, that Hall be terminated from her employment. Doc. 20-9. Hall's notice of termination was issued on May 2, 2014. Doc. 26-1. At the time the ...


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