United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Eastern Division
ANNEMARIE CARNEY AXON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
shotgun complaint, Plaintiff Ruthie Tuck asserts that
Defendants Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind
(“AIDB”), John Mascia, and Travis Fields violated
her rights under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
(“Title VII”), 42 U.S.C. § 1981, the
Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12101,
et seq. (the “ADA”), and the equal
protection clause of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments.
(Doc. 1). The Defendants moved for summary judgment and Ms.
Tuck responded to the motions. (Doc. 26 and Doc. 27). Having
considered the motions, responses, and evidentiary
submissions, the court WILL GRANT the
deciding a motion for summary judgment, the court
“draw[s] all inferences and review[s] all evidence in
the light most favorable to the non-moving party.”
Hamilton v. Southland Christian Sch., Inc., 680 F.3d
1316, 1318 (11th Cir. 2012).
light most favorable to Ms. Tuck, the facts are as follows.
AIDB is the official state agency designated to conduct
educational and training programs for the deaf, hearing
impaired, blind, and visually handicapped residents of the
State of Alabama. Ala. Code § 21-1-23. The E.H. Gentry
Technical Facility is a vocational and educational
rehabilitation program under the umbrella of AIDB that serves
deaf and blind adults, known to AIDB as its
“consumers.” (Doc. 21-2 at 4- 5). AIDB
“employment specialists” assist consumers in
obtaining employment within the community through
personalized assessments and vocational training based on
their professional goals. (Id.; Doc. 26-30 at 1-2).
AIDB also assigns each consumer a job coach who provides
hands on pre-employment training in real world settings while
under the job coach's supervision. (Doc. 21-2 at 4-6;
Doc. 21-1 at 7).
employees are assigned to caseloads based on the needs of
their consumer population. (Doc. 21-1 at 11). Those caseloads
include four categories: general,  blind, deaf, and deaf/blind.
(Id.). Ms. Tuck, a black female, worked as a job
coach for the general caseload at E.H. Gentry from 2011-2015.
(Id. at 11, 14). During that same period, the
general caseload employment specialist was Lori Mitchell.
(Id. at 11).
around 2011, job coaches within E.H. Gentry were assigned
duties traditionally performed by employment specialists.
(Doc. 21-1 at 19-20, 28-29). The job coaches did not receive
a salary increase in consideration for assuming these
additional responsibilities. (Id.). In November
2011, Ms. Mitchell was promoted to “Assistant to
Director of Student and General Services” but retained
her responsibilities as employment specialist. (Doc. 21-5 at
3, ¶¶ 6-7; Doc. 21-1 at 20-21). Following Ms.
Mitchell's promotion, Ms. Tuck was required to perform
the role of both employment specialist and job coach without
receiving additional compensation. (Doc. 1 at 5-6, ¶
that they did not receive additional compensation, Ms. Tuck
and two other job coaches submitted several complaints to
AIDB managers and requested clarification of their duties and
responsibilities. (Doc. 21-3 at 3; Doc. 26-6 at 1; Doc. 26-7
at 1-3; Doc. 26-19 at 1-2). The job coaches argued that their
job description did not accurately reflect the duties of the
job coach position and requested back pay for completing the
additional tasks. (Doc. 26-14 at 1-3; Doc. 26-19 at 1-2).
Fields, AIDB's Executive Director, reviewed these
grievances and held a meeting with job coach personnel to
better understand their concerns. (Doc. 21-2 at 8-10).
Thereafter, Mr. Fields referred the matter to the human
resources department to “take a good look at it”
and determine whether changes in the job description were
necessary. (Id. at 8-9). Upon review, the human
resources department concluded that “all of the duties
assigned to the job coaches were within the scope of their
job description” and “the salary scale did not
need to be changed.” (Doc. 21-5 at 3). Despite these
findings, Mr. Fields relieved the job coaches of certain
duties. (Doc. 21-2 at 14).
November 27, 2012, AIDB posted an opening for a Human
Resources Coordinator position. (Doc. 1 at 6-7, ¶ 18).
Ms. Tuck met the qualifications for the position and
submitted an application. (Doc. 21-1 at 32). Ms. Tuck was
interviewed but not referred to the hiring committee for
consideration. (Doc. 1 at 6-7, ¶ 18; Doc. 21-9 at 3).
Instead, AIDB hired a white male candidate for the position.
(Doc. 21-1 at 32; Doc. 21-5 at 2).
23, 2013, Ms. Tuck took a leave of absence from AIDB to
undergo orthopedic surgery. (Doc. 27-32 at 1-4). Two months
later, Ms. Tuck returned to AIDB with a doctor's note
that limited her to “light duty work” (doc. 21-1
at 57), and included restrictions on “standing and
walking” (doc. 21-3 at 5). Mr. Fields determined that
“the limitations given by Ms. Tuck's physician
would not have permitted her to perform all of the necessary
duties of her job.” (Id.). As a result, Ms.
Tuck was placed on paid medical leave until she was able to
perform all of her regular job duties. (Doc. 21-1 at 17-18,
35; Doc. 21-9 at 5, ¶ 15).
October 8, 2013, an employment coordinator position became
available requiring a minimum of “five years of
experience” and a “sign language level of
intermediate.” (Doc. 26-28 at 1-3). Ms. Tuck met the
listed qualifications and applied for the position, but was
not offered an interview. (Doc. 21-1 at 16-17). AIDB received
sixteen applications and interviewed two candidates. (Doc.
21-5 at 2-3). Ultimately, a black female was selected for the
October 12, 2014, Ms. Mitchell resigned as employment
specialist for the general caseload at E.H. Gentry.
(Id. at 4, ¶¶ 12-14). In December, Ms.
Tuck applied for the position when the opening was posted by
AIDB. (Doc. 21-1 at 7). That same month, Ms. Tuck
filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity
Commission (“EEOC”) against AIDB, alleging that
it had discriminated against her on the basis of race,
gender, and physical disability. (Id. at 53-58).
hired Ms. Tuck for the employment specialist position in
February 2015. (Id. at 5). Ms. Tuck received a
considerable salary increase with the promotion.
(Id. at 7, 12-13). However, Ms. Tuck continued to
perform the duties of both an employment specialist and job
coach due to budget constraints. (Doc. 21-1 at 14-17). She
remains in that position today. (Doc. 1 at 1).
Tuck commenced this action on March 13, 2017, asserting
claims against AIDB, John Mascia, and Travis Fields, in their
official and individual capacities. (Id. at 4-5,
¶¶ 10-13). Ms. Tuck's complaint includes five
counts against the Defendants. In Count One, Ms. Tuck alleges
that the Defendants discriminated against her on the basis of
race and gender by failing to promote her and by failing to
provide additional compensation for performing the duties of
employment specialist and job coach, in violation of Title
VII and § 1981. (Id. at 6-9, ¶¶
18-19, 26, 28, 30). In Count Two, Ms. Tuck brings a claim
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for alleged violations of
her equal protection rights based on the same allegations
that form the basis of her claim in Count One. (Id.
at 13-15, ¶¶ 47-55). In Count Three, Ms. Tuck
alleges that AIDB retaliated against her after she requested
a promotion and salary increase for preforming the duties of
employment specialist and job coach. (Doc. 1 at 15-17,
¶¶ 57, 60). Count Four alleges that AIDB subjected
her to a hostile work environment by failing to provide
additional compensation for performing the duties of
employment specialist and job coach. (Id. at 17-18,
¶¶ 64-68). In Count Five, Ms. Tuck claims that the
Defendants denied her reasonable accommodations by not
allowing her to return to work while she recovered from
orthopedic surgery in violation of the ADA. (Id. at
18-19, ¶¶ 71-73).
Defendants move for summary judgment on all counts of the
complaint. In their motions, Defendants argue that claims
asserted with respect to AIDB's failure to promote Ms.
Tuck are time-barred under both Title VII and § 1983.
The Defendants contend that Ms. Tuck's ADA
failure-to-accommodate claim is time-barred as well. As to
the remaining counts, the Defendants contend that Ms. Tuck is
unable to establish a prima facie case for her
disparate treatment, hostile work environment, and
retaliation claims. Additionally, Defendants Mascia and
Fields argue they are entitled qualified immunity on all
claims brought against them in their individual capacities.
deciding a motion for summary judgment, the court must first
determine if the parties genuinely dispute any material
facts, and if they do not, whether the moving party is
entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a).
A disputed fact is material if the fact “might affect
the outcome of the suit under the governing law, ” and
a dispute 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).
response to Defendants' motions for summary judgment, Ms.
Tuck concedes a number of claims. She agrees that Mr. Fields
and Dr. Mascia are entitled to summary judgment on all claims
made against them in their official capacities. (Doc. 27-1 at
17). Ms. Tuck also concedes that summary judgment should be
entered in favor of the Defendants on Count Five, which
alleges violations of the ADA. (Doc. 26-1 at 13-14). And, Ms.
Tuck agrees that she is barred from bringing any claims based
on unlawful employment practices that occurred outside ...