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Bolden v. City of Birmingham

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

February 21, 2019

SHANTA BOLDEN, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF BIRMINGHAM, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          T. MICHAEL PUTNAM UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This cause is before the court on the motion for summary judgment filed July 30, 2018, by the defendant, City of Birmingham. Defendant seeks dismissal of all of plaintiff's claims arising from alleged discrimination at her workplace. This matter has been fully briefed, and the court has considered the evidence and arguments set forth by both parties. The parties have consented to the exercise of jurisdiction by the undersigned magistrate judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c).

         I. SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD

         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c), summary judgment is proper "if the pleadings, 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 a judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). The party asking for summary judgment "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 issue of material fact." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)). The movant can meet this burden by presenting evidence showing there is no dispute of material fact, or by showing that the nonmoving party has failed to present evidence in support of some element of its case on which it bears the ultimate burden of proof. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322-23. There is no requirement, however, "that the moving party support its motion with affidavits or other similar materials negating the opponent's claim." Id. at 323.

         Once the moving party has met his burden, Rule 56(e) "requires the nonmoving party to go beyond the pleadings and by her own affidavits, or by the 'depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions of file,' designate 'specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'" Id. at 324 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)). The nonmoving party need not present evidence in a form necessary for admission at trial; however, he may not merely rest on his pleadings. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324. "[T]he plain language of 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." Id. at 322.

         After the plaintiff has properly responded to a proper motion for summary judgment, the court must grant the motion if there is no genuine issue of material fact, and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). The substantive law will identify which facts are material and which are irrelevant. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A dispute is genuine "if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Id.at 248. "[T]he judge's function is not himself to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial." Id. at 249. His guide is the same standard necessary to direct a verdict: "whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law." Id. at 251-52; see also Bill Johnson's Restaurants, Inc. v. N.L.R.B., 461 U.S. 731, 745 n.11 (1983). However, the nonmoving party "must do more than show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). If the evidence is merely colorable, or is not significantly probative, summary judgment may be granted. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249 (citations omitted); accord Spence v. Zimmerman, 873 F.2d 256 (11th Cir. 1989). Furthermore, the court must "view the evidence presented through the prism of the substantive evidentiary burden," so there must be sufficient evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the plaintiff. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 254; Cottle v. Storer Communication, Inc., 849 F.2d 570, 575 (11th Cir. 1988). Nevertheless, credibility determinations, the weighing of evidence, and the drawing of inferences from the facts are the function of the jury, and therefore the evidence of the non-movant is to be believed and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255. The non-movant need not be given the benefit of every inference but only of every reasonable inference. Brown v. City of Clewiston, 848 F.2d 1534, 1540 n.12 (11th Cir. 1988).

         II. FACTS

         Viewing the evidence provided by both parties in the light most favorable to the nonmoving plaintiff, the following facts are considered true for purposes of the defendant's motion for summary judgment.

         Plaintiff Shanta Bolden is an African American female who was, at all times relevant to the complaint, employed as a dispatcher for the City of Birmingham, working within the police department. As of the time the matter was briefed, she remained employed as a Public Safety Dispatcher III (“PSD III”) in the police department's communications division. The police chief is the department head, and plaintiff's immediate supervisors at the relevant time were Sgt. Curtis Coleman and Lt. David Marable. Both are African American males.

         George Joiner, a Caucasian male, was employed as a PSD III with the City until he died in 2017. Joiner is identified by the plaintiff as the comparator who was treated more favorably than was she.

         The City employs 50 to 60 public safety dispatchers, and each dispatcher is assigned to work one of three shifts, which will be referred to as day shift, evening shift, and night shift. Bolden was hired in 2003 as a PDS II. Joiner was hired on December 1, 2012 as a PSD III. On that same date, Bolden was promoted to PSD III. Bolden is not the most senior person in the communications division, but the second most senior.

         Bolden has been given eight disciplinary actions during her employment, including disciplinaries for tardiness, being absent without leave, using profanity while dispatching, and sleeping on the job. She describes the disciplinary actions as arising from "training issues." She had the right to appeal the actions. She appealed only one of them, and it was upheld. She filed her EEOC charge six months after the most recent disciplinary, which was issued for failure to abide by orders given to her by Coleman.

         In the fall of 2016, Joiner filed a request for leave under the Family Medical Leave "ct. He was granted continuous FMLA leave from September 29, 2016, until October 18, 2016, and he was granted intermittent FMLA leave beginning on October 19, 2016. He applied again for intermittent leave on February 17, 2017, and it was granted.[1] Joiner was terminally ill, and requested that he work the day shift so that he could attend doctors' appointments. His request was granted. Joiner died in August of 2017. Plaintiff has no personal knowledge of Joiner's illness, employment status, personnel actions, or any accommodations that may have been requested or granted on account of his medical issues.

         On September 7, 2017, Bolden, appearing pro se, filed the complaint that commenced this action. She filed an amended complaint, with the assistance of counsel, on September 25, 2017. She asserts that she was discriminated against on account of her race and gender and that she was retaliated against after engaging in statutorily protected conduct. More specifically, she alleges that she was denied an opportunity to work the day shift, while Joiner, a white male, was allowed to work the day shift which also gave him weekends and holidays off.[2] She ...


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