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Reddick v. Republic Parking System

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

March 25, 2019

LEKISHA REDDICK, Plaintiff,
v.
REPUBLIC PARKING SYSTEM, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          KARON OWEN BOWDRE CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This race and sex discrimination and retaliation case comes before the court on Defendant Republic Parking System's motion for summary judgment. (Doc. 26).

         According to Plaintiff Lekisha Reddick, in 2014, her supervisor at Republic told her that he did not promote her to Assistant Manager and instead hired a white male because he needed a “white face” to fill the position and “soften” the look of the African-American staff. So a genuine issue exists as to whether Republic failed to promote Ms. Reddick in 2014 because she is African-American. But no evidence exists from which reasonable jurors could determine that she suffered race or sex discrimination or retaliation at any point after 2014 or when Republic terminated her in 2017. So, as further explained below, the court will DENY IN PART and GRANT IN PART Republic's motion for summary judgment.

         I. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         A trial court can resolve a dispositive issue on summary judgment only when the moving party establishes two essential elements: (1) no genuine disputes of material fact exist; and (2) the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a).

         Under the first element of the moving party's summary judgment burden, “‘[g]enuine disputes [of material fact] are those in which the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-movant.'” Evans v. Books-A-Million, 762 F.3d 1288, 1294 (11th Cir. 2014) (emphasis added) (quoting Mize v. Jefferson City Bd. of Educ., 93 F.3d 739, 742 (11th Cir. 1996)). And when considering whether any genuine disputes of material fact exist, the court must view the evidence in the record in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and draw reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party. White v. Beltram Edge Tool Supply, Inc., 789 F.3d 1188, 1191 (11th Cir. 2015).

         A non-moving party's self-serving declarations can create genuine issues of fact. See United States v. Stein, 881 F.3d 853, 857 (11th Cir. 2018) (“A litigant's self-serving statements based on personal knowledge or observation can defeat summary judgment.”); Feliciano v. City of Miami Beach, 707 F.3d 1244, 1253 (11th Cir. 2013) (“To be sure, Feliciano's sworn statements are self-serving, but that alone does not permit us to disregard them at the summary judgment stage.”).

         But only factual allegations in a declaration based on personal knowledge can defeat summary judgment; conclusory allegations cannot. See Stein, 881 F.3d at 857 (citing Lujan v. Nat'l Wildlife Fed'n, 497 U.S. 871, 888 (1990)). And even if the court doubts the veracity of a self-serving declaration, the court cannot make credibility determinations at the summary judgment stage. Feliciano, 707 F.3d at 1252 (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986)).

         Consistent with the summary judgment standard, the court will present the facts of this case in the light most favorable to Ms. Reddick. The court draws most of the facts from Ms. Reddick's declaration submitted with her response to Republic's motion for summary judgment. (Doc. 34-1). In doing so, the court notes that these may not be the facts presented at trial.

         II. FACTS

         Republic manages parking lots and garages owned by UAB Hospital and provides valet services at the Kirklin Clinic in Birmingham, Alabama.

         Ms. Reddick began working for Republic on October 1, 2013 as a cashier at the UAB Hospital parking lots and garages. On November 1, 2013, Republic promoted her to Team Leader and gave her a raise from $9 an hour to $10 an hour. As Team Leader, Ms. Reddick managed the day-to-day operations of the Kirklin Clinic parking location.

         Ms. Reddick informed her supervisor and Republic's General Manager for the UAB parking concession, Kwento Ikwuezunma, that she was interested in filling the vacant Assistant Manager position. In her declaration, Ms. Reddick contends that Mr. Ikwuezunma represented to her that she could apply for the position. (Doc. 34-1 at ¶ 9).

         On July 1, 2014, Republic hired Evan Stewart, a white male, as Assistant Manager, and gave him a starting salary of $32, 000 annually. Mr. Ikwuezunma did not post a vacancy for the Assistant Manager position or solicit applications.

         On the same day that Republic hired Mr. Stewart, Republic promoted Ms. Reddick to Supervisor and gave her a raise from $10 an hour to $13 an hour.

         Ms. Reddick asked Mr. Ikwuezunma why he did not give her an opportunity to apply for the Assistant Manager position. According to Ms. Reddick, he responded: “Kisha it's a whole different ball game out here, we have to play these white folks game.” (Doc. 34-1 at ¶ 10). Ms. Reddick asked him what he meant by that statement, and Mr. Ikwuezunma said that he needed a “white face” at the Kirklin Clinic to “soften” the look of staff, which, at that time, consisted of all African-American employees. (Id.). Mr. Ikwuezunma also told her that the African-American employees had aggressive looks that were not good for business. (Id.).

         On July 25, 2014, Ms. Reddick recorded a conversation between herself and Mr. Ikwuezunma. During the conversation, Ms. Reddick asked, “you said you need the white faces up there or whatever, however. Right?” (Doc. 27-9 at 2). Mr. Ikwuezunma responded, “[u]h-huh.” Ms. Reddick reiterated, “[y]ou said you just need that white look, ” and Mr. Ikwuezunma responded, “[u]h-huh. Well, not even really white. Diverse. If I can get Mexican, Spanish, any of that on here.” (Doc. 27-9 at 2). He then said, “[g]oing back to the white face, that was talking about people like Hunter when they were in valet because they need to soften up them people. Because you had Brandon Augusta. You had Leyette. They all aggressive personalities.” (Id.).

         On April 1 and 2, 2015, Ms. Reddick reported Mr. Ikwuezunma's “white face” comment to Republic's District Manager of the Eastern Division, Steve Bartlett, and Republic's Director of Human Resources, Jan Veal. On April 13, 2015, Ms. Reddick, Mr. Bartlett, and Ms. Veal participated in a conference call to discuss the “white face” comment. Ms. Veal apologized for Mr. Ikwuezunma during the conference call.

         Then, on April 15, 2015, Republic announced that Mr. Stewart would leave the Assistant Manager position. Republic decided to eliminate the Assistant Manager position and distribute the responsibilities of that position among Ms. Reddick and two other Team Leaders, Brandon Waugh and Jeremy High. Ms. Reddick contends that Republic never made her aware of the plan to split the Assistant Manager responsibilities.

         On June 1, 2015, Republic gave Ms. Reddick a raise from $13 an hour to a salary of $32, 900 annually.

         On September 22, 2015, Ms. Reddick filed a charge of race and sex discrimination with the EEOC based on Republic's hiring of Mr. Stewart as Assistant Manager, Mr. Ikwuezunma's statements that he needed to “soften up the look up front by having a white face up there” and “the whole staff up front is black and they all have an aggressive look, ” and the failure to promote her upon Mr. Stewart's departure. (Doc. 1-1 at 2-3).

         On June 16, 2016, Republic gave Ms. Reddick an annual salary raise to $34, 200.

         In March 2017, Republic informed Ms. Reddick that she would be responsible for auditing the Kirklin Clinc on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays by reconciling the cashiers' tickets to the payments received during the day. Republic also assigned auditing duties to Mr. Waugh and Mr. High. (See Doc. 27-18 at 1; Doc. 34-1 at ¶ 22).

         On May 4, 2017, within 90 days of receiving her right to sue notice from the EEOC on her September 22, 2015 charge of discrimination, Ms. Reddick filed this lawsuit. In her original complaint, she brought a race discrimination claim and a sex discrimination claim against Republic for its failure to promote her to Assistant Manager. ...


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