United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division
ANNEMARIE CARNEY AXON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the court is Defendant Birmingham Board of Education’s
(“the Board”) motion for summary judgment. (Doc.
Robert Morgan, a Caucasian man, filed this lawsuit against
the Board, alleging that (1) the Board engaged in race and
color discrimination, in violation of Title VII of the Civil
Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq.
(“Count One”); (2) the Board engaged in race and
color discrimination, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981
(“Count Two”); (3) the Board retaliated against
him, in violation of Title VII, based on his complaints of
discrimination (“Count Three”); and (4) the Board
retaliated against him, in violation of § 1981, based on
his complaints of discrimination (“Count Four”).
(Doc. 1 at 7–16).
court WILL GRANT the Board’s motion
for summary judgment and WILL ENTER SUMMARY
JUDGMENT in favor of the Board and against Mr.
Morgan because he has not presented evidence from which a
reasonable jury could find that the Board engaged in race or
color discrimination, nor has he presented evidence that the
Board declined to interview or hire him based on his engaging
in a protected activity.
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) (quotation marks omitted).
Morgan began working for the Birmingham Board of Education in
1997. (Doc. 36-5 at 2 ¶ 3). By 2016 he was working as
the Director of the Capital Improvement Projects
(“CIP”) Department. (See doc. 36-1 at 8,
84; doc. 36-3 at 37). The CIP Department employed four
people: Mr. Morgan (the Director of the department), Cecil
Eric Love (a project manager), Julian Woods (a project
manager), and Lauren Gardner (a project manager). (Doc. 36-3
at 37). Mr. Love, Mr. Woods, and Ms. Gardner are all
African-American. (Id.). In total, the salaries and
benefits of all four department employees amounted to about
$384, 163.05 per year. (Doc. 36-6 at 3).
lawsuit, Mr. Morgan challenges as discriminatory and
retaliatory three separate aspects of his employment with the
Board: a demotion after the Board eliminated the CIP
Department; a failure to interview him for another Director
position; and the decision to hire an African-American who
Mr. Morgan asserts is less qualified than him for that
Director position. (See Doc. 1 at 7–15).
and 2016, the CIP Department was working on a renovation of
Norwood Elementary School. (See Doc. 36-1 at 92).
The general contractor, A.G. Gaston Construction Company
(“A.G. Gaston”), was founded by a famous
African-American (see doc. 46 at 11), and employed
“minority subcontractors” (doc. 47-4 at 85). At
some point, Mr. Morgan complained to his supervisors about
the quality and timeliness of work done by A.G. Gaston and
its subcontractors. (Doc. 36-1 at 20– 22). In January
2016, A.G. Gaston’s vice president asked to meet with
Mr. Morgan at the work site and insisted that he and Mr.
Morgan sit inside a car while leaving their cell phones on
top of the car. (Id. at 17–18). He told Mr.
Morgan that he had just left a meeting with A.G.
Gaston’s president and the superintendent and that
although Mr. Morgan had “been good to work with, . . .
there will be changes on this project.” (Id.).
next day, Mr. Morgan’s supervisor issued him a letter
of reprimand blaming him for the failure to complete the
Norwood renovation on time. (Doc. 36-1 at 22, 90–91).
Mr. Morgan responded with a letter of rebuttal, stating that
he was not responsible for the failure to complete the
project on time. (Id. at 92).
month later, the superintendent recommended eliminating the
CIP Department, and the Board approved that recommendation.
(Doc. 36-5 at 3 ¶ 4). Mr. Morgan contends that the
elimination of the department was a pretext to retaliate
against him for complaining about the minority-owned A.G.
Gaston and its subcontractors. (Doc. 46 at 37–38). The
superintendent, however, testified that she recommended
eliminating the CIP Department as a way to save money for the
school district because the Norwood renovation “was, if
not the last, it was one of the last projects in the [capital
projects] campaign. And we were trying to see how could we
prevent having to go into the general fund to continue to pay
for capital needs as those capital funds were running
out.” (Doc. 36-2 at 7, 11). She also testified that she
could not remember Mr. Morgan criticizing the general
contractor or any subcontractors working on the Norwood
project. (Doc. 36-9 at 3–4).
Board approved the superintendent’s recommendation to
eliminate the CIP Department. (Doc. 36-5 at 3 ¶ 4). The
Board terminated the two probationary employees, Mr. Woods
and Ms. Gardner (doc. 36-3 at 37; Doc. 36-5 at 4 ¶ 4;
Doc. 36-6 at 4–5), but it offered to
“transfer” the two most senior members of the
Department, Mr. Morgan and Mr. Love, into the Facilities and
Maintenance Department, which had openings for two project
managers (doc. 36-5 at 3–4 ¶ 4). Mr. Love, who had
been working as a project manager for the CIP Department,
accepted the transfer, retaining the same
salary. (Doc. 36-5 at 3 ¶ 4). Mr. Morgan,
whose position would change from director to project manager,
involving a reduction in his salary from $89, 947 to $72, 331
(doc. 36-1 at 84), contested the proposed demotion. (Doc.
36-5 at 5 ¶ 5).
November 9 and 21, 2016, the Board held an evidentiary
hearing on Mr. Morgan’s challenge to his demotion.
(Doc. 36-5 at 5 ¶ 5). On November 9, Mr. Morgan
testified that he believed the superintendent had recommended
his demotion because he had complained about the work done by
“minority subcontractors being used by A.G.
Gaston.” (Doc. 47-4 at 85, 95).
the hearing, the Board voted to approve Mr. Morgan’s
transfer. (Doc. 36-5 at 5 ¶ 5; Doc. 36-6 at 10). Mr.
Morgan administratively appealed the Board’s decision,
and a hearing officer affirmed the demotion to the position
of project manager with the Facilities and Maintenance
Department. (Doc. 36-5 at 5; Doc. 36-6 at 11–12). Mr.
Morgan did not appeal the hearing officer’s decision.
(Doc. 36-5 at 5).
the Board eliminated the CIP Department, it contracted with a
company called BLOC Global to consult on capital projects.
(Doc. 36-5 at 4 n.4). From January to November 2016, the
Board paid BLOC Global “just over $53, 000” out
of funds allocated to the capital improvement ...