United States District Court, S.D. Alabama, Southern Division
K. DuBOSE CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the Court on Defendant's Motion for
Summary Judgment and Brief in Support of Its Motion for
Summary Judgment (Doc. 29), Plaintiff's Brief in
Opposition to Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgement
(Doc. 32), and Defendant's Reply Brief (Doc. 35). For the
reasons herein, the Defendant's motion for summary
judgment is DENIED.
Boyd Stevens (Stevens) worked as a non-tenured Social Studies
teacher at Calloway-Smith middle school for the 2015-2016
school term. (Doc. 29 at 3; Doc. 33-2, Aff. Stevens at 1).
Stevens was non-renewed on May 25, 2016 because
Calloway-Smith lost two teaching units. (Doc. 32-15, P. Ex.
16; Doc. 32-27, P. Ex. 37; Doc. 33-10, Depo. Stevens at 2;
Doc. 33-4, Depo. Bryan Hack at 3; Doc. 33-5, Depo. Dorothy
Walton at 16-17). Non-renewal was customary for non-tenured
teachers. (Doc. 33-4, Depo. Hack at 2; Doc. 33-5, Depo.
Walton at 17). Stevens maintained her qualifications and
certification to teach grades 4-12 in the state of Alabama.
(Doc. 33-2, Aff. Stevens at 1).
Stevens was notified of her non-renewal, Stevens contends her
inactive status was entered into the payroll system and
NEXGEN; she also asserts Human Resources processed this
change, updating her employment status to
‘inactive'. (Doc. 32-27, P. Ex. 37; Doc. 33-6,
Depo. Gretchen Lang at 12-14; Doc. 33-4, Depo. Hack at 3-4;
Doc. 33-8, Depo. Mavis Hayes at 3-5).Further, the Board utilizes a
system of checks and balances to ensure inactive employees
are flagged as inactive. (Doc. 33-6, Depo. Lang at 5-6; Doc.
33-8, Depo. M. Hayes at 3-5). The NEXGEN system typically
shows an employee's separation date when the employee is
non-renewed. (Doc. 33-6, Depo. Lang at 5-6; Doc. 33-8, Depo.
M. Hayes at 3-5).
12, 2016, the Calloway-Smith Assistant Principal Ronald
Horner (Horner) contacted Stevens to notify her she
“would be rehired for the upcoming school year and to
give her a schedule of when she could come to the school to
prepare her classroom.” (Doc. 33-10, Depo. Stevens at
5-6; Doc. 33-3, Aff. Horner 1). There is a dispute about when the
unit that Stevens eventually occupied became available. (Doc.
33-3, Aff. Horner at 1 (noting his task to contact teachers
who had been hired and assigned approved units for the
upcoming 2016-2017 school year in July 2016); compare
with Doc. 33-9, Depo. Nina Hayes at 23-26; and
Doc. 30-6, Aff. Walton at 3 (each stating the unit at issue
became available at the end of August 2016)).
13, 2016, Horner sent an email to Calloway-Smith staff for
the 2016-2017 school term, with information about deadlines
to have classrooms ready and information about a meeting
scheduled for August 8, 2016. (Doc. 32-16, P. Ex.
The email stated in relevant parts, “Your classroom
should be completed no later than July 29,
2016…” (Id.). Stevens arranged with
Horner after receiving this email to have him set up her
classroom for her while she was out. (Doc. 33-3, Aff. Horner
at 2; Doc. 33-10, Depo. Stevens at 7).
26, 2016, Stevens requested a 21-day maternity leave to run
from August 6, 2016 through September 7, 2016. (Doc. 32-8, P.
Ex. 7; Doc. 32-29, P. Ex. 40 (confirming receipt of
Stevens' leave application). Stevens requested a
substitute teacher to cover her absence. (Doc. 32-8, P. Ex.
7). George Smith (Smith), the Employee Relations Supervisor,
approved her leave request on September 16, 2016. (Doc. 33-4,
Depo. Hack at 15, 16; Doc. 33-10, Depo. Stevens at 14-16).
Clark-Jackson (Clark) accepted a position at Calloway-Smith
on July 25, 2016, as a 7thgrade Social Studies
teacher for the ‘Green' section. (Doc. 32-3, P. Ex.
1; Doc. 33-7, Depo. Clark at 5-10; Doc. 33-4, Depo. Hack at
31; Doc. 33-5, Depo. Walton at 18-19). Stevens was re-hired
for the other Social Studies unit-the Yellow
unit. (Doc. 33-5, Depo. Walton at 18; Doc. 33-7,
Depo. Clark at 8-10).
August 3, 2016, Stevens was issued an assignment card by Nina
Hayes (N. Hayes), Personnel Administrator. (Doc. 32-10, P.
Ex. 9; but see Doc. 32-11, P. Ex. 10 (reflecting a
September 7, 2016 start date)). Assignment cards are created
and given to HR in order to enter employees into the NEXGEN
system for active employees. (Doc. 33-8, Depo. M. Hayes at
2-8; Doc. 33-11, Depo. Theda Rhodes 7-8). Assignment cards
indicate an employee can be rehired. (Doc. 33-4, Depo. Hack
at 13). The Personnel Administrator typically completes the
assignment card after speaking with the principal and the
employee to ensure the employee can return to the school.
Board approved Stevens at the September 7, 2016 Board meeting
at which Stevens' position was listed as a vacancy. (Doc.
33-4, Depo. Hack at 16-17; Doc. 32-26, P. Ex. 36; Doc. 32-28,
P. Ex. 39). Stevens was submitted for Board review again
October 28, 2016. (Doc. 32-30, P. Ex. 42). It is possible for
employees to begin work prior to obtaining Board approval.
(Doc. 33-4, Depo. Hack 5-6, 25).
about August 3, 2016, Stevens told N. Hayes her doctor
cleared her to return to work after September 7, 2016 due to
the birth of her child. (Doc. 33-12, P. Ex. 11; Doc. Doc.
33-2, Aff. Stevens at 3; Doc. 33-9, Depo. N. Hayes at 21).
Stevens contends N. Hayes confirmed Stevens' position as
a 7th grade Social Studies teacher in July 2016
when Stevens notified N. Hayes of her need to start working
in September. (Doc. 33-2, Aff. Stevens at 3). N. Hayes denies
Stevens' position existed until August 31, 2016. (Doc.
33-9, Depo. N. Hayes at 22-24).
August, Stevens received emails regarding professional
development at Calloway-Smith and a welcome letter; she
received notice of her classroom assignment, she was assigned
active students, given a class schedule and given a roster of
students. (Doc. 32-4, P. Ex. 2; Doc. 32-5, P. Ex. 3; Doc.
32-17, P. Ex. 23; Doc. 32-22, P. Ex. 28; Doc. 32-25, P. Ex.
35; but see Doc. 33-5, Depo. Walton at 32 (stating
these items were delivered in error)).
was also entered into the Kronos system and issued a timecard
for payroll. (Doc. 32-32, Doc. P. Ex. 49; Doc. 32-33, P. Ex.
50; Doc. 33-12, Depo. Torshea Bettis at 17; Doc. 33-8, Depo.
M. Hayes at 18; but see Doc. 33-5, Depo. Walton at
30 (stating Stevens was in the system in error). Only Board
approved employees are entered into the payroll system. (Doc.
33-8, Depo. M. Hayes at 14). She was listed as an active
employee by the Board and listed as absent on maternity
leave. (Doc. 32-25, P. Ex. 35; Doc. 32-32, P. Ex. 49; Doc.
32-37, P. Ex. 57; Doc. 32-38, P. Ex. 58; Doc. 33-4, Depo Hack
at 9-10; Doc. 33-11, Depo. Rhodes at 3, 7). Her absences were
logged in the payroll systems and Stevens was listed as
absent with a substitute covering her absences. (Doc. 32-32,
P. Ex. 49; Doc. 33-11, Depo. Rhodes at 3).
is the system that the Board uses to secure a substitute
teacher and to record employee absences. (Doc. 33-12, Depo.
Bettis at 11-13). Torshea Bettis is the Bookkeeper at
Calloway-Smith and is responsible for inputting absences into
AESOP. (Id. at 11). Bettis testified she first
confirms a classroom requiring a substitute exists; she then
acquires the principal's approval before securing a
substitute. (Id. at 13-14). Mazadaline Taylor states
she was hired to substitute for Stevens' Social Studies
class during Stevens' absence at the beginning of the
2016-2017 school year. (Doc. 33-1, Aff. Taylor at 1; Doc.
33-12, Depo. Bettis at 11; but see Doc. 32-35, P.
Ex. 53 (Hack emailing “…one of the things I
heard but did not understand was that there was a a sub in
robin [sic] stevens place from the beginning of the school
year, yet robin [sic] was hired into the new position that
was added after the school year
started.”). Others state Taylor was not secured as a
substitute for a specific classroom because that unit did not
exist yet. (Doc. 33-5, Depo. Walton at 20-22; Doc. 33-12,
Depo. Bettis at 9). On August 23, 2016, Stevens was notified
that her substitute request starting August 10, 2016 had been
fulfilled; the notice also requested Stevens leave the sub,
Taylor, feedback. (Doc. 32-18, P. Ex. 24).
August 25, 2016, Stevens received an email with access
information to INow, a grading system with students records.
(Doc. 32-21, P. Ex. 27; Doc. 33-2, Aff. Stevens at 5).
Stevens states she spoke with Taylor to get an update on her
students' progress while Stevens was absent. (Doc. 33-2,
Aff. Stevens at 4).
September 15, 2016, Stevens received notification that her
maternity leave had been approved from August 8, 2016 through
September 7, 2016. (Doc. 32-29, P. Ex. 40; Doc. 33-4 Depo.
Hack at 20; Doc. 33-11, Depo. Rhodes at 10; and see
Doc. 33-6, Depo. Lang at 9-10 (explaining an employee's
active status is checked prior to granting maternity
leave)). Stevens requested to borrow leave from the
Sick Leave Bank on September 15, 2016. (Doc. 32-37, P. Ex.
57). The Sick Leave Bank Committee and Smith both separately
approved her borrowed leave request on September 20, 2016.
(Doc. 32-15, P. Ex. 16, Doc. 32-37, P. Ex. 57; Doc.32-38, P.
Ex. 58). Lang, an employee relations clerk with the Board,
wrote Stevens on September 22, 2016 asking if Stevens wished
to borrow two additional sick leave days in order to be
eligible to receive a paycheck. (Doc. 32-8, P. Ex. 7; Doc.
33-10, Depo. Stevens 16-18). Stevens requested two additional
days be donated which Lang then processed. (Doc. 33-2, Aff.
Stevens at 5; Doc. 32-38, P. Ex. 58).
September, Stevens' ‘active' employment status
was changed to reflect September 7, 2016 as her start date,
Stevens' status as absent in time and payroll records
deleted, and her leave was deleted from the Kronos/AESOP
systems. (Doc. 32-7, P. Ex. 6; Doc. 32-15, P. Ex. 16; Doc.
32- 32, P. Ex. 49; Doc. 32-33, P. Ex. 50; Doc. 33-6, Depo.
Lang at 13; Doc. 33-11, Depo. Rhodes at 5-7, 13). Stevens
Employee Action Form was also revised on September 22, 2016
to reflect a September 7, 2016 hire date. (Doc. 32-10, P. Ex.
was also notified September 22, 2016, her maternity leave
request was approved in error after realizing Stevens was
non-renewed and that she had a start date of September 7,
2016. (Doc. 32-7, P. Ex. 6; Doc. 32-34, P. Ex. 51; Doc.
32-28, P. Ex. 58). Smith notified Lang that Stevens'
medical leave approval also needed to be rescinded. (Doc.
33-6, Depo. Lang at 15, 18).
Board argues the changes were made to correct past errors;
Stevens contends these changes were motivated by her sex and
pregnancy. Stevens asserted discrimination complaints on
September 26, 2016. (Doc. 32-23, P. Ex. 29; Doc. 32-24, P.
Ex. 31). On September 30, 2016, Stevens was told her rehire
date was September 7, 2016 and as such, she was responsible
for all health insurance payments during her leave. (Doc.
33-2, Aff. Stevens at 6-7; Doc. 33-10, Depo. Stevens at
22-23). Stevens elected Cobra to extend her medical and
health insurance for herself and her newborn for the interim
period. (Id. at 17).
filed a Charge of Discrimination with the EEOC on January 5,
2017. (Doc. 32-36, P. Ex. 56). Smith responded on behalf of
the Board. (Doc. 33-4, Depo. Hack 24). This response stated
Stevens' rehire date was September 7, 2016, because of a
concern with Stevens' ability to return to work; it did
not reference a lack of assignable teaching unit. (Doc.
32-12, P. Ex. 11).
EEOC issued a letter on April 12, 2018 finding the Board
discriminated against Stevens on the basis of her pregnancy.
(Doc. 32-39, P. Ex. 59). The Department of Justice issued
Stevens a Right to Sue June 14, 2018. (Doc. 32-40, P. Ex.
60). Stevens brought this action against the Mobile County
Board of School Commissioners (the Board) August, 9, 2018.
Standard of Review
court shall grant summary judgment 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.”