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COLEMAN v. TENNESSEE

December 1, 1993

BRENDA M. COLEMAN
v.
STATE OF TENNESSEE



The opinion of the court was delivered by: JOHN T. NIXON

 Pending before the Court in the above-styled case are Plaintiff's Motion For Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 37), to which Defendant has filed an Opposition (Doc. No. 46); Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 45), to which Plaintiff has filed an Opposition (Doc. No. 51); and Plaintiff's Supplemental Motion For Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 55), to which Defendant has filed an Opposition (Doc. No. 61). On November 18, 1993, the Court heard oral arguments from the parties on the parties' respective Motions. For the reasons stated below, the Court denies Plaintiff's Motions, and denies in part and grants in part Defendant's Motion.

 I. BACKGROUND

 Plaintiff Brenda M. Coleman brings this action under 42 U.S.C. § 2000(e) et seq., Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, for unlawful race and sex discrimination in employment. (Compl., Doc. No. 1, at 1.) Plaintiff alleges that Defendant State of Tennessee violated her rights under Title VII by illegally exposing her to a racially and sexually hostile work environment; discriminating against her on the basis of race and sex in promotions; and retaliating against her after she filed a charge with the Tennessee Human Rights Commission. (Doc. No. 1-3, at; Pl.'s Mot. Summ. J., Doc. No. 37, at 1, 24-29.) As well, Plaintiff asserts that Defendant violated Tenn. Code Ann. § 8-30-320 by failing to consider affirmative action goals or policies in its determination of which employees' positions would be eliminated under a Reduction-In-Force ["RIF"]. (Doc. No. 37, at 20.)

 Plaintiff seeks back pay with prejudgment interest, front pay, retirement benefits, and declaratory and injunctive relief. (Doc. No. 1, at 1, 3; Doc. No. 37, at 1; Pl.'s Supplemental Mot. Summ. J., Doc. No. 55, at 7.)

 Plaintiff ["Dr. Coleman"] is an African-American female. (Doc. No. 1, at 1.) She graduated from Fisk University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1965, and received a Master of Science degree in guidance and counseling from Tennessee State University in 1970. (Doc. No. 37, at 2.)

 In April 1971, Dr. Coleman began working for Defendant as a Field Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor II, grade 18, in the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation of the State Department of Education. In 1984, while working for Defendant, Dr. Coleman received a Doctorate in education and psychology from Tennessee State University. (Doc. No. 37, at 2.)

 Dr. Coleman was promoted twice during her employment with Defendant, in 1973 and 1975. (Doc. No. 37, at 2-3.) From 1975 until October 31, 1987, Dr. Coleman remained in the position of Education Specialist, grade 23, in the Central Office of Vocational Rehabilitation. (Id.) In her position as Education Specialist, Dr. Coleman's job performance was rated "good" to "superior" to "exceptional." (Ex. 25, Dep. Mathews, Doc. No. 41; Dep. Lee, Doc. No. 42, at 80.) While serving in that position, Dr. Coleman was the only black and only female working in a professional capacity in the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation. Id., at 27.)

 While working in the Central Office, Dr. Coleman alleges that she was exposed to a longstanding pattern of racial hostility from her white male co-workers. (Aff. Coleman, Doc. No. 38, at 3.) In 1978, Dr. Coleman claims that most of the white male Agency Directors, including William Williams, James Gardner, James Brooks, Jack Van Hooser, Richard Childs, Carl Corlew, Sidney Corban, gathered in the office adjacent to hers during lunch and that during one of these lunches several of the men began telling "nigger" jokes very loudly. (Doc. No. 38, at 3; Pl.'s Resp. First Interrogs., Doc. No. 49, at 5-6.) Dr. Coleman reported this incident and the men involved were required to apologize. (Def.'s Resp. Pl.'s Statement Material Facts, Doc. No. 47, at 2.)

 Between 1975 and 1987, Dr. Coleman was not promoted. (Doc. No. 37, at 3; Doc. No. 47, at 2.) During that same time period, the following white co-workers received promotions: (1) In July 1983, James Brooks, a white male, was promoted from Vocational Rehabilitation Supervisor, grade 23, to Rehabilitation Director, grade 27; (2) in July 1983, Jack Van Hooser, a white male, was promoted from Rehabilitation Director, Grade 27, to Rehabilitation Director, grade 30; (3) in July 1983, Phillip Wagster, was promoted from Rehabilitation Supervisor, grade 23, to Rehabilitation Director, grade 27; (4) in July 1983, William Williams, a white male, was appointed Director of Policy, Planning, and Program Development; (5) in July 1983, Theresa Thornhill, a white female, was promoted to Director of Research and Training; (6) in July 1983, Frank Lee, a white male, was promoted to Director of Field Operations; (7) on September 1, 1983, William Archie, a white male, was promoted to Assistant Director of Field Operations; (8) in March 1984, Mr. Lee assumed the position of Director of the Special Programs Unit, where he also served as Dr. Coleman's supervisor; (9) on February 1, 1985, Sherry Harrison, a white female, was promoted to Assistant Commissioner of the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation; (10) in October 1985, Joseph Sharrer, a white male, was promoted from Superintendent of the Rehabilitation Center to Assistant Commissioner of Vocational Rehabilitation Services; (11) on July 14, 1986, Mr. Lee assumed the position of Director of Planning; and (12) in February 1987, Patsy Mathews, a white female was promoted to Assistant Commissioner of Vocational Rehabilitation Services. (Doc. No. 37, at 12-18; Doc. No. 49, at 11-12, 14-15.)

 After the promotions in July 1983, Dr. Coleman alleges that Mr. Williams told her that the reason "they pushed you out was because you have two problems, you're black and you're female." (Doc. No. 38, at 3; Doc. No. 49, at 7-8.)

 Dr. Coleman alleges that she was not promoted due to her race and gender, and that she was highly-qualified for the promotions which other employees received. (Doc. No. 37, at 3, 12-18; Doc. No. 49, at 11-12, 14-15.) As well, Dr. Coleman states that Defendant did not advertize the positions as being available and that, as a result, Dr. Coleman was excluded from applying for such positions. (Doc. No. 37, at 12-18; Doc. No. 49, at 11-12, 14-15.) Defendant disputes Dr. Coleman's claim that the positions were not publicly announced and asserts that Civil Service rules and regulations were followed. (Doc. 47, at 2.)

 On March 18, 1987, Dr. Coleman alleges that Mr. Lee told her that the Special Program Unit in Rehabilitation "was set up to save three people, you, Richard Childs, and me because they didn't want Richard at Smyrna and because nobody (pointing to indicate the entire Rehabilitation Office) wanted to work with you. Now none of these people want you in no parts of any program areas, nobody wants you nowhere anywhere in Rehabilitation." (Doc. No. 38, at 3; Ex. 6, Doc. 41; Doc. No. 49, at 9.)

 On March 30, 1987, Dr. Coleman submitted a letter to Assistant Commissioner Mathews as an informal complaint about "equal access to promotional opportunity." (Ex. 6, Doc. 41.) Dr. Coleman alleges that her charges were never taken seriously nor investigated. (Doc. No. 38, at 4.) On April 24, 1987, Assistant Commissioner Mathews responded by letter to Dr. Coleman's complaint. (Ex. 9, Doc. No. 41.) Ms. Mathews noted that she would only address Dr. Coleman's allegation regarding about Mr. Lee's March 18, 1987, comment because it was the only incident that occurred after Ms. Mathews had become Assistant Commissioner in February 1987. (Id.) Assistant Commissioner Mathews stated that it was her opinion that Dr. Coleman's "differences" were "more a lack of effective communication than harassment, malice, or discrimination." (Id., at 2.)

 On May 14, 1987, and on May 29, 1987, Plaintiff filed a charge of race and sex discrimination against Defendant with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ["EEOC"] and the Tennessee Human Rights Commission ["THRC"], respectively. (Doc. No. 38, at 5; Ex. 10, Dep. Mathews, Doc. No. 41.) Dr. Coleman's charges were delivered to Commissioner Min on June 11, 1987. (Doc. No. 49, at 16.)

 On June 16, 1987, Dr. Coleman amended her charge of discrimination filed with the THRC to add a claim for unlawful retaliation. (Ex. 19, Doc. No. 41.)

 On June 18, 1987, Assistant Commissioner Mathews stated in a memorandum that Plaintiff's position was being eliminated because she had less seniority than another employee whose position was originally targeted. (Ex. 16, Doc. No. 41.) As well, Assistant Commissioner Mathews stated that "at no time subsequent to Dr. Coleman's discrimination complaint was her position eliminated solely because of the fact that she made such a complaint." (Ex. 18, Doc. No. 41.) Assistant Commissioner Mathews did not consider the Division's affirmative action policy before eliminating Dr. Coleman's position. (Doc. No. 47, at 4.)

 On October 23, 1987, Dr. Coleman received a letter from Nancy Min, Commissioner of the Department of Human Services, advising her that the Personnel Section had been unable to locate a comparable position for her, but that she would be offered the position of Rehabilitation Counselor 2, grade 18, at the Nashville field office. (Ex. 21, Doc. No. 41.) Dr. Coleman was instructed that her salary would remain the same. (Id.) As well, Commissioner Min notified Dr. Coleman that if she failed to accept the offer she would be considered "in laid off status on October 31, 1987." (Id.)

 On October 31, 1987, Dr. Coleman accepted the offer and was demoted from grade 23 to grade 18 and transferred to her new position. (Doc. 47, at 1-2; Ex. 7, Doc. No. 62, at 4.)

 On November 9, 1987, Candy Young, a white female, was transferred from outside the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation to the position of Staff Development Officer for Rehabilitation, grade 24. (Doc. No. 47, at 5; Doc. No. 49, at 15.) Ms. Young performed some of the responsibilities that Dr. Coleman had previously performed. (Dep. Lee, Doc. No. 42, at 123.)

 On November 22, 1988, Dr. Coleman alleges that she became ill and unable to return to work. (Doc. No. 38, at 6.) Dr. Coleman claims that her health deteriorated and her diabetic condition worsened as a result of the stress and humiliation she alleges she suffered as a result of the acts of Defendant. (Id.; Doc. No. 49, at 19.)

 On December 15, 1988, Dr. Coleman received a Right to Sue letter from the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice. (Doc. No. 1, at 3.) On March 14, 1989, Dr. ...


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