United States District Court, W.D. Tennessee, Western Division
For Ricky Taylor, Plaintiff: Robert Amann, AMANN LAW FIRM, Memphis, TN; Steven George Wilson, THE STEVE WILSON FIRM, Memphis, TN.
For Patrick R. Donahoe, Defendant: Gary A. Vanasek, U.S. ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, Memphis, TN.
ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
S. THOMAS ANDERSON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Before the Court is Defendant Patrick R. Donahoe's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 19), filed on June 16, 2014. Plaintiff Ricky Taylor filed a Response in Opposition to the Motion (ECF No. 23), to which the Defendant filed a Reply (ECF No. 32). For the reasons set forth below, Defendant's Motion is DENIED.
I. Plaintiff's Dismissal
Plaintiff Ricky Taylor alleges that the Defendant unlawfully dismissed him from his job for engaging in prior protected activity under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. (Pl.'s Compl. ¶ 27-28, ECF No. 1). From 1995 until his termination in May 2012, Taylor was employed as a city carrier at the East/Lamar Annex of the United States Postal Service. (Def.'s Statement of Undisputed Facts ¶ 1, ECF No. 23-1). On April 30, 2012, the Postal Service issued Plaintiff a Notice of Proposed Removal. ( Id. ¶ 2). In the notice,
the Postal Service charged that Taylor " expanded [his] street time, and worked unauthorized overtime" on 36 occasions from January 11, 2012, to April 11, 2012. ( Id. ¶ 2). On May 24, 2012, Postmaster Tracy Mofield issued a " Letter of Decision -- Removal" to Taylor, terminating Taylor from his employment with the Postal Service. ( Id. ¶ 3).
II. Postal Service Overtime Practices
Some of Taylor's previous discipline and the infractions for which he was allegedly fired are based on " unauthorized overtime." The Postal Service tasks carriers with casing and delivering a specific amount of mail on a specified route in a specified amount of time. (Def.'s Mem. Supp. Mot. for Summ. J. 13, ECF No. 19-2). The Postal Service sets time standards for completing delivery by generating a Route/Carrier Daily Performance/Analysis Report that projects the amount of time needed to complete a route. ( Id.). This Analysis Report takes into account the amount of the day's mail and the unique characteristics of the carrier's route. ( Id.). When a carrier like Taylor believes that he will need more time than allotted to complete delivery, he is required to consult with a morning supervisor and complete a " Form 3996" requesting " auxiliary assistance," which the supervisor may or may not authorize. (Def.'s Statement of Undisputed Facts ¶ 20). If, while on the route, the carrier experiences unanticipated difficulty in completing delivery in a timely manner, he or she is required to call the Station and request help or authorization of overtime. ( Id. ¶ 21). The supervisors at the Station have the discretion to send another carrier to help complete the route and to authorize or not authorize overtime. ( Id.). Calls to the Station are recorded in the " Station Call Back Log," which lists a " Reason for Call Back" and the manager's instructions in light of the carrier's request. ( Id. ¶ 25). The Call Back Log for the period of January 11, 2012, through April 11, 2012, shows that Taylor called the Station 16 times informing a manager that he would need additional time. Although these are the stated procedures of the USPS, Taylor argues that they were almost never followed by Lipford. Taylor alleges that other similarly situated carriers did not receive the same discipline based on these policies, and therefore, Lipford used the sparingly followed procedures as pretext for retaliation to recommend Taylor's termination.
III. Timeline of Discipline and Protected Activity
Station Manager Monica Lipford has been Taylor's supervisor for the relevant
period, and Taylor claims that the Defendant, through and because of Lipford's conduct, unlawfully terminated him. A timeline of events is necessary to understand both parties' arguments. On February 15, 2011, Taylor was issued a 14-day suspension based on alleged unauthorized overtime on two dates. (Pl.'s Response in Opp'n 3, ECF No. 23). Taylor challenged this suspension by filing a grievance, which was denied. (Def.'s Statement of Undisputed Facts ¶ 7). On February 24, 2011 Taylor was placed on " Emergency Placement Off-Duty" status after Lipford accused him of leaving his motor vehicle running while away from the vehicle, a violation of Postal Service policies. (Pl.'s Response in Opp'n 3). Taylor filed a grievance on this discipline, and on March 26, 2011, a " Dispute Resolution Team" determined that Lipford's action was excessive. (Def.'s Statement of Undisputed Facts ¶ 7). On March 30, 2011, Lipford issued a 14-day suspension based on the same incident. Taylor filed a formal EEO Complaint on May 4, 2011, alleging that Lipford's actions amounted to discrimination, but Taylor " did not pursue this complaint." ( Id.).
In October 2011, Lipford authorized a Notice of Proposed Removal for Taylor based on unauthorized overtime and missed scans. (Def.'s Statement of Undisputed Facts ¶ 9). On October 21, 2011, the Postmaster issued a Letter of Decision on the Proposed Removal, terminating Taylor. (Pl.'s Response in Opp'n 4). Taylor filed a grievance on this decision and was successful. (Def.'s Mem. in Supp. 3). As a result, the Notice of Proposed Removal and Letter of Decision were " rescinded and purged" from Taylor's file. (Pl.'s Response in Opp'n 4). Then, on November 14, 2011, Plaintiff filed an informal EEO complaint alleging race, religion, sex, and age discrimination with respect to the October 2011 Notice of Proposed Removal and subsequent Letter of Decision. (Def.'s Statement of Undisputed Facts ¶ 8). An EEO Dispute Specialist made an inquiry into the situation and talked to Lipford to arrange a meeting with Taylor. ( Id. ¶ 10-11). Taylor presents evidence that in December 2011, Lipford knew of Taylor's EEO Complaint. (Pl.'s Response in Opp'n 13). Taylor filed a formal administrative employment discrimination complaint on December 24, 2011, asserting that the Notice of Proposed Removal and Letter of Decision issued in October 2011 were the result of discrimination. (Def.'s Statement of Undisputed Facts ¶ 13). During her investigation of this matter, the EEO Dispute Specialist conducted interviews and ultimately determined that the complaint was moot in light of the reversal of the October Letter of Decision. (Def.'s Statement of Undisputed Facts ¶ 8, 10-12).
The case before the Court was set in motion on April 30, 2012, when Supervisor Danny Andrews issued a proposed Notice of Proposed Removal to Plaintiff for alleged unauthorized overtime. ( Id. ¶ 16). Monica Lipford signed the Notice of Proposed Removal as the " concurring official," but Taylor presents evidence that Andrews was not involved with the decision.
( Id.; Pl.'s Response in Opp'n 6). On May 24, 2012, Postmaster Tracy Mofield affirmed the Notice of Proposed Removal in a Letter of Decision, terminating Taylor. (Pl.'s Response in Opp'n 7). Taylor then exhausted all of his administrative remedies and filed his Complaint in this action. (Pl.'s Compl., ECF No. 1).
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) provides that a party is entitled to summary judgment if the moving party " shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law."  In reviewing a motion for summary judgment, the court views the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, and it " may not make credibility determinations or weigh the evidence."  When the motion is supported by documentary proof such as depositions and affidavits, the nonmoving party may not rest on his pleadings but, rather, must present some " specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial."  It is not sufficient " simply [to] show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts."  These facts must be more than a scintilla of evidence and must meet the standard of whether a reasonable juror could find by a preponderance of the evidence that the nonmoving party is entitled to a verdict. When determining if summary judgment is appropriate, the Court should ask " 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."  In this Circuit, the nonmoving party must " put up or shut up" as to the ...