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Ewing-Carodine v. Shelby County Schools

United States District Court, W.D. Tennessee, Western Division

January 5, 2015

MARSHA M. EWING-CARODINE, DEBRA F. HARDEN-HUBBARD, and FANNIE M. VAUGHT, Plaintiff,
v.
SHELBY COUNTY SCHOOLS, a public school district, f/k/a MEMPHIS CITY SCHOOLS, Defendants.

ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFFS' MOTION FOR PARTIAL SUMMARY JUDGMENT AND DIRECTING PLAINTIFFS TO SUBMIT SUPPLEMENTAL BRIEF

S. THOMAS ANDERSON, District Judge.

Before the Court is the Plaintiffs' Motion for Partial Summary Judgment filed November 14, 2014. (ECF No. 29). The Defendant filed a Response in Opposition to the Motion on December 12, 2014, as well as a statement of additional facts. (ECF No. 45). The Plaintiffs have not filed a Reply to the Defendant's Response. Under the Local Rules for this District, the Plaintiffs had 14 days after the Response was served to file their Reply. L.R. 56(c). The Local Rules state that "[f]ailure to respond to... a non-moving party's statement of additional facts... within the time periods provided by these rules shall indicate that the asserted facts are not disputed for purposes of summary judgment." L.R. 56(d). Therefore, for the purposes of the Motion before the Court, the Defendant's additional facts are not disputed.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiffs Marsha Ewing-Carodine, Debra Harden-Hubbard, and Fannie Vaught are former or current employees of Shelby County Schools:[1] Ms. Ewing-Carodine from 2001 until 2010; Ms. Harden-Hubbard from 1998 until 2010; and Ms. Vaught from 1982 until present. (Pls.' Facts ¶ 1, ECF No. 45-1). They allege that the Defendant engaged in unlawful employment practices under Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, on the basis of race and retaliation and that Defendants have violated the Equal Pay Act, 29 U.S.C. § 206(d). The Plaintiffs now seek summary judgment on their retaliation claim.

I. Ewing-Carodine and Harden-Hubbard

On March 13, 2009, Ewing-Carodine, Harden-Hubbard, and non-party Ms. Sunnell Williams submitted an internal complaint to Memphis City Schools ("MCS") Chief of Staff Dr. Alfred Hall. (Def.'s Facts ¶ 5, ECF No. 45-2).[2] In the internal complaint, Ewing-Carodine, Harden-Hubbard, and Williams informed Dr. Hall of "unfair hiring practices and unequal pay" that they allegedly endured at the hands of Ms. Willie Slate, Executive Director of Careers, Technology and Adult Education ("CTAE"). (Pls.' Facts ¶ 2, ECF No. 33-2). The March 13, 2009 internal complaint alleges no discrimination under Title VII. It informs MCS that certain job-posting requirements and pay-scale policies were not being followed, with no mention of prohibited discrimination. Furthermore, Vaught is not mentioned in the document and is not a signatory to the document.

Shortly after writing and sending the internal complaint, Slate met with Ewing-Carodine and Harden-Hubbard, but the parties dispute the substance of conversation at that meeting. ( See Pls.' Facts ¶¶ 3-5; Def.'s Responses ¶¶ 3-5, ECF No. 45-1). Ewing-Carodine and Harden Hubbard allege that they then "began to experience changes in the workplace" and heard rumors that they would be fired. (Pls.' Facts ¶ 6-7). In April 2009, Slate denied Ewing-Carodine's request to attend a conference in Anaheim, California. ( Id. ¶ 8-9). On June 15, 2009, Ewing-Carodine and Harden-Hubbard received letters stating that their interim positions would end on June 30, 2009. ( Id. ¶ 17). The Defendant asserts that Ewing-Carodine and Harden-Hubbard's positions were at all times "interim." Thus, when MCS lifted a hiring freeze, Slate could post the interim positions as permanent positions, and Ewing-Carodine and Harden-Hubbard would have an opportunity to apply for the positions on a permanent basis or be placed elsewhere within MCS. (Def.'s Responses ¶ 19).

By this time, Dr. Hall had referred the internal complaint to MCS's Department of Labor Relations and Equity Compliance for investigation. (Def.'s Facts ¶ 6). Labor Relations Coordinator Chantay Branch and Equity Compliance Specialist Andrea Scales investigated the complaint. ( Id. ). On August 6, 2009, HR employees Branch and Scales presented their written findings to Dr. Hall regarding the internal complaint. Their findings did not support the allegations made by the complainants, but they still recommended that Ewing-Carodine and Harden-Hubbard receive their positions on a permanent basis and that Harden-Hubbard receive a step increase in pay grade. (Def.'s Facts ¶ 7-8). The three complainants-one of whom is not a party to this action-then sent Superintendent Kriner Cash a letter complaining about that investigation. ( Id. ¶ 9-10). MCS responded by hiring a local attorney to conduct an independent investigation; he uncovered no evidence of retaliation. ( Id. ¶ 11). The next year, MCS notified Slate that it would reduce CTAE's budget by $1.6 million, and Ewing-Carodine and Harden-Hubbard were told that their positions were being eliminated from the CTAE budget. ( Id. ¶ 13). The Defendant asserts that Slate eliminated 17 of the 36 positions funded by the same grant that funded Ewing-Carodine and Harden-Hubbard's positions. ( Id. ¶ 15). Ewing-Carodine and Harden-Hubbard had held their respective positions for less time than others, and therefore, their positions were terminated. ( Id. ). They filed identical EEOC charges of discrimination on June 7, 2010. (Pls.' Compl. ¶ 5-9). At this point, they alleged discrimination based on "sex, " "retaliation, " and "other: equal pay." (Exs. A, C to Pls.' Compl., ECF No. 1-2).

II. Vaught

The Plaintiffs summarily state that "Vaught, on or about September 3, 2009, de facto joined Carodine and Hubbard's internal complaint against Slate alleging violations of unfair hiring practices and unequal pay." (Pls.' Mem. in Supp. 5). The Plaintiffs do not explain how Vaught "de facto joined" the internal complaint. Instead, they state that Vaught had applied for two separate promotional positions at MCS, believed she was wrongfully denied, and believed that "those who received the positions were either men or friends and/or family members of Slate's." ( Id. ). After "joining" the internal complaint, Vaught alleges that she began to suffer "total isolation by her coworkers and a decrease in job responsibilities and unwarranted and increased scrutiny of her job performance." ( Id. at 6). Although the Plaintiffs have not presented the document, in Vaught's June 7, 2010 EEOC charge of discrimination, she states that she "filed an external complaint with the EEOC on January 26, 2010 alleging age discrimination." (Ex. E to Pls.' Compl., ECF No. 1-2). In her June 7, 2010 charge of discrimination, she marks the boxes "sex, " "retaliation, " and "other: equal pay, " but she also states in a text box that she "and others have been discriminated against on the basis of our ages in [v]iolation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act." (Ex. E to Pls.' Compl.).

III. Retaliation Claims

On July 24, 2013, the Plaintiffs filed their Complaint under "the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000(e) as amended, to address unlawful employment practices on the basis of sex, and retaliation, and in violation of the Equal Pay Act, 29 U.S.C. ¶ 206(d), et seq., as amended by the Lillie Ledbetter Pay Act of 2009." (Pls.' Compl. ¶ 1). They now seek summary judgment only the issue of Title VII retaliation.[3] Ewing-Carodine and Harden-Hubbard "assert that they suffered retaliation after filing an internal complaint with SCS against their boss and former [CTAE] Director Willie Slate for unfair hiring practices and violations of the Equal Pay Act." (Mem. in Supp. Mot. Summ. J. 2, ECF No. 30-1). Vaught asserts that "she suffered ostracization by her coworkers and eventual job surplus leading to a lower-paying job with SCS in retaliation for joining in Carodine and Hubbard's complaints of SCS engaging in unfair hiring practices." ( Id. at 2).

STANDARD

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."[4] In reviewing a motion for summary judgment, the court views the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, [5] and it "may not make credibility determinations or weigh the evidence."[6] 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."[7] It is not sufficient "simply [to] show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts."[8] 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.[9] 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."[10] In this Circuit, the ...


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