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Hamido v. Tennessee State University

United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division

April 26, 2018

ESSAM HAMIDO, Plaintiff,
v.
TENNESSEE STATE UNIVERSITY and WILLIAM JOHNSON, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM

          WILLIAM L. CAMPBELL JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Pending before the Court is Defendant Tennessee State University's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 73) and Defendant William Johnson's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 76); Plaintiff Response in Opposition to Tennessee State University's Motion (Doc. No. 85); and Defendant Tennessee State University's Reply (Doc. No. 87). For the reasons set forth herein, Defendant Tennessee State University's Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED and the Court STRIKES Williams Johnson's Motion for Summary Judgment as moot because the Court already dismissed him from the case. (Doc. No. 76).

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff, Essam Hamido, brought this action under Title VII and 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against his employer, Tennessee State University (“TSU”), and the Interim Assistant Dean at TSU, Dr. William Johnson (“Dr. Johnson”). (Doc. No. 38). Plaintiff, an Associate Professor in the Department of Human Performance and Sports Science at TSU, alleges that Dr. Johnson discriminated against him on the basis of race, color, and national origin. (Id.). Plaintiff alleges Dr. Johnson continued to discriminate against him even after Dr. Johnson was promoted from Department Head to Interim Assistant Dean. (Id.). Specifically, Plaintiff states he was not assigned overloads or graduate classes in the academic semester, not assigned classes at the requested time of day, the classes he previously taught were reassigned to other professors, he was not assigned summer courses, and he was given a poor performance evaluation in the 2013-2014 academic year. (Id.). Plaintiff further alleges Defendant TSU was aware of the alleged discrimination and permitted it to continue. (Id.). Plaintiff seeks compensatory and punitive damages, as well as certain injunctive relief. (Id.).

         TSU and Dr. Johnson filed Motions to Dismiss on August 22, 2017 (Doc. Nos. 40, 42), and Plaintiff replied. (Doc. Nos. 53, 54). The Court granted in part, and denied in part TSU's Motion to Dismiss and dismissed Dr. Johnson from this action. (Doc. Nos. 80, 82). The Court also dismissed Plaintiff's Section § 1983 claim, his claims for religious and disability discrimination under Title VII, and his request for punitive damages and a written apology. However, the Court found Plaintiff stated a claim under Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to promote under Title VII, based on Plaintiff's charge he filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”). (Doc. No. 79).

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Summary judgment is appropriate “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.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). In evaluating a motion for summary judgment, the court views the facts in the light most favorable for the nonmoving party, and draws all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party. Bible Believers v. Wayne Cty., Mich., 805 F.3d 228, 242 (6th Cir. 2015); Wexler v. White's Fine Furniture, Inc., 317 F.3d 564, 570 (6th Cir. 2003). Claims that a fact is, or is not, in genuine dispute must be supported by the record. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1). However, a “mere ‘scintilla of evidence' within the record that militates against the overwhelming weight of contradictory corroboration does not create a genuine issue of fact.” Id. (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 252 (1986)). If a rational trier of fact could not find for the nonmoving party, summary judgment should be granted. Slusher v. Shelbyville Hosp. Corp., 805 F.3d 211, 215 (6th Cir. 2015) (citing Miller v. Sanilac Cty., 606 F.3d 240, 247 (6th Cir. 2010)).

         III. ANALYSIS

         Title VII makes it unlawful for an employer “to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual's race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.” 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a) (1); Benefield v. Mstreet Entertainment, LLC, 197 F.Supp.3d 990, 1001 (M.D. Tenn. Jul. 1, 2016). To analyze claims under Title VII this court applies the burden-shifting approach from the McDonnell Douglas line of cases.[1] See McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792 (1973); see also Tennial v. United Parcel Service, Inc., 840 F.3d 292, 303 (6th Cir. 2016); E.E.O.C v. Memphis Goodwill Industries Inc., 675 F.Supp.2d 846, 850-51 (W.D. Tenn. Dec. 22, 2009). “To establish a prima facie case of employment discrimination a plaintiff must demonstrate that: (1) he is member of a protected class; (2) he suffered an adverse employment action; (3) he was qualified for the position at issue; and (4) he was treated differently than similarly-situated non-protected employees.” Golden v. Metro. Gov't of Nashville and Davidson Cty., 263 F.Supp.3d 684, 692 (M.D. Tenn. Jul. 1, 2017) (citing Wright v. Murray Guard, Inc. 455 F.3d 702, 707 (6th Cir. 2006)). “Once the plaintiff establishes a prima facie case, the burden then shifts to the defendant to articulate a legitimate, non-discriminatory explanation for its actions.” Hawthorne v. University of Tennessee Health Science Center, 203 F.Supp.3d 886, 892 (E.D. Tenn. Aug. 25, 2016) (citing Seay v. Tenn. Valley Auth., 339 F.3d 454, 463 (6th Cir.2003). “If the employer does so, the burden shifts back to the plaintiff to demonstrate the employer's explanation is pretext.” McDonnell Douglas, 411 U.S. at 802-04.

         Defendant argues Plaintiff cannot establish a prima facie case for racial discrimination because Plaintiff suffered no adverse employment action and Defendant did not treat him differently than similarly-situated employees. (Doc. No. 74). An adverse employment action is defined as a

materially adverse change in the terms and conditions of employment.” Hollins v. Atl. Co., 188 F.3d 652, 662 (6th Cir. 1999). Such a change usually includes “a decrease in wage or salary, a less distinguished title, a material loss of benefits, significantly diminished material responsibilities, or other indices that might be unique to a particular situation.” Id. It “must be more disruptive than a mere inconvenience or an alteration of job responsibilities.” Id. “Moreover, the employee's subjective view of the significance and adversity of the employer's action is not controlling; the employment action must be materially adverse as viewed by a reasonable person in the circumstances.” Sands v. Jackson State Cmty. Coll., 2006 WL 1174469, at *5 (W.D. Tenn. April 29, 2006) (quoting Davis v. Town of Lake Park Florida, 245 F.3d 1232, 1239 (11th Cir.2001)).

Blackburn v. Shelby Cty., 770 F.Supp.2d 896, 919 (W.D. Tenn. Feb. 18, 2011).

         Plaintiff responds by stating that Defendant failed to promote him, which resulted in him not receiving a pay increase and title change and his classes were reassigned. (Doc. No.85 at 4).Plaintiff's discrimination claims are evaluated under the same McDonnell Douglas standard. Russell v. Drabik, 24 Fed.Appx. 408, 412 (6th Cir. 2001). To establish a failure to promote claim, Plaintiff must show, “1) he is a member of a protected class; (2) he applied for and was qualified for a promotion; (3) he was considered for and denied the promotion; and (4) other employees of similar qualifications who are not members of the protected class received promotions.” Gee v. Liebert Corp., 58 Fed.Appx. 149, 154 (6th Cir. 2003) (citing Allen v. Mich. Dep't of Corr., 165 F.3d 405, 410 (6th Cir. 1999).

         Here, Plaintiff spends a large portion of his response and Statement of Undisputed Facts arguing about Dr. Johnson's alleged racism towards him, students, and teachers at TSU. Plaintiff argues Dr. Johnson treated him differently from white employees, and thus Dr. Johnson conveyed racism towards him that adversely impacted Plaintiff's academic reputation at TSU. Plaintiff alleges the appointment of Dr. Jason Smith, a white employee without tenure, to interim Department Chair, when Plaintiff had tenure, constitutes an example of racial discrimination. Plaintiff further argues that Dr. Johnson changed his teaching assignment schedule based on racial discrimination when Dr. Johnson assigned Plaintiff's class to a white teacher.[2] However, under the McDonnell Douglas standard, the alleged racist behaviors of Dr. Johnson may be relevant to establish “pretext” for an ...


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