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Haley v. Clarksville Montgomery County School System

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

July 15, 2019

ANGELA HALEY, Plaintiff,
v.
CLARKSVILLE-MONTGOMERY COUNTY SCHOOL SYSTEM, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          WAVERLY D. CRENSHAW, JR. CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This action arises out of the decision of the Clarksville-Montgomery County School System (“CMCSS”) to remove mathematics teacher Angela Haley as head wrestling coach and eventually hire a male for that position. Before the Court is the motion of CMCSS for summary judgment on Haley's remaining claim under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq.[1] (Doc. Nos. 37, 46, 54.) For the following reasons, the motion will be granted.

         I. Legal Standard

         In reviewing a motion for summary judgment, this Court will only consider the narrow question of whether there are “genuine issues as to any material fact and [whether] the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). A motion for summary judgment requires that the Court view the “inferences to be drawn from the underlying facts . . . in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion.” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986) (quoting United States v. Diebold, Inc., 369 U.S. 654, 655 (1962)). “The party bringing the summary judgment motion has the initial burden of informing the Court of the basis for its motion and identifying portions of the record that demonstrate the absence of a genuine dispute over material facts.” Rodgers v. Banks, 344 F.3d 587, 595 (6th Cir. 2003). After the movant has satisfied this initial burden, the nonmoving party has the burden of showing that a “rational trier of fact [could] find for the non-moving party [or] that there is a ‘genuine issue for trial.'” Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587. If the evidence offered by the nonmoving party is “merely colorable, ” or “not significantly probative, ” or not enough to lead a fair-minded jury to find for the nonmoving party, the motion for summary judgment should be granted. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249-252 (1986). “A genuine dispute between the parties on an issue of material fact must exist to render summary judgment inappropriate.” Hill v. White, 190 F.3d 427, 430 (6th Cir. 1999) (citing Anderson, 477 U.S. at 247-49).

         II. Facts[2]

         CMCSS operates the public school system in Montgomery County, Tennessee. (Doc. No. 47 at ¶ 1.) Haley is a tenured mathematics teacher at Northeast High School, one of seven CMCSS high schools. (Id. at ¶ 3.) She has been employed by CMCSS as a teacher from April 2008 to the present. (Id. at ¶ 4.) Initially, in 2008, she was an assistant wrestling coach. (Id. at ¶¶ 7-9.) In 2013, she became head coach of the boys and girls wrestling teams for three years. (Id. at ¶ 10; Doc. No. 38-2 at 34.) In March 2016, Haley received a partially negative job evaluation and was not renewed as coach for the 2016-2017 school year, so that she could focus on teaching.[3] (Id. at ¶ 29.) As a result, she lost her coaching stipend. (Id. at ¶¶ 13-14, 99.)

         The head wrestling coach position at Northeast was advertised on April 6, 2016. (Id. at ¶ 35.) Haley expressed interest, but CMCSS did not reconsider its March decision to remove her. (Id. at ¶¶ 34-41; Doc. No. 55 at ¶¶ 123-125.) On August 3, 2016, Northeast hired Felipe Argueta, the male soccer coach, for the position of head wrestling coach and Dianne Smith, a female, for the position of assistant wrestling coach for the 2016-2017 school year. (Doc. No. 47 at ¶¶ 38-40; Doc. No. 38-2 at 24.) Haley was subsequently hired to be the Northeast coach for volleyball and softball for the 2017-2018 school year, with a stipend for each position. (Doc. Nos. 47 at ¶ 91; 38-2 at 20.) She continues to hold these coaching positions at the same salary. (Doc. No. 38-2 at 20.)

         Haley did not file a complaint of discrimination with CMCSS. (Doc. No. 47 at ¶ 59.) On January 25, 2017, she filed a charge of discrimination (“EEOC Charge”) with the Tennessee Human Rights Commission and the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (“EEOC”). (Id. at ¶ 60; Doc. No. 52.) In the EEOC Charge, Haley alleged that she was “fired as the wrestling coach due to ‘poor evaluation' in a letter dated March 2016, ” as a guise for discrimination because “a parent of a wrestler . . . [had] complained . . . a woman was the wrestling coach.” (Doc. No. 52.) She did not complain about removal from the department chair position or being placed on a development plan. (Doc. No. 52.) The EEOC declined to take action and gave her a Right-to-Sue Letter on January 26, 2018. (Doc. No. 1-1.)

         III. Analysis

         A. Haley's Title VII Claims are Time-Barred

         A plaintiff alleging discrimination under Title VII in federal court must satisfy two administrative prerequisites: (1) filing a timely charge of employment discrimination with the EEOC; and (2) receiving and timely acting upon the EEOC's statutory notice of the right to sue. Nichols v. Muskingum Coll., 318 F.3d 674, 677 (6th Cir. 2003); Puckett v. Tenn. Eastman Co., 889 F.2d 1481, 1486 (6th Cir. 1989). Under 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(e)(1), an EEOC charge must be filed within 180 days “after the alleged unlawful employment practice occurred, ” unless “the person aggrieved has initially instituted proceedings with a [s]tate or local agency with authority to grant or seek relief from such practice, ” in which case the aggrieved individual must file a charge with the EEOC within 300 days. 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(e)(1); Nat'l R.R. Passenger Corp. v. Morgan, 536 U.S. 101, 109 (2002); Nichols, 318 F.3d at 679-80 (6th Cir. 2003); Clemons v. Metro. Gov't of Nashville, 664 Fed.Appx. 544, 546 (6th Cir. 2016). The limitations period begins to run when an employer makes and communicates an adverse decision to an employee and the employee is aware or reasonably should be aware of the employer's decision. Block v. Meharry Med. Coll., 723 Fed.Appx. 273, 277 (6th Cir. 2018) (citing Del. State Coll. v. Ricks, 449 U.S. 250, 258 (1980); E.E.O.C. v. United Parcel Serv., Inc., 249 F.3d 557, 561-62 (6th Cir. 2001)). Thus, the focus of the statute of limitations inquiry “is on the time of the discriminatory act, not the point at which the consequences of the act become painful.” Janikowski v. Bendix Corp., 823 F.2d 945, 947 (6th Cir. 1987) (quoting Chardon v. Fernandez, 454 U.S. 6, 8 (1981)).

         The undisputed record establishes that during a meeting on March 18, 2016, Haley was informed that she would not be renewed as the Northeast head wrestling coach for the following academic year. (Doc. Nos. 47 at ¶ 29; 38-1 at ¶ 19; 38-8; 55 at ¶ 117; 49-29.) Indeed, Haley alleges discrimination “due to her removal as the head wrestling coach in March of 2016.” (See Doc. No. 47 at ¶ 5.) In her deposition, she testified that before this meeting “almost every single one” of CMCSS' employees made comments to her about being “a woman coaching a male sport” and CMCSS “treated [her] differently” due to her gender. (Id. at 16-17.) Most importantly, Haley further testified that during the March 18, 2016 meeting, she expressly communicated her belief that the removal decision constituted gender discrimination. (Doc. No. 38-2 at 9.) She specifically testified:

Q: Okay. So during your [March 2016] evaluation meeting, did you indicate to anyone at the meeting that you felt you were being ...

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