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McGruder v. Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County

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

December 4, 2019

EUNA MCGRUDER, Plaintiff,
v.
METROPOLITAN GOVERNMENT OF NASHVILLE AND DAVIDSON COUNTY, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          ELI RICHARDSON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Pending before the Court is Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 18). Plaintiff has filed a Response (Doc. No. 28), and Defendant has filed a Reply (Doc. No. 32).

         BACKGROUND[1]

         Plaintiff McGruder, who is African-American, was employed with the Metro Nashville Public Schools, from July 2015 to January 2016, as the Executive Officer of Priority Schools. Her employment was terminated (non-renewed) on January 15, 2016. Defendant's articulated reason for Plaintiff's termination was that she had engaged in rude and unprofessional behavior, resulting in “many complaints lodged against her” by other employees. Plaintiff disputes this reason and asserts that she was fired for “unlawful discriminatory and retaliatory motives.” Plaintiff brought this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq. (“Title VII”), alleging race discrimination and retaliation. Defendant has moved for summary judgment on both of Plaintiff's claims.

         Plaintiff asserts in her Complaint, and Defendant has admitted (Doc. No. 9), the following facts. “Priority Schools” are those schools in the bottom 5 percent statewide in academic performance. (Doc. No. 26-2). As Executive Officer of Priority Schools, Plaintiff's goals included raising those schools out of the “priority schools” classification, identifying and recruiting high-level school leaders, and improving teacher recruitment and academic achievement in general. (Doc. No. 1 at ¶¶ 7-8). Madison Middle School was a Priority School. (Doc. No. 26-1 at ¶ 19).

         In November of 2015, Defendant received a complaint, via its Compliance Hotline, of discrimination regarding Madison Middle School, alleging that black students were receiving from the principal harsher punishments than were white students. (Doc. No. 26-7). Plaintiff was asked to investigate this complaint. (Id.). Plaintiff has stated (in her Declaration) that she found numerous incidents of discriminatory treatment and discipline of black students by school administrators, concerns from teachers about unprofessional conduct and poor leadership of the school principal, and claims that the school was a hostile place to work. (Doc. No. 26-1 at 26-28 and 31). Plaintiff reported her findings to Defendant on or about January 8, 2016, (Doc. No. 31) and she was fired on January 15, 2016. (Doc. No. 27 at ¶ 2).

         Plaintiff filed this action on December 11, 2017, alleging race discrimination and retaliation against Defendant. (Doc. No. 1 at ¶¶ 27-37).

         SUMMARY JUDGMENT

         Summary judgment is appropriate where there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). “By its very terms, this standard provides that the mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material fact.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986). In other words, even if genuine, a factual dispute that is irrelevant or unnecessary under applicable law is of no value in defeating a motion for summary judgment. See Id. at 248. On the other hand, “summary judgment will not lie if the dispute about a material fact is ‘genuine[.]'” Id.

         A fact is “material” within the meaning of Rule 56(c) “if its proof or disproof might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing substantive law.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. A genuine dispute of material fact exists if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party. Harris v. Klare, 902 F.3d 630, 634-35 (6th Cir. 2018).

         The party bringing the summary judgment motion has the initial burden of identifying portions of the record that demonstrate the absence of a genuine dispute over material facts. Pittman v. Experian Information Solutions, Inc., 901 F.3d 619, 627-28 (6th Cir. 2018). If the summary judgment movant meets that burden, then in response the non-moving party must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Id. at 628.

         A party asserting that a fact cannot be or genuinely is disputed-i.e., a party seeking summary judgment and a party opposing summary judgment, respectively-must support the assertion by citing to materials in the record, including, but not limited to, depositions, documents, affidavits or declarations. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(A). On a motion for summary judgment, a party may object that the supporting materials\ specified by its opponent “cannot be presented in a form that would be admissible in evidence.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(2). Upon such an objection, the proponent of the supporting material must show that the material is admissible as presented or explain how it could be presented in a form that would be admissible. Thomas v. Haslam, 303 F.Supp.3d 585, 624 (M.D. Tenn. 2018); Mangum v. Repp, 2017 WL 57792 at ** 5 (6th Cir. Jan. 5, 2017) (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c) advisory committee's note to 2010 amendment).

         The court should view the facts and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party. Pittman, 901 F.3d at 628. Credibility judgments and weighing of evidence are improper. Hostettler v. College of Wooster, 895 F.3d 844, 852 (6th Cir. 2018). As noted above, where there is a genuine dispute as to any material fact, summary judgment is not appropriate. Id. The court determines whether sufficient evidence has been presented to make the issue of fact a proper jury question. Id. The mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the nonmoving party's position will be insufficient to survive summary judgment; rather, there must be evidence upon which the jury could reasonably find for the nonmoving party. Rodgers v. Banks, 344 F.3d 587, 595 (6th Cir. 2003).

         RACE ...


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