529 F.3d 961 (11th Cir. 2008), 07-11603, Crawford v. Carroll

Docket Nº:07-11603.
Citation:529 F.3d 961
Party Name:Jacquelyn R. CRAWFORD, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. Barbara CARROLL, Katherine Johnston, individually and in her official capacity as Vice President of Finance and Administration, Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia/Georgia State University, Defendants-Appellees.
Case Date:June 03, 2008
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
 
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529 F.3d 961 (11th Cir. 2008)

Jacquelyn R. CRAWFORD, Plaintiff-Appellant,

v.

Barbara CARROLL, Katherine Johnston, individually and in her official capacity as Vice President of Finance and Administration, Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia/Georgia State University, Defendants-Appellees.

No. 07-11603.

United States Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit.

June 3, 2008

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          Edward Daniel Buckley, III , Dena G. George , Andrea Doneff , Buckley & Klein, LLP, Atlanta, GA, for Crawford.

          Susan L. Rutherford , Gray, Hedrick & Edenfield, LLP, Atlanta, GA, for Defendants-Appellees.

          Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia.

          Before BIRCH and FAY , Circuit Judges, and RODGERS,[*] District Judge.

          RODGERS, District Judge:

          Jacquelyn R. Crawford appeals the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of her former employer, the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia

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/Georgia State University (GSU), and two of her former supervisors, GSU officers Barbara Carroll and Katherine Johnston. After review and oral argument, we reverse and remand for further proceedings, having determined that genuine issues of material fact exist that preclude summary judgment on Crawford's Title VII retaliation and race discrimination claims against GSU and her 42 U.S.C. § 1983 race discrimination claim against Carroll. We affirm the district court's grant of summary judgment to Johnston on Crawford's § 1983 race discrimination claim because Johnston is entitled to qualified immunity.

          I. Standard of Review

          We review a district court's grant of summary judgment de novo. Brooks v. County Comm'n of Jefferson County, Ala., 446 F.3d 1160, 1161-62 (11th Cir.2006) . At summary judgment we consider all evidence and reasonable factual inferences drawn therefrom in a light most favorable to the non-moving party. Rojas v. Fla. Dep't of Bus. & Prof'l Regulations Pari-Mutual, 285 F.3d 1339, 1341-42 (11th Cir.2002) (per curiam ) (citation and quotations omitted). Summary judgment is appropriate if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c) ; Wilson v. B/E/ Aerospace, Inc., 376 F.3d 1079, 1085 (11th Cir.2004) .

          II. Background1

          Crawford, who is African-American, began working in the personnel field in 1987. She holds a masters degree in public administration, with a specialization in human resources management. In 1992 GSU hired Crawford to serve as the wage and salary administrator in its human resources department. Crawford was promoted in December 1997 to the position of manager of classification and compensation, her job at the time the events giving rise to this case occurred. Carroll was GSU's assistant vice president of human resources from March 1999 until August 2004. She supervised Crawford's position as well the higher level positions of director of human resources, director of human resources information systems, and director of payroll. Johnston came to GSU in July 2000 to serve as its vice president of finance and administration. In that capacity she directly supervised Carroll. Johnston was also responsible for overseeing the supervision of approximately eight hundred other GSU employees, including those in the human resources, budget, physical plant, facilities planning, campus master planning, and campus police departments. Both Carroll and Johnston are Caucasian.

          In early 2000 Crawford was absent from work periodically due to her mother's serious illness; her mother died in February 2000. In March 2000 Carroll formally reprimanded Crawford for misuse of the department's leave policy, in particular its bereavement leave policy which Carroll stated permitted only up to three days' absence in connection with the death of a family member. Carroll asserted that Crawford had missed eighteen full or partial

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days of work prior to and following her mother's death without giving proper notice or obtaining proper authorization. In response, Crawford filed a grievance in which she protested that the reprimand was factually incorrect as well as culturally insensitive. According to Crawford, Carroll did not understand that the funeral practices of African-Americans require more than three days of leave. When Carroll failed to withdraw the reprimand Crawford appealed to GSU's provost and vice president for academic affairs, who reversed the reprimand and instructed that it be removed from Crawford's file, partly on the ground it contained errors of fact. Crawford maintains that subsequent to the reversal of the reprimand Carroll took retaliatory action against her by making new and unreasonable job demands and by sending her an increased number of e-mail messages, many of which Crawford felt were unfairly critical of her work performance.

          In April 2001 Crawford wrote to Carroll to make staffing recommendations for the classification and compensation division. Additionally, based on her own analysis of internal and external market data, Crawford asked Carroll to increase her annual salary of $50,960 to the range of $54,565 to $56,202 in order to be commensurate with other positions of similar responsibility. Carroll responded that she would not address Crawford's requests until a new position, that of director of classification and employment, had been filled. This position would be responsible for supervising classification division functions, i.e., those performed by Crawford's department such as assigning pay classifications and developing job descriptions, as well as functions related to the employment division, such as posting vacant positions and accepting and reviewing job applications. Crawford thought she was eligible to receive an “in-place" promotion to the new position because other employees had been given promotions in similar circumstances but the job was not offered to her; instead, the position was advertised in August 2001.2

          A five-member panel comprised of GSU management and staff was formed to screen the applicants for the new position and recommend a candidate to Johnston, who would interview the candidate.3 Johnston, with the approval of Linda Nelson-the director of GSU's Office of Affirmative Action and Diversity Programs (OAADP)-would then make the final selection. Crawford applied for the new job and was chosen for an interview. It was conducted by Carroll and the other panel members in the early fall of 2001.

          Carroll favored hiring Nancy Strasner, a Caucasian female, for the new position. Mae Okwandu, an Equal Opportunity specialist at GSU who reviewed the qualifications of the applicants during the selection process, felt that Crawford was the most qualified applicant. Nelson thought Crawford's and Strasner's qualifications were “somewhat equal," with Crawford having greater experience in the compensation field and less in the employment area, and

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Strasner's experience being the reverse. Ultimately, Nelson described Crawford as the “best suited" candidate and slightly preferred her because she was already employed by GSU and was familiar with its operations. Johnston testified that she interviewed Strasner, at Carroll's request, but thought Strasner lacked sufficient experience and therefore-to Carroll's displeasure-declined to endorse Strasner for the job. No other candidates were proposed to her so Johnston interviewed none.

          In December 2001 Crawford filed an internal complaint of retaliation with the OAADP. In the complaint Crawford alleged that Carroll had subjected her to increased, unfair scrutiny of her job performance and mishandled the recruitment process for the new position of director of classification and employment.

          In January 2002 Nelson issued a determination letter announcing that there had been no consensus reached regarding whom to hire for the new position and that the job therefore would not be filled at that time. No other reason was given. In a deposition Nelson stated that Johnston told her that she did not wish to hire anyone given Nelson's view that Crawford rather than Strasner was the best suited candidate, Nelson's concern there was no real need for the new position, and her concern over “other incidents in the past." 4 When asked to identify the past incidents, Nelson responded, “[s]ome of the issues that Ms. Crawford brought up regarding communication that occurred between Ms. Carroll and Ms. Crawford and, you know, those types of things." With the new position unfilled, Carroll temporarily assigned some of its duties to Brennaman, who had been employed at GSU for approximately twenty years and was then earning a salary of approximately $70,000 per year.

          In January or February 2002 the position of director of classification and employment was posted for a second time. Crawford again applied but no applicants were selected for interviews.5

          In April 2002 Carroll wrote, and Johnston approved, a negative evaluation of Crawford's job performance for the period from March 2001 through March 2002. Crawford learned in May 2002 that as a result of the poor evaluation she would not be eligible to receive a merit pay increase due in October 2002.

          In May 2002 Crawford submitted a complaint to Johnston alleging that Carroll had retaliated and discriminated against her. Among other matters, Crawford's complaint addressed Carroll's negative performance review (and Crawford's resulting loss of eligibility...

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