545 F.3d 260 (4th Cir. 2008), 07-1442, Lightner v. City of Wilmington, North Carolina

Docket Nº:07-1442.
Citation:545 F.3d 260
Party Name:James J. LIGHTNER, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. CITY OF WILMINGTON, NORTH CAROLINA; Tandy Carter, Acting Chief of Police for the Wilmington Police Department; Bruce Hickman, Interim Chief of Police for the Wilmington Police Department; Sterling Cheatham, City Manager for the City of Wilmington, Defendants-Appellees.
Case Date:November 03, 2008
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
 
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Page 260

545 F.3d 260 (4th Cir. 2008)

James J. LIGHTNER, Plaintiff-Appellant,

v.

CITY OF WILMINGTON, NORTH CAROLINA; Tandy Carter, Acting Chief of Police for the Wilmington Police Department; Bruce Hickman, Interim Chief of Police for the Wilmington Police Department; Sterling Cheatham, City Manager for the City of Wilmington, Defendants-Appellees.

No. 07-1442.

United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit.

November 3, 2008

Argued: Sept. 24, 2008.

Page 261

ARGUED:

Stephen Edward Culbreth, Culbreth Law Firm, Wilmington, North Carolina, for Appellant.

Page 262

Bruce Danforth Morton, Hedrick & Morton, L.L.P., Wilmington, North Carolina, for Appellees.

ON BRIEF:

Ashley C. Council, Culbreth Law Firm, Wilmington, North Carolina, for Appellant.

Before WILKINSON, Circuit Judge, HAMILTON, Senior Circuit Judge, and JAMES C. CACHERIS, Senior United States District Judge for the Eastern District of Virginia, sitting by designation.

Affirmed by published opinion. Judge WILKINSON wrote the opinion, in which Senior Judge HAMILTON and Senior Judge CACHERIS joined.

OPINION

WILKINSON, Circuit Judge:

The plaintiff in this case claims he faced discrimination on account of race and gender, and he appeals the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of his employer. At the same time, he charges that his employer's action was actually an attempt to cover up the employer's own wrongdoing. In so doing, plaintiff has pleaded himself right out of court. Title VII was enacted to prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, gender, and other legislatively enumerated grounds. It is not a statute intended to police standards of general fairness in the workplace, or even to protect against the firing of an employee in order to cover up wrongdoing by an employer. If it were interpreted in such an omnibus fashion, it would dilute the noble purposes for which Congress enacted it. We thus affirm the district court's grant of summary judgment.

I.

James J. Lightner claims that he was suspended from the Wilmington Police Department in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq. , and 42 U.S.C. § § 1981 and 1983. He is a white male who, at the time of the incident, was 53 years old and serving as a lieutenant in the Wilmington Police Department (“ WPD" ), where he had worked for over 25 years.

In 2003, he was promoted to Acting Division Commander of the Professional Standards Division where he was responsible for department ethics including the investigation of misconduct by WPD officers. As Acting Division Commander of the Professional Standards Division, he began an internal investigation into whether WPD officers were failing to report automobile accidents in an effort to make the city look better. Shortly after Lightner started the ethics investigation, three of the officers who were being investigated claimed that Lightner himself had committed an ethics violation-specifically, that he had pressured them into dismissing individuals' traffic tickets. Lightner concedes that on occasion he asked ticketing officers to help certain people whom they had ticketed, but maintains that he did not inappropriately pressure them.

On February 5, 2004, Acting Police Chief Tandy Carter and Acting Deputy Policy Chief Bruce Hickman informed Lightner of the...

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