Admire v. Strain

Decision Date24 June 2008
Docket NumberCivil Action No. 04-0579.
Citation566 F.Supp.2d 492
PartiesKristi ADMIRE v. Rodney Jack STRAIN, et al.
CourtU.S. District Court — Eastern District of Louisiana

Margaret Hammond-Jackson, Margaret Hammond-Jackson, Attorney at Law, Slidell, LA, for Kristi Admire.

Barbara L. Bossetta, Gary L. Hanes, Talley, Anthony, Hughes & Knight, LLC, Mandeville, LA, for Rodney Jack Strain.

ORDER AND OPINION

STANWOOD R. DUVAL, JR., District Judge.

Before the Court is the "Motion for Summary Judgment Pursuant to Rule 56(b) of Federal Rules of Civil Procedure" filed on behalf of defendants Rodney J. Strain, Jr., in his capacity as Sheriff of St. Tammany Parish; Marlin Peachey, in his capacity as Warden of the St. Tammany Parish Jail; and Scott Knight, in his capacity as Field Training Officer (FTO) Manager (Doc. 65). Having reviewed the pleadings, memoranda, and relevant law, the Court, for the reasons assigned, denies the motion for summary judgment in part and grants it in part.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Kristi Admire claims that she has been subjected to discriminatory treatment based on her gender; however, the specific manifestations of that discrimination are not entirely clear from the pleadings. Ms. Admire's specific claims appear to be: 1) failure to promote, 2) disparate treatment with respect to promotion 3) disparate treatment with respect to disciplinary action, 4) discriminatory termination 5) retaliation for engaging in protected activities, and 6) discriminatory hostile work environment.

The St. Tammany Parish Sheriff Office (STPSO) employed Kristi Admire as a deputy assigned to the "8 to 4" prisoner-transportation section of the Corrections Division. On May 28, 2002 Ms. Admire, while operating a STPSO transport van in which inmates were riding, executed a traffic stop of a driver suspected of driving while intoxicated. Following an investigation of that traffic stop, Captain Danny Jenkins, Ms. Admire's supervisor, determined that in executing the traffic stop Ms. Admire violated several policies of the STPSO. Captain Jenkins suspended Ms. Admire for ten days without pay and transferred her from the transport unit to the Jail, where she had previously been assigned.1 Marlin Peachey, the Warden of the St. Tammany Parish Jail, reviewed and approved of the disciplinary action taken against Ms. Admire. Ms. Admire appealed the disciplinary action. In a report issued August 15, 2002, the Administrative Review Board affirmed the disciplinary action, but reduced the suspension from duty to three days. Ms. Admire claims that she was punished more harshly because of her gender.

Thereafter, Ms. Admire applied for promotion within in the Corrections Division six times; she was not selected for promotion on four of those attempts. She was however promoted to Corporal in March 2003 and to sergeant in November 2003. She alleges that she was discriminated against because of her gender each time she was denied promotion. Additionally, with respect to two of the denials of promotion Ms. Admire asserts that she was penalized because her disciplinary action occurred within six months of her attempt at promotion while males who had a disciplinary action within six months of applying for a promotions were not similarly penalized.

After being promoted to corporal, Ms. Admire filed a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging that she had been denied promotions and been disciplined more harshly because of gender based discrimination.

In 2004, Ms. Admire began training in the STPSO's Criminal Patrol training program. In 2005 she was terminated from the program. Ms. Admire contends that the male supervisors and training officers in the program were, because of her gender, unduly harsh to her and failed to offer her the same access to remedial training and transfer options for training officers that were offered to male candidates. Lastly, Ms. Admire alleges that she was terminated in retaliation for "having filed the EEOC charges of discrimination, for having filed a federal lawsuit, for having made numerous challenges to the defendant's policies, and because she was considered to be a problem for the department."

SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD

The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provide that summary judgment should be granted only "if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). The party moving for summary judgment bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of the record which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Stults v. Conoco, Inc., 76 F.3d 651, 655-56 (5th Cir.1996) (citing Skotak v. Tenneco Resins, Inc., 953 F.2d 909, 912-13 (5th Cir. 1992) (quoting Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986)), cert. denied, 506 U.S. 832, 113 S.Ct. 98, 121 L.Ed.2d 59 (1992)). When the moving party has carried its burden under Rule 56(c), its opponent must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts. The nonmoving party must come forward with "specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Matsushita `Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986) (emphasis supplied); Tubacex, Inc. v. M/V RISAN, 45 F.3d 951, 954 (5th Cir.1995).

Thus, where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party, there is no "genuine issue for trial." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., 475 U.S. at 588, 106 S.Ct. 1348. Finally, the Court notes that substantive law determines the materiality of facts and only "facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202. 477 U.S. 242, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2510, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986).

In deciding a motion for summary judgment, the Court must avoid a "trial on affidavits." "Credibility determinations, the weighing of the evidence and the drawing of legitimate inferences from the facts" are matters to be determined by the trier-of-fact. Id. at 255, 106 S.Ct. at 2513.

LAW AND ANALYSIS

Plaintiff brings her claims under two federal statutes, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Title VII prohibits employers from discriminating against employees on a number of grounds, including gender. 42 U.S.C, § 2000e-2(a)(1). Title 42 U.S.C. § 1983 establishes a cause of action against any person who under color of law deprives an individual of a constitutional right.

Plaintiff may establish gender discrimination under Title VII through either direct or circumstantial evidence. See Rachid v: Jack in the Box, Inc., 376 F.3d 305, 309 (5 th Cir.2004). The nature of the evidence determines the framework to be used in analyzing the plaintiffs claim. See Trans World Airlines, Inc. v. Thurston, 469 U.S. 111, 121, 105 S.Ct. 613, 621-22, 83 L.Ed.2d 523 (1985).

It is axiomatic that McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 802-805, 93 S.Ct. 1817, 36 L.Ed.2d 668 (1973), establishes the procedural framework for analyzing motions for summary judgment in cases involving claims under Title VII which rely on circumstantial evidence of intentional discrimination. The same test applies in evaluating defendants' motion for summary judgment with respect to plaintiffs discrimination claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Patel v. Midland Memorial Hospital and Medical Center, 298 F.3d 333, 342 (5th Cir.2002). Under the McDonnell Douglas framework, plaintiff must first establish a genuine issue of material fact as to each element of a prima facie case of discrimination. Willis v. Coca Cola Enterprises, Inc., 445 F.3d 413, 420 (5th Cir.2006). To establish a prima facie case, the plaintiff must show that (1) she is a member of a protected class, (2) she was qualified for her position, (3) she suffered an adverse employment action, and (4) that the position was filled by someone outside of the protected class or that others outside the protected class who were similarly situated were more favorably treated. Ross v. University of Texas at San Antonio, 139 F.3d 521, 526 (5th Cir.1998). Once a plaintiff establishes a prima facie case of discrimination, a presumption of discrimination arises and the burden shifts to the defendant employer to produce a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for the challenged action. After the defendant employer satisfies its burden of producing a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for the challenged actions, the burden returns to the plaintiff to raise a genuine issue of material fact that the non-discriminatory reason offered by the defendant is merely pretextual. Willis v. Coca Cola Enterprises, Inc., 445 F.3d at 420.

Despite the intermediate evidentiary burdens shifting back and forth under the McDonnell Douglas framework, "the ultimate burden of persuading the trier of fact that the defendant intentionally discriminated against the plaintiff remains at all times with the plaintiff." Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 143, 120 S.Ct. 2097, 147 L.Ed.2d 105 (2000)(internal quotation and citation omitted). Therefore, the plaintiff must produce substantial evidence of pretext to survive a motion for summary judgment. Auguster v. Vermilion Parish School Board, 249 F.3d 400, 402-403 (5th Cir.2001). "Evidence that the proffered reason is unworthy of credence must be enough to support a reasonable inference that the proffered reason is false; a mere shadow of doubt is insufficient." Id. at 403. A plaintiff may meet the...

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