Floyd v. State of Missouri Dept. of Social Services

Decision Date13 May 1999
Docket NumberNo. 98-3875,98-3875
Citation188 F.3d 932
Parties(8th Cir. 1999) Fatma Floyd, Appellant, v. State of Missouri Department of Social Services, Division of Family Services, Rehabilitation Services for the Blind; Gary Stenger, in his official capacity; Carmen Schulz, in her official and individual capacity for the Missouri Rehabilitation Services for the Blind, Appellees. Submitted:
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Eighth Circuit

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

[Copyrighted Material Omitted] Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri.

Before WOLLMAN, Chief Judge, FLOYD R. GIBSON, and BEAM, Circuit Judges.

WOLLMAN, Chief Judge.

Fatma Floyd appeals from the district court's 1 grant of summary judgment in favor of the State of Missouri Department of Social Services (Department) and the individual defendants on her employment discrimination claims brought under the American with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. 12111-12117; Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) 42 U.S.C. 2000e-2000e-17; 42 U.S.C. 1983; and the Missouri Human Rights Act (MHRA), Mo. Rev. Stat. 213.055. She also appeals from the district court's denial of her motion to amend her complaint. We affirm.


Floyd is a blind Turkish Muslim who was employed by Rehabilitation Services for the Blind (RSB), an agency operating under the auspices of the Department. From 1990 to 1994 she worked as a rehabilitation teacher, providing services for blind residents of Missouri. She received exemplary evaluations from her supervisors.

In 1994, Floyd applied to be supervisor of RSB's North St. Louis office. Initially, she and four others were interviewed for the position. Floyd received the highest rating among these applicants, but the Department determined that a more qualified applicant pool should be developed. As a result, three additional candidates were recruited to apply. Floyd and two candidates from the second group were selected for a final interview.

This interview consisted of an oral presentation by each candidate. It was evaluated by Dave Vogel, deputy director of RSB, Charles Voelker, a field supervisor, Sondra Larson, assistant deputy director of the department, and Gary Wunder, a representative of the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), a consumer group advocating the interests of its blind members. Following the presentations, Larson recommended that Floyd be offered the position. Voelker recommended that the position be offered to Mark Laird, another candidate. The final hiring decision was to be made by Vogel. After considering Wunder's views and the views of a representative of the Missouri Council for the Blind (MCB), a second consumer group, Vogel decided to make an informal job offer to Laird.

Laird did not accept the position. Instead of making an offer to Floyd or the remaining candidate, the Department decided to seek other applicants. Floyd received a letter stating, without elaboration, that she had not been selected for the position. On November 21, 1994, Floyd filed an internal grievance against the Department, alleging that the position was offered to a "less qualified white Christian male," referring to Laird. Appellant's Br. at 5. Floyd resigned in September of 1995 after accepting a position with Nebraska Services for the Visually Impaired.

Floyd filed this suit in August of 1996, alleging discrimination based on disability, national origin, and religion. She also alleged a claim under the MHRA based upon retaliatory conduct and a claim under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging a violation of due process and equal protection, together with a claim of unlawful discrimination.

After receiving defendants' motion for summary judgment, Floyd moved to amend her complaint to include a claim for violation of her First Amendment right to free association. The district court denied Floyd's request to amend and entered summary judgment in favor of the defendants.


We review the district court's grant of summary judgment de novo, applying the same standard that was applied by the district court. See Hossaini v. Western Mo. Med. Ctr., 140 F.3d 1140, 1142 (8th Cir. 1998). Summary judgment is proper if the evidence, viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, demonstrates that no genuine issue of material fact exists and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See id.; Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c).


We assess Floyd's discrimination claims under the familiar burden shifting framework described in McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 802 (1973). See Kiel v. Select Artificials, Inc., 169 F.3d 1131, 1134-35 (8th Cir. 1999) (en banc), petition for cert. filed, 67 U.S.L.W. 3758 (U.S. June 2, 1999) (No. 98-1938) (disability under ADA); Ghane v. West, 148 F.3d 979, 981 (8th Cir. 1998) (national origin); Tart v. Hill Behan Lumber Co., 31 F.3d 668, 671 (8th Cir. 1994) (Title VII and MHRA); Richmond v. Board of Regents of the Univ. of Minn., 957 F.2d 595, 598 (8th Cir. 1992) (section 1983); Mann v. Milgram Food Stores, Inc., 730 F.2d 1186, 1188 (8th Cir. 1984) (religion).

Initially, Floyd must establish a prima facie case of discrimination. See Texas Dept. of Community Affairs v. Burdine, 450 U.S. 248, 252-53 (1981). The burden then shifts to the Department "to articulate some legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for the employee's rejection." McDonnell Douglas, 411 U.S. at 802. If the Department satisfies its burden of production, Floyd must show that the proffered reason is pretextual. See Burdine, 450 U.S. at 253. At all times the ultimate burden of persuasion remains with Floyd. See Rothmeier v. Investment Advisors, Inc., 85 F.3d 1328, 1332 (8th Cir. 1996).

Because the Department concedes that Floyd met her burden to establish a prima facie case of discrimination, we first consider whether the Department articulated a nondiscriminatory reason for failing to promote Floyd. See, e.g., id. at 1332. The Department presented three nondiscriminatory reasons for denying Floyd the promotion: she tended to take matters outside of the department if she did not like the decision regarding a particular case; she did not display a willingness or ability to effectively manage the staff; and the MCB was strongly opposed to her appointment to the supervisory position. The burden to articulate a nondiscriminatory justification is not onerous, and the explanation need not be demonstrated by a preponderance of the evidence. See Buchholz v. Rockwell Intern. Corp., 120 F.3d 146, 150 (8th Cir. 1997); Hayes v. Invesco, Inc., 907 F.2d 853, 855 (8th Cir. 1990). We conclude that these explanations satisfy the defendants' burden under step two of the McDonnell Douglas framework.

Floyd claims that these reasons were pretextual because the evidence clearly shows that she was the most qualified candidate. She notes that she was the only candidate with a master's degree and the only candidate that was a Certified Rehabilitation Specialist. Her reliance on these facts is misplaced, however. The Department did not argue that Floyd was not qualified for the job, only that she was not the right person for the job in view of her lack of the leadership skills needed to be effective in the position. Likewise, that Floyd received the highest interview score of any first-round candidate does not establish that she was the most qualified person for the job following a complete assessment.

We do not "weigh the wisdom of any particular employment decision." Ruby v. Springfield R-12 Pub. Sch. Dist., 76 F.3d 909, 912 n.7 (8th Cir. 1996). Presumably, all three candidates that were invited to the second stage interview were qualified individuals. Thus, the first-round interview scores and prior performance ratings were not critical to the ultimate decision made by the Department when evaluating the three candidates at the second interview stage. See Hutson v. McDonnell Douglas Corp. 63 F.3d 771, 779 (8th Cir. 1995) (finding that high performance ratings were unconvincing circumstantial evidence of discrimination in second stage of reduction in force, because all employees could be considered competent). This evidence, without more, is insufficient to allow a reasonable jury to find that the Department's articulated reasons were pretextual.

As further evidence of pretext, Floyd alleges that RSB deviated from the Department's policies for selecting candidates. An employer's failure to follow its own policies may support an inference of pretext. See Young v. Warner-Jenkinson Co., 152 F.3d 1018, 1024 & n.6 (8th Cir. 1998). In this case, however, the record indicates that the departures in policy affected all candidates, not only Floyd. Thus, they do not support an inference of pretext. See Chock v. Northwest Airlines, Inc., 113 F.3d 861, 864-65 (8th Cir 1997) (affirming summary judgment for employer when evidence indicated deviation in policy was applied to plaintiff as well as other employees). Moreover, RSB implemented the procedural changes in response to growing pressure from consumer organizations regarding its operations. See Brousard-Norcross v. Augustana College Ass'n, 935 F.2d 974, 976-77 (8th Cir. 1991) (stating that departure from policy did not support inference of pretext when departure was driven by student complaint).

Even if we agreed with Floyd that the Department did not give its true reasons for failing to promote her, summary judgment would not be precluded. See Rothmeier, 85 F.3d at 1335. In order to survive summary judgment, Floyd must show that the Department's proffered reasons for the decision were a pretext for discrimination. See St. Mary's Honor Ctr. v. Hicks, 509 U.S. 502, 515 (1993); Rothmeier, 85 F.3d at 1334. "[A] reason cannot be proved to be a 'pretext for discrimination' unless it is shown both that the reason was false, and that discrimination was the real reason." Hicks, 509 U.S. at 515; see also Hill v. St. Louis Univ., ...

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