Prewett v. Alabama Dept. of Veterans Affairs, 2:00-CV-1674-RDP-SRW.

CourtUnited States District Courts. 11th Circuit. Middle District of Alabama
Writing for the CourtR. David Proctor
Citation533 F.Supp.2d 1160
PartiesVickie K. PREWETT, et al., Plaintiffs, v. State of ALABAMA DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS, et al., Defendants.
Docket NumberNo. 2:00-CV-1674-RDP-SRW.,2:00-CV-1674-RDP-SRW.
Decision Date27 December 2007
533 F.Supp.2d 1160
Vickie K. PREWETT, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
State of ALABAMA DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS, et al., Defendants.
No. 2:00-CV-1674-RDP-SRW.
United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Northern Division.
December 27, 2007.

Page 1161

COPYRIGHT MATERIAL OMITTED

Page 1162

COPYRIGHT MATERIAL OMITTED

Page 1163

Gregory Brent Stein, Stein Brewster & Pilcher, Henry Harris Caddell, Richard Lawrence Thiry, Thiry & Caddell, Rhonda C. Brownstein, Montgomery, AL, for Plaintiffs.

Margaret L. Fleming, Office of the Attorney General, Montgomery, AL, Sandra Ingram Speakman, Alice Ann Byrne, State Personnel Department, Montgomery, AL, for Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

R. DAVID PROCTOR, District Judge.


After reassignment of this Equal Pay Act ("EPA") and Title VII case to the undersigned from The Honorable Mark E. Fuller, and having received requests from the parties to revisit certain issues previously decided in this case, the court permitted each side to request reconsideration of two prior rulings. As a result of those efforts,1 the following motions are before the court, which have been fully briefed and were argued at a hearing held earlier this year: (1) Plaintiffs' Second Motion for Reconsideration (Doc # 184); (2) Defendant Alabama Department of Veterans Affairs' ("Alabama VA") Motion for Reconsideration (Doc # 186); (3) Defendant Alabama State Personnel Department's ("SPD") Motion for Reconsideration (Doc # 185); and (4) Defendants' Motion to Amend/Correct Order on Motion to Alter Judgment (Doc # 192).2

All four of the motions request reconsideration of issues that were previously decided by Chief Judge Fuller in his March

Page 1164

3, 2006 Memorandum Opinion on Defendants' Rule 56 motion (Docs.# 119, 120-2) ("Judge Fuller's Summary Judgment Opinion")3 and subsequent modification thereof (Doc. # 155). In his Summary Judgment Opinion, Judge Fuller rejected the bulk of Defendants' arguments and therefore, with only a few exceptions,4 he denied summary judgment on Plaintiffs' EPA and Title VII claims. (Docs.# 119, 120-2). Collectively,5 two of Defendants' motions to reconsider challenge virtually each step of Judge Fuller's analysis denying summary judgment. (Docs.# 185, 186). As to the limited claims on which Judge Fuller granted summary judgment for Defendants, the parties seek reconsideration of only the dismissal of the EPA claims of Plaintiffs Vicky Brown and Christine Hale and the subsequent, partial reinstatement of, those claims.6 (Docs.# 184, 192). Nevertheless, the court does not reach the merits of the motions to reconsider that are focused on the limited issues regarding Brown and Hale's claims, because it finds that Defendants are due judgment as a matter of law on all of Plaintiffs' claims for the reasons outlined below.

This opinion has been a long time coming. Suffice it to say that the undersigned has struggled immeasurably-both in time and depth-with the issues presented by the parties' motions to reconsider. Aside from the unique and difficult legal questions presented by the facts of this case, the sheer magnitude of wading through seven years of voluminous litigation was daunting, especially considering that the undersigned only recently was invited to the party. By far, however, the most difficult challenge was that the parties' motions seek vacatur of a very thorough opinion authored by a distinguished judge of this court.

In its analysis on reconsideration, this court has assumed that the facts of the case have not changed from the date that Judge Fuller entered his Summary Judgment Opinion.7 Indeed, this opinion relies entirely on, and assumes familiarity with, the detailed and thorough recitation of the facts set out by Judge Fuller (and incorporated by reference herein). Prewett, 419

Page 1165

F.Supp.2d at 1343-49. Likewise, the Parties' arguments are not new. They are the same arguments presented, in the Rule 56 materials that were filed initially in 2001 and, repackaged for the undersigned in 2007.

What has changed, and what sets the stage for this court's complete one hundred and eighty-degree turn on the Rule 56 arguments, is that in their most recent motions, the parties have finally focused their attention on the unique legal issues at, play in this case. Given the limitation on the number of matters that this court was willing to reconsider — each side was allotted only two bites at the apple — the Parties were forced to hone their arguments. It is through this refocused lens that the undersigned views the applicable law. And it is for the reasons outlined below that the undersigned concludes that Defendants are entitled to judgment as a matter of law on all of Plaintiffs' claims.

I. Applicable Standards of Review

The pending motions to reconsider, permitted by the undersigned at the parties' request in light of the reassignment of this case, have asked this court to take a second look at the issues decided by Judge Fuller's Summary Judgment Opinion. Those requests; therefore, invoke again the well-worn Rule 56 standard of review. Summary judgment is only appropriate if there is no genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). It is the moving party's initial burden to identify evidence which could indicate an absence of disputed fact issues. Id. at 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548. Once the non-moving party presents evidence to show that there are genuine issues for trial, the court must believe this evidence and draw all inferences in favor of the non-moving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. 242, 255, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). The existence of any material, factual dispute on an issue affecting the outcome of the case can defeat summary judgment. Chapman v. AI Transp., 229 F.3d 1012, 1023 (11th Cir.2000) (en banc).

II. Discussion

The court begins with an analysis of the EPA claims, as the resolution of those claims is dispositive of the Title VII claims as well.

A. Equal. Pay Act

The EPA prohibits employers from paying an employee at a rate less than that paid to employees of the opposite sex for equal work, 29 U.S.C. § 206(d)(1), and it "prescribes a form of strict liability: Once the disparity in pay between substantially similar jobs is demonstrated, the burden shifts to the defendant to prove that a `factor other than sex' is responsible for the differential. If the defendant fails, the plaintiff wins. The plaintiff is not required to prove discriminatory intent on the part of the defendant." Miranda v. B & B Cash Grocery Store, Inc., 975 F.2d 1518, 1533 (11th Cir.1992) (citing Mitchell v. Jefferson County Bd. of Educ., 936 F.2d 539 (11th Cir.1991)).8 When Congress enacted the EPA, its purpose was:

to remedy what was perceived to be a serious and endemic problem of employment discrimination in private industry-the fact that the wage structure in many segments of American industry has been based on an ancient but outmoded belief that a man, because of his role in society,

Page 1166

should be paid more than a woman even though his duties are the same.

Corning Glass Works v. Brennan, 417 U.S. 188, 195, 94 S.Ct. 2223, 41 L.Ed.2d 1 (1974) (citations omitted). Although there is no question in this Circuit that the EPA governs the compensation of not only the private employers who were targeted by the statute initially but also state employers in the public sector, see Hundertmark v. State of Florida Dept. of Transp., 205 F.3d 1272, 1276 (11th Cir.2000), neither the statute, the interpretive regulations, nor the applicable case law provides much guidance as to how the EPA can, and should, be applied in the context of public employment when the jobs at issue are governed by state statute.

1. The Prima Facie Case

A female employee9 demonstrates a prima facie case of an Equal Pay Act violation by showing that her employer paid male employees different wages for equal work for jobs which require "`equal skill, effort, and responsibility, and which are performed under similar working conditions.'" Irby v. Bittick, 44 F.3d 949, 954 (11th Cir.1995) (quoting Corning Glass Works v. Brennan, 417 U.S. 188, 195, 94 S.Ct. 2223, 41 L.Ed.2d 1 (1974) and 29 U.S.C. § 206(d)(1)). Although formal job titles or descriptions may be considered, the controlling factor in the court's assessment of whether two jobs are substantially equal must be actual job content. Miranda, 975 F.2d at 1533; Arrington v. Cobb Cty., 139 F.3d 865, 876 (11th Cir. 1998) ("[A]lthough formal job titles or descriptions may be considered, the controlling factor in the court's assessment of whether two jobs are substantially equal must be actual job content."); Hodgson v. Brookhaven Gen'l Hosp., 436 F.2d 719, 724 (5th Cir.1970) ("Job descriptions prepared by the employer may or may not fairly describe job content.")10 Thus, "[t]he prima facie case ... focuses solely on the primary duties of each job, not duties that are incidental or insubstantial." Miranda, 975 F.2d at 1533 (emphasis added).

A plaintiff need only demonstrate that the jobs at issue are substantially similar, not identical. Miranda, 975 F.2d at 1533. Nonetheless, "[t]he standard for determining whether jobs are equal in terms of skill, effort, and responsibility is high." Waters v. Turner, Wood, & Smith Ins. Agency, Inc., 874 F.2d 797, 799 (11th Cir.1989). Indeed, Plaintiffs' EPA burden of proving that their positions are equivalent to the positions of their comparators is a more difficult burden than the comparison which must be made to support their Title VII claims. Miranda, 975 F.2d at 1526.11

As noted earlier, the unique facts of this public employer case do not easily fit into the EPA mold. Most, of this Circuit's case law interpreting the EPA was developed in the context of private employers and is

Page 1167

therefore not tailored to the unique posture of governmental employees. The case law does not contemplate a comparator position...

To continue reading

Request your trial
5 cases
  • Calicchio v. Oasis Outsourcing Grp. Holdings, L.P.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Southern District of Florida
    • July 22, 2021
    ...their pay differentials are based on a bona fide use of ‘other factors other than sex.’ " Prewett v. Ala. Dep't of Veterans Aff. , 533 F. Supp. 2d 1160, 1185-86 (M.D. Ala. Dec. 27, 2007) (citing Corning Glass Works v. Brennan , 417 U.S. 188, 198-201, 94 S.Ct. 2223, 41 L.Ed.2d 1 (1974) ) (em......
  • Perry v. Zoetis LLC
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Nebraska
    • May 20, 2020
    ...v. B & B Cash Grocery Store, Inc., 975 F.2d 1518, 1533 (11th Cir. 1992). As further explained in Prewett v. Alabama Dep't of Veterans Affairs, 533 F. Supp. 2d 1160 (M.D. Ala. 2007):In the analysis of "equal skill," this court sees an important distinction between (on the one hand) standard ......
  • Calicchio v. Oasis Outsourcing Group Holdings, L.P.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Southern District of Florida
    • July 22, 2021
    ...of law one of the EPA affirmative defenses, that defense is also dispositive of any Title VII claims based upon the same underlying facts.” Id. also objects that the Report “ignores other evidence of discrimination.” Pl.'s Objs. at 14. She argues that she has submitted enough circumstantial......
  • Baker v. Upson Reg'l Med. Ctr.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Middle District of Georgia
    • March 17, 2022
    ...... business.” Prewett v. Ala. Dep't of Veterans. Affs., 533 F.Supp.2d ... v. Alabama, 111 F.Supp.2d 1197, 1204 (M.D. Ala. 2000). (citing ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT