Randolph v. St. Tammany Par. Sch. Bd., CIVIL ACTION NO. 19-11861 CONMAG DIV. (2)

CourtUnited States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Louisiana)
Decision Date17 May 2021
Docket NumberCIVIL ACTION NO. 19-11861 CONMAG DIV. (2)




May 17, 2021


This matter was referred to a United States Magistrate Judge for all proceedings and entry of judgment in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) upon the written consent of all parties. ECF No. 9. The Court held a trial, without a jury, on March 8-10, 2021 via videoconference due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Plaintiff Verlean W. Randolph ("Randolph") filed this suit against her employer, St. Tammany Parish School Board ("the School Board"), alleging that defendant discriminated against her on the basis of her race, subjected her to harassment and a hostile work environment, and retaliated against her in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, 42 U.S.C. § 1981, and La. Rev. Stat. § 23:967. ECF No. 2, at 3-5. The School Board denies that it discriminated against Randolph and contends that she was not promoted due to, among other things, her behavior, attitude, and unwillingness to take on additional duties. ECF No. 47, at 4-5.

At the beginning of the trial, the parties introduced Joint Exhibits 1-55 ("Exhibits"), which the court admitted. ECF No. 49. Plaintiff also introduced exhibits P-2 and P-3. ECF No. 50. The Court heard testimony from six witnesses: Louis Boullion, Brian Kingrey, Darlene Bennett, Theressa Noustens, Ronald Randolph and Plaintiff Verlean Randolph. ECF No. 52, at 1.

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Defendant moved for directed verdict at the close of Plaintiff's case and at the close of all evidence. The Court denied the motions without prejudice.

Having considered the evidence adduced at trial, the record, the testimony of the witnesses, the arguments and written submissions of counsel, and the applicable law, the Court makes the following findings of fact and conclusions of law pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 52(a). To the extent, if any, that any of the following findings of fact constitute conclusions of law, or vice versa, they are adopted as such.


1. Plaintiff Verlean W. "Tina" Randolph is an African-American woman who received a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science from Southeastern Louisiana University in 1992, a Master of Business Administration from the University of Phoenix in July 2001, and a Master of Science in Integrated Science and Technology from Southeastern Louisiana University around 2006. Exs. 3, at 2; 1, at 45; Trial Testimony ("Test.") of Verlean Randolph ("Randolph").

2. The defendant St. Tammany Parish School Board is a political subdivision of St. Tammany Parish, State of Louisiana. Pretrial Order Stipulations, ECF No. 47, at 5.

3. After hearing all of the witnesses' testimony, the court finds that the witnesses are credible and testified truthfully based on their recollections, with their differing positions resulting primarily from different perceptions of the underlying events and inferences drawn from same.

Structure of the IT Department

4. Louis Boullion has overseen Defendant's IT Department ("IT Department") since January 2002 as Director of Information Technology (2002-07) and Senior Supervisor of IT Department (2007-present). He worked for various companies in technology before working in

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the IT Department. He is the highest ranking individual and highest paid employee in the IT Department. Exs. 32; 49, at 2-3; Test. of Louis Boullion ("Boullion").

5. The IT Department has two branches: (1) programming and (2) systems administration. The hierarchy within the programming branch of the IT Department when Plaintiff first joined Defendant was: Programmer I, Programmer II, Lead Programmer, Programmer Analyst I, Programmer Analyst II, Lead Programmer Analyst, Systems Analyst, Assistant Director. Ex. 3, at 40, 148; Tests. of Darlene Bennett ("Bennett"); Boullion. While no testimony or exhibits provide the overall hierarchy of the systems administration branch, the evidence suggests that a computer technician is inferior to a Systems Administrator, who is inferior to the Lead Systems Administrator. See Exs. 35-38, 46, 52. Similar to the programming branch, there was an Assistant Director who supervised the entire systems administration for a portion of Plaintiff's employment in the IT Department. See Test. of Boullion.

6. The complexity of the job duties within the programming branch increases with each programmer level, with generally less complicated tasks performed by the Programmer I and more complicated tasks performed by the Programmer II or Lead Programmer. The Programmer Analyst positions work similarly, with the less complicated assignments being addressed by the Programmer Analyst I and more complicated assignments by the Programmer Analyst II and Lead Programmer Analyst. Tests. of Bennett; Boullion. The Systems Analyst position involved more work analyzing databases and building and designing software specifications than the Programmer Analyst positions. Tests. of Randolph; Bennett; Boullion.

7. In the systems administration branch, the positions generally focus more on maintenance of hardware for the IT Department, ensuring computers and other technology hardware is properly running for users in the school system to access available software programs.

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The Systems Administrator positions also perform "low level" programming, analyzing databases, manipulating data, or implementing new systems. Tests. of Bennett; Boullion. Mr. Boullion described the Systems Administrator position as a "jack of all trades." Test of Boullion.

8. Defendant hired Plaintiff to work as a Programmer I in its IT Department on January 3, 1994, promoted her to Programmer II on July 1, 1995, promoted her to Lead Programmer on July 1, 1996, and promoted her to Lead Programmer Analyst on July 1, 2000. Ex. 1, at 29, 53, 55, 61; Ex. 3, at 75. Plaintiff has not been terminated; she is currently employed as a Lead Programmer Analyst for the IT Department. Test. of Randolph.

9. Defendant's job description for the Lead Programmer Analyst position, as evidenced by the 2004 job description which was the only version introduced into evidence, includes the essential job functions of responsibility for the maintenance and proper operation of production systems, supervising programming personnel in new programming or modifications, preparing program specifications, report layouts, input documents, etc. for assignment to subordinates, preparing computer programs including flow charting, coding, testing, implementation, and documentation, performing limited systems analysis, working with users and information technology personnel, for the development of new or revised systems. Ex. 3, at 78. Plaintiff described her duties as Lead Programmer Analyst, in 2000, to include programming, coding, telephone support, writing program specifications, creating reports using code, and assisting with various print jobs. Test. of Randolph.

10. Over the last decade or more, Defendant shifted away from having the IT Department's programmers write or code the computer programs/software for operational functions and moved to purchasing commercial software for those functions. The transition from on-site programming and coding to purchasing packaged, pre-built commercial software programs

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has resulted in changes to programmer's duties, with the job duties today requiring less hands-on programming or coding of programs and more learning and maintaining the packaged software programs purchased by the IT Department and running reports on that software. Tests. of Randolph; Bennett; Boullion. Plaintiff acknowledged during her testimony that the amount of coding and building of software programs performed by the IT Department decreased when Defendant shifted to the purchase of commercial software. In one of Plaintiff's evaluations, Plaintiff writes, "While I welcome the new software that has been implemented, it would be nice and challenging to have the opportunity to do more coding." Ex. 3, at 125.

11. Over the course of time and with the proliferation of hardware distribution among employees and students, the work within the systems administration branch has increased. For instance, during the Covid-19 pandemic, Defendant deployed approximately 42,000 chromebooks to enable teachers and students to conduct classes virtually, requiring additional hardware support. Test. of Boullion.

Programming Employees and Reporting Hierarchy

12. Defendant hired Darlene Bennett as a Programmer on January 16, 1989, promoted her to Programmer Analyst I on July 1, 1991, promoted her to Programmer Analyst II on July 1, 1992, promoted her to Lead Programmer Analyst on July 1, 1991, promoted her to Systems Analyst on July 1, 2000, and promoted her to Assistant Director on July 1, 2002, which position she held until her retirement in July 2019. Ex. 3, at 176; Test. of Bennett. Darlene Bennett did not receive any promotions after her July 2002 promotion to Assistant Director. Test. of Bennett. At retirement, Ms. Bennett's annual salary was $91,746. Pretrial Order Stipulations, ECF No. 47, at 5.

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13. Plaintiff has not received a promotion since 2000, although she has received incremental pay raises. Ex. 1, at 6-14. She earned $63,373 in 2018 and $64,983 in 2019. Pretrial Order Stipulations, ECF No. 47, at 5. Her gross salary for those years was $74,709. Test. of Randolph. In her current position as Lead Programmer Analyst, Plaintiff is currently the second-highest paid employee in the IT Department, with only Mr. Boullion paid more than her. Tests. of Randolph; Boullion.

14. Theressa Noustens worked as a Lead Programmer in the IT Department from 1995-2000 and from 2003-2015. Ex. 3, at 30; Test. of Theressa Noustens ("Noustens"). Ms. Noustens did not receive a promotion the entire time that she worked in the IT Department (i.e., 1995-2000; 2003-2015). Test. of Noustens.

15. When Plaintiff...

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