Small v. Memphis-Shelby Cnty. Airport Auth. & M. Chad Beasley

Decision Date02 December 2015
Docket NumberNo. 2:13-cv-02437-JMP-dkv,2:13-cv-02437-JMP-dkv
PartiesROSALYN SMALL, Plaintiff, v. MEMPHIS-SHELBY COUNTY AIRPORT AUTHORITY and M. CHAD BEASLEY, in his individual capacity, Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Western District of Tennessee

Plaintiff Rosalyn Small ("Plaintiff" or "Small") brings this action against Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority ("MSCAA" or "the Airport Authority") and M. Chad Beasley ("Beasley") pursuant to the Constitution of the United States and 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, as amended 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2, and the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq. (2nd Am. Compl. ¶ 1, ECF No. 59.)

The Court held a bench trial in this case over the course of five days between August 17, 2015, and September 2, 2015. (ECF Nos. 164-166, 168, 170.) Plaintiff was represented by David Sullivan. Defendant MSCAA was represented by Todd Photopulos and Diana Comes. Defendant Beasley was represented by Clarence Halmon, and Sasha Gilmore. Plaintiff called the following witnesses: Karen Davis, Craig Elliott, Derek Dean (by deposition excerpt), Sgt. Mark Lott (by deposition excerpt), Julie Ann Stewart (by deposition excerpt), and herself. Plaintiff also testified in rebuttal and called George Mabon. (See Ex. List, ECF No. 171; Corrected Witness List, ECF No. 172.) Defendant MSCAA called the following witnesses: Derek Dean, Mark Lott, M. Chad Beasley, Julie Stewart, Tim McCarroll, Jerry Brandon, and, in surrebuttal George Mabon. (See Ex. List, ECF No. 171; Corrected Witness List, ECF No. 172.) Defendant Beasley called no witnesses and submitted no exhibits.

For the reasons set forth below, the Court finds that (1) Plaintiff failed to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that she was subject to a hostile work environment based on sex by MSCAA; (2) Plaintiff failed to prove that she was the victim of sex discrimination by MSCAA; (3) Plaintiff failed to prove that MSCAA violated her procedural due process rights; (4) MSCAA has proven that the FFDE referral was job-related and consistent with business necessity; (5) Plaintiff failed to prove that MSCAA unlawfully retaliated against her under the ADA; and (6) Beasley is entitled to qualified immunity as to all of the claims against him.

A. Stipulated Facts

Below are the stipulated facts from the Joint Pretrial Order:

a. At the time of her termination, Plaintiff was a Sergeant.
b. Mr. Beasley was employed by Defendant MSCAA from May 31, 2010 to April 29, 2013, during which time he was the Chief of Police for Defendant MSCAA.
c. Plaintiff was issued written discipline from her supervisor, Lt. Mark Williams, on November 30, 2011.
d. Plaintiff was relieved of duty on May 3, 2012.
e. Plaintiff was issued a Notice of Decision on May 18, 2012, sustaining the charges against her, suspending her for nine days.
f. Plaintiff was issued a Notice of Decision sustaining the charges against her and notifying her that her employment was terminated effective July 3, 2012.

(Joint Pretrial Order at 12.)

B. Testimony and Evidence Introduced During Trial - Plaintiff's Case
1. Captain Karen Davis

Plaintiff's first witness, Karen Davis, is currently a Captain at MSCAA. She testified that she had been employed by MSCAA for twenty-one years and that she was promoted to Captain in 2009. As Captain, she supervised both Sgt. Small and Lt. Williams. Capt. Davis testified that Small's job performance was "excellent" and that she had encouraged Small to seek further promotion. She further testified that many of Williams' subordinates found him difficult to talk to. She explained that she had identified "Communication Skills" as an area for development for Williams based on his "argumentative" deliverystyle and "tend[ency] to talk over those with conflicting opinions." (See Ex. 2 at 4.)

While Davis could not recall a situation where Williams was disrespectful to a male supervisor, she testified that Williams had been disrespectful to her. Specifically, Davis testified that she had disciplined Williams after she requested that he complete the evaluations for his subordinate officers and he refused and responded in a distasteful and arrogant manner. Davis issued Williams a written reprimand for this incident, but Williams was not suspended. Additionally, Davis testified that Williams appealed her written reprimand and made untruthful accusations about her in the appeal. The official response to Williams' appeal, a letter drafted by Davis and signed by Chief Beasley, found Williams' claims to have no merit, but Williams was not subject to further discipline for making false charges.

Capt. Davis further testified that she held a meeting with Lt. Williams, Sgt. Small, Capt. Johnson, and Capt. Dean. She testified that the attenuated relationship between Small and Williams was affecting the shift to the extent that she felt she needed to hold a meeting, but not necessarily to take further steps. At this time, Davis could not separate them herself because she was not the patrol supervisor, but she suggested to Beasley and Dean that Williams and Small should be separated.Davis testified that she was not aware of any sexual harassment of Small by Williams at the time she held the meeting.

Defendant MSCAA's cross-examination of Davis was focused on the positive aspects of Davis's evaluation of Williams and the relationship conflict between Small and Williams. Davis testified that Small had once complained to Davis that Williams was "harassing" Small because Williams had given her multiple write-ups on the same day. Davis acknowledged, however, that she never saw Williams sexually harass Small, ask for Small's phone number, or ask Small to go on a date. Davis testified that she told Small to take her complaints to Chief Beasley because Davis was not assigned to patrol. Davis also suggested that Small pick a different shift to get away from Williams.

On cross-examination by counsel for Defendant Beasley, Davis further testified that she has an obligation as an officer to follow up if someone reports sexual harassment to her. Davis never reported any allegations of sexual harassment against Beasley, never received reports of sexual harassment against Beasley, and never saw Beasley act in a sexual manner toward Small.

On re-direct, Davis testified that she had seen Beasley hug individuals at the airport and that Beasley had also hugged her. Davis had not, however, seen him hug male employees. She further testified that she found Williams to be disagreeablewith respect to both males and females. Davis testified that Small was a great worker and that there is no reason why Small should not be reinstated.

2. Officer Craig Elliott

Plaintiff's second witness was Officer Craig Elliott. Elliott testified regarding Sgt. Small's appearance at the roll call on May 3, 2012.

Specifically, Elliott testified that, on May 3, 2012, he stood next to Sgt. Small during the roll call. He testified that Small was to his left, sitting in a chair, with her hand to her head. Elliott thought it looked like Small had a headache, and that he did not see her crying. He further testified that he did not think Sgt. Small appeared emotionally unstable. He prepared an inter-departmental memo on his observations on May 5, 2012.

On cross-examination by counsel for MSCAA, Officer Elliott acknowledged that he had noted Small's appearance as "agitated" in his memo. Elliott also acknowledged that, at the CSC Hearing, he testified that Small had looked "pissed." Elliott testified that when Beasley read off Sgt. Small's name in announcing the awards, Small did not seem to hear him and that Williams had to repeat her name before she looked up. Elliott did not see Beasley and Small interact during the roll call.

On cross-examination by counsel for Beasley, Elliott acknowledged that he has remained in the same rank of Officer with MSCAA for over ten years.

On re-direct, Elliott explained that there was no assigned seating during roll call and that there was nothing unusual about Sgt. Small sitting in the back of the room.

3. Captain Derek Dean (by deposition)

Plaintiff's third witness was Derek Dean, testifying by excerpt from his February 7, 2013 deposition. Dean was employed as a Captain by MSCAA in 2012. Dean testified that Small was respected at MSCAA and that he had no problem with her returning to work. Dean further testified that the tension between Williams and Small was longstanding and that Small would sometimes get teary-eyed when Williams was mentioned. Dean also acknowledged that he never recommended that Williams be suspended, although he had seen Williams behave in the manner in which Small behaved during the May 3, 2012 meeting.

Counsel for Defendant MSCAA cross-designated an excerpt from Dean's deposition, in which Dean testified that Williams did not have an angry tone during the May 3, 2012 meeting.

4. Sergeant Mark Lott (by deposition)

Plaintiff's fourth witness was Mark Lott, testifying by deposition excerpt. Lott's testimony concerned his personal knowledge of the events of May 3, 2012. Lott testified thatduring the meeting on May 3, 2012, Small giggled in response to an order from Williams. According to Lott, giggling was not appropriate in this situation. Lott further testified that, when Williams tried to explain where patrol vehicles should be parked, Small started getting angry and engaged in an argument with Williams. Lott explained that this situation was not new and that Williams and Small have always "been at each other." With respect to the May 3, 2012 roll call, Lott testified that he observed Small with her face in her hands and, after Williams handed her a ribbon, wiping her eyes. According to Lott, insubordination is a very serious offense.

5. Julie Stewart (by deposition and CSC hearing excerpt)

Plaintiff's fifth witness was Julie Stewart, testifying by both deposition excerpt and CSC...

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