Williams v. Birmingham Board of Education
MEMORANDUM OPINION and ORDER granting the dft's motion for summary judgment; DISMISSING CASE with prejudice; costs taxed against plaintiff. Signed by Judge Abdul K Kallon on 3/15/2013. (KAM, )
2013 Mar-15 PM 12:00
U.S. DISTRICT COURT
N.D. OF ALABAMA
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
YANCEY D. WILLIAMS,
BIRMINGHAM BOARD OF
Civil Action Number
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Yancey Williams, who is male, filed this action against the Birmingham
Board of Education (“BBOE”) alleging gender discrimination under Title VII of
the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq., for failure to promote him
to a principal position. Doc. 1. Basically, Williams contends that the BBOE’s
decision to select women for four of seven permanent or interim principal
positions is evidence that the BBOE denied him these positions because of his
gender. The BBOE has moved for summary judgment, doc. 13, and the motion is
fully briefed and ripe for review, docs. 14, 17, 19. For the reasons set forth below,
the court GRANTS the motion.
I. SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD OF REVIEW
Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c), summary judgment is proper
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“if the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits
show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is
entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c). “Rule 56(c)
mandates the entry of summary judgment, after adequate time for discovery and
upon motion, against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish
the existence of an element essential to that party’s case, and on which that party
will bear the burden of proof at trial.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322
(1986). The moving party bears the initial burden of proving the absence of a
genuine issue of material fact. Id. at 323. The burden then shifts to the
nonmoving party, who is required to “go beyond the pleadings” to establish that
there is a “genuine issue for trial.” Id. at 324 (citation and internal quotation
marks omitted). A dispute about a material fact is genuine “if the evidence is such
that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson
v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). The court must construe the
evidence and all reasonable inferences arising from it in the light most favorable to
the non-moving party. Id. However, “mere conclusions and unsupported factual
allegations are legally insufficient to defeat a summary judgment motion.” Ellis v.
England, 432 F.3d 1321, 1326 (11th Cir. 2005) (per curiam) (citing Bald
Mountain Park, Ltd. v. Oliver, 863 F.2d 1560,1563 (11th Cir. 1989)).
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II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND
Williams, who has a Bachelor’s degree in Social Science with a focus in
education from Miles College and a Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership
and an Educational Specialist degree from the University of Alabama at
Birmingham, began working as a teacher in the Birmingham school system in
1997. Doc. 15-1 at 5-7. Williams left in 1999 or 2000 to work as an assistant
principal in the Fairfield school system. Id. at 7-8. After the Fairfield system
discharged him, Williams worked for Serra Toyota and Crown Nissan as a car
salesman. Id. The BBOE re-hired Williams as a teacher in 2002, and promoted
him to his current position of assistant principal approximately a year later. Id. at
Williams alleged selection as principal of Hill Elementary School
Williams contends that the BBOE discriminated against him by promoting
him to Hill Elementary School principal, giving him the keys to the school, and,
subsequently, rescinding the promotion and awarding it to a female. Doc. 1 at 2 ¶
8(a). To support this contention, Williams testified that he interviewed with the
BBOE and received the principal position at Hill Elementary sometime during the
Christmas break of either 2005, 2006, or 2007, while he was assistant principal at
Daniel Payne Middle School. Doc. 15-1 at 11-13. According to Williams, former
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Superintendent Dr. Wayman Shiver and the assistant superintendent Dr. Rosalyn
Childress notified Williams of his selection via separate telephone calls. Id.; doc.
18 at 1 ¶ 3. Thereafter, Williams received the keys to Hill Elementary and had two
debriefing meetings with the outgoing principal. Doc. 15-1 at 12-13. However,
shortly thereafter, Dr. Shiver and Dr. Childress purportedly told Williams to
surrender the keys and rescinded the decision to promote Williams. Id. at 14. The
BBOE appointed Taylor Green, a male, as the principal of Hill Elementary in
February 2006. Docs. 15-1 at 17; 15-2 at 5. The BBOE denies it ever approved
Williams as principal of Hill Elementary. Doc. 15-2 at 5.
Failure to select Williams for seven principal positions
Williams applied unsuccessfully for seven other principal positions during
the 2010-2011 school year and claims “several people with less time in the district
or less time as assistant principals were  appointed...” Doc. 18 at 1-2 ¶ 4; 15-1 at
20. Moreover, Williams asserts that “[t]here have been female applicants
appointed and/or selected as Principals and/or Interim Principals at a
disproportionate rate than that of similarly situated males by the Board[,]” and that
“[a]pplicants have been selected that have less experience at the Assistant
Principal level and/or who have lower level post-graduate degrees than myself.”
Doc. 18 at 2 ¶ 5, 6. The BBOE denies discriminating against Williams and
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contends that it hired the most qualified applicant for each position. Doc. 19 at 4 ¶
3; see doc. 15-2. The positions, the persons selected, if any, and the reasons for
the selection decisions are outlined below:
TOAR Riggins School
The BBOE appointed Fred Stewart, a male, as principal at TOAR Riggins
Alternative School. Doc. 15-2 at 1 ¶ 2. Stewart had four years experience as a
principal in the BBOE system prior to his selection. Id. The BBOE contends that
Stewart was more qualified than Williams because of Stewart’s experience as a
principal. Doc. 14 at 4.
Jackson Olin High School
The BBOE appointed Janice Drake, a female, as principal at Jackson Olin
High School. Doc. 15-2 at 2 ¶ 3. Prior to her appointment, Drake worked for the
BBOE as an assistant principal at the high school level for approximately nine and
a half years. Id. The BBOE believed Drake was more qualified than Williams
because she had five more years of experience than Williams as an assistant
principal. Id.; doc. 14 at 5.
North Roebuck Elementary School
The BBOE initially posted a vacancy at North Roebuck Elementary due to
the planned retirement of the then principal. Doc. 15-2 at 2-3 ¶ 4. However, the
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BBOE subsequently decided to hire someone on an interim basis because it
planned to close and consolidate several schools at the end of the 2010-2011
school year. Doc. 15-2 at 2-3 ¶ 4. In light of the possibility that North Roebuck
would be one of the affected schools, the BBOE appointed Dr. Nichole Davis,
Ed.D., a female who was the assistant principal at Martha Gaskins Middle School,
as interim principal for the remainder of the 2010-2011 school year. Id. The
BBOE believed Dr. Davis was more qualified than Williams because she holds a
doctorate degree in Educational Leadership and graduated with a 4.0 G.P.A. Id.
Wenonah Elementary School
Similarly, in January of 2011, the BBOE hired Willie Goldsmith, a male, as
interim principal at Wenonah Elementary when the then principal retired. Doc.
15-2 at 3 ¶ 5. The BBOE thought Goldsmith was more qualified because
Goldsmith had previously served as a principal in the BBOE system. Id.
Wenonah Elementary is now closed. Id.
Gaston K-8 School
The BBOE decided to close Gaston K-8 School at the end of the 2010-2011
school year. Doc. 15-2 at 3-4 ¶ 6. Therefore, when the BBOE promoted the
former principal, Fred Stewart, to principal of TOAR Riggins Alternative School
in October of 2010, the BBOE decided to replace Stewart with an interim
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principal. Id. As a result, the BBOE appointed Terry Bush, a female who was the
assistant principal of Gaston, as interim principal for the remainder of the 20102011 school year. Id. The BBOE believed Bush was more qualified than
Williams because she was the assistant principal at Gaston prior to her selection
and had approximately six years of experience as an assistant principal in the
BBOE system. Id.
Going Elementary School
The BBOE also decided to appoint an interim principal for a vacancy at
Going Elementary due to the pending consolidations and closings. The BBOE
selected Irene Hunter as interim principal. Doc. 15-2 at 4 ¶ 7. Hunter had
approximately nine years of experience as a principal at the time of her selection.
Id. Going is now closed. Id.
Wright Elementary School
After posting a vacancy for a principal at Wright Elementary, the BBOE
decided not to fill the position due to the planned school consolidations and closings.
Doc. 15-2 at 4-5 ¶ 8. The BBOE subsequently closed Wright Elementary. Id.
Williams’ EEOC Charge of Discrimination
Williams filed an EEOC charge of gender discrimination alleging that the
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subjected [him] to harassment in that [he] was granted a promotion to
a principal’s position, given the keys and had the awarding of the
position reversed by the employer. . .[that he was] not even afforded
an interview when [he] appl[ied] for a principal’s position. . . [and
that] In January 2011, all of the positions were filled and [he] was not
awarded either. Four of the five positions were filled by females.
One of the positions was filled by a female with less seniority than
[him] as an assistant principal. Females are being hired as principals
at a much higher rate than males who have equal or greater seniority.
Doc. 15-1 at 46. After the EEOC issued a right to sue letter, Williams filed this
lawsuit. Docs. 1 and 15-1 at 47.
Where, as here, Williams offers only circumstantial evidence of
discrimination, under the well-established McDonnell Douglas burden-shifting
analysis, he must first create an inference of discrimination by establishing a prima
facie case, creating a rebuttable presumption that the employer acted illegally.
Wilson v. B/E Aerospace, Inc., 376 F.3d 1079, 1087 (11th Cir. 2004) (citing
Combs v. Plantation Patterns, 106 F.3d 1519, 1527-28 (11th Cir. 1997)). Under
the McDonnell Douglas framework, to prevail on a claim of failure to promote, a
plaintiff may establish a prima facie case of gender discrimination by showing
that: (1) he is a member of a protected class; (2) he was qualified and applied for
the promotion; (3) he was rejected despite his qualifications; and (4) other equally
or less qualified employees who were not members of the protected class were
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promoted. Wilson, 376 F.3d at 1089 (citing Lee v. GTE Florida, Inc., 226 F.3d
1249, 1253 (11th Cir. 2000)).
When the plaintiff establishes a prima facie case, the burden of production
shifts to the employer to articulate a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for its
actions. Id. The employer “need not persuade the court that it was actually
motivated by the proffered reasons.” Id. (citing Texas Dept. of Community of
Affairs v. Burdine, 450 U.S. 248, 254-55 (1981)). If the employer satisfies its
burden by articulating one or more reasons, then the presumption of discrimination
is rebutted, and the burden of production shifts to the plaintiff to offer evidence
that the alleged reason of the employer is a pretext for illegal discrimination. Id.
(citing Burdine, 450 U.S. at 255-26). “To show pretext, a plaintiff may
demonstrate such weaknesses, implausibilities, inconsistencies, incoherencies, or
contradictions in the proffered reasons for the employment action such that a
reasonable factfinder could find them unworthy of credence.” Cooper v. Southern
Co., 390 F.3d 695, 725 (11th Cir. 2004) (internal quotations omitted). “However,
the plaintiff cannot merely quarrel with the wisdom of the employer’s reason, but
must meet the reason head on and rebut it.” Chapman v. AI Transp., 229 F.3d
1012, 1030 (11th Cir. 2000) (internal quotations omitted). Despite the shifting of
the burden of production between the plaintiff and the defendant under the
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McDonnell Douglas framework, “[t]he ultimate burden of persuading the trier of
fact that the defendant intentionally discriminated against the plaintiff remains at
all times with the plaintiff.” Wilson, 376 F.3d at 1088 (citation omitted).
As shown below, Williams failed to establish that the BBOE denied him the
positions in contention because of his gender.
Hill Elementary School Principal Incident
Williams contends that the BBOE discriminated against him based on his
gender “by offering and awarding him a promotion...to a principal’s position” at
Hill Elementary, and, subsequently, reversing the decision and awarding it to a
female. Doc. 1 at 2 ¶ 8(a). Unfortunately for Williams, his Title VII claim is
untimely because he failed to file his EEOC charge within 180 days of the alleged
act of discrimination. In fact, although the BBOE allegedly selected Williams and
then denied him the promotion as principal of Hill Elementary School in 2006,1
Williams only filed his EEOC charge on March 18, 2011, almost five years later
and well after the deadline. See Delaware State College v. Ricks, 449 U.S. 250,
256 (1980) (Under Title VII, “[i]f a plaintiff fails to file an EEOC charge before
the 180-day limitations period, the plaintiff’s subsequent lawsuit is barred and
Although Williams testified that this incident occurred in 2005, 2006, or 2007, he does
not dispute that the BBOE appointed Taylor Green as principal of Hill Elementary in February
2006, after the BBOE purportedly rescinded the offer to Williams. Therefore, the court will use
the 2006 date for this opinion. See docs 15-1 at 17; 15-2 at 5.
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must be dismissed for failure to exhaust administrative remedies.”). Alternatively,
the claim fails also because the BBOE awarded the position to a male, a fact
Williams conceded in his deposition. See doc. 15-1 at 17. Consequently, Williams
cannot establish that “other equally or less qualified employees who were not
members of the protected class were promoted.” See Wilson, 376 F.3d at 1089.
Therefore, the BBOE’s motion regarding the Hill Elementary position is
Seven other principal positions with BBOE
With respect to the other positions, the BBOE challenges only whether
Williams meets the fourth element of the prima facie case,2 – that is, whether
“equally or less qualified employees [than Williams] who were not members of the
protected class were promoted.” See Wilson, 376 F.3d at 1089; doc. 14 at 16.
Indeed, Williams cannot establish a prima facie case for the TOAR Riggins and
Wenonah Elementary positions since the BBOE selected males for these two
positions. See doc. 15-2 at 1, 3 ¶¶ 2, 5; see also Wilson, 376 F.3d at 1089.
Similarly, Williams’ prima facie case regarding the Wright Elementary position
also fails because the BBOE decided not to fill that vacancy, see doc. 15-2 at 4-5 ¶
(1) Williams, as a male, is a member of a protected class, (2) he was qualified for the
principal positions since he had a Master’s Degree, and he applied for all seven principal
positions at issue, and (3) he was not selected for any of the positions at issue. See Wilson, 376
F.3d at 1089.
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8, and Williams failed to present any evidence that the BBOE did so to prevent
him from getting the position because of his gender. Consequently, the BBOE’s
motion regarding TOAR Riggins, Wenonah Elementary, and Wright Elementary is
As to the remaining four positions, Williams failed to dispute the
qualifications of the women the BBOE promoted to the vacancies at Jackson Olin,
North Roebuck, Gaston, and Going. See docs. 14; 15-2; 17 at 2-5 ¶¶ 10, 13, 2224, 34, 40. Instead, Williams contends primarily that he is more qualified than the
women. Unfortunately for Williams, “the fact that [he] thinks more highly of [his]
performance than [his] employer does is beside the point. The inquiry into pretext
centers on the employer’s beliefs, not the employee’s beliefs and, to be blunt about
it, not on reality as it exists outside of the decision maker’s head.” Alvarez v.
Royal Atl. Developers, Inc., 610 F.3d 1253, 1266 (11th Cir. 2010) (citation
omitted). Here, the employer believed that the women it selected were more
qualified because they had more years of experience than Williams as either
assistant principal or principal, and one candidate, Dr. Nichole Davis, had a
doctorate degree.3 See doc. 15-2. The evidence supports the BBOE’s contentions
Williams contends that Dr. Davis’s degree is “immaterial and self serving in that only a
Master’s Degree is required for this position.” Doc. 17 at 3 ¶ 22. The court disagrees. There is
nothing in the law that prohibits an employer from preferring a candidate whose qualifications
exceed the minimum requirements.
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regarding the years of experience and Dr. Davis’s degree. Consequently, based on
the record before this court, Williams failed to establish that these four women
were “equally or less qualified” than him, and, as such, his prima facie case fails.
See Wilson, 376 F.3d at 1089.
Alternatively, Williams’ claims fail because he failed to rebut the BBOE’s
legitimate, nondiscriminatory reasons for the selection decisions. Again, the
BBOE presented evidence that it promoted the most qualified applicant for each
position, and presented reasons to support its contentions. In light of the BBOE’s
contentions, the burden shifts back to Williams to establish that the BBOE’s
reasons are pretextual. See Wilson, 376 F.3d at 1086. To meet his burden,
Williams contends that the BBOE “offers shifting reasons for its
interim/temporary appointments of Dr. Nichole Davis and Irene Hunter to
principal due to consolidation - they both had no previous experience at the
principal level. But the record is replete with evidence that the reason proffered
by the Defendant is mere pretext for their sexism.” Doc. 17 at 9-10. This
contention is unavailing because the BBOE stated that it selected Dr. Davis
because she held a doctorate degree and Hunter because she had nine years of
principal experience. See docs. 15-2 at 2-4 ¶¶ 4, 7. Moreover, Williams contends
that “one would find that Williams has a Eds degree while Drake only holds a
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Master’s degree. Therefore, evidence of pretext is also found in the fact that
William’s [sic] qualifications for the Principal position dwarf those of Drake’s
such that no reasonable person, exercising impartial judgment, would have picked
her over Williams.” Doc. 17 at 10. This contention misses the mark also because
the BBOE stated that it selected Drake over Williams because she had five more
years experience as an assistant principal. See docs. 15-2 at 2 ¶ 3. Williams failed
to address this contention.
Unfortunately for Williams, his contentions fail to demonstrate “such
weaknesses, implausibilities, inconsistences, incoherencies or contradictions” that
are necessary to show pretext in BBOE’s “proffered legitimate reasons for its
actions [such] that a reasonable factfinder could find them unworthy of credence.”
See Cooper, 390 F.3d at 725. In fact, the crux of Williams’ contentions attempt
simply to “merely quarrel with the wisdom of the employer’s reason,” instead of
“meet[ing] the reason head on and rebut[ing] it.” See Chapman, 229 F.3d at 1030.
As the Eleventh Circuit made clear, “federal courts do not sit as a super-personnel
department that reexamines an entity’s business decisions. . . Rather our inquiry is
limited to whether the employer gave an honest explanation of its behavior.” Id.
(internal quotations and citations omitted). Put differently, in promotion cases,
“[w]e do not ask whether the employer selected the ‘most’ qualified candidate, but
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only whether it selected the candidate based on an unlawful motive.” Denney v.
City of Albany, 247 F.3d 1172, 1188 (11th Cir. 2001) (citation omitted). Based
on this record, the BBOE has established that its decision to prefer more
experienced and/or educated candidates was based on legitimate nondiscriminatory reasons.
In the final analysis, “[t]he ultimate burden of persuading the trier of fact
that the defendant intentionally discriminated against the plaintiff remains at all
times with the plaintiff.” Wilson, 376 F.3d at 1088. Williams failed to meet that
burden here. Therefore, the BBOE’s motion for summary judgment is
Based on the foregoing reasons, Williams failed to establish a prima facie
case of gender discrimination, and, alternatively, Williams failed to show that the
Birmingham Board of Education’s articulated reasons are pretextual. Therefore,
the Birmingham Board of Education’s motion for summary judgment is
GRANTED. This case is DISMISSED with prejudice. Costs taxed against
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DONE the 15th day of March, 2013.
ABDUL K. KALLON
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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