Hampton v. Snead State Community College
MEMORANDUM OPINION GRANTING 59 and 76 MOTIONs for Leave to File Excess Pages; DENYING 75 and 79 MOTIONs to Strike; finding that 58 Motion for Summary Judgment is due to be granted. Signed by Judge Abdul K Kallon on 1/29/2016. (YMB)
2016 Jan-29 PM 03:20
U.S. DISTRICT COURT
N.D. OF ALABAMA
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
SNEAD STATE COMMUNITY
Civil Action Number
Rodney Hampton brings this case against Snead State Community College
alleging racial discrimination (Count I) and retaliation (Count II), in violation of
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §2000(e) et seq., as amended
by the Civil Rights Act of 1991, and a hostile work environment (Count III), in
violation of 42 U.S.C. §1981. Doc. 1. Snead State now moves for summary
judgment, doc. 58, and its motion is fully briefed and ripe for review, see docs. 60,
61, 77, and 78. For the reasons below, the motion is due to be granted.
As a preliminary matter, the court notes that the parties filed various motions
challenging their respective submissions. First, the Defendant’s Motion for Relief
to Exceed Page Limitation, doc. 59, and Hampton’s Motion for Relief to Exceed
Page Limit, doc. 76, are GRANTED.
Second, Hampton’s Motion to Strike
Defendant’s Affidavits and Motion to Deny Summary Judgment, doc. 75, is
DENIED. Hampton failed to provide a valid reason for why the court should
strike Defendant’s affidavits. Finally, the Defendant’s Motion to Strike, doc. 79,
Hampton’s brief, evidentiary submission, motion to strike, and motion to exceed
page limit, is also DENIED. While Defendant is correct that Hampton’s filings
are untimely, they nonetheless aid the court in evaluating Defendant’s motion for
Standard of Review
Under Rule 56(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, summary
judgment is proper “if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any
material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” “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. Adickes v. S.H. Kress
& Co., 398 U.S. 144, 157 (1970); see also Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255 (all
justifiable inferences must be drawn in the non-moving party’s favor). Any factual
disputes will be resolved in the non-moving party’s favor when sufficient
competent evidence supports the non-moving party’s version of the disputed facts.
See Pace v. Capobianco, 283 F.3d 1275, 1276-1278 (11th Cir. 2002) (a court is not
required to resolve disputes in the non-moving party’s favor when that party’s
version of events is supported by insufficient evidence).
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)). Moreover, “[a] mere ‘scintilla’ of evidence supporting the
opposing party’s position will not suffice; there must be enough of a showing that
the jury could reasonably find for that party.” Walker v. Darby, 911 F.2d 1573,
1577 (11th Cir. 1990) (citing Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252)).
FACTUAL ALLEGATIONS 1
Hampton is an African–American male, and Snead State is a two-year
community college located in Boaz, Alabama.
Docs. 61-1 at 1-2; 77 at 1.
Hampton initially worked at Snead State from 1992 to 1993. Doc. 61-3 at 3.
Snead State re-hired Hampton in 2005, as the Student Support Services Academic
Coordinator for the TRIO program. Id. Hampton has held a variety of positions
since then. Id. Relevant here is the Assistant Athletic Director/Men’s Head
Basketball Coach position, which Hampton assumed on July 1, 2006. Doc. 61-3 at
3. On April 1, 2008, in addition to his role as head coach, Hampton received a
temporary appointment to the position of Athletic Director. Docs. 61-1 at 2; 61-3
at 3. The additional duties resulted in a $1,000 monthly salary supplement, and
required Hampton to supervise eight head coaches and establish policies for the
Athletic Department. Docs. 61-2 at 2; 61-3 at 3. Although the appointment was
initially for a year, doc. 61-3 at 4, Dr. Robert Exley, President of Snead State,
obtained permission from the Chancellor of the Alabama Community College
System to extend Hampton’s appointment as Athletic Director for one additional
The court now focuses on those alleged discrete acts of discrimination that occurred after October 14,
2011. In its June 13, 2014, Order, doc. 20, the court noted that because Hampton filed his Equal Employment
Opportunity Commission (EEOC) Charge of Discrimination on April 11, 2012, doc. 18-1, any discrete act of
discrimination for which he makes a claim must have occurred on or after October 14, 2011. See 42 U.S.C. §2000e5(e)(1); see also doc. 20 at 5-6. Accordingly, the court dismissed with prejudice Hampton’s discrimination and
retaliation claims for discrete acts of discrimination that occurred prior to October 14, 2011. Thereafter, despite the
court’s order, Hampton alleged discrete acts of discrimination in his Second Amended Complaint, doc. 25, and
Third Amended Complaint, doc. 29, that occurred prior to October 14, 2011. Pursuant to the June 13, 2014, Order,
those claims are DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE.
year. Docs. 60 at 11; 61-1 at 2-3; 61-3 at 4. Thereafter, on March 31, 2010,
Hampton reverted back to the Assistant Athletic Director/Men’s Head Basketball
Coach position. Doc. 61-3 at 4.
The events that triggered this lawsuit trace their origin to July 18, 2011,
when Hampton complained of race discrimination2 to his immediate supervisor,
Sean Abernathy, then Athletic Director. Docs. 61-1 at 5; 77 at 21, 36. Abernathy,
in turn, relayed the complaint to Dr. Exley, who contacted Hampton to ask if
Hampton wanted to file a formal complaint. Doc. 60 at 16. When Hampton
responded that he wanted to handle the matter informally, Dr. Exley informed
Hampton of Snead State’s grievance process and encouraged Hampton to utilize
it. Id.; doc. 61-1 at 5. Nonetheless, two days later, Dr. Exley’s administrative
assistant scheduled a meeting between Dr. Exley and Hampton concerning
Hampton’s “formal complaint.” Doc. 78 at 28. During the meeting, Dr. Exley
reviewed Hampton’s concerns and again urged Hampton to file a formal
complaint. Docs. 60 at 16; 61-1 at 5-6. However, because Hampton reasserted
his wish to resolve the matter informally, Dr. Exley sent Hampton a memorandum
after the meeting concerning the “Allegations of Discrimination and Racism at
As part of his evidentiary submission, Hampton submitted a document entitled “Discrimination and
hostile work environment complaint per title 9 and 7,” doc. 78 at 24-26, which outlines 36 points of alleged
discrimination. However, in his complaint that initiated this lawsuit, Hampton only alleges being demoted from his
position as Assistant Athletic Director/Men’s Head Basketball Coach and his negative performance evaluation as
discrete acts of discrimination against him that occurred after October 14, 2011. See doc. 29.
Snead State Community College” and recommended that Hampton file a formal
complaint. Docs. 60 at 17; 61-1 at 6; 78 at 7.
Hampton apparently worked without incident until October 24, 2011, when
ten of his basketball players overturned a vending machine and stole its contents.
Docs. 60 at 12; 61-1 at 6; 61-2 at 3. Hampton met with Mark Richard, who had
replaced Abernathy as the Athletic Director, to discuss the incident, and
purportedly “agreed” and signed disciplinary notices for the players involved.
Docs. 60 at 13; 61-2 at 3. However, Hampton later e-mailed Richard expressing
that he saw “some fundamental principles being violated that [spoke] against
[Richard’s] idea” for punishment, but that Richard had “[Hampton’s] full support
on things [Hampton felt they were] doing right.” Doc. 78 at 19.
The discipline of the ten athletes became an issue when the parent of one
player challenged the discipline. Doc. 60 at 13; 61-2 at 3-4. In a meeting with
Hampton and Richard, the parent asked Hampton if he agreed with the discipline,
and Hampton conveyed that the discipline was too harsh. Docs. 60 at 13; 61-2 at
3-4. Hampton’s failure to state that he agreed with the disciplinary letters he
signed resulted in Richard accusing Hampton of insubordination. Doc. 61-2 at 4.
Shortly after this incident, Hampton received a negative performance
evaluation. Docs. 60 at 27; 61-2 at 6; 61-7. This was the first performance
evaluation Hampton had received since his 2007 “Exceeds Expectations” rating,
even though his job description mentions an annual performance evaluation. Docs.
78 at 11, 77-80; 78-1 at 1. In the evaluation, Richard rated Hampton as: (1)
“Meets Expectations” in Knowledge, Skills and Abilities (Position Specific); (2)
“Inconsistently Meets Expectations” in Results-focused (Productivity); (3) “Fails
to Meet Expectations” in Communications (Internal and External); (4)
(Ambassador for the College); and (5) “Fails to Meet Expectations” in Campus
Involvement (Attendance at Events and Activities).
Docs. 60 at 27; 61-7.
Contemporaneous with the evaluation, Richard drafted a memo to Dr. Exley and
Arlene Brown, the Director of Human Resources, recommending that the college
transfer Hampton laterally to the Student Support Services Academic Coordinator
position due to his performance and attitude. Docs. 60 at 30; 61-1 at 7; 61-2 at 6;
61-9. Dr. Exley rejected the recommendation. Docs. 60 at 30; 61-1 at 7.
The next alleged incident of insubordination occurred two months later, on
January 4, 2012, when Hampton accused Richard and other coaches of lacking
integrity and moral conduct. Doc. 61-2 at 7. The outburst occurred during a
coaches meeting when Richard and the other coaches disagreed with Hampton’s
method of calculating grade point averages for eligibility purposes. Id. Two
months after this incident, Richard drafted a second memo to Dr. Exley
recommending Hampton’s transfer to best serve the interest of the college and end
the conflict and dissention in the department. Docs. 60 at 31; 61-1 at 7; 61-2 at 7;
78 at 92-93. Dr. Exley accepted this recommendation and, effective April 10,
2012, transferred Hampton to the vacant position of Student Support Services
Academic Coordinator, which is a position Hampton previously held. Docs. 60 at
12, 31; 61-1 at 7-8; 61-3 at 4. The transfer had no impact on Hampton’s salary
schedule, compensation, and benefits. Docs. 60 at 12; 61-3 at 4.
The court addresses each of Hampton’s three claims separately below.
A. Count I - Racial Discrimination
In Count I, Hampton pleads a race discrimination claim for his removal from
the men’s basketball coach position and for the negative performance evaluation he
received. Title VII makes it unlawful for an employer “to discriminate against any
individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of
employment, because of such individual’s race . . . .” 42 U.S.C.A. §2000e-2(1).
Where, as here, Hampton is attempting to prove intentional discrimination through
circumstantial evidence, the court utilizes the McDonnell Douglas Corporation v.
Green, 411 U.S. 792 (1973), burden-shifting method of proof. Under this method,
Hampton bears the burden of establishing a prima facie case of racial
discrimination. See Burke-Fowler v. Orange County, Fla., 447 F.3d 1319, 1323
(11th Cir. 2006) (citation omitted). If Hampton satisfies his initial burden, “then
[Snead State] must show a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for its
employment action.” Id. (citation omitted). “If it does so, then [Hampton] must
prove that the reason provided by [Snead State] is a pretext for unlawful
discrimination.” Id. (citation omitted).
However, “[t]he ultimate burden of
persuading the trier of fact that [Snead State] intentionally discriminated against
[Hampton] remains at all times with [Hampton].” Springer v. Convergys Customer
Mgmt. Group Inc., 509 F.3d 1344, 1347 (11th Cir. 2007) (citation omitted).
1. Hampton cannot establish a prima facie case of race discrimination
To establish a prima facie case of racial discrimination, Hampton must show
that (1) he belongs to a protected class; (2) he was qualified for the position; (3) he
was subjected to an adverse employment action; and (4) Snead State treated
similarly situated employees outside of Hampton’s protected class more favorably.
See Crawford v. Carroll, 529 F.3d 961, 970 (11th Cir. 2008). At issue here is
whether Hampton meets the last three elements of the prima facie case. Snead
State contends first that Hampton was not qualified for the coaching position.
However, this assertion is based on Hampton’s attitude and performance during the
2011-2012 academic year, doc. 60 at 38, rather than his qualifications. The fact
that Hampton held the position of Men’s Head Basketball Coach from 2006 until
2012, doc. 61-3 at 3, and “exceeded expectations” in his 2007 evaluation, doc. 78
at 77-80, indicates that Hampton was indeed qualified for the position. See Vessels
v. Atlanta Independent School System, 408 F.3d 763, 769 (11th Cir. 2005) (“[T]o
demonstrate that he [or she] was qualified for the position, a Title VII plaintiff
need only show that he or she satisfied an employer’s objective qualifications.”).
While Snead State correctly notes that Hampton received ratings of “inconsistently
meets” or “fails to meet” expectations in his 2011 performance evaluation, the
focus of the qualification prong is on a plaintiff’s skills and background. See Clark
v. Coats & Clark, 990 F.2d 1217, 1227 (11th Cir. 1993). As such, concerns about
Hampton’s performance do not establish that Hampton was unqualified, and are
instead issues more appropriately raised in the “legitimate, non-discriminatory
reason” inquiry of the McDonnell Douglas scheme. See id; Young v. General
Food Corp., 840 F.2d 825, 829 n. 3 (11th Cir. 1988); Rosenfield v. Wellington
Leisure Products, Inc., 827 F.2d 1493, 1495 n. 2 (11th Cir. 1987).
The court also disagrees, in part, with Snead State’s contention that
Hampton did not suffer an adverse employment action. An adverse employment
action involves an “ultimate employment decision” or some other substantiality in
the employment context, “such as termination, failure to hire, or demotion.”
Crawford, 529 F.3d at 970 (quoting Stavropoulos v. Firestone, 361 F.3d 610, 617
(11th Cir. 2000)). Conduct falling short of an ultimate employment decision must,
in some substantial way, “alter the employee’s compensation, terms, conditions,
or privileges of employment, deprive him or her of employment opportunities, or
adversely affect  his or her status as an employee.” Crawford, 529 F.3d at 970
(quoting Gupta v. Florida Board of Regents, 212 F.3d 571, 587 (11th Cir. 2000)).
Finally, with respect to substantiality, the employee must demonstrate that he or
she suffered “a serious and material change in the terms, conditions, or privileges
of employment.” Crawford, 529 F.3d at 970-971 (quoting Davis v. Town of Lake
Park, Fla., 245 F.3d 1232 (11th Cir. 2001) (emphasis in original)).
Hampton can establish an adverse employment action with respect to his
“lateral transfer”,3 in part, because Snead State can hardly contend that the head
coaching position of the basketball program is not one of the higher status
positions at its institution. Indeed, as Assistant Athletic Director/Men’s Head
Basketball Coach, Hampton reported directly to a member of the President’s
cabinet, represented the entire college at athletic-related meetings in the President
or Athletic Director’s absence, had a private office, and had supervisory and
money management authority. Docs. 61-1 at 2; 61-2 at 2; 77 at 29; 78 at 11. In
contrast, Hampton’s new position had none of these things, and, in addition to the
diminished status, Hampton purportedly also now had the clerical task of
disseminating the daily mail to his co-workers.
Docs. 77 at 29; 78 at 12.
Moreover, as it relates to the loss of a private office, as Hampton notes, his former
players, fellow staff members, and even a member of the janitorial staff laughed
In contrast, Hampton cannot establish an adverse employment action with regard to his negative performance
evaluation, because it did not result in “loss of pay or benefits or further discipline.” See Rainey v. Holder, 412 Fed.
App’x. 235, 238 (11th Cir. 2011) (quoting Davis, 245 F.3d at 1240)).
and made comments when they noticed that his new position only came with a
desk in an entrance area instead of an office. Doc. 77 at 29; 78 at 17. As one court
has noted, “[w]e do not believe it can be seriously contended that the furnishing of
a private office, . . . was not a ‘privilege’ within the meaning of Title VII . . . .”
Harrington v. Vandalia-Butler Bd. Of Ed., 585 F.2d 192, 194 (6th Cir. 1978). For
all these reasons, the court disagrees with Snead State’s contention that Hampton
cannot demonstrate that he suffered an adverse employment action.
The court turns now to the final element of the prima facie case – i.e.
whether Hampton has established that Snead State treated him differently than
similarly situated employees. Holifield v. Reno, 115 F.3d 1555, 1562 (11th Cir.
1997). “In determining whether employees are similarly situated for purposes of
establishing a prima facie case, it is necessary to consider whether the employees
are involved in or accused of the same or similar conduct and are disciplined in
Maniccia v. Brown, 171 F.3d 1364, 1368 (11th Cir. 1999)
(quoting Jones v. Bessemer Carraway Med Ctr., 137 F.3d 1306, 1311 (11th Cir.
1998)). “The most important factors in the disciplinary context are the nature of
the offenses committed and the nature of the punishments imposed.” Maniccia,
171 F.3d at 1368 (quoting Jones, 137 F.3d at 1311). “[T]he quantity and quality of
the comparator’s misconduct [must] be nearly identical to prevent courts from
second-guessing employer’s reasonable decisions and confusing apples with
oranges.” Maniccia, 171 F.3d at 1368 (citation omitted).
Here, Snead State contends that it transferred Hampton laterally because of
insubordination, lack of cooperation with others, lack of communication, poor
judgment, and lack of academic performance. Doc. 78 at 92-93. In support of
these contentions, Snead State cites Hampton’s insubordination after the vending
machine incident and at the coaches’ meeting, purported failures to be ready for a
scheduled photo shoot with the Public Relation’s Department and to timely submit
a game summary, missing or arriving late to coaches’ meetings, making an
inappropriate comment to a female basketball team manager, allowing students to
drive school vans, and lack of academic performance by the basketball team. Id.
To satisfy the final element of the prima facie case, Hampton must point to a
similarly situated employee outside of his protected class who engaged in nearly
identical conduct and yet was not demoted or transferred. See Smith v. LockheedMartin Corp., 644 F.3d 1321, 1327 n. 17 (11th Cir. 2011) (the comparator must
have engaged in the same or similar conduct) (internal quotation marks and
In that regard, Hampton identifies Adam Rhoden, Steve
Machen, and Gerry Ledbetter, white males who coached the cheer, tennis, and
baseball teams, respectively, as comparators whom purportedly engaged in similar
misconduct, but received less severe punishment. See docs. 60 at 21; 77 at 60; 78
at 37, 39. Unfortunately, for the reasons stated below, Rhoden, Machen, and
Ledbetter are not proper comparators.
Hampton alleges that in April of 2008 Rhoden and Machen engaged in
insubordinate behavior when they confronted the Athletic Director and told him,
“you will not tell [us] what to do and you can take it up front [sic] if you like.”
Docs. 77 at 10-11; 78 at 37. Next, Hampton alleges that Rhoden defied a direct
order from the Athletic Director and used the gym floor while a construction crew
was working on it in June of 2008, docs. 61 at 21; 78 at 37, and that Machen made
an inappropriate comment about not recruiting minorities for his team during the
2009-2010 school year, doc. 77 at 43, 61. These contentions miss the mark
because they involved a different Athletic Director. To rely on another employee’s
infraction, “[i]t generally also must be shown that the plaintiff and a would-be
comparator dealt with the same decision-making supervisor.” Dent v. Federal
Mogul Corp., 129 F. Supp. 2d 1311, 1314 (N.D. Ala. 2001) (citing Jones, 137 F.3d
at 1321 n. 7). But see Anderson v. WMBG-42, 253 F.3d 561, 566 (11th Cir. 2001)
(holding that “different supervisors may not be comparable for the purposes of
Title VII analysis,” and that when “the plaintiff and proffered comparators . . . fell
within the primary responsibility of one middle manager and the same supervisory
chain of command . . . [d]isparate treatment analysis requires that none of the
participants in the decision making process be influenced by racial bias.”)
(emphasis in original) (citations and quotations omitted). Here, Hampton was the
Athletic Director in 2008 during Rhoden and Machen’s incidents of
insubordination. Doc. 77 at 10-11. Moreover, while these incidents were reported
to Dr. Exley, id. at 10-11, 13-14, 34, and he is the common link with Hampton’s
infractions, see Anderson, 253 F.3d at 566, the decision to not transfer does not
mean that Rhoden and Machen are proper comparators or were treated more
At best these facts only establish that Rhoden and Machen each
engaged in two incidents of insubordination – the same as Hampton. In contrast,
Snead State contends that it demoted Hampton for his two acts of insubordination
and because he missed coaches’ meetings, purportedly failed to be ready for a
scheduled photo shoot with the Public Relation’s Department and to timely submit
a game summary, made an inappropriate comment to a female basketball team
manager, allowed students to drive school vans, and because of the basketball
team’s lack of academic performance. See doc. 78 at 92-93. The quantity and
quality of Hampton’s misconduct prevents this court from finding that he is
similarly situated to Rhoden and Machen. See Maniccia, 171 F.3d at 1368.
Ledbetter is also not a proper comparator because he engaged in different
misconduct than the conduct that led to Hampton’s transfer.
Hampton contends that despite giving advance notice to his supervisor of a conflict
between a previously scheduled religious obligation that coincided with a
commencement ceremony in May of 2011, Hampton nonetheless received a verbal
reprimand and a letter of reprimand for missing the ceremony, whereas Snead State
failed to discipline Ledbetter for missing the same commencement ceremony.
Docs. 61-2 at 6; 78 at 39. Snead State disputes this contention and claims that the
Athletic Director issued letters of reprimand to both Hampton and Ledbetter. Doc.
61-2 at 6. Even if Hampton is correct that Snead State only disciplined him, this
contention does not help Hampton because it is not nearly identical to the conduct
that led to Hampton’s transfer. In fact, Snead State does not even mention this
incident as justification for Hampton’s transfer. Therefore, Hampton’s prima facie
case fails, and summary judgment is due on the race discrimination claim.
2. Hampton’s claim also fails because he cannot rebut Snead State’s
Non-Discriminatory, Legitimate Reasons
Alternatively, because “establishing the elements of the McDonnell Douglas
framework is not, and never was intended to be, the sine qua non for a plaintiff to
survive a summary judgment motion in an employment discrimination case, [and
because] the plaintiff’s failure to produce a comparator does not necessarily doom
the plaintiff’s case,” Smith, 644 F.3d at 1328, the court will assume that Hampton
can make a prima facie case. Therefore, the next step in the McDonnell framework
is for Snead State to articulate a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for its
employment action. See Burke-Fowler, 447 F.3d at 1323. Snead State has met its
burden through its contention that it transferred Hampton because of
insubordination, lack of cooperation with others, lack of communication, poor
judgment, and lack of academic performance. Doc. 78 at 92-93. Consequently,
the burden shifts to Hampton to prove that Snead State’s reasons are pretext for
unlawful discrimination. See Burke-Fowler, 447 F.3d at 1323. Unfortunately,
Hampton has failed to meet his burden. In fact, Hampton does not rebut all of
Snead State’s articulated reasons and focuses only on his insubordination.
Moreover, Hampton admits to engaging in some of the conduct Snead State cited
in support of their decision to transfer him – i.e. being late for a meeting and
conveying to a parent that the punishment was too harsh for the players involved in
the vending machine incident, doc. 77 at 23, 55, 31-32, – and he does not contest
that he made an inappropriate comment to a female basketball team manager or
that he allowed students to drive school vans, see doc. 78 at 62. Because Hampton
must rebut each of Snead State’s articulated reasons to establish pretext and failed
to do so, his claim fails. See Combs v. Plantation Patterns, 106 F.3d 1519, 1529
(11th Cir. 1997).
In short, summary judgment is due on the race claim because Hampton
failed to establish a prima facie case, or rebut each of Snead State’s nondiscriminatory, legitimate reasons for his transfer. In fact, Hampton admitted to
engaging in the bulk of the conduct Snead State cited as justification, and also
failed to present evidence suggesting a race based reason for his transfer. Because
“[a] reason cannot be pretext for discrimination unless it is shown both that the
reason was false, and that discrimination was the real reason,” Blue v. Dunn
Constr. Co., Inc., 453 Fed. App’x. 881, 884 (11th Cir. 2011) (emphasis in
original), summary judgment is due to be granted.
B. Count II - Retaliation
In Count II, Hampton alleges a claim of retaliation for the same conduct.
Doc. 29 at 2. To establish a prima facie case of retaliation, Hampton must show
that (1) he engaged in statutorily protected expression; (2) he suffered an adverse
employment action; and (3) that there is a causal relation between the two events.
See Thomas v. Cooper Lighting, Inc., 506 F.3d 1361, 1363 (11th Cir. 2007)
(quoting Meeks v. Computer Assocs. Int’l, 15 F.3d 1013, 1021 (11th Cir. 1994)
(internal citations omitted). Hampton can establish the first two prongs. As to the
first, although Snead State concedes that Hampton complained about
discrimination, Snead State contends nonetheless that Hampton did not engage in
protected activity because Hampton never filed a formal complaint. See doc. 61-1
at 5-6. This contention is unavailing because “the protection afforded by [Title
VII] is not limited to individuals who have filed formal complaints, but extends as
well to those . . . who informally voice complaints to their superiors . . . .” Rollins
v. State of Fla. Dept. of Law Enforcement, 868 F.2d 397, 400 (11th Cir. 1989).
Accordingly, Hampton has established the first part of the prima facie case.
Likewise, for the reasons outlined by the court with respect to the discrimination
claim, Hampton has also demonstrated that he suffered an adverse employment
action. See supra at 10-12.
The court turns now to the causal link prong. Causation can be met by
showing close temporal proximity between the statutorily protected activity and
the adverse employment action. Thomas, 506 F.3d at 1364. But mere temporal
proximity, without more, must be “very close.” Id. (quoting Clark County Sch.
Dist. v. Breeden, 532 U.S. 268 (2001) (internal citations omitted)). For example, a
three to four month disparity between the statutorily protected expression and the
adverse employment action is not enough. Thomas, 506 F.3d at 1364. Thus, in the
absence of other evidence tending to show causation, if there is a substantial delay
between the protected expression and the adverse action, the retaliation claim fails
as a matter of law. Id.
Here, Hampton complained internally of race discrimination in July of 2011.
Doc. 78 at 16. Thereafter, he contends that Snead State retaliated against him by
giving him a negative performance evaluation in November of 2011 and by
demoting him in April of 2012.
Docs. 29 at 2; 77 at 21-26. The negative
performance evaluation is a non-starter because “when a lower performance
evaluation does not result in a ‘loss of pay or benefits or further discipline,’ it does
not constitute an adverse employment action.” Rainey, 412 Fed. App’x. at 338
(quoting Davis, 245 F.3d at 1240). As for the alleged demotion, it occurred nine
months after Hampton’s statutorily protected activity. Doc. 61-1 at 7. Absent
evidence showing that Hampton’s statutorily protected expression was the but-for
cause of the adverse employment action, the nine month disparity between the
statutorily protected expression and the alleged adverse employment action is not
enough to establish causation. See Thomas, 506 F.3d at 1364. Moreover, even if
Hampton can establish a prima facie case, his retaliation claim still fails because
Snead State has articulated legitimate, non-discriminatory reasons for its adverse
employment action, which Hampton has failed to rebut. See supra at 16-17.
C. Count III - Hostile Work Environment
Hampton’s hostile work environment claim, which he pleads under 42
U.S.C. §1981, doc. 29 at 2, also fails because “[t]he Eleventh Circuit provided in
Butts v. Cnty. of Volusia, 222 F.3d 891, 893 (11th Cir. 2000), that ‘§1983
constitutes the exclusive remedy against state actors for violations of the rights
contained in § 1981,’” Jones v. Water Works Bd. Of the City of Birmingham, 2012
WL 2856651, at *8 (N.D. Ala. 2012). Put differently, the court “refused to find in
§1981 an implied cause of action against state actors because Congress had clearly
established §1983 as the remedial scheme against state actors.” Id. (quoting Butts
222 F.3d at 834); see also Brown v. Sch. Bd. Of Orange Cnty., Fla., 459 F. App’x.
817, 818-19 (11th Cir. 2012) (“Claims against state actors under §1981 must be
brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1983.”). As a member of the Alabama Community
College System, Snead State is a “state actor” for purposes of §1983. See docs. 60
at 8; 60-1 at 2; see also Alexander v. Chattahoochee Valley Community College,
525 F. Supp. 2d 1274, 1296 (M.D. Ala. 2004) (Alabama community colleges are
state actors) (internal citations omitted). Therefore, because Hampton has failed to
properly assert his §1981 claim pursuant to §1983, summary judgment is due to be
granted on his hostile work environment claim.
In sum, Snead State’s motion for summary judgment is due to be granted.
The court will enter a separate order in accordance with this memorandum opinion.
DONE the 29th day of January, 2016.
ABDUL K. KALLON
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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