Young v. International Paper Company
ORDER granting 29 Motion for Summary Judgment filed by International Paper Company. Signed by Judge Callie V. S. Granade on 8/24/2011. (mab)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
EDWIN F. YOUNG,
CIVIL ACTION NO. 10-00179-CG-M
On April 16, 2010, the plaintiff, Edwin F. Young (“Young”), brought a lawsuit
against the defendant, International Paper Company (“IP”), alleging that IP
violated the Civil Rights Act of 1866 as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 1981 when it
“intentionally and willfully discriminated against plaintiff due to his race… in
promoting less-qualified white employees instead of [Young].” (Doc. 1, ¶¶ 77-78).
This matter is now before the court on IP’s motion for summary judgment (Doc. 29).
The issues set forth in the motion have been fully briefed by the parties. For the
reasons stated herein, IP’s motion is due be GRANTED.
Young’s lawsuit alleged multiple instances of failure to promote on the part of
IP. On May 26, 2010, IP filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings based on the
statute of limitations. (Doc. 19). On September 13, 2010, this court granted IP’s
motion in part, finding, concerning Young’s claims, that “regardless of whether the
two-year or the four-year statute of limitations is applicable, all of IP’s denials of
promotion that occurred prior to April 16, 2006, are barred by either statute of
limitations.” Id. at p. 6. The motion was denied as to the three latest denials of
promotion alleged in the complaint. Id. Based on this ruling, only three positions
remain at issue in this case -- the alleged “maintenance coordinator” position in
April 2006, the “area manager” position in April 2006, and “process manager” in
As affected by this court’s order on the motion for judgment on the pleadings,
the pertinent undisputed facts are as follows: Young is an African-American male
who has worked for IP since January 2, 1995. (Doc. 1, pp. 2-3). Young graduated
from Livingston University (now the University of West Alabama) in 1994 with a
Bachelor of Science degree in Industrial Technology before applying for employment
with IP. Id. at p. 3.
IP is a producer of paper, packaging, and forest products, and operates a
paper mill known as the Riverdale Mill, located in Selma, Alabama. (Doc. 29-1, p.
2). Within the Riverdale plant, there are four primary processing departments: 1)
wood and pulp; 2) paper; 3) power; and 4) production, shipping and distribution
(“PS&D”). Id. at p. 3. Young worked in the paper department, which includes two
paper machines, numbers 15 and 16. Id. The management of the paper
department is organized as follows1: 1) a business unit manager for the entire paper
department, 2) a superintendant for each paper machine, 3) an “area manager,” for
each paper machine,2 4) an operations maintenance coordinator (“OMC”) for each
paper machine, and 5) four shift process managers (“process manager”).3 Id. The
area manager has broad responsibility for the entire paper machine to which he or
she is assigned as well as responsibility for work on strategic and long term
projects. Id. The OMC is responsible for managing and coordinating daily and
outage maintenance on the paper machine with the maintenance department. Id.
The process manager has direct contact with the hourly employees on a given shift,
and is responsible for production, safety, “employee engagement,” and paper
quality. (Doc. 35-7, p. 7). The area manager, OMC, and process manager are
This case is plagued by a dispute over organizational structure and nomenclature. IP
asserts that each paper machine has a superintendent and an area manager, which are two
separate and distinct positions. (Doc. 29-1, p. 3, ¶7). Young disputes this assertion, and offers
the testimony of Joseph Crosby, a former human resources employee, who stated that the
superintendent and the area manager are the same position. (Doc. 35-7, p. 7). However, Young
himself testified at his own deposition that the area manager, the OMC, and the process manager
all report to the superintendent. (Doc. 29-2, p. 14). Accordingly, the court adopts this model of
the IP paper department’s hierarchy.
Young also disputes IP’s use of the term “area manager” to describe the position of
Paper Area Process Manager. However, Young himself used the term in his Complaint (Doc. 1,
p. 8, ¶50), and did not file an amended Complaint to correct what he now asserts was an error.
(Doc. 34, p. 4, fn. 2). Furthermore, Young makes repeated reference to the “area manager” in his
own deposition testimony (Doc. 29-2, p. 14), and plaintiff’s counsel used the term repeatedly
while questioning Mr. Crosby (Doc. 35-7, p. 7). Therefore, for simplicity’s sake, the court uses
the term “area manager” to refer to the position of Paper Area Process Manager.
Additionally, Young uses the term “foreman” to refer to the position described as “shift
process manager” by Rusty Adair, IP’s human resource manager. (Doc. 29-1, p. 3, ¶7). For
simplicity’s sake, the court uses the term “process manager” to describe this position.
ultimately responsible to the business unit manager, who in 2006 and 2007 was
John Goss. (Doc. 29-1, p. 3).
Area managers, OMCs, and process managers are paid a salary and are not
hourly workers. Id. Because they are not hourly employees, these three positions
are not part of any collective bargaining unit. Id. at p. 4, (Doc. 35-7, p. 8).
Young was initially hired as an hourly paid laborer/utility worker. (Doc. 291, p. 4). In 1997, Young became a process assistant on paper machine number 15.
(Doc. 35-5, p. 7). By August 11, 2003, he had become an hourly paid process
technician on paper machine number 15. (Doc. 29-1, p. 4). Young’s responsibility as
a process technician was to run quality tests on the paper being produced and
ensure that it met all specifications. Id. At all relevant times, Young was an at-will
employee. Id. Also, as an hourly employee, he was represented for the purposes of
collective bargaining by the United Steelworkers International Union (“Union”). Id.
IP and the Union are parties to a collective bargaining agreement (“CBA”) relating
to terms and conditions of employment, including setting wages paid to employees,
promotions, demotions, transfers, lay-offs, and recalls. Id.
On or about January 10, 2006, Young applied for an OMC position, and
interviewed for it on February 9, 2006. Id. Young was not selected for the position.
Bill Hardy, who is white, was ultimately selected for the position and assumed the
responsibilities of OMC effective March 1, 2006. (Doc. 37, p. 11). Hardy’s
promotion was announced in the April 12, 2006, IP newsletter, the “Riverdale
Daily.” (Doc. 35-4, p. 1).
Young then applied for an area manager position on or about April 18, 2006.
(Doc. 29-1, p. 5). However, on May 17, 2006, before candidate interviews could be
scheduled, Young contacted the human resources department and advised that he
was withdrawing his application for consideration for the area manager position.
Id. IP later selected Guy Wimberly, who is white, for the position. Id.
Approximately a year later, on July 17, 2007, Young applied for another OMC
position. Id. Young withdrew his application for the position after IP’s human
resources manager, Rusty Adair, told him that a candidate had already been
selected and therefore Young’s interview would be for practice only. (Doc. 35-5, pp.
28-29). Charles Levell Hairston, who is African-American, was selected for the
OMC job and began in that role on August 28, 2007. (Doc. 29-1, p. 5).
At about the same time as applying for the 2007 OMC position, in July 2007,
Young was informed that he had been accepted into the mechanical maintenance
apprenticeship (“MMA”) program. (Doc. 29-2, p. 33). He is scheduled to complete
the MMA program in January 2012. (Doc. 29-1, p. 6).
Young also asserts that at some point in July 2007, he applied and
interviewed for the process manager position that was to be vacated by Levell
Hairston, who had been selected as the new OMC for paper machine number 15.
(Doc. 1, p. 8). Young was not selected for the position. Id. at p. 9.
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) provides that summary judgment shall
be granted if “the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material
fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” The trial
court’s function is not “to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter
but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial.” Anderson v. Liberty
Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986). “The mere existence of some evidence to
support the non-moving party is not sufficient for denial of summary judgment;
there must be ‘sufficient evidence favoring the nonmoving party for a jury to return
a verdict for that party.’” Bailey v. Allgas, Inc., 284 F.3d 1237, 1243 (11th Cir. 2002)
(quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249). “If the evidence is merely colorable, or is not
significantly probative, summary judgment may be granted.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at
249-250. (internal citations omitted).
The basic issue before the court on a motion for summary judgment is
“whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a
jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law.”
See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 251-252. The moving party bears the burden of proving
that no genuine issue of material fact exists. O'Ferrell v. United States, 253 F.3d
1257, 1265 (11th Cir. 2001). In evaluating the argument of the moving party, the
court must view all evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party,
and resolve all reasonable doubts about the facts in its favor. Burton v. City of
Belle Glade, 178 F.3d 1175, 1187 (11th Cir. 1999). “If reasonable minds could differ
on the inferences arising from undisputed facts, then a court should deny summary
judgment.” Miranda v. B&B Cash Grocery Store, Inc., 975 F.2d 1518, 1534 (11th
Cir. 1992) (citing Mercantile Bank & Trust v. Fidelity & Deposit Co., 750 F.2d 838,
841 (11th Cir. 1985)).
Once the movant satisfies his initial burden under Rule 56(a), the nonmoving party “must make a sufficient showing to establish the existence of each
essential element to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden
of proof at trial.” Howard v. BP Oil Co., 32 F.3d 520, 524 (11th Cir. 1994)(citing
Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324 (1986)). Otherwise stated, the nonmovant must “demonstrate that there is indeed a material issue of fact that
precludes summary judgment.” See Clark v. Coats & Clark, Inc., 929 F.2d 604, 608
(11th Cir. 1991). The non-moving party may not rely merely on allegations or
denials in [the non-moving party’s] pleading; rather, its response must cite to
particular parts of materials in the record such that it sets out specific facts
showing a genuine issue for trial. See Fed R. Civ. P. 56(c). “A mere ‘scintilla’ of
evidence supporting the [non-moving] 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) (citation omitted). “[T]he nonmoving
party may avail itself of all facts and justifiable inferences in the record taken as a
whole.” Tipton v. Bergrohr GMBH-Siegen, 965 F.2d 994, 998 (11th Cir. 1992)
(citation omitted). “Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational
trier of fact to find for the non-moving party, there is no genuine issue for trial.”
Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986)
(internal quotation and citation omitted).
a. Statute of Limitations
In the order on IP’s motion for judgment on the pleadings, this court stated:
On the other hand, the denials of promotion for a maintenance
coordinator position and for an Area Manager position, which both
occurred in April 2006, and the denial of promotion to paper machine
foreman in 2007, are untimely only if the two-year limitations period is
applicable. However, this court is unable to make a determination at
this time whether these three promotions rise to the level of an
opportunity for a new and distinct relationship between the plaintiff
and IP since this court lacks adequate information to compare the
plaintiff’s original job duties with each promotion he sought.
(Doc. 19, p. 5). In its summary judgment motion, IP first argues that there is now
enough factual information available to this court to enable it to find that the
remaining allegations of failure to promote are barred by the statute of limitations.4
Section 1981 does not contain an express statute of limitations. In 1987, the
Supreme Court directed federal courts to determine the statute of limitations for
§ 1981 claims by applying the most appropriate or analogous state statute of
limitations, which in Alabama is two years. Goodman v. Lukens Steel Co., 482 U.S.
656, 661 (1987); see Ala. Code § 6-2-38 (1975). Shortly thereafter, in 1990, Congress
Young also alleges that he applied for a process manager position in 2007. (Doc. 1, ¶
52-56). IP disputes this allegation. (Doc. 41, p. 6). For summary judgment purposes, the court
will address this allegation, as it was pled in Young’s Complaint, and the court in any event takes
all reasonable inferences in the non-moving party’s favor.
enacted a general, catch-all four-year statute of limitations applicable to federal
statutes enacted after December 1, 1990, except as otherwise provided by law. 28
U.S.C. § 1658. As a result, the statutory four year limitations period is only
applicable to new causes of action that were not cognizable under § 1981 prior to the
enactment of § 1658. Jones v. R.R. Donnelley & Sons Co., 541 U.S. 369, 380-381
In 1989, the Supreme Court ruled that § 1981 was not a “general proscription
of racial discrimination in all aspects of contract relations” but that its protections
extended “only to the formation of a contract, but not to problems that may arise
later from the conditions of continuing employment.” Patterson v. McLean Credit
Union, 491 U.S. 164, 176 (1989). In 1991, Congress responded to Patterson by
adding subsection (b) to § 1981 which redefined the term “make and enforce
contracts” to include “the making, performance, modification and termination of
contracts, and the enjoyment of all benefits, privileges, terms and conditions of the
contractual relationship.” 42 U.S.C. § 1981(b). As a result, to determine whether
the plaintiff’s § 1981 failure to promote claims are governed by the two-year
Alabama limitation period or the four-year federal limitation period, the critical
inquiry is whether the claims were cognizable under § 1981 before it was amended
in 1991. Particularly in regards to a failure-to-promote claim, this court must
determine whether the promotion rose “to the level of an opportunity for a new and
distinct relation between the employee and the employer” because if it does, then
that claim was actionable under § 1981 prior to the 1991 amendments, and thus the
two-year statute of limitations applies. Patterson, 491 U.S. at 185, 109 S.Ct. at
(i) “New and Distinct Relationship” Analysis
While courts have long struggled over Patterson’s meaning of “a new and
distinct relation between the employee and the employer,” some general principles
can be discerned.
The inquiry is fact-specific and embodies no single
criterion. It comprehends all relevant factors, including
pay, duties, responsibilities, status as hourly or salaried
employee, method of calculating salary, required
qualifications, daily duties, potential liability and other
benefits. Higher pay, by itself, will not transform a
promotion into a new and distinct relation.
DeBailey v. Lynch-Davidson Motors, Inc., 734 F. Supp. 974, 977 (M.D. Fla. 1990)
citing Brown v. American Food Serv. Corp., 1990 WL 10021 (E.D. Pa. Feb. 6, 1990).
Eleventh Circuit caselaw provides the court with some examples of this
factual inquiry. In Hithon v. Tyson Foods, Inc., 144 Fed. Appx. 795 (11th Cir. 2005),
the Eleventh Circuit held that a promotion from plant personnel manager to human
resources director for an entire complex of plants represented a new and distinct
relation between the employee and employer. In Saunders v. Emory Healthcare,
Inc., 360 Fed. Appx. 110 (11th Cir. 2010), the Eleventh Circuit upheld a district
court’s finding of a new and distinct relation where the promotion in question was
from nurse to educational coordinator. Conversely, in Wall v. Trust Company of
Georgia, 946 F.2d 805, 808 (11 Cir. 1991), the Eleventh Circuit found that a
promotion at a bank from customer service representative to tax analyst was not a
new and distinct relation because the plaintiff’s new job was relatively equal in
grade, provided identical benefits and compensation, was covered by the same
policies and procedures, and was not a management position. Id. And in Summerlin
v. M&H Valve Co., 2005 WL 6132650 (N.D. Ala. Jan. 31, 2005), the district court
ruled that a promotion from factory worker holding various positions under a
collective bargaining agreement (“CBA”) to supervisor/management represented a
new and distinct relationship, and accordingly applied the two-year statute of
limitations. See also, Price v. M&H Valve Co., 177 Fed. Appx. 1 (11th Cir. 2006).
Courts outside the Eleventh Circuit have also provided guidance on this
question. In Butts v. City of New York Department of Housing Preservation and
Development, 990 F.2d 1397, 1412 (2nd Cir. 1993), the Second Circuit wrote that a
promotion “from factory worker to foreman, foreman to foreman supervisor, or
manager to officer, likely would create a new and distinct relation giving rise to a
§1981 action under Patterson.” Id. In Fray v. Omaha World Herald Co., 960 F.2d
1370 (8th Cir. 1992), the Eighth Circuit found that the four-year statute of
limitations applied because the promotion in question would have left the plaintiff
as a “non-supervisory employee working at an hourly wage in the same
department,” with “basically the same” job duties as before the promotion. Id. at
1373. Similarly, the Tenth Circuit stated in Cross v. Home Depot, 390 F.3d 1283,
1289 (10th Cir. 2004) that “changes in the contractual relationship could include
promotions from nonsupervisory to supervisory positions and advancements from
being paid by the hour to being a salaried employee.” See also, Rodriguez v. General
Motors Corp., 27 F.3d 396, 399 (9th Cir. 1994), Kim v. Nash Finch Co., 123 F.3d
1046, 1055 (8th Cir. 1997).
IP claims that the promotions now at issue in this lawsuit were opportunities
for a new and distinct relationship between it and Young, which Young disputes. At
the time he applied for these positions, Young was a process technician, which is an
hourly position that is represented by the Union pursuant to a CBA. Young was
entitled to overtime wages in accordance with the CBA. It is undisputed that a
process technician is a not supervisory position, nor part of management.
Area managers, OMCs, and process managers, on the other hand, are
salaried positions which are not subject to the CBA, and are not entitled to overtime
pay. (Doc. 29-1, p. 3), (Doc. 35-7, p. 8). It is undisputed that all three positions are
supervisory, and that each involves more responsibility and more pay than a
process technician. Id. The vacancies for all three positions were publicly posted,
and each position required a written application and a job interview, all of which
suggests a new beginning between the employee-applicant and IP. In other words,
the promotions at issue here exhibit several factors that the Eleventh Circuit and
other circuits have relied upon in determining whether or not, and why, a position
represents a new and distinct relation between employer and employee, per
Not surprisingly, Young argues that the promotions in question do not
represent a qualitative change or a new contractual relationship. First, he asserts
that he performed “root cause failure analysis” (“RCFA”), which consisted of
analyzing problems that arose with the paper machine. (Doc. 34, p. 14). Therefore,
Young posits, he “essentially” performed the duties of an OMC despite his status as
a process technician. Id. For support, Young cites the testimony of Joseph Crosby, a
former employee in IP’s human resources department, who stated that:
A maintenance coordinator [OMC] is primarily
responsible for planning outages on a machine and
gathering the resources, such as maintenance and other
resources, to successfully take the machine down and get
it back up running. It’s basically a planner, pretty much,
planning the maintenance of a machine.” (Doc. 35-7, p. 4).
It is not clear to the court that Crosby’s testimony supports Young’s contention that
analyzing problems with the paper machine “essentially” equals planning the
maintenance of the machine. Young cites no other testimony or facts to support this
Young also makes the related claim that he had previously “performed most
of the job duties for each position” to which he applied. (Doc. 34, p. 17). Yet the
portion of Young’s deposition testimony cited for support establishes only that he
performed one specific duty, the RCFA. (Doc. 35-5, p. 66). Young’s brief cites no
additional facts to support his claim that he had done “most” of the job duties for
the positions in question. Id. There is nothing in the cited portions of Young’s
testimony which states what those duties were, when he performed them, how often
he performed them, what degree of responsibility was delegated to him, or whether
RCFA was beyond the scope of his responsibilities as a process technician.5 Id.
Next, Young claims that, had he received any of the promotions in question,
the chain of command above him would have remained the same. (Doc. 34, p. 17).
However, Young does not point to any evidence other than his own conclusory
deposition testimony to support this assertion. Young did not claim any special
knowledge of IP’s human resources scheme, or did he cite to IP’s organizational
chart (an exhibit which he introduced at Doc. 35-1, p. 1) to support the notion that
the chain of command would have remained the same. Young could not even state
how many immediate supervisors he had. (Doc. 35-5, p. 66). Such a conclusory
allegation without specific supporting facts have no probative value. Leigh v.
Warner Bros., Inc., 212 F.3d 1210, 1217 (11th Cir. 2000), and is not sufficient to
establish a genuine dispute for summary judgment purposes.
Young also states that the target results, outcome requirements, and
expectations for the positions he sought would have remained the same as those of
a process technician, and cites to his own deposition testimony for support. (Doc.
34, p. 17), (Doc. 35-5, pp. 65-66). However, the question posed to Young at his
deposition was whether the target results, outcome requirements, and expectations
of the process unit would have remained the same, which poses a different
To the extent that Young’s testimony addresses these issues in more detail elsewhere in
the record, he did not cite such testimony in his brief. In this situation, it is Young’s duty to
direct the court to the portions of such transcripts which he contends he was already performing
the duties of the positions he applied for. The court will not undertake to do this for Young.
Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(3) (“The court need consider only the cited materials, but it may consider
other materials in the record.”).
question. (Doc. 35-5, pp. 65-66). Thus, Young’s testimony on this point really only
addresses the performance expectations of the unit as a whole and not each
individual position within the unit. Even if the court infers that the term “process
unit” has the meaning that Young ascribes to it in his Opposition Brief (Doc. 34, p.
17), he cites nothing other than his own opinion for support.
Young asserts that he would have been reporting to the same location and
facility with the same mission and plant objectives. (Doc. 34, p. 17). This is
irrelevant. The court cannot find, nor did Young cite, any case which suggests that
the location of the job is determinative of whether or not it represents a new and
distinct relationship with the employer. Young also fails to explain or cite any case
which suggests that having the same mission and plant objectives is determinative
in establishing the existence or absence of a new and distinct employer/employee
Young also claims that a dispute exists regarding whether or not the process
manager position was a salaried or an hourly position. (Doc. 34, p. 15). Specifically,
Young distinguishes between a permanent and a temporary process manager
(which he calls a “set-up foreman”), and claims that the temporary process manager
is paid on an hourly basis. (Doc. 35-5, pp. 58-59). However, Young did not allege
that he applied for a temporary process manager position. Rather, Young alleged
simply that in 2007 he applied for a process manager position, without making any
reference whatsoever to the position’s permanence or lack thereof. (Doc. 1, p. 8, ¶5257).
Even if Young had properly stated such an allegation in the Complaint, his
own witness contradicted him on this point. Joseph Crosby, the former human
resources employee, stated that when someone becomes a temporary process
manager, “the folks in Payroll basically change his pay from hourly to salary
for that length of time.” [emphasis added] (Doc. 35-7, p. 8). This exchange totally
undercuts the notion that a dispute exists, and bolsters the view that the process
manager position is in fact salaried. Crosby clearly states that when someone
becomes a temporary process manager, the IP payroll office changes that person’s
pay from hourly to salaried for the length of time that the person acts as a process
Finally, Young asserts that, regardless of whether he was salaried or hourly,
his relationship to the company would have been the same. (Doc. 34, p. 17). This
statement has no corresponding factual support whatsoever. Young simply cites to
the page of his deposition wherein he makes the exact same statement of opinion.
(Doc. 35-5, p. 66: 13-16). Conclusory allegations based on mere subjective beliefs do
not create a genuine issue of material fact. Plaisance v. Travelers Insurance
Company, 880 F.Supp. 798, 804 (N.D. Ga. 1994) (citing Carter v. Miami, 870 F.2d
578, 585 (11th Cir. 1989).
Accordingly, for the reasons enumerated above, this court finds that the 2006
OMC position, the 2006 Area Manager position, the 2007 OMC position, and the
2007 process manager position each represented a promotion that would have risen
“to the level of an opportunity for a new and distinct relation between the employee
and the employer” as contemplated by the Supreme Court in Patterson, 491 U.S. at
185. Thus, the claims were cognizable under § 1981 before it was amended in 1991,
and the two-year statute of limitations applies. Therefore, Young’s failure-topromote claim, with respect to all four positions to which he applied, is time-barred,
and IP’s motion for summary judgment is due to be granted.
(ii) The Four-Year Statute of Limitations
Even if the two-year statute of limitations did not apply, Young’s claim with
respect to the 2006 OMC position would be subject to the four-year statute of
limitations contained in 28 U.S.C. § 1658.
The four-year limitations period began when “the facts which would support
a charge of discrimination [were] apparent or should [have been] apparent…”
Sturniolo v. Sheaffer, Eaton, Inc., 15 F.3d 1023, 1026 (11th Cir. 1994). Young filed
suit on April 16, 2010. Therefore, in order for Young’s claim to fall within the fouryear statute of limitations, he must point to facts which establish that his cause of
action ripened at some point on or after April 16, 2006. If Young’s cause of action
ripened at any point before April 16, 2006, then a claim filed on April 16, 2010,
would be time-barred.
Young applied for the OMC vacancy in early January 2006, and interviewed
for the position approximately one month later, on February 9, 2006. (Doc. 29-1, p.
4). Bill Hardy was ultimately selected for the position and assumed the
responsibilities of OMC effective March 1, 2006. (Doc. 37, p. 11). Hardy’s
promotion was announced in the April 12, 2006, edition of the IP newsletter, the
“Riverdale Daily.” (Doc. 35-4, p. 1). Young testified at his deposition that he
“probably” saw the April 12 edition of the “Riverdale Daily” sometime after it was
published. (Doc. 35-5, pp. 63-64). Later in the same deposition, however, Young
blatantly contradicts himself:
So as of April 12, 2006, you knew that you had not been
selected for the maintenance coordinator position for PM
That is what I know.
Did you pick that daily up on April 12, 2006?
You read it on April 12, 2006?
The newsletters are a pretty good way of sharing what is
going on in the mill, right?
(Doc. 29-2, pp. 21-22). Thus, according to Young’s own testimony, he learned on
April 12, 2006, that (i) he had not been selected for the 2006 OMC position, and (ii)
the position went to Bill Hardy instead. The court, therefore, finds that Young’s
§1981 failure to promote claim ripened on April 12, 2006. Because Young filed suit
on April 16, 2010, more than four years later, his claim with respect to the 2006
OMC position is not timely.
b. The Case on the Merits
The court’s finding that the two-year statute of limitations applies in this
case is dispositive of the matter. However, the court notes that even if timeliness
was not an issue, Young would not prevail in the case on the merits, for the reasons
The parties agree that this is a case involving alleged circumstantial evidence
of discrimination. Therefore the burden-shifting analysis of McDonnell-Douglas
Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792 (1973), applies. A plaintiff can establish a
circumstantial, prima facie case of race discrimination by a 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 well-qualified
employees who were not members of the protected class were promoted. Wilson v.
B/E Aerospace, Inc., 376 F.3d 1079, 1089 (11th Cir. 2004). If a prima facie case is
established, the burden shifts to the defendant to set forth legitimate and
nondiscriminatory reasons for the employment decision in question. St. Mary’s
Honor Ctr. v. Hicks, 509 U.S. 502, 506-507 (1993). If such reasons are established
by the defendant, the burden shifts back to the plaintiff to show that the reasons
are a pretext for unlawful discrimination. Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Products,
Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 143 (2000).
1. Prima Facie Case
(a) 2006 Area Manager Position
IP argues initially that Young has not established a prima facie case of
discrimination with respect to two of the promotions in question because he failed to
complete the application process. First, IP claims that Young withdrew his
application for the 2006 area manager position. Support for this claim is found in
the declarations of Rusty Adair, human resource manager for IP’s Riverdale plant.
(Doc. 29-1, p. 5; Doc. 37, p. 6). They show that while Young applied for this position,
he later advised IP that he was withdrawing his application. Significantly, Young
does not dispute this contention. Accordingly, Young has not established a prima
facie case with respect to the 2006 area manager position.
(b) 2007 OMC Position
Secondly, IP points out that Young did not interview for the 2007 OMC
position opening. (Doc. 29-1, p. 5). Young responds by admitting that he did not
interview for the position, but states that this was because he was informed by IP
that another employee had been chosen for the job. This contention is supported by
Young’s deposition testimony. (Doc. 35-5, pp. 28-29). Therefore, there is at least a
question of fact as to why Young did not complete the application process. If he was
in fact told that the job had been given to another, his failure to sit through the
interview process may be excusable.
However, the 2007 OMC position was ultimately awarded to Levell Hairston,
who is African-American. (Doc. 29-1, p. 5). Therefore, Young cannot establish a
prima facie case of discrimination because he cannot show that the promotion went
to another employee outside of Young’s protected class.
(c) 2007 Process Manager Position
IP also argues that Young has not established a prima facie case of
discrimination with respect to his alleged application for the 2007 process manager
position because he cannot show that he applied for the promotion.
The only evidence in the record that Young cites to support the allegation
that he applied for a promotion to process manager is his own deposition testimony.
(Doc. 35-5, p. 52). IP, on the other hand, points to Young’s employment application
history, which reflects his applications for the 2006 OMC position, the 2006 area
manager position, the 2007 OMC position, and the 2007 MMA program, but does
not show any application for a process manager position. (Doc. 37, p. 9). IP also
points to the declaration of Rusty Adair, IP’s human resources manager, who states
that the process manager position was not posted until 2008, (Doc. 37, p. 5),
meaning that Young could not have applied for this promotion in 2007. Young
admits that he did not apply for any promotion after he was accepted to the MMA
program in 2007. (Doc. 29-2, p. 33).
As stated above, “[t]he mere existence of some evidence to support the
nonmoving party is not sufficient for denial of summary judgment; there must be
‘sufficient evidence favoring the non-moving party for a jury to return a verdict for
that party.’” Bailey v. Allgas, Inc., 284 F.3d 1237, 1243 (11th Cir. 2002) (citation
omitted). By this standard, Young’s allegation and conclusory testimony, without
more, are not sufficient to establish that he applied for the 2007 process manager
position. In light of documentary evidence to the contrary, the court finds that a
reasonable jury would not find that Young has stated a prima facie case on this
(d) 2006 OMC Position
Young asserts Bill Hardy, who is white and who received the 2006 OMC
promotion, was less qualified than Young. (Doc. 1, pp. 7-8). Young cites the
testimony of Joseph Crosby, a former employee of IP’s human resources department
in Selma, who stated that Hardy did not have a college degree and had not
previously worked on either of IP’s two paper machines, (Doc. 35-7, pp. 4-5),
whereas Young asserts that he holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Industrial
Technology and had nine years of experience working on paper machine number 15,
plus eleven years experience working with the maintenance department. (Doc. 355, p. 32).
This testimony is sufficient for Young to establish a circumstantial, prima
facie claim of discrimination pursuant to §1981. Therefore, the burden shifts to IP
to set forth legitimate and nondiscriminatory reasons for hiring Bill Hardy rather
than Young for the 2006 OMC position.
2. Employer’s Legitimate, Non-Discriminatory Reasons
IP states that it hired Bill Hardy for the 2006 OMC position because of his
experience as a process manager in the PS&D department, as well as his experience
troubleshooting various maintenance problems. (Doc. 29-1, pp. 4-5). This
combination of maintenance and management experience made Hardy the most
qualified candidate, according to IP. Id. Although Young cited the testimony of
Joseph Crosby for the proposition that Hardy was less-qualified than Young,
Crosby’s testimony actually tends to support IP on this point. For example, when
asked why he thought Hardy was selected as the OMC for paper machine number
15, Crosby replied:
Bill Hardy had a track record of being a successful
supervisor. That was one of the reasons he was brought
over to the paper machine. The paper machine was kind
of struggling from an operational standpoint, so we
needed his expertise. He was very good technically and
mechanically, and also he was good with people.
(Doc. 35-7, p. 7). The reasons for hiring Bill Hardy, as stated by IP in the
Declaration of Rusty Adair (Doc. 29-1) and in the testimony of Joseph Crosby (Doc.
35-7), are perfectly legitimate and non-discriminatory. Therefore, the presumption
of discrimination is rebutted, and thus disappears. Smith v. Lockheed-Martin
Corporation, 2011 WL 2567777, *2 (11th Cir. 2011). The inquiry now proceeds to a
“new level of specificity,” whereby the plaintiff must prove by a preponderance of
evidence that the defendant’s reason is a mere pretext for unlawful discrimination
or retaliation. Id. at *3. (citations omitted).
A plaintiff may demonstrate that an employer's reason is pretextual by
identifying “such weaknesses, implausibilities, inconsistencies, incoherencies or
contradictions in the employer's proffered legitimate reasons for its actions that a
reasonable factfinder could find them unworthy of credence.” Ritchie v. Industrial
Steel, Inc., 2011 WL 1899570, *5 (11th Cir. 2011) (citing Combs v. Plantation
Patterns, 106 F.3d 1519, 1538 (11th Cir. 1997). Rather than “simply quarreling
with the wisdom of [the employer's] reason,” the plaintiff “must meet that reason
head on and rebut it.” Id. (quoting Chapman v. AI Transport, 229 F.3d 1012, 1030
(11th Cir. 2000)). “The inquiry into pretext centers on the employer's beliefs, not
the employee's beliefs.” Alvarez v. Royal Atlantic Developers, Inc., 610 F.3d 1253,
1266 (11th Cir. 2010).
Young asserts that Hardy’s maintenance experience and experience
troubleshooting maintenance issues makes Hardy indistinguishable from Young,
and touts his years of experience working on the paper machine, as well as his
experience performing RCFA to bolster this claim. (Doc. 34, pp. 23-24). Young also
claims that Hardy’s experience as a process manager in the PS&D department is
irrelevant to determining whether he was the best-qualified candidate for an OMC
position in the paper department. Id. Furthermore, Young points to Crosby’s
testimony that an employee who worked on the paper machines would be more
familiar with those machines than an employee who had not worked on the paper
machines. (Doc. 35-7, p. 6).
Young’s argument and evidence fall well short of being sufficient to create a
genuine issue of material fact regarding pretext. Federal courts are not in the
business of judging whether employment decisions are prudent or fair. Damon v.
Fleming Supermarkets of Fla., Inc., 196 F.3d 1354, 1361 (11th Cir. 1999). Rather,
the court’s sole concern is whether unlawful discriminatory animus motivates a
challenged employment decision. Id. (citing Nix v. WLCY Radio/Rahall
Communications, 738 F.2d 1181, 1187 (11th Cir. 1984)). Young has made no
showing that IP was secretly motivated by race, other than pointing to the fact that
Hardy is white and did not possess a college degree. Young merely asserts that his
years of experience in a non-supervisory, non-management role working on the
paper machine necessarily makes him better qualified to work in a management
position than Hardy, who did have management experience, and was hired on as
the OMC in part because of his successful track record as a supervisor. (Doc. 35-7,
p. 7). “A plaintiff cannot prove pretext by simply arguing or even by showing that
he was better qualified than the [person] who received the position he coveted.”
Brooks v. County Commission of Jefferson County, 446 F.3d 1160, 1163 (11th Cir.
2006) (quoting Alexander v. Fulton County, 207 F.3d 1303, 1339 (11th Cir. 2000)).
Accordingly, the court finds that Young cannot survive summary judgment on this
Upon a thorough analysis of all matters presented, the court concludes that
there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact, and the moving party is entitled
to judgment as a matter of law. IP’s motion for summary judgment (Doc. 29)
is therefore GRANTED as to all claims.
DONE and ORDERED this 24th day of August, 2011.
/s/ Callie V. S. Granade
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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