Chatwood v. Arkansas, State of et al
ORDER granting 52 Motion to Continue, a new trial date to be set by separate order; and granting in part and denying in part 32 Motion for Summary Judgment. Signed by Judge James M. Moody on 7/6/11. (kpr)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF ARKANSAS
STATE OF ARKANSAS, DEPARTMENT
OF FINANCE AND ADMINISTRATION,
and DEPARTMENT OF WORKFORCE
Pending is the Motion for Summary Judgment filed by the Defendants. The Plaintiff has
filed a response and the Defendants have filed a reply. For the reasons set forth below, the
Motion is granted in part and denied in part.
Plaintiff JoAnn Chatwood is an African American female. Plaintiff is a full-time
permanent employee of the Department of Workforce Services (“DWS”) and has been since
1986. DWS is an agency of the State of Arkansas. In her current position as Workforce
Investment Act/ADMIN Cash Supervisor, Plaintiff supervises ten (10) employees and is
responsible for approximately $133 million dollars in grant money. On March 12, 2009,
Plaintiff made a formal request for a salary increase to her supervisor Bryan Hicks. Hicks
forwarded the request to DWS Director Artee Williams.
Three months later, Denise Baker, one of the employees under Plaintiff’s supervision,
was given an increase in her hourly rate of pay from $13 to $24 per hour. Ms. Baker, a white
female, is a part-time intermittent employee who has worked in the Financial Management
Section of DWS since June of 2007. Ms. Baker’s pay increase was authorized by Director
Williams on June 23, 2009.
On July 1, 2009, Arkansas Act 688 became effective. Act 688 implemented a new
classification and compensation plan for state employees resulting from a statewide study
conducted by the Office of Personnel Management (“OPM”). As a result of Act 688, Plaintiff’s
position was upgraded and she received a salary increase of 3.5%. Pursuant to the Act, part-time
positions also fell under the state classification and compensation plan which is administered by
the OPM.. See Ark. Code Ann. §§ 21-5-224, et seq.
Upon learning of Ms. Baker’s pay raise, Plaintiff complained to her supervisors and to
Freddy Jacobs, Equal Opportunity Manager for DWS. Plaintiff complained that although she
supervised Ms. Baker, Ms. Baker would be paid more than Plaintiff. Plaintiff’s prior request for
a raise was submitted by Director Williams to the OPM for review on July 29, 2009. The
request was denied by OPM on September 4, 2009.
Plaintiff filed a Charge with the EEOC on December 11, 2009 alleging race
discrimination by the DWS. After receiving her right to sue letter, Plaintiff filed suit against the
State of Arkansas, DWS, and the Department of Finance and Administration (“DFA”) alleging
race and age discrimination. Plaintiff has now withdrawn her claims against the State of
Arkansas and her claim for age discrimination.
Standard for Summary Judgment
Summary judgment is appropriate only when there is no genuine issue of material fact, so
that the dispute may be decided solely on legal grounds. Holloway v. Lockhart, 813 F.2d 874
(8th Cir. 1987); Fed. R. Civ. P. 56. The Supreme Court has established guidelines to assist trial
courts in determining whether this standard has been met:
The inquiry is the threshold inquiry of determining whether there
is a need for trial -- whether, in other words, there are genuine
factual issues that properly can be resolved only by a finder of fact
because they may reasonably be resolved in favor of either party.
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986).
The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals has cautioned that summary judgment should be
invoked carefully so that no person will be improperly deprived of a trial of disputed factual
issues. Inland Oil & Transport Co. v. United States, 600 F.2d 725 (8th Cir. 1979), cert. denied,
444 U.S. 991 (1979). The Eighth Circuit set out the burden of the parties in connection with a
summary judgment motion in Counts v. M.K. Ferguson Co., 862 F.2d 1338 (8th Cir. 1988):
[T]he burden on the moving party for summary judgment is only to
demonstrate, i.e., ‘[to] point out to the District Court,’ that the
record does not disclose a genuine dispute on a material fact. It is
enough for the movant to bring up the fact that the record does not
contain such an issue and to identify that part of the record which
bears out his assertion. Once this is done, his burden is
discharged, and, if the record in fact bears out the claim that no
genuine dispute exists on any material fact, it is then the
respondent’s burden to set forth affirmative evidence, specific
facts, showing that there is a genuine dispute on that issue. If the
respondent fails to carry that burden, summary judgment should be
Id. at 1339. (quoting City of Mt. Pleasant v. Associated Elec. Coop., 838 F.2d 268, 273-274 (8th
Cir. 1988) (citations omitted)(brackets in original)). Only disputes over facts that may affect the
outcome of the suit under governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment.
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248.
Discussion of the Law
Department of Finance and Administration
Plaintiff filed suit under Title VII alleging race discrimination against the DFA. Title VII
prohibits an “employer” from discrimination against an individual with respect to their
compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, based upon the individual’s race,
color, religion, sex, or national origin. 42 U.S.C. 2000e-2. Plaintiff has failed to prove that DFA
is her employer. The Defendants have provided an affidavit from Kay Barnhill Terry, State
Personnel Administrator of the OPM, wherein she states that Plaintiff is not, and never has been,
an employee of the DFA. Artee Williams, Director of DWS, states in his affidavit that Plaintiff
is employed by DWS and that DWS is not a part of the DFA. Therefore, the Court finds that
DFA is not Plaintiff’s employer and, thus, cannot be sued by Plaintiff under Title VII.
Title VII Race Discrimination Claim Against DWS
The Court uses the familiar McDonnell Douglas burden-shifting framework when
analyzing an employment discrimination claim based upon race. McDonnell Douglas Corp. v.
Green, 411 U.S. 792, 93 S. Ct. 1817, 36 L.Ed. 2d 668 (1973). The plaintiff must first establish a
prima facie case of race discrimination. If the plaintiff is able to do so, the burden shifts to the
defendant to rebut the presumption by articulating a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for the
adverse employment action. Young v. Warner-Jenkinson Co., Inc., 152 F.3d 1018, 1021 (8th Cir.
1998). If the defendant is able to articulate a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason, then the
plaintiff must show that the proffered reason is merely a pretext for discrimination. Rose-Maston
v. NME Hosp., Inc., 133 F.3d 1104, 1107 (8th Cir. 1998).
In order to prove a prima facie case of race discrimination, the plaintiff must show that
(1) she is a member of a protected class; (2) she was meeting her employer’s legitimate job
expectations; (3) she was subjected to an adverse employment action; and (4) similarly situated
employees who are not members of the protected class received different treatment. Jackson v.
United Parcel Service, 548 F.3d 1137, 1140 (8th Cir. 2008). “To satisfy the usual fourth element
of a prima facie case-that the plaintiff was treated differently than other similarly-situated
comparators-a plaintiff may also demonstrate that the facts surrounding [her] termination permit
an inference of discrimination.” Jones v. Ark. Dept. Of Workforce Servs., 2009 WL 481876
(E.D. Ark. 2009) (citing Zhuang v. Datacard Corp., 414 F.3d 849, 854 (8th Cir. 2005)). “‘The
burden of establishing a prima facie case of disparate treatment is not onerous.’” Torgerson v.
City of Rochester, 2011 WL 2135636, 11 (8th Cir. 2011) (quoting Texas Dep't of Cmty. Affairs v.
Burdine, 450 U.S. 248, 253, 101 S.Ct. 1089, 67 L.Ed.2d 207 (1981)).
It is undisputed that Plaintiff is a member of a protected class and that she was, and
continues to, meet DWS’s expectations. DWS argues that Plaintiff has not been subjected to an
adverse employment action and that she has not identified similarly situated employees who
have been treated more favorably. The Court will assume that DWS’s failure to provide a pay
raise to Plaintiff was an adverse action under the circumstances of this case. See e.g., Ledbetter
v. Alltel Corp. Servs., Inc., 437 F.3d 717 (8th Cir. 2006); Davis v. KARK-TV, Inc.,421 F.3d 699,
705 (8th Cir. 2005). As for the forth factor, Plaintiff has named several white employees who
have been promoted and/or received pay raises far in excess of what she has received. This
factor is further bolstered by the memorandum dated August 22, 2008, from Freddy Jacobs,
Equal Opportunity Manager, to Director Williams and Mr. Jacob’s affidavit. (Pl’s Ex. 14 and
18). In the memorandum, Jacobs states:
. . . I have noted and I must inform you that you have approved more requests for special
entry rates than all of the previous Directors combined during my 35 years of
employment. I should also inform you that 99% of these requests that you have approved
are for white employees.
(Pl.’s Ex. 14). Therefore, Plaintiff has presented a prima facie case of race discrimination.
DWS has stated a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for its failure to increase
Plaintiff’s salary: DWS did not have the authority to do so. Plaintiff claims however, that DWS
has alternate ways of providing salary increases to its employees. This theory is supported by
the affidavit of Freddy Jacobs. (Pl.’s Ex. 18).
The Director has always maintained a number of unfilled positions, both
classified and unclassified, within the personnel department, which is at his
discretion to use if necessary. Since working under his directorship from March
2004, I have seen Mr. Williams use these positions to increase/adjust certain
employees’ salaries. This is the process or method utilized when Mr. Williams
did not want to submit a request to the Office of Personnel Management (OPM)
Id. at p. 12.
I have read Mr. Williams’ Affidavit where he stated that he had done everything
he could to get an increase in Ms. Chatwood’s salary. I do not agree with that
statement. There have been many classified position[s] available from April 09 to
the time I retired on June 30, 2010, in which Mr. Williams could, in my opinion,
use to give Ms. Chatwood a salary increase. This is based on prior practice of
Mr. Williams giving white employees salary increases.
Id. at p. 14.
Since Mr. Williams became Director, he selectively approves some selections,
mostly white employees, while he sends other[s] up the line for review, prior to
Id. at p. 13.
This evidence is sufficient to create a genuine issue of material fact as to whether DWS’s
articulated reason for its failure to increase Plaintiff’s pay is a mere pretext for intentional race
discrimination. Jones, 2009 WL 481876, at 4 (“The same evidence that permits an inference of
discrimination sufficient to establish a prima facie case also creates an issue of fact as to whether
Workforce Services' articulated reason is a mere pretext.”)
For these reasons, the Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment (Docket # 32) is
DENIED as to Plaintiff’s Title VII race discrimination claim against the Department of
Workforce Services. Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgement (Docket # 32) is GRANTED
as to Plaintiff’s claims against the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration.
Plaintiff has voluntarily dismissed her claims against the State of Arkansas and her claim for age
Defendant’s Motion for Continuance of Trial Date (Docket # 52) is GRANTED. A new
trial date will be set by separate order.
IT IS SO ORDERED this 6th day of July, 2011.
James M. Moody
United States District Judge
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