Chambers v. Carter
ORDER: The Secretary's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. # 34 ) is GRANTED.The Clerk shall enter judgment accordingly and CLOSE this case. Signed by Judge Virginia M. Hernandez Covington on 3/8/2018. (KAK)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
MIDDLE DISTRICT OF FLORIDA
Case No. 8:16-cv-2131-T-33CPT
JAMES MATTIS, Secretary,
Department of Defense,1
This matter comes before the Court pursuant to the Motion
for Summary Judgment filed by Defendant, the Secretary of the
Department of Defense, on November 2, 2017 (Doc. # 34), with
a response in opposition thereto filed by Plaintiff, Margaret
Chambers, on December 19, 2017 (Doc. # 45), and a reply in
support thereof filed by the Secretary on January 8, 2018
(Doc. # 46). For the reasons that follow, the Secretary’s
Motion (Doc. # 34) is granted.
employment discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights
Act of 1964 based on her race (Count I) and gender (Count
On January 20, 2017, James Mattis assumed office as the Secretary of
the Department of Defense. Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
25(d), he has been substituted for Ashton Carter as the defendant in this
discrimination (Count III). (Doc. # 1). On December 26, 2016,
substantially the same allegations but removing reference to
a hostile work environment. (Doc. # 25). On December 26, 2016,
the Secretary filed an answer, denying discrimination and
retaliation, and raising several affirmative defenses. (Doc.
On November 2, 2017, the Secretary filed the instant
Motion, seeking summary judgment on all three counts. (Doc.
# 34). In response, Ms. Chambers indicated that she no longer
intends to pursue “those counts in her federal complaint that
concern alleged discrimination based on her race and sex.”
(Doc. # 45 at 1). Instead, she seeks to pursue only “her
charge of retaliation” and responded in opposition only as it
related to that count. (Doc. # 45 at 2). As such, the Court
grants the Secretary’s unopposed Motion for Summary Judgment
as to Counts I and II, and addresses the opposed Motion as to
Count III. The Motion is ripe for review.
Summary judgment is proper where “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.” Fed. R.
Civ. P. 56. Summary judgment will be granted unless there is
a “genuine issue of material fact.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby,
Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247–48 (1968) (emphasis in original). An
issue is genuine if there is a “real basis in the record” on
which “a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmovant.” Hairston v. Gainesville Sun Publ’g Co., 9 F.3d 913,
919 (11th Cir. 1993). A fact is material if it might affect
the outcome of the suit under the applicable substantive law.
Allen v. Tyson Foods, Inc., 121 F.3d 642, 646 (11th Cir.
1997). If there is a conflict between the allegations or
evidence, all reasonable inferences should be drawn in the
non-moving party’s favor. Shotz v. City of Plantation, 344
F.3d 1161, 1164 (11th Cir. 2003). However, if “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. v. Zanith Radio Corp.,
475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986).
In addition to prohibiting employment discrimination,
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 “forbids employer
applicant) because [s]he has ‘opposed’ a practice that Title
VII forbids or has ‘made a charge, testified, assisted, or
participated in’ a Title VII ‘investigation, proceeding, or
hearing.’” Burlington N. & Santa Fe Ry. Co. v. White, 548
U.S. 53, 59 (2006) (quoting 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-3(a)).
In retaliation cases relying on circumstantial evidence,
the burden of production shifts between the parties. Furcron
v. Mail Ctrs. Plus, LLC, 843 F.3d 1295, 1310 (11th Cir. 2016)
(1973)). Initially, the plaintiff must establish a prima
statutorily protected activity; (2) she suffered a materially
connection between the two.” Evans v. Books-A-Million, 762
F.3d 1288, 1298 (11th Cir. 2014). If a prima facie case is
shown, the burden shifts to the defendant to articulate a
employment action.” Bryant v. Jones, 575 F.3d 1281, 1308 (11th
Cir. 2009). If the defendant satisfies its burden, “the burden
of production shifts to the plaintiff to offer evidence that
the alleged reason of the employer is a pretext for illegal
discrimination.” Wilson v. B/E Aerospace, Inc., 376 F.3d
1079, 1087 (11th Cir. 2004). Ultimately, this requires the
plaintiff to “establish that his or her protected activity
was a but-for cause of the alleged adverse action by the
employer.” Univ. of Tex. S.W. Med. Ctr. v. Nassar, 570 U.S.
338, 362 (2013).
Ms. Chambers is a telecommunications specialist with the
Defense Information Systems Agency, an agency within the
Department of Defense. (Doc. # 35 at 6). DISA Central, a
command field office of DISA, is located at MacDill Air Force
Base. (Doc. # 35 at 6). DISA Central is further divided into
several branches, CS1 through CS5. (Doc. #34-1 at 3, 30). Ms.
Chambers joined DISA central in June of 2011, at which time
she was assigned to CS4. (Doc. # 34-1 at 15). Eventually, she
moved to CS2. (Doc. # 34-1 at 15).
In CS2, Ms. Chambers’ immediate supervisor was Anthony
“Tony” McFadden, the Branch Chief for CS2. (Doc. # 34-1 at
15). Mr. McFadden reported to Sidney Shafer, the Deputy
Commander of DISA Central. (Doc. # 34-1 at 2). And Mr. Shafer
Central. (Doc. # 34-1 at 2). Above Colonel Wood was Larry
Huffman, DISA Director of Operations. (Doc. # 34-1 at 2).
Merging and Un-merging of CS2 and CS4 Branches
Effective August 1, 2012, Colonel Wood decided to merge
CS2 and CS4. (Doc. ## 34-1 at 16, 35 at 17). The idea was to
“bridge the gap between the infrastructure transport, voice,
infrastructure worked by CS4.” (Doc. # 34-1 at 3). With the
merger, Ms. Chambers was given section lead responsibilities
transferred from CS4. (Doc. # 35 at 19). The CS4 employees
were located in a separate building from CS2 and remained
November, Mr. Laine and Mr. Perez moved into the CS2 building.
(Doc. # 35 at 40). With the transition came conflict as Ms.
Chambers felt several employees became adversarial toward
her. (Doc. # 35 at 31). According to Ms. Chambers, both Mr.
Laine and Mr. Perez were uncooperative with her, stating that
they “just didn’t” want to work with her in CS2. (Doc. ## 341 at 15, 35 at 46).
Ms. Chambers believed that the refusal to work with her
was because of her race and sex. (Doc. # 34-1 at 17). However,
at deposition, Ms. Chambers stated that she had “no idea what
their issue was.” (Doc. # 35 at 49). She also acknowledged
that Mr. Laine and Mr. Perez were unhappy in the branch and
frustrated because they felt she was receiving opportunities
they were not. (Doc. # 35 at 30, 47–48, 56–57).
Mr. Laine clarified that he did not refuse to work with
her, but did refuse to treat her as his supervisor, and
rejected the suggestion that any conflict was a result of her
race or sex. (Doc. # 34-1 at 77–78). Mr. Laine also perceived
a “very toxic” environment in the branch, caused primarily by
a close personal relationship between Ms. Chambers and Mr.
McFadden. (Doc. # 34-1 at 75–76). Although doubting it was
sexual, Mr. Laine stated that the relationship made him
uncomfortable. (Doc. # 34-1 at 75–76). It also seemed to Mr.
Laine that Mr. McFadden was attempting to push Ms. Chambers
into a “larger supervisory role” and that Mr. McFadden took
little interest in the branch beyond how it could get Ms.
Chambers promoted. (Doc. # 34-1 at 75–76). Mr. Perez was
similarly reluctant to treat Ms. Chambers as his supervisor
and rejected the notion that it had anything to do with her
race or sex. (Doc. # 34-1 at 82, 84–85). He also identified
relationship between Ms. Chambers and Mr. McFadden. (Doc. #
34-1 at 83).
caused logistical complications. In particular, the change in
buildings created communication issues with the former CS4
employees and their customers. (Doc. ## 34-1 at 4, 100, 38 at
26). Also around this time, a Lieutenant Colonel resigned
from the United States Air Force and Colonel Wood learned
that the Air Force would not fill that position based on its
placement in the DISA Central front office. (Doc. # 34-1 at
100). Additionally, Colonel Wood received approval to hire
for a GS-14 position that was previously vacant in CS4. (Doc.
# 34-1 at 8, 101). Based on these factors, and Mr. Shafer’s
recommendation, Colonel Wood decided to reconstitute CS4.
(Doc. ## 34-1 at 4, 36 at 42–44). The newly-reconstituted CS4
included the GS-14 as a supervisory position, which CS4 did
not previously have (Doc. # 38 at 39), as well as Mr. Laine,
Mr. Perez, and the Lieutenant Colonel position. (Doc. # 36 at
announcing his decision to undo the merger and reconstitute
CS4, effective January 1, 2013. (Doc. # 34-1 at 50, 101).
On January 3, 2013, Ms. Chambers contacted an Equal
Employment Opportunity Counselor, alleging that the decision
to reconstitute CS4 was discriminatory based on her race and
sex. (Doc. # 34-2 at 2–3). Ms. Chambers argues that Colonel
Wood simply decided to reconstitute CS4 rather than address
the refusal of Mr. Laine and Mr. Perez to work with Ms.
Chambers, which she alleged was based on her race and sex.
(Doc. # 35 at 67). Ms. Chambers also accused Colonel Wood of
conspiring to exclude Ms. Chambers from the GS-14 position
and ensuring that it was filled by a white male. (Doc. # 35
at 67, 107). The informal complaint was handled by EEO
counselor Cynthia Wilson. (Doc. # 34-2 at 6).
Climate Assessment Report
DISA usually conducts climate assessments every two
years or upon a change in command, but they may also be
conducted upon request. (Doc. # 34-2 at 30). The last climate
assessment was done just prior to Colonel Wood assuming
command. (Doc. # 36 at 35). In this case, an assessment was
complaints of “a potential hostile work environment impacting
the morale and welfare of the employees.” (Doc. # 34-2 at
unprofessional relationship in CS2. (Doc. # 36 at 32).
called his supervisor, Mr. Huffman, in DISA Headquarters to
discuss how to proceed. (Doc. # 36 at 33, 37). Upon his
advice, he called the Equal Employment Opportunity office in
DISA Headquarters. (Doc. ## 36 at 33, 39 at 48). On April 16,
2013, Chandra Vickers, director of the EEO Office, flew to
Tampa to conduct EEO training and make herself available for
employees to raise any concerns. (Doc. # 39 at 109–10). After
speaking with the employees, Ms. Vickers “confirmed some of
determined that it was necessary to conduct a complete climate
assessment, which began on April 29, 2013. (Doc. # 39 at 125–
“accurate, unbiased representation” of the work environment.
(Doc. # 34-2 at 30). This is determined primarily through
focus groups with the relevant groups in DISA: “Branch Chiefs,
Deputy Branch Chiefs, non-supervisory employees, Officers,
Senior Enlisted Military, Enlisted Military (E-6 and below),
and contractors.” (Doc. # 34-2 at 30). Participants are also
offered one-on-one sessions to bring specific concerns. (Doc.
# 34-2 at 30). In this case, there were twenty-three one-onone sessions. (Doc. # 34-2 at 30).
sessions were conducted with each branch and one make-up
session. (Doc. # 34-2 at 36). The report combines some
information to preserve anonymity between the branches. (Doc.
# 34-2 at 36). Under morale, however, the report notes the
relatively low morale. (Doc. # 34-2 at 37). For CS2, the
report provided the following reasons:
Toxic working conditions due to a perceived
relationship between CS2 Branch Chief Anthony
“Tony” McFadden and [Ms. Chambers]. Employees
felt that Ms. [Chambers] received employment
perks that male employees did not receive, such
as the ability to come in late every day, not
work a full 10 hour day, and still be allowed to
take off for a CWS day. The employees also stated
that Ms. [Chambers] was rude and unprofessional
toward them and the Branch Chief allowed it to
occur. The employees stated that prior to Ms.
[Chambers] becoming the unofficial “Deputy
Branch Chief” the morale among CS2 employees was
around 8 or 9; however, since Ms. [Chambers]
became powerful within the branch, the male
employees said morale is about a 4–5 (possible
high of 10).
Employees stated that Ms. [Chambers] appeared to
have an anger management problem and they hated
to engage her in any conversations they did not
absolutely have to. Employees stated that Ms.
[Chambers] frequently spent time sitting on the
Branch Chief’s desk; made the Branch Chief’s
lunch or went to lunch with the Branch Chief;
took long walks with the Branch Chief and
attempted to manipulate situations to keep the
CS2 male employees from speaking to the Branch
Chief. Additionally, Ms. [Chambers] and the
Branch Chief (Tony McFadden) appeared to be in
collusion to keep the actual Deputy Branch Chief
(LTC [redacted]) from receiving or providing
information. There have been several occasions
where employees witnessed the Deputy being
excluded from conversations he should have been
involved in. The employees stated that on one
occasion, the Branch Chief (Tony McFadden) asked
the Deputy (LTC [redacted]) to leave a meeting
because they were going to discuss “civilian
only” issues. On another occasion cited by
employees, LTC [redacted] walked into a work
related discussion, and Ms. [Chambers] looked at
him and asked, “Can I help you?”
The employees also stated that some of them are
no longer allowed to speak to the contractors
regarding work related issues. All discussion
must go through Ms. [Chambers], which was
negatively impacting the mission. They viewed
Ms. [Chambers] as technically incompetent.
Employees stated that when Ms. [Chambers] was
out of the office, the mood of the office soared,
and people begin to feel like their old selves
again; but once she returned the morale went back
to being poor.
The employees previously enjoyed a good working
relationship with the Branch Chief and seem to
be at a loss to explain what has happened to
their branch. No one seemed to want to come right
out and accuse Tony McFadden of having an affair
with [Ms. Chambers], but it was clear from their
accounts of what is going on in the office that
they are thinking it must be a possibility. The
employees have lost faith in Tony McFadden’s
leadership ability at this point and can’t
understand how he has let this happen to the
branch, when they used to be such a cohesive unit
enjoying barbecues and after hour functions
(Doc. # 34-2 at 37–38). Although her name is redacted from
the copy provided to the Court, Ms. Chambers acknowledges
that the allegations in the report reference her and her
relationship with Mr. McFadden. (Doc. ## 35 at 112–24, 34 at
10–12, 45 at 2–3).
Under work environment, the report went on to state that
the CS2 employees were:
happy with their work environment, with the
exception of the perceived hostile work environment
created by Mr. Tony McFadden and Ms. [Chambers].
The employees stated that if Ms. [Chambers] was no
longer part of their branch, they believed they
would go back to being a functional and efficient
branch. As long as she stayed, however; the mission
and morale of the DISN Branch would continue to
(Doc. # 34-2 at 39–40).
As for the contractors, the group session was attended
primarily by contractors from the CS2 Branch. (Doc. # 34-2 at
40). The morale was even worse. The assessment found:
The morale among the CS2 contractors was rated as
1 on a scale of 1 to 10. They stated they would
have rated it in the negatives if they had been
given that option. The group has been negatively
impacted by their government lead, Ms. [Chambers].
The group, which was comprised of all males, stated
that Ms. [Chambers] was allowed to come in when she
pleased, never on time, but usually at least an
hour late. The Branch Chief already allows her to
come in later than anyone else in the branch and
she is usually at least an hour late (the rest of
the branch begins the workday at either 0600 or
0700. Ms. [Chambers] is allowed a start time of
0800). Additionally, the group stated that Ms.
2 by the Branch Chief in many other areas.
Ms. [Chambers] has her own key to the Branch Chief’s
office (which used to be kept in a key box for
facility issues) and when the Branch Chief was out
of the office, she unlocks his office and works in
there. Also, the group stated that Ms. [Chambers]
was frequently observed sitting on the Branch
Chief’s desk, and when not sitting on his desk, she
would take a chair and sit next to him, behind his
desk when meeting with them. The contractors stated
that their morale used to be good, until about six
months ago when the office suddenly changed and the
Branch Chief deemed Ms. [Chambers] his “unofficial”
deputy. Following that verbal announcement about
six months ago, the morale in the office went
downhill. Ms. [Chambers] began speaking to the
efficiently, and has severed the communication
between the previous government lead and the
contractors. The mission is paying the price for
this power play on the part of Ms. [Chambers]. It
was unclear what exactly the nature of the
relationship is between Ms. [Chambers] and Mr.
McFadden. No one would come out and accuse them of
having an affair, but it was strongly implied.
(Doc. # 34-2 at 40–41) (footnote in original). As for the
Sexual Favoritism is a form of sexual harassment and discrimination that
is illegal. It occurs when a manager or supervisor is in a sexual
relationship or a perceived sexual relationship with another employee and
the manager/supervisor shows favoritism toward that employee such as by
promoting them ahead of other, more qualified candidates.
contractors’ work environment, the assessment found:
The majority of the contractors feel they were
being subjected to a hostile and toxic environment,
which is currently impeding accomplishment of the
mission. The CS2 contractors cited the recent
change in their government lead as the cause of all
the friction/hostility. The group stated that they
are spending each day “walking on eggshells”
because they fear that their current government
lead, Ms. [Chambers] will decide to get rid of them
if they cross her. The group stated that they have
been forbidden to speak to their previous
[redacted]). The group stated that Ms. [Chambers]
has frozen out the previous government leads,
although they are technical experts in reference to
the work the contractors are performing. The
contractors felt that Ms. [Chambers] has become a
roadblock to accomplishing the mission. The
contractors stated they were embarrassed when they
had to attend meetings with her due to her lack of
inordinately rude and unprofessional, and at times
has violent tendencies (such as slamming her fist
on the table and scattering M&Ms across the room or
stating that she needed to “count to ten” before
engaging in conversation with them so she would
calm her anger and not resort to violence). The
contractors in CS2 stated they were all looking for
other jobs because the workplace climate had become
intolerable. The group stated that even though the
majority of them had worked with Ms. [Chambers] for
close to two years, she still did not know their
names or what jobs they performed. Whether or not
Ms. [Chambers] was intentionally calling them by
the wrong names is unclear, however it was
unacceptable either way. There were only about 15
people that worked in the CS2 building (805), Ms.
[Chambers] should know their names by now.
(Doc. # 34-2 at 41).
As a result of these findings, the report recommended a
“reassignment for Ms. [Chambers] outside of Building 805 and
not under the supervision of Mr. Anthony ‘Tony’ McFadden,”
noting that “Mr. McFadden and Ms. [Chambers’] failure to
remain professional has proven to be the impetus to many of
the situations mentioned by employees within CS2.” (Doc. #
34-2 at 43). After he received the written climate assessment
report, Colonel Wood reviewed it with other leadership in
DISA, including the EEO Office, Office of the General Counsel,
and Personnel, and the consensus was to transfer Ms. Chambers
to a similar position in CS3. (Doc. ## 36 at 55, 38 at 73).
Reassignment to CS3
After logging into a personnel system on June 20, 2013,
Ms. Chambers discovered that she had been reassigned to CS3.
(Doc. # 34-1 at 87). She immediately emailed Mr. Shaffer, who
employees and that Colonel Wood would be in later that day.
(Doc. # 34-1 at 89). She later met with Colonel Wood, who
informed her that she was being reassigned as a result of the
climate assessment. (Doc. # 34-1 at 88).
On June 24, 2013, Ms. Chambers received the official
memorandum ordering her transfer to CS3. (Doc. ## 34-1 at 89,
34-2 at 74). Ms. Chambers reported to CS on June 28, 2013.
(Doc. # 34-1 at 90). Shortly before her transfer and also as
a result of the assessment, Mr. McFadden was granted his
previously requested assignment to Special Operations Command
on a temporary basis, which eventually became permanent.
(Doc. ## 34-2 at 61, 37 at 7).
In CS3, Ms. Chambers has the same job title with the
same pay rate. (Doc. # 35 at 143–44). However, she no longer
is a section lead. (Doc. # 35 at 10). Ms. Chambers alleges
that her new position has “has no upward mobility potential
and lack[s] supervisory responsibilities.” (Doc. # 34-1 at
88). She also alleges that she has less meaningful work and
is often idle. (Doc. # 35 at 194–95).
With regard to the prima facie case of retaliation, the
Secretary does not dispute that Ms. Chambers participated in
a statutorily protected activity or that she suffered a
materially adverse employment action. Instead, the Secretary
argues that the transfer of Ms. Chambers was not causally
related to her protected activity and that Ms. Chambers cannot
show that the reason for the transfer was mere pretext for
retaliation. (Doc. # 34 at 21–23). The Court agrees with the
To demonstrate a causal connection, Ms. Chambers must
“‘show that the decision-makers were aware of the protected
conduct, and that the protected activity and the adverse
actions were not wholly unrelated.’” Shannon v. Bellsouth
Telecomm., Inc., 292 F.3d 712, 716 (11th Cir. 2002) (quoting
Gupta v. Fla. Bd. of Regents, 212 F.3d 571, 590 (11th Cir.
2000)). The Secretary does not dispute that Colonel Woods was
aware of Ms. Chambers’ complaints of discrimination, but
correctly argues that “there is no evidence other than timing”
connecting Ms. Chambers’ activity and her transfer. (Doc. #
34 at 21). Yet, even the timing is insufficient to establish
Causation may be shown by establishing “close temporal
proximity between the statutorily protected activity and the
adverse employment action.” Thomas v. Cooper Lighting, Inc.,
506 F.3d 1361, 1364 (11th Cir. 2007). “But mere temporal
proximity, without more, must be ‘very close.’” Id. (quoting
Clark Cty. Sch. Dist. V. Breeden, 532 U.S. 268, 273 (2001)).
Courts have consistently held that a three to four month
window between the protected activity and the employment
action is insufficient to establish causation. See Clark, 532
U.S. at 273–74 (citing Richmond v. ONEOK, Inc., 120 F.3d 205,
209 (10th Cir. 1997) (holding that a three-month period was
insufficient); Hughes v. Derwinski, 967 F.2d 1168, 1174 (7th
insufficient)). See also Thomas, 506 F.3d at 1364 (holding
that “in the absence of other evidence tending to show
protected expression and the adverse action, the complaint of
retaliation fails as a matter of law”).
Here, Ms. Chambers first contacted an EEO counselor on
January 3, 2013. (Doc. # 34-2 at 2). She filed her formal
complaint of discrimination on February 8, 2013. (Doc. # 25
at 2). It was not until late June of 2013, that Ms. Chambers
was transferred to CS3. (Doc. # 34-2 at 74). Standing alone,
this three to four month gap is not a sufficient temporal
proximity to establish causation.
causation by arguing that Colonel Wood requested the climate
assessment after learning that Ms. Chambers was alleging
discrimination. (Doc. # 45 at 6–7). However, for purposes of
temporal proximity and causation, the relevant timeframe is
employment action. See Rives v. Lahood, 605 Fed. App’x 815,
819 (11th Cir. 2015) (citing Donnellon v. Fruehauf Corp., 749
assessment of the entire field office cannot reasonable be
Burlington, 548 U.S. at 68 (holding that a materially adverse
action is one which might have “dissuaded a reasonable worker
(internal quotations omitted).
Assuming Ms. Chambers had established her prima facie
case, the Secretary has met the “‘exceedingly light’” burden
of providing “legitimate, non-discriminatory reasons” for the
employment action. See Holifield v. Reno, 115 F.3d 1555, 1564
(11th Cir. 1997) (quoting Turnes v. AmSouth Bank, N.A., 36
Secretary argues that Colonel Woods transferred Ms. Chambers
environment in CS2.” (Doc. # 34 at 21–22). This is sufficient
evidence upon which a rational trier of fact could conclude
that the transfer was not based on retaliatory animus. See
Texas Dep’t of Cmty Affairs v. Burdine, 450 U.S. 248, 257
(1981); see also Holifield, 115 F.3d at 1564 (finding that
the defendant “clearly met its burden” by relying on a report
that noted the department “was in a state of crisis, due
largely to the demoralization of the staff resulting from
Thus, the burden once again falls on Ms. Chambers to
show that reliance on the climate assessment was mere pretext
and her protected activity was the but-for cause of her
transfer. See Gloetzner v. Lynch, 225 F. Supp. 3d 1329, 1358–
59 (N.D. Fla. 2016). This requires her to “meet the reason
proffered head on and rebut it,” Crawford v. City of Fairburn,
Ga., 482 F.3d 1305, 1308 (11th Cir. 2007), by presenting
“concrete evidence in the form of specific facts which show
that the defendant's proffered reason is mere pretext. Mere
conclusory allegations and assertions will not suffice.”
Earley v. Champion Int’l Corp., 907 F.2d 1077, 1081 (11th
Cir. 1990). The concrete evidence “must demonstrate ‘such
incoherencies, or contradictions in the employer's proffered
factfinder could find them unworthy of credence.’” Alvarez v.
Royal Atl. Developers, Inc., 610 F.3d 1253, 1265 (11th Cir.
2010) (quoting Combs v. Plantation Patters, 106 F.3d 1519,
1538 (11th Cir. 1997)). Ms. Chambers has not met this burden.
In attempting to rebut the reason for the transfer, Ms.
assessment was fabricated by Colonel Woods and Ms. Vickers to
justify retaliating against Ms. Chambers. (Doc. # 45 at 7,
11). However, this conclusory accusation is unsupported by
the record. See Evers v. Gen. Motors Corp., 770 F.2d 984, 986
conclusory allegations without specific supporting facts have
no probative value.”).
Ms. Chambers places great emphasis on the fact that Ms.
Vickers was in charge of both the climate assessment and Ms.
Chambers’ EEO investigation. (Doc. # 45 at 7–8, 11). While
Ms. Vickers did conduct the climate assessment, along with
another employee (Doc. # 39 at 32), there is no evidence that
she played an active role in Ms. Chambers’ investigation. On
the contrary, she testified that she does not conduct EEO
investigations and that they usually rely on an investigative
branch of the Department of Defense to do so. (Doc. # 39 at
Chambers’ investigation has no tendency to prove that Ms.
Vickers colluded with Colonel Woods to fabricate the climate
Ms. Chambers also calls into question the results of the
climate assessment by pointing out that a previous assessment
was conducted in August of 2012, which did not reveal a toxic
acknowledged that she did not become a section lead until
August of 2012. (Doc. # 35 at 159). As noted in the climate
contractors reported that morale in CS2 dropped upon Ms.
Chambers becoming the “unofficial ‘Deputy Branch Chief.’”
(Doc. # 34-2 at 37, 40).
Finally, Ms. Chambers attempts to discredit the climate
assessment by refuting or contextualizing certain findings in
the report. (Doc. # 45 at 9–10). For example, although Ms.
Chambers argues that she never had to count to ten to ease
her anger, she admits that she did pound her fist on the
table, but only because she was being yelled at. (Doc. # 45
at 9–10). However, this argument misses the mark entirely.
“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, 610 F.3d at 1266.
argument that her fellow employees lied or exaggerated about
her (Doc. ## 45 at 10, 35 at 129), Ms. Chambers has provided
no concrete evidence that Colonel Woods had any suggestion
the climate assessment report was inaccurate. See Murphree v.
Comm’r, 644 Fed. App’x 962, 968 (11th Cir. 2016) (finding
investigative report “was false or that the findings in the
decisions”); Mealing v. Ga. Dep’t. of Juvenile Justice, 564
Fed. App’x 421, 428 (11th Cir. 2014) (finding that the
plaintiff did not establish that the plaintiff’s reprimands
were false or that the director who recommended termination
had any knowledge of any alleged fabrication).
It is not the role of this Court to determine whether
there was a toxic environment in CS2, whether the employees
conducting the climate assessment should have interviewed
more people, or whether Colonel Woods should have taken
another course of action. Wilson, 376 F.3d at 1092 (“The role
of this Court is . . . not to act as a super personnel
issue before the Court is whether Ms. Chambers has put forth
sufficient evidence upon which a reasonable fact finder could
conclude that reliance on the climate assessment report is so
implausible or incoherent as to be unbelievable. Alvarez, 610
F.3d at 1265. She has not.
As such, even viewing the evidence in the light most
favorable to her, Ms. Chambers has not created a genuine issue
of material fact and summary judgment is warranted.
Accordingly, it is
ORDERED, ADJUDGED, and DECREED:
The Secretary’s Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc.
# 34) is GRANTED,
The Clerk shall enter judgment accordingly and
CLOSE this case.
DONE and ORDERED in Chambers in Tampa, Florida on this
8th day of March, 2018.
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