BOBB et al v. ELBERTA CRATE AND BOX COMPANY
ORDER granting 16 Motion for Summary Judgment. Plaintiffs shall take nothing by their Complaint and judgment shall be entered in favor of Defendant. Ordered by U.S. District Judge W LOUIS SANDS on 6/23/2014. (bcl)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF GEORGIA
SHEILA BOBB, et al.,
ELBERTA CRANE AND BOX CO.,
CASE NO.: 1:12-CV-196 (WLS)
Presently pending before the Court is Defendant’s Motion for Summary
Judgment (Doc. 16).
For the following reasons, Defendant’s Motion for Summary
Judgment (Doc. 16) is GRANTED.
On December 20, 2012, Plaintiffs filed the Complaint in this sex discrimination
action under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended at 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et
seq. (See Doc. 1.) On February 1, 2013, Defendant Elberta Crane and Box Company
(“Elberta”) answered the complaint. (Doc. 6.)
After discovery, Elberta moved for
summary judgment. (Doc. 16.) In support of summary judgment, Elberta contends:
(1) Plaintiffs cannot establish a prima facie case, and (2) Plaintiffs cannot rebut Elberta’s
legitimate nondiscriminatory reason for Plaintiffs’ termination.
(See Doc. 17.)
March 3, 2014, with an extension from the Court, Plaintiffs filed a response in
opposition to Elberta's Motion for Summary Judgment. (Docs. 20-23.) On March 18,
2014, Elberta filed a reply. (Doc. 26.) Thus, the above-referenced motion is ripe for
review. See M.D. Ga. L.R. 7.3.1(a).
SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56
“Summary judgment is appropriate if the pleadings, depositions, answers to
interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show there is
no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to
judgment as a matter of law.” Chow v. Chak Yam Chau, No. 12-15994, 2014 WL 92094, *3
(11th Cir. Jan. 10, 2014) (citing Maddox v. Stephens, 727 F.3d 1109, 1118 (11th Cir. 2013)).
“A genuine issue of material fact does not exist unless there is sufficient evidence
favoring the nonmoving party for a reasonable jury to return a verdict in its favor.”
Grimes v. Miami Dade Cnty., 552 F. App’x 902, 904 (11th Cir. 2014) (citing Chapman v. AI
Transp., 229 F.3d 1012, 1023 (11th Cir. 2000)). “An issue of fact is ‘material’ if it is a legal
element of the claim under the applicable substantive law which might affect the
outcome of the case.” Allen v. Tyson Foods, Inc., 121 F.3d 642, 646 (11th Cir. 1997) (citing
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)). “It is ‘genuine’ if the record
taken as a whole could lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party.”
Tipton v. Bergrohr GMBH-Siegen, 965 F.2d 994, 998 (11th Cir. 1992) (citing Matsushita Elec.
Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986)).
The movant bears the initial burden of showing, by reference to the record, that
there is no genuine issue of material fact. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323
(1986); Barreto v. Davie Marketplace, LLC, 331 F. App’x 672, 673 (11th Cir. 2009). The
movant can meet this burden by presenting evidence showing there is no dispute of
material fact, or by demonstrating to the district court that the nonmoving party has
failed to present evidence in support of some element of its case on which it bears the
ultimate burden of proof. See Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322-24. Once the movant has met its
burden, the nonmoving party is required “to go beyond the pleadings” and identify
“specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Id. at 324. To avoid
summary judgment, the nonmoving party “must do more than summarily deny the
allegations or ‘show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts.’ ”
Matsuhita, 475 U.S. at 586 (citations omitted). Instead, the nonmovant must point to
record evidence that would be admissible at trial. See Jones v. UPS Ground Freight, 683
F.3d 1283, 1294 (11th Cir. 2012) (quoting Macuba v. Deboer, 193 F.3d 1316, 1322 (11th Cir.
1999)) (noting that hearsay may be considered on a motion for summary judgment only
if it “could be reduced to admissible evidence at trial or reduced to admissible form”).
Such evidence may include affidavits or declarations that are based on personal
knowledge of the affiant or declarant. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(4).
On a motion for summary judgment, the Court must view all evidence and
factual inferences drawn therefrom in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party
and determine whether that evidence could reasonably sustain a jury verdict.
Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322-23; Allen, 121 F.3d at 646. However, the Court must grant
summary judgment if there is no genuine issue of material fact and the movant is
entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c).
Local Rule 56
Local Rule 56 requires the following:
The respondent to a motion for summary judgment shall attach to the
response a separate and concise statement of material facts, numbered
separately, to which the respondent contends there exists a genuine issue
to be tried. Response shall be made to each of the movant's numbered
material facts. All material facts contained in the moving party's
statement which are not specifically controverted by the respondent in
respondent's statement shall be deemed to have been admitted, unless
M.D. Ga. L.R. 56. Here, Elberta properly filed a summary judgment motion with a
statement of undisputed facts, as required by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and
the Local Rules of this Court. (See Docs. 16-18.) Likewise, Plaintiffs filed the proper
response to Elberta’s statement of material facts. (See Doc. 24.) Having established the
applicable standards, the Court will proceed to the facts.
RELEVANT FACTUAL BACKGROUND
The following facts are derived from the Complaint (Doc. 1); Elberta’s Answer
(Doc. 6); Elberta’s Statement of Undisputed Facts (Doc. 18); and Plaintiffs’ Response to
Elberta’s Statement of Undisputed Material Facts (Doc. 24); and the record in this case.
Where relevant, the factual summary also contains undisputed and disputed facts
derived from the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any
affidavits, all of which are construed in a light most favorable to Plaintiffs as the
nonmovants. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56; Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322-23.
Elberta is a business based in Bainbridge, Georgia. (Docs. 18 at ¶ 1, 24 at ¶ 1.)
The eight named Plaintiffs were employed at Elberta’s veneer mill in Bainbridge. (Id.)
Plaintiffs were employed as “feeders,” a position which requires the worker to take
pieces of wood that are used to make wooden crates and “feed” them into a dryer.
(Docs. 18 at ¶ 2, 24 at ¶ 2.) The dryer dries the veneer finish on each separate piece of
wood. (Id.) “Bundlers” bundle the wood pieces together using a strapping machine
after the pieces are pulled from the dryer. (Id.) The strapping machine is affixed with
various warning labels, but no worker has reported to Elberta that they were injured
using that machine. (Docs. 18 at ¶ 3, 24 at ¶ 3.) “Feeders” generally do not operate the
strapping machines but have occasionally picked up the wood and set it aside after it
comes out of the other end of the dryer so that a “bundler” may get the wood and
“bundle” it at a later time. (Docs. 18 at ¶ 4, 24 at ¶ 4.)
On Friday, April 1, 2011, Plaintiffs Bobb, Carlyle, Jones, Wade, Kindle, and Phifer
were feeders/sorters for Dryer No. 1, Plaintiff Ansley was a feeder/sorter for Dryer No.
2, and Plaintiff Handsford was a “floater” on the third shift, which was from 11:30 p.m.
on Friday night until 7:30 a.m. on Saturday morning.1 (Docs. 18 at ¶ 5, 24 at ¶ 5.) Only
one of the four bundlers scheduled to work on the third shift that day arrived at Elberta
to work. (Docs. 18 at ¶ 6, 24 at ¶ 6.) Because the wood was not being bundled at the
typical speed, Supervisor George Tomlin instructed the six feeders assigned to Dryer
No. 1 to clean the area around that dryer and stack wood on the table in anticipation of
the arrival of the pullers/bundlers. (Id.) Plaintiff Ansley was a feeder/sorter assigned
to Dryer No. 2, so she continued in the performance of her duties. (Doc. 24 at ¶ 6.) Mr.
Tomlin called the veneer mill manager, Brad Dodson, for advice as to what to do
A “floater” is a worker who cleans various rooms, and relieves feeders/sorters when they momentarily
leave their position. (Doc. 24 at ¶ 5.)
without the bundlers. (Docs. 18 at ¶ 7, 24 at ¶ 7.) Mr. Dodson called the plant manager,
Tim Dean, around 12:30 a.m. on Saturday morning. (Id.) Mr. Dean instructed Mr.
Dodson to tell Mr. Tomlin that the wood had to be dried because it would otherwise
mold because of the wet veneer. (Docs. 18 at ¶ 8, 24 at ¶ 8.) Mr. Dean also stated that
the feeders should be split up so that some would feed the wood, and others would pull
it after it went through the dryer and set it in a box so that it could be bundled the
following Monday. (Id.) Mr. Dean told Mr. Dodson not to have any of the Plaintiffs
bundle the wood because they were not trained as bundlers. (Id.) Mr. Dodson relayed
Mr. Dean’s instruction to Mr. Tomlin but, because Mr. Tomlin was busy, he told Don
Pollard, a fork-lift operator, to instruct Plaintiffs. (Docs. 18 at ¶ 9, 24 at ¶ 9.) Mr.
Pollard told Plaintiff Bobb that two employees should sort wood for Dryer No. 1, two
employees should feed Dryer No. 1, and two employees should pull and bundle the
dried wood from Dryer No. 1. (Doc. 25-1 at ¶ 13.) Although Plaintiff Bobb told Plaintiff
Carlyle at least a portion of Mr. Pollard’s instructions, Plaintiff Bobb did not tell any
other Plaintiff what Mr. Pollard had said or comply with his instructions because
Plaintiffs were not trained to operate the bundler, a machine viewed by Plaintiffs as
dangerous. (Docs. 16-1 at 65, 25-1 at ¶¶ 13-14.) Mr. Pollard noticed that Plaintiffs did
not comply with his instructions, so he informed Mr. Tomlin of such. (Docs. 18 at ¶ 10,
24 at ¶ 10.) Mr. Tomlin never returned to speak with Plaintiffs. (See Docs. 24 at ¶ 10,
25-1 at ¶ 12, 25-2 at ¶ 12.)
Mr. Dean was called at his home and told that Plaintiffs refused to do as
instructed. (Docs. 18 at ¶ 12, 24 at ¶ 12.) Mr. Dean drove from his home to the plant,
arriving there shortly before 1:00 a.m. on Saturday morning. (Id.) Mr. Pollard and Mr.
Tomlin told Mr. Dean that they had communicated Mr. Dean’s instructions to Plaintiffs
and Plaintiffs refused to do the work as instructed. (Docs. 18 at ¶ 13, 24 at ¶ 13.) Mr.
Dean was angry and red-faced when he arrived at the plant on Saturday morning.
(Docs. 18 at ¶ 15, 24 at ¶ 15.) Mr. Dean instructed the Plaintiffs who were working on
Dryer No. 1 to congregate around him. (Docs. 18 at ¶ 14, 24 at ¶ 14.) Plaintiff Ansley
said that Plaintiffs did not need to pull wood because it was too dangerous, and Mr.
Dean overheard her comment. (Docs. 16-1 at 48, 18 at ¶ 14, 24 at ¶ 14.) While standing
in front of Plaintiffs, Mr. Dean asked Mr. Tomlin and Mr. Pollard whether they
communicated Mr. Dean’s instructions to Plaintiffs, and both men stated that they had
and that Plaintiffs failed to comply with those instructions. (Docs. 18 at ¶ 16, 24 at ¶ 16.)
After Mr. Dean’s conversation with Plaintiffs, they split up and performed the tasks as
directed. (Docs. 18 at ¶ 17, 24 at ¶ 17.)
Before he left the plant on Saturday morning, Mr. Dean specifically asked Mr.
Pollard whether Plaintiffs had been told to “bundle the wood.” (Docs. 18 at ¶ 18, 24 at
¶ 18.) Mr. Pollard told Mr. Dean that they had been told that two workers should
separate the veneer, two should spread the veneer, and two should pull the dry veneer
and put it into boxes, but they were not told to bundle the wood. (Id.) Mr. Dean also
asked Milton Bruce whether any of the Plaintiffs had ever pulled wood from the dryer.
(Docs. 18 at ¶ 19, 24 at ¶ 19.) Mr. Bruce responded that Plaintiffs Bobb and Carlyle had
done so in the past. (Id.) Plaintiff Carlyle had once taken wood out of the end of the
dryer on her own initiative because, in her opinion, doing so was the responsible thing
to do when no one was available to take the wood off. (Docs. 18 at ¶ 20, 24 at ¶ 20.)
Lastly, Mr. Dean told Ronnie Fowler, Elberta’s Director of Human Resources, that
Plaintiffs had refused to do the assigned tasks as instructed by their supervisor. (Docs.
18 at ¶ 21, 24 at ¶ 21.)
Mr. Dean made the decision to terminate Plaintiffs for
insubordination and causing a loss of production. (Docs. 18 at ¶ 22, 24 at ¶ 22.) On the
morning of Monday, April 4, 2011, Mr. Dean drafted an email to the President of the
company that explained his decision to terminate Plaintiffs and outlined the
circumstances regarding their behavior. (Id.) On Monday night, Mr. Dean informed the
Plaintiffs that they were being terminated for insubordination. (Id.)
Before Plaintiffs’ termination, Elberta was considering automating the feeder
function. (Docs. 18 at ¶ 23, 24 at ¶ 23.) After Plaintiffs’ termination, the third shift was
shut down for about two years. (Id.) When the third shift was later resumed, the feeder
function previously performed by Plaintiffs was automated. (Id.)
Prior to their termination, Plaintiffs felt as though they had been treated fairly by
Mr. Tomlin, and Plaintiffs never experienced any instances of comments or remarks
about their gender. (Docs. 18 at ¶ 24, 24 at ¶ 24.) Plaintiff Jones believes that the reason
for the termination was based on a misunderstanding of Mr. Dean’s instructions as
communicated by Mr. Pollard. (Docs. 18 at ¶ 25, 24 at ¶ 25.) The Union Contract at
Elberta prohibited termination of employment based solely on one unexcused absence
(Docs. 18 at ¶ 27, 24 at ¶ 27.)
For that reason, the absent bundlers
referenced above could not have been terminated solely for their unexcused absence.
(Id.) The three absent bundlers were issued disciplinary actions in accordance with the
Union Contract for failing to show up for their assigned shift. (Id.) Six of the eight
Plaintiffs had unexcused absences from work and were not terminated for that reason.
(Docs. 18 at ¶¶ 28 & 29, 24 at ¶¶ 28 & 29.)
When a plaintiff seeks to prove sex discrimination through circumstantial
evidence, as do the Plaintiffs in the instant case,2 the Court is guided by the burdenshifting framework established in McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792 (1973).
Cobb v. City of Roswell, Ga., 533 F. App’x 888, 893 (11th Cir. 2013) (citing Damon v.
Fleming Supermarkets of Fla., Inc., 196 F.3d 1354, 1358 (11th Cir. 1999)). Under that
framework, in order to establish a prima facie case of sex discrimination under Title VII,
each Plaintiff must show that she: 1) is a member of a protected class; 2) was qualified
for the position; 3) suffered an adverse employment action; and 4) was treated less
favorably than similarly situated employees outside of her protected class, or was
replaced by someone outside of her protected class. Rice-Lamar v. City of Ft. Lauderdale,
232 F.3d 836, 842 (11th Cir. 2000). If the claimant establishes a prima facie case of
discrimination, a presumption of discrimination is created, and the burden shifts to the
employer to offer a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for the adverse employment
Although Plaintiffs assert that there is direct evidence of discrimination, the Court finds that no such
evidence has been presented. See Merritt v. Dillard Paper Co., 120 F.3d 1181, 1189 (11th Cir. 1997) (quoting
Rollins v. TechSouth, Inc., 833 F.2d 1525, 1528 n.6 (11th Cir. 1987)) (defining direct evidence as “evidence,
which if believed, proves existence of fact in issue without inference or presumption”).
action to rebut the presumption. Sims v. MVM, Inc., 704 F.3d 1327, 1332 (11th Cir. 2013).
If the defendant produces such evidence, the plaintiff must demonstrate that the
employer’s stated reason is pretext for discrimination. Kragor v. Takeda Pharms. Am.,
Inc., 702 F.3d 1304, 1308 (11th Cir. 2012). Because Elberta does not dispute that Plaintiffs
were members of a protected class, qualified for their positions, and suffered adverse
employment actions, the only issues before the Court are whether Plaintiffs met their
burden of establishing a prima facie case, whether Elberta offered a legitimate,
nondiscriminatory reason for the adverse employment action, and whether Plaintiffs
rebutted that reason by demonstrating that it was pretext for discrimination.
A. Plaintiffs’ Prima Facie Case
Elberta argues that Plaintiffs failed to establish a prima facie case of
discrimination because they were not replaced by anyone outside of their protected
class and they have not identified “evidence that any similarly-situated male employees
were treated more favorably than the Plaintiffs.” (Doc. 17 at 5.) Plaintiffs assert that the
male bundlers who did not show up for work for the third shift on April 1, 2011, and
the supervisors involved are proper comparators. (Doc. 23 at 10.) Plaintiffs state that
the male bundlers and supervisors involved were to blame for the problems that
occurred, but none of those individuals were terminated. (See id.) In the alternative,
Plaintiffs claim that comparators are not necessary in this case because the male
management’s actions constitute a “convincing mosaic” which would allow the jury to
infer discrimination. (See id.)
“To make a comparison of the plaintiff[s’] treatment” to the treatment of
employees outside of the plaintiffs’ protected class, “the plaintiff[s] must show that
[they] and the employees are similarly situated in all relevant respects.” Holifield v.
Reno, 115 F.3d 1555, 1562 (11th Cir. 1997) (citations omitted).
comparator ‘must be nearly identical to the plaintiff[s].’ ” Wilson v. B/E Aerospace, Inc.,
376 F.3d 1079, 1091 (11th Cir. 2004) (citing Holifield, 115 F.3d at 1562). A plaintiff must
“show that she was similarly situated to [a purported comparator] in terms of
performance, qualifications, and conduct, ‘without such differentiating or mitigating
circumstances that would distinguish’ their situations.” Smith v. Stratus Computer, Inc.,
40 F.3d 11, 17 (1st Cir. 1994) (citing Mitchell v. Toledo Hosp., 964 F.2d 577, 583 (6th Cir.
1992)). “To establish a comparator in the disciplinary context, the quantity and quality
of a comparator’s misconduct must be nearly identical to the plaintiff[s’] misconduct.”
Aristyld v. City of Lauderhill, 543 F. App’x 905, 907 (11th Cir. 2013) (citing Maniccia v.
Brown, 171 F.3d 1364, 1368-69 (11th Cir. 1999)). “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 different ways.” Silvera v. Orange Cnty. Sch. Bd., 244 F.3d
1253, 1259 (11th Cir. 2001) (citing Jones v. Bessemer Carraway Med. Ctr., 137 F.3d 1306,
1311 (11th Cir. 1998)). A person is not disqualified from being a comparator simply
because he or she does not share the same job title as the plaintiff. Smith v. LockheedMartin Corp., 644 F.3d 1321, 1326 (11th Cir. 2011) (citing Rioux v. City of Atlanta, 520 F.3d
1269, 1281 (11th Cir. 2008)). “The relevant inquiry is not whether the employees hold
the same job titles, but whether the employer subjected them to different employment
policies.” Lathem v. Dep’t of Children & Youth Servs., 172 F.3d 786, 793 (11th Cir. 1999)
(citing Nix v. WLCY Radio/Rahall Commuc’ns, 783 F.2d 1181, 1186 (11th Cir. 1984)).
The Court finds that neither the male bundlers nor the male supervisors are
proper comparators. The evidence is undisputed that the male bundlers were absent
without excuse whereas Mr. Dean believed that Plaintiffs were insubordinate. The
Union Contract prohibited Elberta from terminating the bundlers solely for one
There was no such prohibition regarding the termination of
Plaintiffs for insubordination. When some of the individual Plaintiffs were previously
absent without excuse, they were issued the same punishment as the male bundlers on
April 1, 2011. As to the supervisors, no evidence has been identified to suggest that Mr.
Dean had knowledge or any reason to know that any supervisors involved in the
miscommunication with Plaintiffs were being insubordinate.
Further, although a
miscommunication took place, there is no evidence to suggest that the male
management conspired to make Plaintiffs appear to be insubordinate. The Court finds
that neither the male bundlers nor the supervisors involved are proper comparators
because their behavior as compared to that of Plaintiffs is distinct.
Even without a proper comparator, “[a] triable issue of fact exists if the record,
viewed in a light most favorable to the plaintiff[s], presents ‘a convincing mosaic of
circumstantial evidence that would allow a jury to infer intentional discrimination by
the decisionmaker.’ ” Lockheed-Martin Corp., 644 F.3d at 1328 (quoting Silverman v. Bd. of
Educ., 637 F.3d 729, 734 (7th Cir. 2011)). The evidence is undisputed that three male
bundlers were absent on April 1, 2011, and their absences were not excused. Because of
their absences, wood that was being fed into the kiln was not being pulled and bundled
at the proper rate of speed. As a result, George Tomlin told Brad Dodson of the
problem, and Mr. Dodson contacted Tim Dean. Mr. Dean instructed Mr. Dodson to tell
Mr. Tomlin to tell Plaintiffs to split into groups of two: two to feed the wood into the
kiln, two to pull the wood from the kiln, and two to stack the wood in boxes for the
bundlers. Mr. Tomlin was busy, so Don Pollard relayed that message to Plaintiffs. Mr.
Pollard told Plaintiffs the wrong information.
Mr. Pollard’s instructions involved
bundling, a task which Plaintiffs viewed as dangerous. When Mr. Tomlin learned that
Plaintiffs were not doing what Mr. Dean had instructed, Mr. Tomlin called Mr. Dean.
Mr. Dean believed that the instructions were properly relayed to Plaintiffs and left his
home around 1:00 a.m. Mr. Dean traveled to the mill and delivered his instructions to
Once they received the instructions, they complied.
The evidence is
undisputed that Mr. Dean terminated Plaintiffs because he believed that they refused to
comply with his instructions as relayed by Mr. Pollard, and their refusal in turn led to a
loss of production.
There is no evidence that Mr. Dean’s decision was based on
anything other than his honest—albeit erroneous—belief that Plaintiffs were
insubordinate. As such, there is no evidence that would allow a jury to infer intentional
discrimination by Elberta. For those reasons, the Court finds that Plaintiffs have failed
to establish a prima facie case of discrimination.
B. Pretext for discrimination
Elberta argues that, even if Plaintiffs demonstrated a prima facie case of
discrimination, it is nonetheless entitled to summary judgment because the evidence is
undisputed that Plaintiffs were terminated based on Mr. Dean’s belief that they refused
to comply with his instructions as communicated by another employee. (Doc. 17 at 711.)
Plaintiffs assert that Elberta’s proffered reasons for Plaintiffs’ termination are
undermined by the undisputed fact that Mr. Dean did not question any Plaintiff about
her version of the events that transpired with Mr. Pollard, but instead relied solely on
the version of events as relayed by Mr. Tomlin and Mr. Pollard. (Doc. 23 at 14.)
Plaintiffs also state that any loss of production was not their fault, but the fault of the
male bundlers who were absent from work. (Id.)
Even if Plaintiffs demonstrated a prima facie case of discrimination, Elberta has
the opportunity to “rebut the presumption of discrimination by producing evidence
that [there was] a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason” for the adverse employment
See Texas Dep’t of Cmty. Affairs v. Burdine, 450 U.S. 248, 254 (1981).
sufficient if the defendant’s evidence raises a genuine issue of fact as to whether it
discriminated against the plaintiff.” Id. at 254-55 (citing Bd. of Trs. of Keene State Coll. v.
Sweeney, 439 U.S. 24, 25 n.2 (1978)). Once the defendant meets this burden, the plaintiff
must raise a genuine issue of fact as to whether the proffered reason for the adverse
employment action is pretext for discrimination. See McDonnell Douglas, 411 U.S. at 80405.
In other words, “once the employer offers evidence of a legitimate,
nondiscriminatory reason for the adverse action, ‘the McDonnell Douglas framework—
with its presumptions and burdens—disappears, and the sole remaining issue is
discrimination vel non.’ ” Kragor v. Takeda Pharms. Am., Inc., 702 F.3d 1304, 1308 n.1
(11th Cir. 2012) (citing Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 142-43
“The opportunity provided to a plaintiff to show pretext is simply an
opportunity to present evidence from which the trier of fact can find unlawful
discrimination.” Id. Relevant evidence to demonstrate pretext includes the employer’s
disparate treatment of similarly situated employees outside of the plaintiffs’ protected
class and the defendant’s “general policy and practice with respect to minority
McDonnell Douglas, 411 U.S. at 804-05.
allegations, without more, are not sufficient to raise an inference of pretext . . . where an
employer has offered extensive evidence of legitimate, nondiscriminatory reasons for its
actions.” Mayfield v. Patterson Pump Co., 101 F.3d 1371, 1376 (11th Cir. 1996) (citing
Isenbergh v. Knight-Ridder Newspaper Sales, Inc., 97 F.3d 436, 443-44 (11th Cir. 1996)).
The Court finds that Plaintiffs have not demonstrated that Elberta’s proffered
legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for their termination was a pretext for
The undisputed evidence demonstrates that Mr. Dean terminated
Plaintiffs based on his erroneous belief that Plaintiffs had been insubordinate. “[An]
employer may fire an employee for a good reason, a bad reason, a reason based on
erroneous facts, or for no reason at all, as long as its action is not for a discriminatory
reason.” Nix v. WLCY Radio/Rahall Commc’ns, 738 F.2d 1181, 1187 (11th Cir. 1984) (citing
Megill v. Bd. of Regents, 541 F.2d 1073, 1077 (5th Cir. 1976)). “It scarce need to be said
that Title VII is not a shield against harsh treatment at the workplace; it protects only in
instances of harshness disparately distributed.” Jackson v. City of Killeen, 654 F.2d 1181,
1186 (5th Cir. 1981). Plaintiffs have not made any showing or introduced any evidence
to suggest that Mr. Dean’s reason for terminating them was motivated by
It is not the Court’s role to inspect the correctness of an
employer’s employment decision. Because the evidence is undisputed that Mr. Dean’s
decision was based on his belief that Plaintiffs were insubordinate, and that decision
was not influenced by discriminatory animus, the Court finds that Plaintiffs have failed
to demonstrate that Elberta’s legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for Plaintiffs’
termination was a pretext for discrimination.
For the foregoing reasons, Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 16)
is GRANTED. It is hereby ORDERED AND ADJUDGED that Plaintiffs shall take
nothing by their Complaint (Doc. 1), and JUDGMENT shall be entered in favor of
SO ORDERED, this 23rd day of June 2014.
/s/ W. Louis Sands
W. LOUIS SANDS, JUDGE
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?