KATRICE WALKER v. COLUMBUS CONSOLIDATED GOVERNMENT
ORDER granting in part and denying in part 7 Motion for Summary Judgment Ordered by US DISTRICT JUDGE CLAY D LAND on 10/10/2019 (CCL)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF GEORGIA
CASE NO. 4:18-CV-184 (CDL)
O R D E R
Government (“CCG”) in its Department of Public Services (“Public
She asserts that CCG denied her a promotion because of
her race, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981 and Title VII of the
Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e to
CCG filed a summary judgment motion, asserting that
Walker was not qualified for the promotion and that the white
discussed below, genuine fact disputes exist on Walker’s Title
VII race discrimination claim, so CCG’s motion (ECF No. 7) is
denied as to that claim.
Walker’s § 1981 claim.
The motion, however, is granted as to
Walker also asserted a Title VII claim
for discrimination based on her color, and CCG moved for summary
judgment on that claim arguing that Walker had not exhausted her
summary judgment motion on this claim, so the Court deems it
abandoned. Resolution Tr. Corp. v. Dunmar Corp., 43 F.3d 587,
599 (11th Cir. 1995) (“[G]rounds alleged in the complaint but
not relied upon in summary judgment are deemed abandoned.”).
SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD
Summary judgment may be granted only “if the movant shows
that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the
movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”
Civ. P. 56(a).
In determining whether a
material fact exists to defeat a motion for summary judgment,
the evidence is viewed in the light most favorable to the party
opposing summary judgment, drawing all justifiable inferences in
the opposing party’s favor.
477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986).
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc.,
A fact is material if it is relevant
or necessary to the outcome of the suit.
Id. at 248.
dispute is genuine if the evidence would allow a reasonable jury
to return a verdict for the nonmoving party.
Walker is a black woman who works as a correctional officer
Walker is a certified correctional officer with
customer service specialist and holds a CCG HR Supervisory II
Walker began working for CCG in 2005.
She has served as a
correctional supervisor in the rainwater division; a chemical
In her correctional officer/supervisor
roles, Walker supervised inmates on work details but did not
supervise CCG employees.
Walker is currently a correctional
supervisor in the rainwater division.
In 2017, the position of community service coordinator came
The community service coordinator supervises the Public
they complete their community service obligations.
time and twelve part-time CCG employees report to the community
The written job description includes the
1. “Knowledge of record keeping, report preparation,
filing methods, and record management techniques.”
2. “Knowledge of supervisory practices, procedures, and
policies, including training and work inspections.”
3. “Knowledge of standard business arithmetic.”
activities, both directly and through
7. “Experience sufficient to thoroughly understand the
work of subordinate positions and to be able to
answer questions and resolve problems, usually
associated with one to three years[’] experience or
Description, ECF No. 11-1 at 101.
position and received an interview with a three-person panel led
supervisor and had five years of experience as a crew supervisor
in the Public Works rainwater division.
Biegler Aff. ¶ 14, ECF
Blakely does not have a college degree.
panel decided that Blakely was the best candidate based on his
community service coordinator position.
After Walker was not selected for the community service
coordinator position, she discussed the issue with Biegler, her
department director, who told Walker that some of her interview
issue with a member of CCG’s human resources department, she did
further via CCG’s fair treatment procedures.
Walker’s Title VII Claim
discriminating against an employee based on her race.
U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(1).1
Walker did not point to any direct
She may do that using the framework established in
McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792 (1973).
that framework, the employee must establish a prima facie case
E.g., Vessels v. Atlanta Indep. Sch. Sys.,
legitimate nondiscriminatory reason for its decision.
the employer meets its burden, the plaintiff must establish that
the proffered reason was pretextual.
Section 1981 also prohibits employers from engaging in intentional
race discrimination against an employee.
42 U.S.C. § 1981(a).
discussed in more detail below, though, the Court grants CCG’s summary
judgment motion as to Walker’s § 1981 claim because Walker did not
point to evidence to establish municipal liability on that claim.
2 Walker contends that CCG’s director of Public Works once stated in
her presence that “if black people stop wanting people to give them
something, they will be better off.”
Walker Dep. 133:8-9.
statement is not direct evidence of discrimination because there is no
evidence that it was related to the community service coordinator
decisionmaking process. “Direct evidence is evidence that establishes
the existence of discriminatory intent behind the employment decision
without any inference or presumption.” Standard v. A.B.E.L. Servs.,
Inc., 161 F.3d 1318, 1330 (11th Cir. 1998). “[R]emarks unrelated to
the decisionmaking process itself are not direct evidence of
promote by demonstrating that (1) she belonged to a protected
class, (2) she was qualified for and applied for a position her
employer was seeking to fill, (3) she was rejected despite her
qualifications, and (4) the employer filled the position with
someone outside her protected class.
Id. at 768.
CCG does not
applied for the community service coordinator position, that she
outside Walker’s protected class.
CCG argues, however, that
although it considered Walker qualified enough to offer her an
interview, Walker was not actually qualified for the position
supervising CCG employees; she only had experience supervising
inmates on work details.
stated, in an affidavit she prepared to support CCG’s summary
judgment motion, that the community service coordinator “must
have sufficient knowledge and experience – approximately 1 to 3
years – in supervising subordinate employees.”
“[k]nowledge of supervisory practices, procedures, and policies,
through subordinate supervision,” and “[e]xperience sufficient
to thoroughly understand the work of subordinate positions and
to be able to answer questions and resolve problems, usually
associated with one to three years[’] experience or service.”
Description, ECF No. 11-1 at 101.
Thus, the Court finds a
coordinator position required one to three years of experience
supervising CCG employees.
Viewed in the light most favorable
to Walker, a jury could conclude that it did not and that Walker
was qualified for the community service coordinator position.
CCG proffered a legitimate nondiscriminatory reason for its
decision to select Blakely instead of Walker for the community
service coordinator job: Blakely was better qualified because he
had more supervisory experience and a better interview.
Walker “must come forward with evidence sufficient to permit a
reasonable fact finder to conclude that the legitimate reasons
given by the employer were not its true reasons, but were a
pretext for discrimination.”
Vessels, 408 F.3d at 771.
employer’s proffered legitimate reasons for its actions that a
reasonable factfinder could find them unworthy of credence.’”
Id. (quoting Cooper v. Southern Co., 390 F.3d 695, 725 (11th
A plaintiff may establish pretext by pointing to evidence
that the employer selected a candidate who was, based on the
employer’s own objective criteria, unqualified for the position
instead of the plaintiff, who was qualified.
See Bass v. Bd. of
abrogated on other grounds by Burlington N. & Santa Fe Ry. Co.
Carroll, 529 F.3d 961, 971, 973 (11th Cir. 2008) (finding that
position instead of the plaintiff, who was qualified, supported
an inference of discrimination); see also Vessels, 408 F.3d at
772 (finding a genuine fact dispute on pretext where, under the
employer’s own regulations, the position required qualifications
that the selected candidate did not have but the plaintiff did).
Here, Walker pointed to evidence from which a jury could
conclude that she met the objective criteria listed in the job
She also pointed to evidence from which a jury
could conclude that Blakely did not meet the objective criteria
because he did not hold a college degree—a qualification that
Walker Dep. Ex. 18, Community Service Coordinator
Job Description, ECF No. 11-1 at 101.
CCG argues, though, that
a college degree was not actually required for the community
points to testimony from several decisionmakers, mainly in the
form of affidavits prepared for summary judgment purposes, that
they did not consider a degree to be a requirement for the
community service coordinator job.
But CCG did not point to any
authority which squarely holds that an employer may have an
employee’s discrimination claim summarily dismissed simply by
written job description doesn’t really mean what it says.
The Court recognizes that some confusion may exist based on
Springer v. Convergys Customer Management Group Inc., 509 F.3d
1344, 1349 (11th Cir. 2007).
In Springer, the Court of Appeals
affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor
because the plaintiff did not establish pretext.
attempted to prove pretext by pointing to a job requisition form
which listed a four-year college degree as a job requirement.
The Court of Appeals explained that the “job requisition form”
requirement, but the hiring director testified that a separate
written “job description” permitted several years of experience
as the equivalent of a degree.3
So, when the employer in
Springer promoted a candidate with significant experience but no
degree over the plaintiff, who had a degree but less experience,
the plaintiff could not establish pretext just by pointing to
the formal requisition form because the separate written job
description said that experience could be substituted for formal
Thus, under Springer, where the employer’s written
experience cannot be pretextual.
unequivocally stated that a college degree was required for the
community service coordinator position.
CCG did not point to
any evidence that the job description was supplemented by a
separate document permitting experience in lieu of education or
official job description required.
Thus, a genuine conflict
exists between the written job description and the testimony of
some of CCG’s employees that a college degree wasn’t really
The Court of Appeals and the district court did not spend much time
discussing the “job requisition form” and the “job description,” but
the district court records available on PACER suggest that these were
two separate documents.
The Court emphasizes that it does not find
today that the community service coordinator position actually
supervising CCG employees was irrelevant.
Rather, the Court
finds that Walker pointed to evidence that, with all reasonable
inferences construed in her favor, would allow a reasonable jury
to conclude that CCG engineered the process to favor Blakely,
unwritten requirement that Walker did not have but Blakely did
and deleting a written requirement that Blakely did not have but
judgment on Walker’s Title VII claim.
Walker’s § 1981 Claim
discrimination claim survives summary judgment, her § 1981 claim
cannot because the promotion decision was subject to meaningful
The Court also emphasizes that this is not a comparative
qualifications case, where a plaintiff can only establish pretext by
showing that there were such significant disparities between her
qualifications and those of the selected candidate that no reasonable
person could have chosen the selected candidate over the plaintiff.
Rather, the Court finds that Walker met her burden of establishing
pretext by pointing to evidence from which a jury could find that
Blakely was not qualified for the community service coordinator
position based on CCG’s own objective criteria.
brought her § 1981 claim against CCG through 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
promotion decision was the result of a CCG custom, practice, or
See Scala v. City of Winter Park, 116 F.3d 1396, 1399
(11th Cir. 1997). “[M]unicipal liability may be imposed for a
circumstances.” Id. (quoting Pembaur v. City of Cincinnati, 475
U.S. 469, 480 (1986)).
But, “[f]inal policymaking authority
over a particular subject area does not vest in an official
administrative review.” Id. at 1401.
So, the key question for
decision was subject to meaningful administrative review.
Under CCG’s Fair Treatment policy, employees who believe
that they have been subjected to unlawful discrimination based
on race may pursue a written complaint.
Walker Dep. Ex. 7, Fair
Treatment Policy, ECF No. 11-1 at 67-69.
To seek review under
this policy, an employee must complete a Fair Treatment form and
submit it to her department director.
Id., ECF No. 11-1 at 69.
If the department director does not resolve the complaint, then
the employee should escalate the issue to the human resources
director, who may “propose alternate solutions or suggestions on
appropriate and acceptable alternatives.”
If the human
option, will confer with appropriate individuals, review fair
decision through the Human Resources Director.”
Works department is under the deputy city manager of operations,
who reports to the city manager.5
Hollowell Aff. ¶ 6, ECF No.
Because the Fair Treatment Policy permits a CCG employee
to escalate complaints of alleged discrimination to the city
manager, who has the power to override an employment decision by
one of his subordinates like the Public Works director, the Fair
Thus, the Public Works director did not have final policymaking
CCG’s summary judgment motion as to Walker’s § 1981 claim.
For the reasons set forth above, the Court denies CCG’s
summary judgment motion (ECF No. 7) on Walker’s Title VII race
The Court grants CCG’s summary judgment
Walker objects to this affidavit because it was part of CCG’s
The Court permitted CCG to supplement the
record with additional affidavits.
The Court understands that new
evidence is not normally permitted to support a reply brief. That is
why the Court gave Walker an opportunity to respond to it with her own
evidence and argument.
Walker argues that she cannot respond to
paragraph 6 of Hollowell’s affidavit without more discovery, but it is
disingenuous to suggest that Walker had no opportunity to learn about
CCG’s organizational structure or Fair Treatment Policy during
motion on Walker’s § 1981 claim and her Title VII claim for
discrimination based on her color.
IT IS SO ORDERED, this 10th day of October, 2019.
s/Clay D. Land
CLAY D. LAND
CHIEF U.S. DISTRICT COURT JUDGE
MIDDLE DISTRICT OF GEORGIA
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