Nelson v. Department of Transportation and Development State of Louisiana
ORDER AND REASONS granting 16 Motion for Summary Judgment. Plaintiff's claims are DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE. Signed by Judge Jane Triche Milazzo. (ecm)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF LOUISIANA
LOUISIANA DEPARTMENT OF
TRANSPORTATION AND DEVELOPMENT
ORDER AND REASONS
Before the Court is Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment. For the
following reasons, this Motion is GRANTED.
Plaintiff, an African-American female, has been employed by Defendant
Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development at its Raceland
yard since 2003. Since 2004 she has been employed as an “Operator II.” She
alleges that in 2015 she applied for a promotion to “Heavy Equipment Operator
1,” but she was passed over for this promotion in favor of a less-qualified white
male. Later that same year, she applied for a promotion to the position of
“Highway Foreman 1,” but was again passed over in favor of a white male. She
brings Title VII claims of racial discrimination relative to these events. She
seeks back pay and a promotion to the Heavy Equipment Operator 1 Position.
Defendant filed the instant Motion for Summary, arguing that Plaintiff
cannot carry her burden of proof and establish that racial animus motivated it
hiring decision. Plaintiff opposes this Motion.
Summary judgment is appropriate “if the pleadings, depositions,
answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with affidavits, if
any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the
moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.”1 A genuine issue
of fact exists only “if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a
verdict for the nonmoving party.”2
In determining whether the movant is entitled to summary judgment,
the Court views facts in the light most favorable to the non-movant and draws
all reasonable inferences in his favor.3 “If the moving party meets the initial
burden of showing that there is no genuine issue of material fact, the burden
shifts to the non-moving party to produce evidence or designate specific facts
showing the existence of a genuine issue for trial.”4 Summary judgment is
appropriate if the non-movant “fails to make a showing sufficient to establish
the existence of an element essential to that party’s case.”5 “In response to a
properly supported motion for summary judgment, the non-movant must
identify specific evidence in the record and articulate the manner in which that
evidence supports that party’s claim, and such evidence must be sufficient to
sustain a finding in favor of the non-movant on all issues as to which the non-
Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c) (2012).
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).
3 Coleman v. Houston Indep. Sch. Dist., 113 F.3d 528 (5th Cir. 1997).
4 Engstrom v. First Nat’l Bank of Eagle Lake, 47 F.3d 1459, 1462 (5th Cir. 1995).
5 Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324 (1986).
movant would bear the burden of proof at trial.”6 “We do not . . . in the absence
of any proof, assume that the nonmoving party could or would prove the
Additionally, “[t]he mere argued existence of a factual
dispute will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion.”8
LAW AND ANALYSIS
In order for Plaintiff to succeed in her Title VII claim of discrimination
based on race, she must show that “(1) she is a member of a protected class, (2)
she was qualified for the position she sought, (3) she suffered an adverse
employment action; and (4) others similarly situated but outside the protected
class were treated more favorably.”9
Discrimination claims are evaluated
under the McDonnell Douglas burden-shifting framework:
A plaintiff can prove intentional discrimination through either
direct or circumstantial evidence. Where the plaintiff offers
circumstantial evidence, the McDonnell Douglas framework
requires the plaintiff to establish a prima facie case of
discrimination, which, if established, raises a presumption of
discrimination. The employer must then produce a legitimate
nondiscriminatory reason for the adverse employment decision.
Once the employer produces a legitimate nondiscriminatory
reason, the presumption of discrimination dissipates. The plaintiff
bears the ultimate burden of persuading the trier of fact by a
preponderance of the evidence that the employer intentionally
discriminated against her because of her protected status. To carry
that burden, the plaintiff must produce substantial evidence of
pretext. The plaintiff must put forward evidence rebutting each of
the nondiscriminatory reasons the employer articulates. A
John v. Deep E. Tex. Reg. Narcotics Trafficking Task Force, 379 F.3d 293, 301 (5th Cir. 2004)
(internal citations omitted).
7 Badon v. R J R Nabisco, Inc., 224 F.3d 382, 394 (5th Cir. 2000) (quoting Little v. Liquid Air
Corp., 37 F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th Cir. 1994)).
8 Boudreaux v. Banctec, Inc., 366 F. Supp. 2d 425, 430 (E.D. La. 2005).
9 Alvarado v. Texas Rangers, 492 F.3d 605, 611 (5th Cir. 2007).
plaintiff may establish pretext by showing that a discriminatory
motive more likely motivated her employer’s decision, such as
through evidence of disparate treatment, or that [her employer’s]
explanation is unworthy of credence.10
A plaintiff must “present evidence—not just speculation and conjecture—that
the defendants discriminated against her on the basis of her race.”11 “To avoid
summary judgment, “the evidence taken as a whole must create (1) a fact issue
regarding whether each of the employer's stated reasons was what actually
motivated it and (2) a reasonable inference that race . . . was a determinative
factor in the actions of which plaintiff complains.”12 The evidence offered by
the Plaintiff must be “substantial,” such that a jury could reasonably infer
Here, the parties do not dispute that Plaintiff can prove a prima facie
case of racial discrimination. Defendant has, however, offered legitimate, nondiscriminatory reasons for its decision to promote other employees over
Plaintiff. All applicants for the subject positions were interviewed by a threeperson panel consisting of white male Gary Gisclair, white female Theresa
Scivicque, and black male Tyrone Scott. The panel considered various factors
including supervisory experience, operating experience, safety experience,
work attendance, and interview performance. With regard to both positions,
Defendant states that both Plaintiff and the successful applicants were
reviewed using an objective scoring system approved by the State Civil Service
Commission, and the position was awarded to the individual receiving the
Wallace v. Methodist Hosp. Sys., 271 F.3d 212, 219 (5th Cir. 2001) (internal citations and
11 Lawrence v. Univ. of Texas Med. Branch at Galveston, 163 F.3d 309, 312 (5th Cir. 1999).
highest score on this matrix. The Court has reviewed the documentation
relative to the hiring process and finds that it contains no evidence of racial
discrimination. Accordingly, the burden shifts to Plaintiff to come forward
with evidence establishing that this proffered reason is pretextual. She has
not done so. Indeed, in her deposition, she stated that she had not observed
racial animus on the part of the members of her hiring committee.
Plaintiff spends much of her opposition brief arguing that she was better
qualified than that individuals who were ultimately hired for the positions.
This argument ignores the appropriate standard of proof in Title VII cases. It
is not the province of the Court “to scrutinize the employer’s judgment as to
who is best qualified to fill the position; nor is it the [court’s] task to weigh the
respective qualifications of the applicants.”14 These arguments are, therefore,
insufficient for a reasonable jury to find discriminatory intent.
The sole evidence Plaintiff cites to rebut Defendant’s legitimate, nondiscriminatory reasons for its decision appears in her “Statement of
Controverting Facts,” offered in conjunction with her Opposition to this
Motion. Therein, she asserts that Tyrone Scott, an African American member
of her hiring committee, previously told her that, “They gonna promote theirs,
before they gonna promote us” and “I got to do what they tell me to do.”15 These
statements were not raised in Scott’s deposition and appear for the first time
in this filing.
Defendant argues that these statements are inadmissible
Even if admissible, however, these statements are insufficient to
Deines v. Texas Dep't of Protective & Regulatory Servs., 164 F.3d 277, 281 (5th Cir. 1999).
Doc. 18-1 at 2.
nondiscriminatory reason for its hiring decision.
Plaintiff points to the
unreported Fifth Circuit case of Reilly v. TXU Corp. in support of her
contention that these statements are sufficient to create a genuine issue of
material fact as to Defendant’s discriminatory intent.16 The Court finds this
There, a member of the interview panel told the
plaintiff that though he thought the plaintiff’s interview had gone well, he
thought he would not be hired because one of the other panel members had a
This conversation took place after the interview in
The court found that this evidence was sufficient to create a
genuine issue of material fact as to the defendant-employer’s intent. Here,
however, plaintiff has provided no context for these statements, and has not
linked them to the hiring decision. Indeed, she admits the first statement was
made before Scott had been promoted to supervisor. No reasonable jury could
infer racial animus on the part of the interview panel from these statements
Accordingly, Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment must be
For the forgoing reasons, Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment is
GRANTED. Plaintiff’s claims are DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE.
New Orleans, Louisiana this 12th day of June, 2017.
Reilly v. TXU Corp., 271 F. App’x 375, 377 (5th Cir. 2008).
JANE TRICHE MILAZZO
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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