Reddix v. Corrections Corporation of America
ORDER granting 22 Motion for Summary Judgment Signed by Honorable David C. Bramlette, III on 4/30/2012 (ECW)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF MISSISSIPPI
CIVIL ACTION NO. 5:10-cv-187(DCB)(RHW)
CORRECTIONS CORPORATION OF AMERICA
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
This cause is before the Court on the defendant’s motion for
summary judgment (docket entry 22).
Having carefully considered
the motion and response, the memoranda and applicable law, and
being fully advised in the premises, the Court finds as follows:
In June of 2003, Corrections Corporation of America (“CCA”)
hired the plaintiff, Lee Reddix (“Reddix”), as a Correctional
Officer at its Tallahatchie County Correctional Facility (“TCCF”).
The next month, CCA promoted Reddix to Case Manager, and later
promoted him to Chief of Security.
In February of 2008, CCA
terminated Reddix for insubordinate behavior toward his supervisor.
Reddix filed an internal grievance protesting the termination of
his employment and requesting reinstatement. On or about April 20,
2008, CCA Vice-President Jimmy Turner reviewed Reddix’s grievance
and reinstated him as Chief of Security, but not at TCCF. CCA
transferred Reddix to the Wilkinson County Correctional Facility
The termination that forms the basis of this lawsuit occurred
in May of 2010 when Reddix was terminated from WCCF for multiple
violations of CCA’s Code of Conduct, including unprofessional and
retaliatory treatment toward staff.
Declaration of Jimmy Turner,
Specifically, during a September 2009 Cultural Assessment1
conducted at WCCF, and a March 2010 follow-up to the Cultural
Assessment, a number of WCCF employees complained about Reddix’s
treatment of subordinate employees and staff.
Id. at ¶10.
employees reported that Reddix refused to speak to them, retaliated
against them when they voiced their opinions, accused them of lying
when they called in sick, used post assignments as a punishment
tool, created division among staff by showing favoritism, and was
generally harsh, unpleasant and unprofessional toward the staff.
One employee reported that Reddix had attempted to find out
who had made negative comments about him during the Cultural
CCA initiated an investigation into Reddix’s conduct and his
treatment of staff.
Id. at ¶ 11.
Because the allegations were
serious and made against a high-ranking member of the management
team, CCA retained an outside company experienced in investigating
CCA’s Cultural Assessments are periodically conducted at CCA
facilities (1) to gauge the level of employee satisfaction, and/or
(2) when there seems to be an unusually high level of employee
concern regarding the workplace. The purpose of the review is to
allow employees an opportunity to raise their concerns regarding
facility operations or management in a confidential setting and
without fear of retaliation. Turner Declaration, ¶ 10.
investigation. Id. CCA placed Reddix on paid administrative leave
Ultimately, Verita’s investigation substantiated the allegations
that Reddix treated his subordinates in an unprofessional and
disrespectful manner that violated CCA’s Code of Conduct.
¶12; Verita Investigative Report to CCA, March 24, 2010.
Garner, CCA’s Managing Director for the division, recommended to
CCA Vice-President Turner that CCA terminate Reddix’s employment.
Id., Attachment 1.
In its motion for summary judgment pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P.
56, CCA asserts that the undisputed record evidence demonstrates
that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact, and that
CCA should be granted judgment as a matter of law.
judgment is designed “to secure the just, speedy, and inexpensive
determination of every action.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 1; Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 327 (1986)(citation and internal quotation
omitted); see also Berry v. Armstrong Rubber Co., 780 F.Supp. 1097,
1099 (S.D. Miss. 1991), aff’d, 989 F.2d 822 (5th Cir. 1993).
The moving party bears the initial burden of establishing the
absence of genuine issues of material fact.
Lavespere v. Niagara
Mach. & Tool Works, Inc., 910 F.2d 167, 178 (5th Cir. 1990).
the burden of the moving party is discharged, the burden shifts to
the nonmoving party to go beyond the pleadings and show that
summary judgment is inappropriate.
Lavespere, 910 F.2d at 178.
The nonmoving party is obligated to oppose the motion either by
referring to evidentiary material already in the record or by
submitting additional evidentiary documents which set out specific
facts indicating the existence of a genuine issue for trial.
Fields v. City of South Houston, 922 F.2d 1183, 1187 (5th Cir.
If the nonmovant satisfies its burden, summary judgment
will not be granted.
Summary judgment is available in employment discrimination
cases, see, e.g., Slaughter v. Allstate Ins. Co., 803 F.2d 857, 861
(5th Cir. 1986), and is appropriate where “critical evidence is so
weak or tenuous on an essential fact that it could not support a
judgment in favor of the nonmovant, or where it is so overwhelming
that it mandates judgment in favor of the movant.”
City of Dallas, 997 F.2d 62, 67 (5th Cir. 1993).
The Fifth Circuit
has also held that summary judgment is appropriate where the
plaintiff fails to show a genuine issue of fact on the pretext
See, e.g., Amburgey v. Corhart Refractories Corp., Inc.,
936 F.2d 805, 813 (5th Cir. 1991); Hanchey v. Energas Co., 925 F.2d
96 (5th Cir. 1990).
By stipulation, the parties have agreed that Reddix is no
longer pursuing the following claims against CCA: (1) claim for
employee handbook violation; (2) Family Medical Leave Act claim;
and (3) race discrimination claim.
Therefore, the sole remaining
claim in this lawsuit is for unlawful retaliation under Title VII
of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Retaliation is prohibited under
§ 704(a) of Title VII, which reads as follows:
It shall be an unlawful employment practice for an
employer to discriminate against any of his employees or
applicants for employment ... because he has opposed any
practice made an unlawful employment practice by Title
VII or because he has made a charge, testified, assisted
or participated in any manner in an investigation,
proceeding or hearing under Title VII.
The method of proving retaliation is similar to that used to prove
other Title VII disparate treatment cases.
To make out a prima
facie case under the McDonnell Douglas burden-shifting framework,
a plaintiff must show: “(1) that he engaged in activity protected
by Title VII, (2) that an adverse employment action occurred, and
(3) that a causal link existed between the protected activity and
the adverse action.”
Gee v. Principi, 289 F.3d 342, 345 (5th Cir.
2002)(quoting Raggs v. Miss. Power & Light Co., 278 F.3d 463, 471
(5th Cir. 2002)).
In Section III(B) of his brief, the plaintiff begins with a
general discussion of his job performance prior to his 2010
He then turns to his frustrations about inadequate
secretarial support at WCCF, claiming that Warden Jacquelyn Banks
did not find or assign him a replacement secretary soon enough.
activities” under Title VII: (1) in January of 2010, he filed an
employee grievance claiming that several CCA employees (including
Warden Banks) authorized or acquiesced to the use of force to
compel inmate Corey Baker to submit to a haircut without due
reprimanded; and (2) In February of 2010, Reddix made a hotline
complaint to CCA’s corporate headquarters complaining about the
same use of force incident and Reddix’s resulting administrative
documentation, contain any evidence of a “protected activity.” The
plaintiff makes no allegations about unlawful or discriminatory
In both the grievance and the subsequent
hotline complaint, Reddix merely denies violating the CCA use of
force policy, contends that the written reprimand was unwarranted,
alternatively that other employees should have been written up as
The act of filing an employee grievance or complaint in and of
itself is not a “protected activity” under Title VII.
In order to
show a “protected activity,” a plaintiff must allege that he has
“(1) opposed any practice made an unlawful employment practice by
proceeding, or hearing.”
Rast v. Ryan’s Restaurant Group, Inc.,
2011 WL 4455247, *7 (N.D. Miss. Sept. 23, 2011)(citing Grimes v.
Tex. Dept. of Mental Health, 102 F.3d 137, 140 (5th Cir. 1996)).
“We have consistently held that a vague complaint, without any
reference to an unlawful employment practice under Title VII, does
not constitute protected activity.”
Davis v. Dallas Indep. School
Dist., 448 Fed.Appx. 485, 493 (5th Cir. 2011)(unpublished).
challenge an administrative reprimand for the unauthorized use of
force against an inmate. They do not oppose an unlawful employment
practice under Title VII.
The plaintiff has therefore failed to
meet the first prong of his prima facie case.
In Section III(C) of his brief, Reddix describes his work
relationship with Warden Jacquelyn Banks at WCCF, as well as his
previous relationship with Warden Banks’ husband, Wendall Banks,
Chief of Security at TCCF. According to the plaintiff, his adverse
relationship with Wendall Banks influenced Warden Banks’ treatment
of him at WCCF.
Reddix alleges that the following instances
constitute adverse employment actions:
(1) Warden Banks would “not allow [Reddix] to go home on weekends
even though he wasn’t on duty.”
Pl. Brief p. 15.
(2) Plaintiff suffered an “inability to obtain clerical help from
Pl. Brief, p. 15.
(3) Victor Vines prepared a written reprimand against the plaintiff
based on the Corey Baker haircut incident, even though a previous
similar use of force did not result in a reprimand.
Pl. Brief, p.
plaintiff for use of force, even though a previous similar use of
force did not result in a reprimand.
Pl. Brief p. 20.
(5) The plaintiff overheard Leon Perry (his subordinate) state that
“he was going to get Lee Reddix for filing complaints.”
(6) The plaintiff states that Velvetta Porter, a former employee of
WCCF, heard Leon Perry call plaintiff a “MF” and an “SOB” and state
that “he wished he could choke him.”
Pl. Brief, p. 21.
The Supreme Court, in Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway
Co. v. White, 548 U.S. 53 (2006), stated that an adverse action
must be “materially adverse” to be actionable.
Id. at 68.
determination of material adversity is commonly decided as a matter
of law by the trial court.
See Magiera v. City of Dallas, 389
Fed.Appx. 433, 437 n.3 (5th Cir. 2010)(unpublished). To demonstrate
that a retaliatory action was “materially adverse,” the plaintiff
must show that the action “well might have dissuaded a reasonable
worker from making or supporting a charge of discrimination.”
Burlington Northern, 548 U.S. at 68 (quotations omitted).
materiality standard is intended “‘to separate significant from
trivial harms’ and ‘filter out complaints attacking the ordinary
tribulations of the workplace.’”
Stewart v. Miss. Transp. Comm’n,
586 F.3d 321, 331 (5th Cir. 2009)(quoting Burlington Northern, 548
U.S. at 68).
The Supreme Court recognizes that “petty slights,
minor annoyances, and simple lack of good manners” will not deter
victims of discrimination from complaining to the Equal Opportunity
Employment Commission (“EEOC”).
Burlington Northern, 548 U.S. at
The instances alleged by the plaintiff do not constitute
“materially adverse employment actions” under Title VII.
“chastised by superiors and ostracized by co-workers” are not
materially adverse actions. Stewart, 586 F.3d at 331-32. The same
is true for rude treatment, Aryain v. Wal-Mart Stores Texas LP, 534
F.3d 473, 485 (5th Cir. 2008), disciplinary write-ups, and micromanaging of the plaintiff’s performance by his supervisors.
None of the alleged acts of Warden Banks, Victor
Vines, or Leon Perry constitutes a materially adverse employment
The only instance of a “protected activity” mentioned by the
plaintiff in his brief is his internal grievance protesting his
February 2008 termination at TFFC.
As a result of the grievance,
Reddix was reinstated as Chief of Security.
He does not allege
that this protected activity forms part of his prima facie case,
nor does he allege any materially adverse employment action by the
materially adverse employment action alleged by the plaintiff is
his termination in 2010.
However, he does not attempt to causally
link his termination to the 2008 grievance.
In fact, cases cited
by the plaintiff himself hold that three, four and five month time
gaps are too long to infer a causal link between protected activity
and adverse employment action.
See Pl. Brief, pp. 24-25.
Because the plaintiff fails to show any causal link between
the 2008 grievance and the 2010 termination, and further fails to
show any other protected activity or any other materially adverse
Furthermore, the defendant has articulated a legitimate, nonretaliatory reason for the plaintiff’s termination, i.e., the
plaintiff’s lengthy record of policy violations as detailed in the
Verita Investigative Report of March 24, 2010.
At his deposition,
committing would violate the CCA Code of Conduct and the duties of
Chief of Security.
Reddix Depo., pp. 222-26, 232-34.
even if Reddix had established a prima facie case, he offers no
evidence that “the adverse employment action ... would not have
occurred ‘but for’ [the] protected conduct,” Septimus v. Univ. of
Houston, 399 F.3d 601, 608 (5th Cir. 2005); and he offers no
proximity alone is insufficient to establish pretext.
Scott County School Dist., 2010 WL 1780205, *7 (S.D. Miss. 2010).
The Court therefore concludes that the undisputed record
evidence demonstrates that there is no genuine issue as to any
material fact, and that CCA shall be granted judgment as a matter
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that the defendant’s motion for summary
judgment (docket entry 22) is GRANTED.
A separate Final Judgment dismissing this case with prejudice
will be entered forthwith.
SO ORDERED, this the 30th day of April, 2012.
/s/ David Bramlette
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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