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Doreen Trunnell v. Advance Stores Company Incorporated

February 28, 2012

DOREEN TRUNNELL, PLAINTIFF,
v.
ADVANCE STORES COMPANY INCORPORATED D/B/A ADVANCED AUTO PARTS, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Stephan P. Mickle Senior United States District Judge

ORDER DENYING CROSS MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

This cause comes before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (doc. 51) and Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (doc. 58). Because Plaintiff and Defendant have failed to show for their respective claims that there are no genuine issues of material fact for the jury to decide, the motions for summary judgment will be denied.

I. STANDARD FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

A party can move for summary judgment to resolve a case prior to trial. Summary judgment is appropriate 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." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). A fact is "material" if it might affect the outcome of the case under the governing substantive law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A dispute about a material fact is "genuine" if the evidence could lead a reasonable jury to find for the non-movant. Id. It is only when the material facts are so clear that they can reasonably be resolved only in the movant's favor that summary judgment is appropriate. Id. at 248-51. If the material facts can be resolved in favor of either party, then the case must proceed to trial. Id.

The initial burden is on the movant to show that there are no genuine issues of material fact to be determined at trial. Mullins v. Crowell, 228 F.3d 1305, 1313 (11th Cir. 2000). In assessing whether this burden has been met, the court views the evidence and all factual inferences in the light most favorable to the non-movant, and resolves all reasonable doubts about the facts in favor of the non-movant. Burton v. City of Belle Glade, 178 F.3d 1175, 1187 (11th Cir. 1999).

If the movant has satisfied its initial burden, the burden shifts to the non-movant who must show "that summary judgment would be inappropriate because there exists a material issue of fact." Mullins, 228 F.3d at 1313. The burden can be met by presenting enough evidence to show that a reasonable finder of fact could find for the non-movant. Allen v. Tyson Foods, Inc., 121 F.3d 642, 646 (11th Cir. 1997). The non-movant must present more than a scintilla of evidence in support of its position. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 254. The basic inquiry is "whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law." Id. at 251.

II. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, Doreen Trunnell, worked for Defendant, Advanced Stores Company Incorporated d/b/a Advanced Auto Parts, as a store manager and assistant store manager. She is suing Defendant for violating the Equal Pay Act, which makes it unlawful for an employer to discriminate in the payment of wages on the basis of sex. 29 U.S.C. § 206(d)(1).

To establish a prima facie case, Plaintiff must show "that the employer paid employees of opposite genders different wages for equal work for jobs which require equal skill, effort, and responsibility, and which are performed under similar working conditions." Steger v. Gen. Elec. Co., 318 F.3d 1066, 1077-78 (11th Cir. 2003). Plaintiff has identified eleven male store managers and assistant store managers, Employees A through K, that Defendant paid more than Plaintiff even though, Plaintiff attests, she performed the same work at substantially the same hours with the same job requirements.

In meeting her prima facie case, Plaintiff is not required to show that her job was identical to each of the male comparators' jobs, only that the jobs were substantially equal in terms of skill, effort, and responsibilities. Mulhall v. Advance Security, Inc., 19 F.3d 586, 592 (11th Cir. 1994). Job titles and classifications can be considered, but they are not controlling. Id. The focus is on the primary duties of the job. Id.

Furthermore, to make a valid comparison, Plaintiff must show that she and the male comparators worked in the same "establishment." The fact that employees work in separate stores does not preclude a finding that they worked in the same establishment. Separate job sites can be part of a single establishment for purposes of the Equal Pay Act if they are subject to centralized administrative control. Mulhall, 19 F.3d at 591-92.

Once Plaintiff has established a prima facie case, the burden of proof shifts to Defendant to show as an affirmative defense that the pay differences are justified by one of the four exceptions in the Equal Pay Act: "(i) seniority; (ii) a merit system; (iii) a system which measures earnings by quantity or quality of production; or (iv) a differential based on any other factor other than sex." Corning Glass Works v. Brennan, 417 U.S. 188, 196 (1974). Defendant must show that sex played no role in the wage differentials. Steger, 318 F.3d at 1077-78.

III. DISCUSSION

A. Defendant is not barred from ...


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