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Saxon v. Seminole County Public Schools

United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Orlando Division

June 12, 2017

CARMEL SAXON, Plaintiff,
v.
SEMINOLE COUNTY PUBLIC SCHOOLS, Defendant.

          ORDER

          GREGORY A. PRESNELL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter comes before the Court without a hearing on the Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 21) filed by the Defendant, Seminole County Public Schools (“SCPS”), the response in opposition (Doc. 38) filed by the Plaintiff, Carmel Saxon (“Saxon”), and the reply (Doc. 48) filed by SCPS.

         I. Background

         Saxon worked in the administrative offices of SCPS for more than 10 years. She was hired as a secretary in the Curriculum Services Department in 2000. Two years later, she was promoted to executive secretary, first serving in the Curriculum Services Department and then in the Department of Teaching and Learning, which was created as the result of a merger between the Curriculum Services Department and the Professional Development Department. After the merger, the Department of Teaching and Learning had two executive secretary positions. Throughout her time with SCPS, she was on an annual contract, which was renewed eleven times.

         Near the beginning of the 2011-12 school year, Dr. Corbett Wilson (henceforth, “Wilson”) became the director of the Department of Teaching and Learning. Saxon contends that shortly after he became the director of her department, he began making derogatory remarks regarding her age and transferring some of her job responsibilities to younger employees.

         Wilson opted not to renew Saxon's annual contract after the 2012-13 school year. Saxon, who was 60 on the date that she was notified that her contract would not be renewed, contends that she was discriminated against due to her age. In the instant suit, she asserts two age discrimination claims: one under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (“ADEA”), 29 U.S.C. §§ 621-634 (Count I) and one under the Florida Civil Rights Act of 1992 (“FCRA”), Fla. Stat. § 760.10 (Count II).[1] By way of the instant motion, SCPS seeks summary judgment as to both counts.

         II. Standard

         A. Summary Judgment

         A party is entitled to summary judgment when the party can show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). Which facts are material depends on the substantive law applicable to the case. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2510, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). The moving party bears the burden of showing that no genuine issue of material fact exists. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 2553, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). In determining whether the moving party has satisfied its burden, the court considers all inferences drawn from the underlying facts in a light most favorable to the party opposing the motion, and resolves all reasonable doubts against the moving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255, 106 S.Ct. at 2513.

         When a party moving for summary judgment points out an absence of evidence on a dispositive issue for which the non-moving party bears the burden of proof at trial, the nonmoving party must “go beyond the pleadings and by [his] own affidavits, or by the depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, designate specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 324, 106 S.Ct. at 2553. Thereafter, summary judgment is mandated against the nonmoving party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish a genuine issue of fact for trial. Id. The party opposing a motion for summary judgment must rely on more than conclusory statements or allegations unsupported by facts. Evers v. Gen. Motors Corp., 770 F.2d 984, 986 (11th Cir. 1985) (“conclusory allegations without specific supporting facts have no probative value”).

         The Court must consider all inferences drawn from the underlying facts in a light most favorable to the party opposing the motion, and resolve all reasonable doubts against the moving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255, 106 S.Ct. at 2513. The Court is not, however, required to accept all of the non-movant's factual characterizations and legal arguments. Beal v. Paramount Pictures Corp., 20 F.3d 454, 458-59 (11th Cir 1994).

         B. Age Discrimination

         Age discrimination claims brought under the Florida Civil Rights Act are considered within the same framework used to decide actions brought pursuant to the ADEA. Zaben v. Air Prods. & Chems., Inc., 129 F.3d 1453, 1455 n. 2 (11th Cir. 1997). To establish a prima facie case of age discrimination under either the FCRA or the ADEA, a plaintiff must show that she “(1) was a member of the protected age group, (2) was subject to adverse employment action, (3) was qualified to do the job, … and (4) was replaced by a younger individual.” Benson v. Tocco, Inc., 113 F.3d 1203, 1207-08 (11th Cir. 1997). Where the plaintiff's position was eliminated, the test is slightly different. In that situation, the plaintiff must show that “(1) [s]he was in a protected age group; (2) [s]he was adversely affected by an employment decision; (3) [s]he was qualified for [her] current position or to assume another position at the time of discharge, and (4) the evidence could lead a factfinder reasonably to conclude that the employer intended to discriminate on the basis of age.” Mitchell v. City of LaFayette, 504 Fed.Appx. 867, 870 (11th Cir. 2013). The variant test alters the fourth prong of the McDonnell Douglas test, that a person outside the protected class replaced the plaintiff, because, when a reduction in force occurs, employers rarely seek replacements for the discharged employee. Id. (citing Mauter v. Hardy Corp., 825 F.2d 1554, 1557 (11th Cir.1987)).

         Once a plaintiff has established a prima facie case of discrimination, the burden shifts to the employer to rebut the presumption of age discrimination by presenting evidence that the adverse employment action was based on a legitimate, nondiscriminatory ...


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