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Parish-Carter v. McKeever

United States District Court, S.D. Florida

September 15, 2017

LORETTA PARISH-CARTER, Plaintiff,
v.
CHERYL MCKEEVER & THE SCHOOL BOARD OF PALM BEACH COUNTY, Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          ROBIN L. ROSENBERG UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter is before the Court on Defendants' joint Motion for Summary Judgment [DE 55]. The motion has been fully briefed. Plaintiff, a black math teacher and a former math department chair at Palm Beach Lakes High School, brought this suit alleging that she was discriminated against based upon her race and age. Plaintiff was forty-five years of age at the time she alleges she was discriminated against based on her age. Plaintiff's supervising vice principal was black and forty years of age.[1] Plaintiff's supervising principal-Defendant McKeever-was black and fifty-five years of age. Plaintiff was not fired or formally demoted by Defendants. Instead, Plaintiff lost certain duties and responsibilities (as well as accompanying pay) when school administrators selected two other teachers to serve as the math department chair. The two teachers who replaced Plaintiff as math chair are white; one of the teachers is younger than Plaintiff (by ten years) and one of the teachers is older (by seven years). This is the extent of Plaintiff's evidence of discrimination. When this scintilla of evidence is placed in the context of all other (non-discriminatory) evidence in the record, no reasonable juror could conclude that Plaintiff was discriminated against on the basis of her race or age. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. 242. 251-52 (1986) (noting that a mere “scintilla” of evidence is insufficient to resist a motion for summary judgment). For this reason, Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment is granted. Alternatively, Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment is granted because Defendants have proffered non-discriminatory reasons for their actions and Plaintiff has no evidence upon which a reasonable juror could rely to establish that Defendants' non-discriminatory reasons were pretextual.

         I. SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD

         Summary judgment is appropriate 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(a). The existence of a factual dispute is not by itself sufficient grounds to defeat a motion for summary judgment; rather, “the requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material fact.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986). A dispute is genuine if “a reasonable trier of fact could return judgment for the non-moving party.” Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Fla. v. United States, 516 F.3d 1235, 1243 (11th Cir. 2008) (citing Anderson, 477 U.S. at 247-48). A fact is material if “it would affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law.” Id. (citing Anderson, 477 U.S. at 247-48).

         In deciding a summary judgment motion, the Court views the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and draws all reasonable inferences in that party's favor. See Davis v. Williams, 451 F.3d 759, 763 (11th Cir. 2006). The Court does not weigh conflicting evidence. See Skop v. City of Atlanta, 485 F.3d 1130, 1140 (11th Cir. 2007). Thus, upon discovering a genuine dispute of material fact, the Court must deny summary judgment. See id.

         The moving party bears the initial burden of showing the absence of a genuine dispute of material fact. See Shiver v. Chertoff, 549 F.3d 1342, 1343 (11th Cir. 2008). Once the moving party satisfies this burden, “the nonmoving party ‘must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts.'” Ray v. Equifax Info. Servs., LLC, 327 F. App'x 819, 825 (11th Cir. 2009) (quoting Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986)). Instead, “[t]he non-moving party must make a sufficient showing on each essential element of the case for which he has the burden of proof.” Id. (citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986)). Accordingly, the non-moving party must produce evidence, going beyond the pleadings, to show that a reasonable jury could find in favor of that party. See Shiver, 549 F.3d at 1343.

         II. BACKGROUND FACTS

         The Court sets forth below some of the facts in this case for background purposes. Disputed facts germane to the Court's decision are discussed in detail in the Court's analysis section, infra.

         Plaintiff began her employment with the Defendant School Board in 1999 as a math teacher. DE 56 at 2. Plaintiff was placed at Palm Beach Lakes High School, where she continues to work to this day. Id. In 2006, Plaintiff was selected by school administrators to serve as the math department chair. Id. Plaintiff served as the math department chair until 2013. Id. In 2013, Plaintiff was replaced as math department chair by a school principal who is not a named party in this case. In 2014, Defendant McKeever became the new principal for Palm Beach Lakes High School. Id. at 3. McKeever immediately selected Plaintiff as math department chair. Id.

         Despite being selected as math department chair, Plaintiff did not receive the stipend associated with the position. See DE 61 at 7. Plaintiff ultimately filed a grievance with her local union pertaining to her failure to receive her stipend. Id. Plaintiff's grievance was successful insofar as Plaintiff received her stipend. See Id. at 7-8. After Plaintiff's grievance (which did not contain any allegations of discrimination based upon race or age), Plaintiff alleges that she began to experience racial and age discrimination from her school administrators. See Id. The grounds upon which Plaintiff alleges she was discriminated against are varied.

         In 2015, after Plaintiff had served as math chair for one school year, school administrators replaced Plaintiff. DE 56 at 4. Plaintiff was not immediately informed that she was being replaced. Id. at 4-5. Plaintiff learned of her replacement soon after she reported for work for the next school year. See Id. Soon after the school year ended, Plaintiff filed the instant suit.

         III. ANALYSIS

         Plaintiff has brought the following claims against Defendants: a claim for relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and 42 U.S.C. § 1981 against Defendant School Board (Count I); a claim for relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and 42 U.S.C. § 1981 against Defendant McKeever (Count II); a racial discrimination claim under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act against Defendant School Board (Count III); an age discrimination claim under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act against Defendant School Board (Count IV); a retaliation claim under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act against Defendant School Board (Count V); and a retaliation claim under the Florida Civil Rights Act against Defendant School Board (Count VII).[2] Plaintiff's claims can be grouped into two categories: racial and age discrimination claims and retaliation claims. With respect to each of Plaintiff's racial and age discrimination claims (Count I, Count II, Count III, and Count IV), these claims necessarily require evidence that Plaintiff was discriminated against based upon a protected characteristic-either her race or her age. With respect to Plaintiff's retaliation claims (Count V and Count VII), those claims require, inter alia, evidence that Defendants' non-discriminatory reasons for their alleged unlawful retaliatory acts were pretextual.

         Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment is premised upon the contention that Plaintiff's evidence as to both of these categories is deficient as a matter of law. The concrete employment-actions upon which Plaintiff alleges that she suffered racial and age based discrimination are: (A) the loss of her stipend, (B) the loss of her position as math chair, and (C) her inability to transfer to another school when she sought transfer. The record evidence that Plaintiff relies upon in support of her contention that she was subject to harassment in the workplace consists of: (D) a school-wide meeting held in 2015, (E) Plaintiff's restroom access, (F) observations conducted by school administrators in Plaintiff's classroom, (G) Plaintiff's assignment to teach algebra classes, and (H) Plaintiff's evaluation scores. The Court first analyzes the record evidence in each of these categories and then turns to the legal sufficiency of Plaintiff's claims.

         A. PLAINTIFF'S STIPEND

         There is no dispute in the record that Plaintiff was promised a stipend, Plaintiff was not paid a stipend, Plaintiff complained, [3] and then Plaintiff received her stipend. Plaintiff attributes the temporary withholding of her stipend to the discriminatory ...


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