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Alloway v. City of Charlotte

United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Charlotte Division

January 22, 2015



GRAHAM C. MULLEN, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court upon the Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment. (Doc. No. 10). For the reasons stated below, this motion is granted.

I. Factual Background

Plaintiff Kemika D. Alloway, an African-American woman, was hired by the City in April of 2008 as a Criminalist II in the Chemistry Section of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department ("CMPD") crime laboratory.[1] Matthew Mathis, a white male, was her supervisor. One year later, in March of 2009, Mr. Mathis was promoted to director of the CMPD crime lab and he nominated Plaintiff to succeed him as Chief Criminalist of the Chemistry Section. Mr. Mathis remained Plaintiff's direct supervisor. As Chief Criminalist, Plaintiff managed a staff of three employees. In her position as Chief Criminalist, Plaintiff was subjected to performance standards which required her to: manage a caseload within her section; oversee the analytical, operational and quality processes of the section; supervise subordinates; display leadership skills; manage communication within the department and other agencies; complete administrative duties promptly; and comply with attendance requirements.

On February 14, 2011, Plaintiff sent a memorandum to Rodney Monroe, Chief of Police, entitled "Justification and Complaint" wherein she set out numerous concerns about her supervisor, Mr. Mathis. Nowhere in this complaint did Plaintiff state that she was being denied any term or condition of employment based on her race. Instead, Plaintiff stated that her section was understaffed and overworked, that Mr. Mathis would not let her purchase necessary equipment or assist with approving contracts for maintenance, and that Mr. Mathis had caused a rift between her and her subordinates by excluding her from meetings or meeting with her subordinates without her. Plaintiff's memo neither mentioned nor alluded to discrimination in any way.

On February 17, 2011, three days after giving her memo to the Police Chief, Plaintiff accused one of her subordinates, Criminalist II Jennifer Leiser, of sabotaging the results of an internal audit of the crime lab "for the sole purpose of causing the Chemistry Section to fail."[2] Plaintiff initiated an Internal Affairs ("IA") investigation into the matter.[3]

On March 16, 2011, Major Richard Williams sent a memorandum to Deputy Police Chief Ruth Story outlining the results of the IA investigation that was initiated by Plaintiff. In that memo, Major Williams outlined significant concerns regarding Plaintiff's performance, as follows: Adherence to Protocols, where Plaintiff violated several sections of the Quality Assurance Manual ("QAM"); low productivity; and inability to manage and supervise the Chemistry Section.

On March 16, 2011, the plaintiff was given notice by Deputy Chief Story that she was being recommended for termination and that, pursuant to City policy, there would be a pre-termination hearing on March 18, 2011, at which she had an opportunity to challenge the factual basis of her termination. Deputy Chief Story's notice cited the following reasons for Plaintiff's termination: failure to adhere to required lab quality control protocols resulting in notification to the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors (ASCLAD/LAB), cases being dismissed from the D.A.'s office, failure to meet productivity standards, and failure to manage and supervise Chemistry Section of the Crime Lab. Shortly after plaintiff was terminated, the City hired an African-American female as her replacement.

Plaintiff filed a Complaint on December 18, 2012, alleging the following three causes of action: (1) the City's decision to terminate Plaintiff's employment was on the basis of race in violation of Title VII and 42 U.S.C. ยง1983; (2) the City discriminated against Plaintiff on the basis of her sex in violation of the Equal Pay Act of 1963, Section 1928 and Title VII by denying her wages equal to similarly situated co-workers; and, (3) the City retaliated against Plaintiff in violation of Title VII and Section 1983 when it terminated her after she complained about race discrimination. Defendant has moved for summary judgment and Plaintiff has subsequently indicated that she does not oppose Defendant's motion as it relates to her discrimination claim regarding pay and her retaliation claim. Thus, the only claim to be addressed is the race discrimination claim under Title VII and Section 1983.

II. Discussion

Summary judgment is appropriate when "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 relevant inquiry on summary judgment 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." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 251-52 (1986). An otherwise properly supported summary judgment motion will not be defeated by the existence of some factual dispute; however, only disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment. Id. at 248. A court must enter summary judgment "against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 574, 587 (1986).

The Fourth Circuit has clearly established that "[t]he non-moving party [has] the ultimate burden of demonstrating a genuine issue of material fact for trial. Conclusory or speculative allegations do not suffice, nor does a mere scintilla of evidence in support of the non-moving party's case." Thompson v. Potomac Elec. Power Co., 312 F.3d 645, 649 (4th Cir. 2002) (internal citations omitted); see also Othentic Ltd v. Phelan, 526 F.3d 135, 140 (4th Cir. 2008) ("The non-moving party cannot create a genuine issue of material fact through mere speculation or the building of one inference upon another.'") (quoting Beale v. Hardy, 769 F.2d 213, 214 (4th Cir. 1985)).

A. Title VII claim

A plaintiff can establish a Title VII racial discrimination claim through direct proof of discrimination or through the application of the burden-shifting analysis set forth in McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792 (1973). Plaintiff bears the initial burden of establishing a prima facie case of discrimination by producing evidence that (1) she is a member of a protected class, (2) she suffered an adverse employment action, (3) she was performing satisfactorily at the time of her adverse employment action, and (4) other employees who were not members of the protected class were retained under similar ...

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