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June v. City of Gastonia

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

July 13, 2015

CHARLES H. JUNE, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF GASTONIA Defendant.

ORDER

THIS MATTER comes before the Court on Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment and supporting documents (Doc. Nos. 9, 10, 17), and Plaintiff’s Amended Response in Opposition and supporting documents (Doc. Nos. 13, 16). This matter is ripe for review. For reasons that follow, the Court will grant Defendant’s motion.

I. BACKGROUND

Charles June, an African-American employee, sued the City of Gastonia for discriminatory failure to promote after he unsuccessfully interviewed for the job of crew chief. He had been hired by Defendant City of Gastonia in November 2007 as a Construction Worker II in the Public Works and Utilities department. (Doc. No. 1 at 2). He was promoted to Motor Equipment Operator within the same department on December 6, 2008. (Id.). On August 8, 2012, the position of crew chief within the asphalt division was posted, and Plaintiff applied for it. (Id.). On December 2, 2012, Plaintiff learned that Gary Upton, a Caucasian employee, had been chosen for the position. (Id.). Plaintiff then filed an internal grievance with the City of Gastonia alleging that he had more seniority and experience than Upton and that he was denied the position of crew chief because of his race. (Id. at 3).

On March 18, 2013, Plaintiff incorporated that claim into a Charge of Discrimination (430-2013-00491) with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”). (Id. at 4). The EEOC investigated the charge and issued a right to sue letter on August 9, 2013. On November 7, 2013, Plaintiff instituted the action in this Court against the Defendant City of Gastonia alleging discriminatory failure to promote.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Summary judgment shall be granted “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). A factual dispute is genuine “if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A fact is material only if it might affect the outcome of the suit under governing law. Id. The movant has the “initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986) (internal citations omitted). “The burden on the moving party may be discharged by ‘showing’ . . . an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party’s case.” Id. at 325.

Once this initial burden is met, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party. The nonmoving party “must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Id. at 322 n.3. The nonmoving party may not rely upon mere allegations or denials of allegations in his pleadings to defeat a motion for summary judgment. Id. at 324. The nonmoving party must present sufficient evidence from which “a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248; accord Sylvia Dev. Corp. v. Calvert County, Md., 48 F.3d 810, 818 (4th Cir. 1995).

When ruling on a summary judgment motion, a court must view the evidence and any inferences from the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255. “Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party, there is no genuine issue for trial.” Ricci v. DeStefano, 557 U.S. 557, 586 (2009) (internal citations omitted). The mere argued existence of a factual dispute does not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. If the evidence is merely colorable, or is not significantly probative, summary judgment is appropriate. Id. at 249-50.

The Plaintiff alleges race discrimination in violation of Title VII which is properly analyzed under the now-familiar McDonnell Douglas burden-shifting scheme. McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792 (1973); see also Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., Inc., 530 U.S. 133, (2000). Under the McDonnell Douglas scheme, the plaintiff must establish a prima facie case of discrimination, at which point the burden shifts to the defendant to offer a legitimate, non-discriminatory explanation for the adverse employment action. Reeves, 530 U.S. at 142. If the employer does so, the ultimate burden falls on the plaintiff to establish “that the legitimate reasons offered by the defendant were not its reasons, but were a pretext for discrimination.” Id. (citing Texas Dept. of Community Affairs v. Burdine, 450 U.S. 248 (1981)).

III. DISCUSSION

The Supreme Court in McDonnell Douglas articulated some common sense limits on anti-discrimination laws:

Congress did not intend by Title VII…to guarantee a job to every person regardless of qualifications…[T]he Act does not command that any person be hired simply because he was formerly the subject of discrimination, or because he is a member of a minority group. Discriminatory preference for any group, minority or majority, is precisely and only what Congress has proscribed. What is required by Congress is the removal of artificial, arbitrary, and unnecessary barriers to employment when the barriers operate invidiously to discriminate on the basis of racial or other impermissible classification… There are societal as well as personal interests on both sides of this equation. The broad, overriding interest, shared by employer, employee, and consumer, is efficient and trustworthy workmanship assured through fair and racially neutral employment and personnel decisions. In the implementation of such decisions, it is abundantly clear that Title VII tolerates no racial discrimination, subtle or otherwise.

McDonnell Douglas, 411 U.S. at 800-801 (citing Griggs v. Duke Power Co., 401 U.S. 424, 430-431 (1971)).

McDonnell’s instruction is particularly appropriate in this case, an action brought by a disappointed employee passed over for the position of crew chief. Devoid of direct or indirect evidence of ...


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