United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Charlotte Division
J. Conrad, Jr. United States District Judge.
MATTER is before the Court on Defendant's Motion
for Summary Judgment, (Doc. No. 21); Defendant's
Memorandum in Support, (Doc. No. 21-1); and Plaintiff's
Memorandum in Opposition (Doc. No. 26). The motions have been
fully briefed, a hearing has been held, and the issues are
ripe for adjudication.
Judon (“Plaintiff”) originally sued both the City
of Charlotte (“Defendant”) and Charlotte Douglas
International Airport for violations of the Age
Discrimination in Employment Act, Title VII of the 1964 Civil
Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. §1981, and the North Carolina
Equal Employment Practices Act. (Doc. No. 1 at 9-10). Since
his initial filing, Plaintiff amended his complaint, dropping
his age discrimination claim. (Doc. No. 2). After both
defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss, (Doc. No. 7), this
Court followed Magistrate Judge Cayer's recommendation,
(Doc. No. 13), and dismissed with prejudice: (1) all claims
against Charlotte Douglas International Airport; (2)
Plaintiff's 42 U.S.C. §1981 claim; and (3)
Plaintiff's North Carolina Equal Employment Practices Act
claim. (Doc. No. 14). As a result, Plaintiff is left with a
Title VII disparate impact claim against the City of
Charlotte. Defendant now moves for summary judgment on
Plaintiff's remaining claim, arguing that Plaintiff has
failed to properly support his disparate impact theory. (Doc.
No. 32). This Court agrees with Defendant and hereby grants
their Motion for Summary Judgment.
time this lawsuit was filed, Plaintiff was employed by
Defendant as Assistant Aviation Director of Operations at
Charlotte Douglas International Airport. (Doc. No. 2,
¶4). As an Assistant Aviation Director, Plaintiff was
one of four who answered to the Deputy Director who in turn
answered to the Aviation Director. (Id. ¶ 29).
In July of 2013, the North Carolina General Assembly
transferred control of Charlotte Douglas International
Airport to another entity. (Doc. No. 21-1 at 2-3). This
legislation failed to take effect after a judge ordered a
temporary injunction. (Id.). This situation created
uncertainty as to the airport's future governance.
(Id. at 3). Amidst this uncertainty, Jerry Orr, the
Aviation Director, abruptly left his position on July 13,
2013. (Doc. No. 26 at 3). This left both the Aviation
Director and Deputy Director positions above the four
Assistant Directors vacant (Id.). Among the four
Assistant Deputy Directors was Plaintiff, Mark Wiebke, John
Christine, and Brent Cagle. (Doc. No. 21-1 at 4). Plaintiff
was the only African American Assistant Director.
(Id.) Among these four Assistant Deputy Directors,
Cagle had 1.5 years' experience at the airport, all of
which was as Assistant Director. Christine had 16 years'
experience at the airport, 2 of which were as an Assistant
Director. Wiebke had 25 years' experience at the airport,
12 of which were as an Assistant Direct. Plaintiff had 16
years' worth of experience at the airport, with one year
as an Assistant Director. (Id.) (citing Doc. Nos.
Orr's departure, the City Manager appointed Assistant
Director Cagle as interim Aviation Director. (Doc. No. 26 at
3). The appointment of Cagle was consistent with the City
Manager's power to fill interim positions in the event
that a Department Director position opens. (Doc. No. 21-1 at
4). As such, Cagle's appointment was a “closed
process” in that the position was not advertised or
opened for interviews. (Id.). After his appointment,
Cagle temporarily promoted Christine, one of the remaining
Assistant Directors, to the vacant Deputy Director position.
(Id.). This interim appointment, like that of the
interim Aviation Director position, was closed in that
neither Plaintiff nor Wiebke were offered the opportunity to
interview for the position. (Id.).
closed hiring processes are not the norm. City hiring policy
provides that “[a]ll vacant positions shall be posted
unless under unusual circumstances as approved by the Human
Resources Director.” (Doc. Nos. 21-1 at 7; 26 at 6).
However, Defendant defines the governance issues affected by
the North Carolina legislation, as well as the sudden
departure of Orr, as “unusual circumstances” that
did not require following the norm or posting the positions.
(Doc. 21-1 at 9-10).
2014, Cagle reorganized the Aviation Department's
management structure by adding a second Deputy Director
position between the Aviation Director and the four Assistant
Director positions. (Id. at 6). In doing so, Cagle
made Christine's interim position permanent and allowed
the newly created second Deputy Director position to remain
open until a permanent Aviation Director was announced.
(Id.). Again, there was no interview process in
filling the Deputy Director role permanently. (Id.).
This closed process used to appoint Christine to Deputy
Director left Plaintiff, an African American male, and
Wiebke, a Caucasian male, in their old roles as Assistant
Aviation Directors without a chance to apply for the
permanent Deputy position.
has 19 years of experience with the City working as Airport
Operations Manager, Airport Facilities Manager, Airport
Ground Transportation Manager, and Airport Operations
Officer. (Doc. 26 at 2). In terms of the quality of
Plaintiff's work, Orr rated Plaintiff's 2012-2013
performance as Aviation Assistant as “completely
satisfactory.” (Id. at 5). Thereafter, from
2013-2015, Plaintiff's performance evaluations were rated
as “entirely satisfactory.” (Id.).
does not question Plaintiff's qualifications, but
emphasizes that Christine was chosen for legitimate reasons
entirely separate from race. First, Airport stakeholders such
as American Airlines and the federal Transportation Security
Administration expressed concern regarding Plaintiff's
ability to work with them. (Doc. 21-1 at 4-5). Second, Cagle
based Christine's appointment on past work performance in
addition to already established positive relationships with
the Airport stakeholders that had concerns about Plaintiff.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
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 quotation ...