United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Southern Division
SHERILYN D. YOUNG, Plaintiff,
ONSLOW WATER & SEWER AUTHORITY, Defendant.
C. DEVER, III CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
August 1, 2017, Onslow Water and Sewer Authority
("OWSA" or "defendant") moved for summary
judgment concerning Sherilyn Young's ("Young"
or "plaintiff”) Title VII claims [D.E. 16] and
filed a Local Rule 56.1 statement of undisputed material
facts [D.E. 18]. On August 2, 2017, OWSA filed Joetta
Guist's declaration [D.E. 20] and an amended memorandum
of law [D.E. 21]. On August 25, 2017, Young filed an untimely
response in opposition [D.E. 22]. As explained below, the
court grants OWSA's motion for summary judgment.
August 9, 2004, OWSA hired Young, an African-American woman,
as a Customer Service Representative ("CSR"). See
Compl. [D.E. 1] ¶¶ 8-9. In 2008, Young applied for
a promotion to Customer Account Specialist ("CAS").
See Young Dep. at 10 [D.E. 15-1]. OWSA selected Courtney
Lynxweiler, a white female, for the position. See Young Dep.
at 20-21. Shortly thereafter, Young filed a written grievance
with OWSA management alleging race discrimination due to her
non-selection for the CAS position. See Id. at 13.
Young received a pay increase as settlement for the
grievance. See Id. at 20.
August 2014, a CAS position became available for the first
time since 2008. See Id. at 28. OWSA accepted
applications only from internal candidates. See Guist Aff.
¶ 4 [D.E. 20]. A panel of five members of OWSA's
management conducted interviews. See Id. ¶ 6.
The panel members were from different departments within
OWSA, and none of the panel members were involved with
Young's 2008 grievance. See id ¶¶ 7,
13. The panel interviewed five candidates, including Young,
and the interviews took place on the same day. See
id ¶¶ 8, 10. The candidates were asked the
same questions, and the panel members individually graded the
candidate's responses. See Id. ¶ 8. The
panel tallied the scores, and OWSA offered the position to
the candidate with the highest score, Lisa Kaczmarski. See
id.¶¶ 8-10. Based on her scores, Young was
ranked fourth. See Id. ¶ 10. On December 2,
2014, Young filed an EEOC charge alleging that OWSA
discriminated against her based on her race when it did not
promote her to the CAS position. See Def. Exs. [D.E. 15-2]
three months after OWSA promoted Kaczmarski, Kaczmarski left
OWSA due to her husband's job relocation. See Guist Aff.
¶ 11. OWSA again posted the CAS job opening, however,
this time both internal and external candidates could apply.
See id. Several candidates applied for the position,
including candidates who had received higher scores than
Young during the prior selection process. See Id.
¶ 12. OWSA did not interview Young because she had a
recent disciplinary action, and per OWSA policy, employees
who had formal disciplinary actions in the past twelve months
were not eligible to apply for open positions. See Def. Exs.
at 20-21; [D.E. 22] 2. In January 2015, OWSA selected Jason
Glasper, an African-American male and external applicant, for
the position. See Guist Aff. ¶ 12. On September 15,
2015, Young filed an amended EEOC charge alleging
retaliation. See Def. Exs. at 32. Young contends that OWSA
did not promote her in January 2015 in retaliation for filing
her December 2014 EEOC charge. See Compl. ¶¶ 15-16.
Young also contends that OWSA retaliated against her in
February 2015 by moving her to the front desk and a new
cubicle. See Id. ¶ 17.
considering a motion for summary judgment, the court views
the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-movant
and applies well-established principles under Rule 56 of the
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. See, e.g., Fed.R.Civ.P. 56;
Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 378 (2007);
Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325-26
(1986); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby. Inc., 477 U.S.
242, 247-55 (1986); Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith
Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 585-87 (1986). 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); see Anderson, 477 U.S. at
247-48. The party seeking summary judgment must initially
demonstrate an absence of a genuine issue of material fact.
Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 325. Once the movant
meets its burden, the nonmoving party then must affirmatively
demonstrate that there exists a genuine issue of material
fact for trial. See Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587.
"[T]here is no issue for trial unless there is
sufficient evidence favoring the nonmoving party for a jury
to return a verdict for that party." Anderson,
477 U.S. at 249. Conjectural arguments will not suffice. See
Id. at 249-52; Beale v. Hardy, 769 F.2d
213, 214 (4th Cir. 1985) ("The nonmoving party... cannot
create a genuine issue of material fact through mere
speculation or the building of one inference upon
another."). Nor will a "mere... scintilla of
evidence in support of the [nonmoving party's]
position...; there must be evidence on which the [fact
finder] could reasonably find for the [nonmoving
party]." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252. In
evaluating material submitted in support of or in opposition
to a motion for summary judgment, the court may reject
inadmissible evidence (such as hearsay). See Fed.R.Civ.P.
56(c)(4); Evans v. Techs. Applications & Serv.
Co., 80 F.3d 954, 962 (4th Cir. 1996).
VII prohibits employers from failing to promote an individual
"because of such individual's race." 42 U.S.C.
§ 2000e-2(a)(1). A plaintiff may establish such a Title
VII violation in two ways. First, a plaintiff may demonstrate
through direct evidence that illegal discrimination motivated
an employer's adverse employment action. Alternatively, a
plaintiff may proceed under the burden-shifting framework
established in McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411
U.S. 792 (1973). See generally Hill v. Lockheed Martin
Logistics Mgmt. Inc., 3 54 F.3d 277.284-85 (4th Cir.
2004) (en banc), abrogated on other grounds
by Univ. of Tex. Sw. Med. Ctr. v. Nassar, 133 S.Ct.
evidence is evidence from which no inference is required. To
show race discrimination by direct evidence, a plaintiff
typically must show discriminatory motivation on the part of
the decisionmaker involved in the adverse employment action.
See Id. at 286-91. Such direct evidence would
include a decisionmaker's statement that he did not
promote plaintiff due to her race. See Id. at 303.
The decisionmaker must be either the employer's formal
decisionmaker or a subordinate who was "principally
responsible for, " or "the actual decisionmaker
behind, " the allegedly discriminatory action.
Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., Inc., 530 U.S.
133, 151-52 (2000); Holley v. N.C. Dep't of
Admin., 846 F.Supp.2d 416, 427 (E.D. N.C. 2012).
lacks direct evidence of race discrimination, and instead
relies on the McDonnell Douglas framework. Under
this framework, a plaintiff must first establish a prima
facie case of discrimination. See, e.g., St. Mary's
Honor Ctr. v. Hicks, 509 U.S. 502, 506 (1993); Tex.
Dep't of Cmty. Affairs v. Burdine, 450 U.S.
248, 252-53 (1981). If a plaintiff establishes a prima facie
case, the burden shifts to the defendant to produce evidence
that the defendant took the adverse employment action
"for a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason."
Burdine, 450 U.S. at 254. If the defendant offers
admissible evidence sufficient to meet its burden of
production, "the burden shifts back to the plaintiff to
prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the
employer's stated reasons were not its true reasons, but
were a pretext for discrimination." Hill, 354
F.3d at 285 (quotation omitted); see, e.g., Reeves,
530 U.S. at 143; Burdine, 450 U.S. at 256; King
v. Rumsfeld, 328 F.3d 145, 151 (4th Cir. 2003).
establish a prima facie case of failure to promote based on
race, a plaintiff must show (1) that she belongs to a
protected class; (2) that she applied for the position at
issue; (3) that she was qualified for that job; and (4) that
the defendant rejected her application under circumstances
supporting an inference of unlawful discrimination. See,
e.g., Diamond v. Colonial Life & Accident Ins. Co.,
416 F.3d 310, 319 n.6 (4th Cir. 2005). An African-American
female may prove the fourth element by showing that the
employer rejected her application for promotion and filled
the job with a white person. See Carter v. Ball, 33
F.3d 450, 458 (4th Cir. 1994).
alleges that OWSA discriminated against her based on race
when it promoted Kaczmarski in August 2014 to the CAS
position. See Compl.¶¶ 12-14. The court assumes,
without deciding, that Young established a prima facie case.
Thus, the burden shifts to OWSA to provide a legitimate,
non-discriminatory reason for promoting Kaczmarski over
Young. A defendant's burden of providing a legitimate,
non-discriminatory reason is one of production, not
persuasion. St. Mary's Honor Ctr., 509 U.S. at
509. A defendant must present its legitimate,
non-discriminatory reason "with sufficient clarity so
that the plaintiff will have a full and fair opportunity to
demonstrate pretext." Burdine, 450 U.S. at
255-56. For example, an employer's good faith belief that
another candidate is better qualified due to that
employee's job performance and experience is a
legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for an ...