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Montgomery v. The Anson County Board of Education

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

March 19, 2018

DANNIE MONTGOMERY, Plaintiff,
v.
THE ANSON COUNTY BOARD OF EDUCATION, Defendant.

          ORDER

          GRAHAM C. MULLEN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court upon the Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment, filed January 30, 2018. The motion has been fully briefed and is ripe for disposition.

         FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Dannie Montgomery, an African-American woman in her 50s, was hired by the Defendant Board as a classroom teacher for the 1999-2000 school year. She continued working for Anson County schools-earning career status in 2009-until her employment was terminated in June 2017. Beginning in or around 2005, Ms. Montgomery repeatedly sought a promotion to principal or assistant principal at a number of Anson County schools. Plaintiff asserts in sweeping terms that she was passed over for promotion on more than a dozen occasions, usually in favor of younger and/or white candidates, despite her superior qualifications. In this lawsuit, though, Ms Montgomery has identified only three specific promotions that she claims she should have been awarded, all of which she sought in 2014:

• Anson High School Assistant Principal: In February 2014, Plaintiff applied for the position of Assistant Principal of Anson High School. The position was awarded to Dionnya Pratt, an African-American female in her 40s.
• Anson County Early College High School Principal: In June 2014, Plaintiff applied for the position of Principal of Anson County Early College High School. The position was awarded to Carri Decker, a white female in her late 20s or early 30s.
• Anson Middle School Assistant Principal: In July 2014, Plaintiff applied for the position of Assistant Principal of Anson Middle School. The position was awarded to Kevin Adams, a white male in his 30s.

         Ms. Montgomery contends that she was the better- qualified candidate in every instance and should have been awarded those promotions. Plaintiff ultimately admitted, however, that she was not qualified for the Anson High School position because she lacked a required qualification: principal licensure, which she did not obtain until May of 2014. She contends that she did not get the remaining two promotions because of her race and/or her age. In June of 2017, Plaintiff's employment was terminated due to admitted misconduct.

         On June 8, 2016, Ms. Montgomery filed a three-count Complaint against the Board alleging deprivation of her First Amendment rights and discrimination on the basis of age and race in violation of Title VII. In an Order filed October 20, 2016, this Court granted the Board's Motion to Dismiss the First Amendment claim but allowed Plaintiff to amend her discrimination claims to address pleading deficiencies identified by the Board. On November 3, 2016, Plaintiff filed her Amended Complaint-the operative pleading in this case (Doc. No. 14)-which identified with particularity the three positions described above, for which she claimed to be qualified, for which she had applied, and for which another candidate was ultimately selected.

         DISCUSSION

         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 v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). “[A] complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial.” Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323; see also, e.g., Teamsters Joint Council No. 83 v. Centra, Inc., 947 F.2d 115, 119 (4th Cir. 1991) (“[W]here the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party, disposition by summary judgment is appropriate.”). “One of the principal purposes of the summary judgment rule is to isolate and dispose of factually unsupported claims or defenses.” Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323-24.

         To survive summary judgment on her discriminatory failure-to-promote claims, Plaintiff must either come forward with direct evidence of discrimination or, absent such evidence, make out a claim pursuant to the burden-shifting framework established in McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792 (1973):

Under that [McDonnell Douglas] three-step framework, the plaintiff-employee must first prove a prima facie case of discrimination by a preponderance of the evidence. If she succeeds, the defendant-employer has an opportunity to present a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for its employment action. If the employer does so, the presumption of unlawful discrimination created by the prima facie case “drops out of the picture” and the burden shifts back to the employee to show that the given reason was just a pretext for discrimination.

Evans v. Technologies Applications & Serv. Co., 80 F.3d 954, 959 (4th Cir. 1996) (citing ...


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