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Smith v. Town of Winterville

United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Eastern Division

November 15, 2019

JASMAN J. SMITH, Plaintiff,
v.
TOWN OF WINTERVILLE, Defendant.[1]

          ORDER

          LOUISE W. FLANAGAN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the court on defendant's motion for summary judgment (DE 80), plaintiff's motion for partial summary judgment (DE 84), and plaintiff's motion to seal. (DE 87). The issues raised are ripe for ruling. For the following reasons, the court grants defendant's motion for summary judgment, denies plaintiff's motion for partial summary judgment, and grants plaintiff's motion to seal.

         STATEMENT OF THE CASE

         Plaintiff, proceeding pro se, commenced this action against former defendant Winterville Town Council (“Council”), former defendant and town manager Terri L. Parker (“Parker”), and defendant, plaintiff's former employer, on January 31, 2017, asserting claims of discrimination, denial of promotion, wrongful termination, and retaliation based on race, disability, and pregnancy, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq. (“Title VII”), the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq., and pursuant to 42 U.S.C.§ 1983. On December 5, 2017, upon partial motion to dismiss, the court dismissed all claims and defendants except plaintiff's claim against defendant for racial discrimination based on disparate treatment, wrongful discharge, and retaliation, in violation of Title VII.

         On July 6, 2018, defendant filed a motion to compel, which the court granted on September 28, 2018, directing plaintiff to supplement her discovery responses. On October 17, 2018, defendant filed a motion for sanctions, wherein defendant asserted that plaintiff failed to comply with the court's order to supplement her discovery responses, refused to sit for her first properly noticed deposition, and, upon attending deposition, refused to answer questions. The court granted defendant's motion in part, ordering plaintiff to pay attorneys' fees, costs, and expenses related to defendant's motion to compel discovery and plaintiff's October 11, 2018, deposition.

         Plaintiff filed a notice to reschedule deposition and a motion for extension of time to file response on January 16, 2019. The court denied plaintiff's requests, providing plaintiff with a deadline of February 4, 2019, to respond to outstanding written discovery, and February 15, 2019, to complete plaintiff's deposition. On February 4, 2019, plaintiff filed a motion to waive sanctions, which the court denied on March 1, 2019.

         On March 15, 2019, defendant filed the instant motion for summary judgment, or in the alternative, dismissal for failure to prosecute or as a discovery sanction. Defendant relies upon a statement of material facts, memorandum of law, and appendix including the following: 1) plaintiff's deposition, 2) Parker's affidavit, 3) a document titled “Written Review Disciplinary Conference Concerning Job Performance” (“written review”), 4) Amy Barrow's affidavit, and 5) a document titled “Pre-dismissal Conference Memorandum” (“memorandum”). That same date, plaintiff filed the instant motion for partial summary judgment and the instant motion to seal. In support of those motions, plaintiff relies upon employment documents, medical records, and memorandum in support on damages. On April 5, 2019, defendant responded in opposition to plaintiff's motion for partial summary judgment.

         STATEMENT OF FACTS

         The undisputed facts may be summarized as follows. In July 2008, defendant hired plaintiff as a temporary executive assistant. (Pl. Dep. (DE 89-1) 23:15-17; 24:1-2; Def's Stmt. (DE 81) at 1). Plaintiff became a full-time executive assistant in December 2008. (Pl. Dep. (DE 89-1) 24:4-9; Def's Stmt. (DE 81) at 2).[2] In 2010, Parker assumed the role as town manager and began supervising plaintiff. (Pl. Dep. (DE 89-1) 26:11-18; Def's Stmt. (DE 81) at 2).

         Parker promoted plaintiff to town clerk, and selected Amy Barrow to replace plaintiff as executive assistant. (Pl. Dep. (DE 89-1) 27:17-24; 38:4-6; Def's Stmt. (DE 81) at 2). As town clerk, plaintiff's duties included drafting minutes, preparing agendas, managing records, attending meetings, certifying documents, drafting newsletters, advising the youth council, and administering oaths. (Pl. Dep. (DE 89-1) 40:19-41:16; Def's Stmt. (DE 81) at 2-3).

         On March 1, 2016, Parker placed plaintiff on probation for three months and provided her with a written review chronicling plaintiff's performance deficiencies. (Written Review (DE 89-3) at 1). Specifically, the written review stated plaintiff committed following violations of defendant's personnel policy: (1) insubordination; (2) demonstrated inefficiency, negligence, or incompetence in the performance of duties; (3) discourteous treatment of the public or other employees; (4) habitual pattern of failure to report to duty at the assigned time and place; and (5) failure to meet work standards over a period of time. Id. at 3. Furthermore, the written review warned that plaintiff would be terminated if she failed to improve. Id. at 3-4.

         On June 27, 2016, plaintiff received a memorandum from Parker, wherein Parker alleged that plaintiff's job performance had not improved while she was on probation. (Memorandum (DE 89-5) at 1). Specifically, Parker alleged that plaintiff: (1) distributed an agenda, laden with mistakes, without seeking the requisite prior authorization from Parker; (2) failed to submit the required budgets for Town Council, Elections, and Youth Council; (3) ignored a councilman's request for information about a board meeting; (4) failed to communicate regarding reservations of the community room, which caused the room to become overbooked; (5) failed to ensure the public hearing on the budget was advertised in the newspaper as required by law; (6) engaged in disruptive behavior during a required CPR training session; and (7) locked the town seal in her office, despite being asked repeatedly to make it available for others to use. Id. at 1-3. Parker recommended that plaintiff be dismissed from employment and notified plaintiff of an impending pre-dismissal conference. Id. at 3.

         Following the conference, plaintiff received a letter from Parker on July 1, 2016, terminating plaintiff because of plaintiff's alleged “insubordination, demonstrated inefficiency, negligence or incompetence in the performance of [her] duties, discourteous treatment of the public or other employees, and failure to meet work standards over a period of time.” (July 1 Letter (DE 89-2) at 74).

         DISCUSSION

         A. Standard of Review

         1. ...


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