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Williams v. State

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Shreveport Division

January 24, 2017

HARRIS L. WILLIAMS
v.
STATE OF LOUISIANA, ET AL.

          MAGISTRATE JUDGE, HORNSBY

          MEMORANDUM RULING

          S. MAURICE HICKS, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the Court is a Motion for Summary Judgment (Record Document 28) filed by Defendants. Defendants seek the dismissal of Plaintiff Harris L. Williams' (“Williams”) racial discrimination claims in their entirety with prejudice. Williams opposes the motion. See Record Document 34. For the reasons set forth below, Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED.

         Also before the Court are two additional motions which relate to Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment: (1) a Motion to Strike (Record Document 43) filed by Defendants; and (2) a Motion to Propound Requests for Admissions FRCP 56(e)(1) (Record Document 47) filed by Williams. For the reasons set forth below, both the Motion to Strike and the Motion to Propound Requests for Admissions are DENIED AS MOOT.

         I. BACKGROUND.

         Williams is currently employed as a welding instructor at the Northwest Louisiana Technical College in Shreveport, Louisiana (“the Shreveport campus”). See Record Document 64 at 2. In April 2004, he was hired as an “adjunct professor” to teach welding at the Shreveport campus. See Record Document 28-3 at ¶ 11; Record Document 34-1 at ¶ 11. At that time, he had no technical certifications and his welding qualifications were on the job training. See id. Williams became a nine month contract instructor in welding at the Shreveport campus in 2005. See Record Document 64 at 3. He became a twelve month contract instructor effective August 11, 2014, again at the Shreveport campus. See id. The last nine month contract under which Williams worked began on August 19, 2013 and expired in May 2014. See Record Document 28, Exhibit G; Record Document 28-3 at ¶ 2; Record Document 34-1 at ¶ 2. Williams has performed his duties as a welding instructor continuously from his date of hire in April 2004 to present at the Shreveport Campus. See Record Document 64 at 3; Record Document 34-2. In his deposition, Williams stated that his job is a lot better now. See Record Document 28, Exhibit F at 118-120.

         Williams alleges that his inability to enter into a twelve month contract between 2008, the date he asserts he requested a twelve month contract, and August 2014 was due to his race. Defendants submit the reason was budgetary, as there have been regular hiring freezes and budget cuts to higher education since 2008. See Record Document 28-3 at ¶ 4. Williams denies this contention “because there was no definitive end to the policy and it was often ignored.” Record Document 34-1 at ¶ 4. The parties do agree that nine month faculty members are less of a tax on the budget than twelve month faculty members. See Record Document 64 at 4. Likewise, the parties agree that both nine month instructors and twelve month instructors are full-time employees. See id. at 4.

         At some point in 2014, Williams learned of an opening for a twelve month welding instructor contract position at the Mansfield campus. See Record Document 28, Exhibit I at 42-44. Williams admits that Angie Rymer (“Rymer”), the former dean of the Shreveport Campus and Williams' direct supervisor, communicated information regarding this position to him and seemed to suggest that he should apply. See id. at 42-44, 106-107. Williams failed to apply for the Mansfield position because “[he] didn't want to go down there.” Id. In his deposition, Williams admitted that there was never a twelve month welding position open at the Shreveport campus and that there were no twelve month welding instructors while he was employed at the Shreveport campus. See Record Document 28-3 at ¶ 18; 34-1 at ¶ 18; Record Document 28, Exhibit I at 107.

         Williams alleges that Defendants failed to award him a twelve month contract because of his race.[1] See Record Documents 3 & 64. He filed an EEOC charge of discrimination on November 4, 2013. See Record Document 3 at ¶ 3A. On September 10, 2015, he filed the instant lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, 42 U.S.C. §1981 and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §2000e, et seq. See Record Documents 1 & 3. The remaining Defendants are the State of Louisiana (“the State”) through its Louisiana Community and Technical College System (“LCTCS”) and Board of Regents; Charles Strong (“Strong”), the former Regional Director of the Louisiana Northwest Technical College; Rymer, the former dean of the Shreveport Campus of the Louisiana Northwest Technical College and Williams' direct supervisor; and Amber Saunders (“Saunders”), the current Chief Human Resources Officer for the Louisiana Northwest Technical College. See Record Document 64. Strong, Rymer, and Saunders are sued in their individual capacities.[2] See id.

         II. LAW AND ANALYSIS.

         A. Motion to Strike and Motion to Propound Requests for Admissions.

         Defendants' Motion to Strike relates to exhibits attached to Williams' opposition to Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment, specifically Record Documents 34-2, 34-4, 34-9, and 34-3, and portions of exhibits attached to Williams' supplemental opposition, specifically Record Documents 38-2, 38-3, and 38-4. For the most part, Defendants object to these exhibits on the grounds of authenticity and hearsay.

         Williams filed a Motion to Propound Requests for Admissions in response to the Motion to Strike. The exhibits at issue in this motion are personnel records that Williams alleges evidence higher pay for lesser qualified white employees. Pursuant to Rule 56(e)(1), Williams seeks leave of court to propound Requests for Admissions to overcome Defendants' objection to such personnel records based on lack of authenticity.

         The Court has reviewed these motions and the challenged exhibits in their entirety. For the limited purpose of the instant Memorandum Ruling, this Court will assume the authenticity of the challenged documents. If necessary after the conclusion of dispositive motion practice, any remaining authenticity and hearsay challenges will be addressed by the Court prior to trial. Thus, at this stage, both the Motion to Strike and the Motion to Propound Requests for Admissions are DENIED AS MOOT.

         B. Summary Judgment Standard.

         Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure governs summary judgment. This rule provides that the court “shall grant summary judgment 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.” F.R.C.P. 56(a). Also, “a party asserting that a fact cannot be or is genuinely disputed must support the motion by citing to particular parts of materials in the record.” F.R.C.P. 56(c)(1)(A). “If a party fails to properly support an assertion of fact or fails to properly address another party's assertion of fact as required by Rule 56(c), the court may . . . grant summary judgment.” F.R.C.P. 56(e)(3).

         In a summary judgment motion, “a party seeking summary judgment always bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of the pleadings . . . [and] 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 quotations and citations omitted). If the movant meets this initial burden, then the non-movant has the burden of going beyond the pleadings and designating specific facts that prove that a genuine issue of material fact exists. See Id. at 325; see Little v. Liquid Air Corp., 37 F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th Cir. 1994). A non-movant, however, cannot meet the burden of proving that a genuine issue of material fact exists by providing only “some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts, by conclusory allegations, by unsubstantiated assertions, or by only a scintilla of evidence.” Little, 37 F.3d at 1075. Additionally, in deciding a summary judgment motion, courts “resolve factual controversies in favor of the nonmoving party, but only when there is an actual controversy, that is when both parties have submitted evidence of contradictory facts.” Id. Courts “do not, however, in the absence of any proof, assume that the nonmoving party could or would prove the necessary facts.” Id.

         C. Claims Against the State, the LCTCS, and the Board of Regents.

         In the proposed pretrial order, the parties identify as a defendant the “State of Louisiana through its LCTCS and Board of Regents.” Record Document 64 at 2. With this statement, Williams appears to concede that any claims asserted against the LCTCS and the Board of Regents are in actuality claims against the State. Williams also concedes that “the State of Louisiana and its arms [are] entitled Eleventh Amendment immunity” for claims arising under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981 and 1983. Record Document 34 at 13.

         Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 17(b), Defendants further argue that LCTCS and NWLTC are not juridical entities capable of being sued. In Hall v. Board of Supervisors of Community and Technical Colleges, et al., No. 15-67, 2015 WL 2383744 (E.D. La.), the court addressed whether the LCTCS and Delgado Community College were juridical entities with procedural capacity to be sued. The court ultimately dismissed the claims against LCTCS and Delgado Community College, holding:

Movant's first ground for dismissal is that Defendants Delgado and the LCTCS are not juridical entities with the ...

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