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Vernon v. Tangipahoa Parish School Board

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

May 22, 2017

JANET VERNON
v.
TANGIPAHOA PARISH SCHOOL BOARD

         SECTION: “H” (1)

          ORDER AND REASONS

          JANE TRICHE MILAZZO UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Before the Court is Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 42). For the following reasons, the Motion is GRANTED.

         BACKGROUND

         Following a series of motions to dismiss, Plaintiff Janet Vernon's only remaining claim is for sex discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Plaintiff, who worked as an assistant principal in the Defendant Tangipahoa Parish School System, alleges that she applied for the position of principal at O.W. Dillon Elementary School in May of 2014. She alleges that she was denied the opportunity to interview for the position and that instead a man, H.W., was selected to fill the position. It is undisputed that although the Superintendent collected applications for the position, none of the applicants were interviewed or hired. Instead, H.W., a principal at a high school in the district, was administratively transferred to fill the position. There were seven female applicants and one male applicant for the position. Defendant has moved for summary judgment on this claim.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         Summary judgment is appropriate “if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.”[1] A genuine issue of fact exists only “if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.”[2]

         In determining whether the movant is entitled to summary judgment, the Court views facts in the light most favorable to the non-movant and draws all reasonable inferences in his favor.[3] “If the moving party meets the initial burden of showing that there is no genuine issue of material fact, the burden shifts to the non-moving party to produce evidence or designate specific facts showing the existence of a genuine issue for trial.”[4] Summary judgment is appropriate if the non-movant “fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case.”[5] “In response to a properly supported motion for summary judgment, the non-movant must identify specific evidence in the record and articulate the manner in which that evidence supports that party's claim, and such evidence must be sufficient to sustain a finding in favor of the non-movant on all issues as to which the non-movant would bear the burden of proof at trial.”[6] “We do not . . . in the absence of any proof, assume that the nonmoving party could or would prove the necessary facts.”[7] Additionally, “[t]he mere argued existence of a factual dispute will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion.”[8]

         LAW AND ANALYSIS

         In order for Plaintiff to succeed in her Title VII claim of discrimination based on sex, she must show that “(1) she is a member of a protected class, (2) she was qualified for the position she sought, (3) she suffered an adverse employment action; and (4) others similarly situated but outside the protected class were treated more favorably.”[9] Discrimination claims are evaluated under the McDonnell Douglas burden-shifting framework:

A plaintiff can prove intentional discrimination through either direct or circumstantial evidence. Where the plaintiff offers circumstantial evidence, the McDonnell Douglas framework requires the plaintiff to establish a prima facie case of discrimination, which, if established, raises a presumption of discrimination. The employer must then produce a legitimate nondiscriminatory reason for the adverse employment decision. Once the employer produces a legitimate nondiscriminatory reason, the presumption of discrimination dissipates. The plaintiff bears the ultimate burden of persuading the trier of fact by a preponderance of the evidence that the employer intentionally discriminated against her because of her protected status. To carry that burden, the plaintiff must produce substantial evidence of pretext. The plaintiff must put forward evidence rebutting each of the nondiscriminatory reasons the employer articulates. A plaintiff may establish pretext by showing that a discriminatory motive more likely motivated her employer's decision, such as through evidence of disparate treatment, or that [her employer's] explanation is unworthy of credence.[10]

         Defendant does not dispute that Plaintiff is a member of a protected class and was qualified for the principal position. Rather, it argues that Plaintiff cannot show the latter two prongs required to establish a prima facie case of sex discrimination-that is, that she suffered an adverse employment action and that she was treated less favorably than other similarly situated employees outside of the protected group. Defendant also argues that Plaintiff cannot show that its legitimate, non-discriminatory reason is pretext. This Court will consider each argument in turn.

         A. Adverse Employment Action

         First, Defendant argues that not being permitted to interview for a position is not an adverse employment action. The Fifth Circuit has stated that “[f]or Title VII . . . discrimination claims, we have held that adverse employment actions consist of ‘ultimate employment decisions' such as hiring, firing, demoting, promoting, granting leave, and compensating. ‘[A]n employment action that does not affect job duties, compensation, or benefits is not an adverse employment action.'”[11] Plaintiff, however, appears to construe Defendant's action as the denial of a promotion. “It is . . . well established . . . that the denial of a promotion is an actionable adverse employment action.”[12]Considering the facts in the light most favorable to Plaintiff, this Court finds that the denial of the opportunity to interview for a position that would have resulted in a promotion could ...


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