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Carol L. Vaughn v. Woodforest Bank

January 21, 2011

CAROL L. VAUGHN PLAINTIFF
v.
WOODFOREST BANK DEFENDANT



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sharion Aycock United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

In its previous opinion [42], this Court determined Plaintiff had failed to present any evidence that Defendant's reasons for her termination were pretextual, but allowed supplemental briefing on the issue of whether race was a motivating factor in the decision to terminate Plaintiff's employment under a "mixed-motives" theory of liability. Finding Plaintiff has failed to demonstrate a genuine issue of material fact, the Court grants Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment [34].

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

A full recitation of the facts in this case may be found in the Court's prior opinion [42]. Briefly, Plaintiff -- who is white -- alleges her termination as the manager of the Starkville branch of Woodforest Bank, ostensibly for making remarks that "created a perception of racial discrimination," was racially motivated. The Court previously determined that although the Plaintiff had presented a prima facie case of discrimination, she failed to demonstrate that Defendant's reason for her termination were pretextual. Plaintiff was allowed to submit a supplemental brief in opposition to Defendant's motion for summary judgment, and directed to supply specific record evidence demonstrating that race was a motivating factor in her termination. Plaintiff points to the following ten items of evidence:

(1) Defendant gave preferential treatment to black persons, because it directed Plaintiff to offer a black applicant more money than a white applicant had been offered, solely because of the applicant's race.

(2) Plaintiff was charged with racism because she made race-neutral statements, which were supportive of President Bush and which expressed doubts about President Obama's religion. There was no indication that such statements would be objectionable if made by a black person.

(3) Plaintiff's supervisor, and the person who made the firing decision, Misty Gaskamp, made statements indicating fear of imposing discipline against a troublesome black employee, because of fear of a suit by the troublesome black employee.

(4) The assigned reason for Plaintiff's termination was "racism," yet none of the three incidents for which Plaintiff was terminated involved any statement or action which was racist. A jury could infer that had Plaintiff not been white, race-neutral statements would not be the basis of a charge of racism.

(5) One of the bases for the charge of racism against Plaintiff was that a white bank customer had made allegedly racist comments in Plaintiff's presence. It is unlikely that a black employee would be accused of racism, merely because a white person had made racist comments in the presence of the black employee.

(6) Defendant claims that Plaintiff acted improperly because she even mentioned race, and characterized mentioning race as being "extremely unprofessional." Yet, two black employees had made statements referencing race, for which no disciplinary action was taken.

(7) Linda Young testified that she had told Vaughn that certain statements Vaughn made were inappropriate "because you are a white woman." If Plaintiff's statements were inappropriate because she is a "white woman," a jury can infer that had she been black, the statements would not have been considered inappropriate.

(8) Plaintiff was fired despite her most recent employment evaluation, characterizing her as being a good employee and as being a "team player."

(9) Plaintiff was replaced by a black person, and after Plaintiff's termination, only one white person was employed at the Starkville branch.

(10) A black employee, Rhonda Williams, had attendance problems, was rude to a white co-worker, and had two charge backs (a termination offense), but was not discharged or even ...


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