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McMullin v. Mississippi Department of Public Safety

United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Northern Division

May 6, 2014



CARLTON W. REEVES, District Judge.

Before the Court is the Defendants' motion for summary judgment. Docket No. 40. The Plaintiff opposes the motion. Docket No. 42. The Defendants have filed a rebuttal brief, Docket No. 49, and the matter is ready for review. The motion is GRANTED.

I. Factual and Procedural History

Plaintiff Gayle McMullin, a white female, started her employment with the Mississippi Department of Public Safety (MDPS) as an officer sometime in 1987. In 2005, while working in the Highway Patrol's training division, McMullin was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant. She currently maintains that rank while serving as Communications Coordinator.

Sometime in February 2012, McMullin heard "by word of mouth" that Captain Chris Gillard vacated his position as Director of Training in order to receive a promotional transfer. McMullin Deposition, Docket No. 42-4, at 42-3 (hereinafter "McMullin Dep."). After receiving confirmation from Captain Gillard that he was being promoted, McMullin drafted three identical memos in which she stated her interest in being considered for "the Captains [sic] position for the Training Division."[1] See Docket No. 43, at 4-6 (emphasis added). These memos were dated February 27, 2012, and were given to Cindy Harper (Colonel Berry's Administrative Assistant) so that they would be delivered to Natalie Holmes[2] (MDPS's Human Resources Legal Liaison), Albert Santa Cruz (Commissioner of MDPS), and Colonel Donnell Berry (Director of Highway Patrol).[3] Berry claims he received McMullin's memos shortly after she delivered it, but took no action on it because the vacancy had not yet been posted.[4] Berry Deposition, Docket No. 42-2, at 21 (hereinafter "Berry Dep.").

On March 19, 2012, Berry temporarily assigned McMullin to the Mississippi Law Enforcement Training Academy (TAC).[5] Berry Dep. at 18. Berry stated that he transferred her to TAC because it was "shorthanded." Id. On March 26, 2012, Berry directed that a position open notice for the position of Lieutenant Training Director be prepared and disseminated.[6] Id. at 26. According to Berry, he wanted to fill the Lieutenant position before filling the Captain of training director position. Id. at 27; see also Defendants' Memo. of Authorities in Support of their Mot. for Sum. Judg., Docket No. 41, at 2. McMullin claims that she never received notice of the Lieutenant training director's position until after this suit was filed. McMullin Dep. at 47-8. In any case, McMullin testified that she was not interested in this position; she was only interested in the Captain director position for the training division. Id. at 44.

Two African-American employees, Master Sergeant Marshall Pack and Staff Sergeant James Walker, both of whom were lower-ranking officers, applied for the Lieutenant training director position. Pack learned of the available position through a letter sent out by MDPS.[7] Marshall Pack Dep., Docket No. 42-3, at 21 (hereinafter "Pack Dep."). On March 27, 2012, Pack issued a memo to Berry expressing his interest to interview for the Lieutenant training director position.[8] Docket No. 44, at 31. After Pack was interviewed for the position, Berry issued a letter to Pack dated April 10, 2012, promoting him to the Lieutenant training director position effective May 1, 2012. Id. at 32.

On June 12, 2012, McMullin filed a charge of discrimination with the EEOC. In that charge, she alleged that she was more qualified and experienced than Pack. Docket No. 40-1. Upon the request of her counsel, the Department of Justice issued her notice of right-to-sue on December 10, 2012.[9] On January 31, 2013, McMullin timely filed this action, alleging racial discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1972 for MDPS's failure to promote her to the Captain's position of training director.

According to Defendants, the Captain's position currently remains open, with Pack serving as "acting"[10] director. See Berry Dep. at 35-6.[11]

II. Legal Standard

a. Summary Judgment

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). When confronted with these motions, the Court focuses on "genuine" disputes of "material" facts. A dispute is genuine "if the evidence supporting its resolution in favor of the party opposing summary judgment, together with any inferences in such party's favor that the evidence allows, would be sufficient to support a verdict in favor of that party." St. Amant v. Benoit, 806 F.2d 1294, 1297 (5th Cir. 1987). A party must establish the presence, or absence, of fact disputes by "citing to particular parts of materials in the record" that would constitute admissible evidence at trial. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(A).

The Court will "view the evidence and draw reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the non-movant, " Maddox v. Townsend & Sons, Inc., 639 F.3d 214, 216 (5th Cir. 2011) (citation omitted), but "conclusory allegations, speculation, and unsubstantiated assertions are inadequate to satisfy the non-movant's burden in a motion for summary judgment." Ramsey v. Henderson, 286 F.3d 264, 269 (5th Cir. 2002) (quotation marks omitted). Moreover, "[w]here critical evidence is so weak or tenuous on an essential fact that it could not support a judgment in favor of the non-movant, or where it is so overwhelming that it mandates ...

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