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Fairchild v. All American Check Cashing, Inc.

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

August 15, 2014

AMBREA FAIRCHILD Plaintiff,
v.
ALL AMERICAN CHECK CASHING, INC. Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

KEITH STARRETT, District Judge.

For the reasons stated below, the Court denies Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment [75] and denies Plaintiff's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment [77].

I. BACKGROUND

This case involves claims under Title VII[1] and the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA")[2] against a payday loan company. Plaintiff began working for Defendant All American Check Cashing, Inc. in December 2011. She was promoted to manager of Defendant's Hattiesburg location in April 2012. She claims that Defendant routinely required her to work more than forty hours per week without overtime compensation as required by the FLSA. In September 2012, Plaintiff was demoted from manager to manager trainee, and on January 23, 2013, she was fired. Plaintiff claims that Defendant fired her because she was pregnant, violating Title VII. The parties' cross-motions for summary judgment are ripe for review.

II. DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT [75]

Rule 56 provides that "[t]he 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." FED. R. CIV. P. 56(a); see also Sierra Club, Inc. v. Sandy Creek Energy Assocs., L.P., 627 F.3d 134, 138 (5th Cir. 2010). "An issue is material if its resolution could affect the outcome of the action." Sierra Club, Inc., 627 F.3d at 138. "An issue is genuine' if the evidence is sufficient for a reasonable jury to return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Cuadra, 626 F.3d at 812.

The Court is not permitted to make credibility determinations or weigh the evidence. Deville v. Marcantel, 567 F.3d 156, 164 (5th Cir. 2009). When deciding whether a genuine fact issue exists, "the court must view the facts and the inference to be drawn therefrom in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party." Sierra Club, Inc., 627 F.3d at 138. However, "[c]onclusional allegations and denials, speculation, improbable inferences, unsubstantiated assertions, and legalistic argumentation do not adequately substitute for specific facts showing a genuine issue for trial." Oliver v. Scott, 276 F.3d 736, 744 (5th Cir. 2002).

A. Title VII

Plaintiff claims that Defendant terminated her because she was pregnant, violating Title VII. "Title VII... prohibits various forms of employment discrimination, including discrimination on the basis of sex." EEOC v. Houston Funding II., Ltd., 717 F.3d 425, 427 (5th Cir. 2013); see also 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(1). Under Title VII, "the terms because of sex' or on the basis of sex' include, but are not limited to, because of or on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions." Houston Funding II, 717 F.3d at 427; see also 42 U.S.C. § 2000e(k).

The Court analyzes pregnancy discrimination claims based on circumstantial evidence under the burden-shifting framework established by McDonnell-Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 93 S.Ct. 1817, 36 L.Ed.2d 668 (1973). Laxton v. Gap Inc., 333 F.3d 572, 578 (5th Cir. 2003). "Under this framework, the plaintiff must first create a presumption of discrimination by making out a prima facie case of discrimination." Id. To make out a prima facie case, the plaintiff must show that (1) she is a member of a protected class, (2) that she was qualified for the job from which she was terminated, (3) that she was terminated, and (4) that she was treated less favorably than other similarly situated employees outside her class. Haire v. Bd. of Supervisors of La. State Univ., 719 F.3d 356, 363 (5th Cir. 2013). The burden "is not onerous, " and it is "necessarily a flexible standard that must be adapted to the factual circumstances of the case." Turner v. Kan. City S. Ry. Co., 675 F.3d 887, 892 (5th Cir. 2012).

"The burden then shifts to the employer to produce a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for her termination." Laxton, 333 F.3d at 578; see also Haire, 719 F.3d at 362-63. "The employer's burden is one of production, not persuasion, and does not involve a credibility assessment." Black v. Pan Am Labs., LLC, 646 F.3d 254, 259 (5th Cir. 2011).

In the final stage of the analysis, the burden shifts back to the plaintiff to prove that the "defendant's articulated reason is merely a pretext for [sex] discrimination (the pretext alternative), or that the defendant's reason, while true, is only one of the reasons for its decision, and another motivating factor' is the plaintiff's protected characteristic (the mixed-motives alternative)." Autry v. Fort Bend Indep. Sch. Dist., 704 F.3d 344, 347 (5th Cir. 2013); see also Vaughn v. Woodforest Bank, 665 F.3d 632, 636 (5th Cir. 2011). 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." Laxton, 333 F.3d at 578.

1. Prima Facie Case

The first and third elements of the prima facie case are undisputed. Plaintiff was pregnant, and Plaintiff was fired. Defendant argues, though, that Plaintiff can not meet her burden of proving the second and fourth elements of a prima facie case.

First, Defendant argues that Plaintiff was not qualified for her position, citing the Hattiesburg branch's poor performance under her management. Indeed, Plaintiff admitted [76-1] that the store's "NSF" percentage suffered during her tenure as manager and manager trainee. Plaintiff also admitted that she was "written up" on several occasions ...


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