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Ross v. Greenwood Utilities

United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Greenville Division

August 22, 2014

JESSE L. ROSS, JR., Plaintiff,


SHARION AYCOCK, District Judge.

Defendant Greenwood Utilities files this Motion for Summary Judgment [42] as to all Plaintiff's claims on procedural and substantive grounds. Because the Court finds that Plaintiff may have failed to satisfy the exhaustion requirements of Title VII, has not complied with the pleading requirement of Section 1981, and has provided no genuine disputes of material fact as to any of his claims, the motion is GRANTED, and this case is DISMISSED.

Factual and Procedural Background

Greenwood Utilities, a municipal utility district, is governed by a three person commission nominated by the mayor and approved by the Greenwood City Council. For over twenty years, Jesse L. Ross was employed by the Greenwood Utilities, first as a systems engineer and finally as senior vice president for electric distribution and engineering. He held that position until his resignation in May of 2012. Ross contends his working conditions, under the newly hired Caucasian CEO, were so intolerable, he was forced to quit.

In 2010, the Greenwood Utilities Commission decided to reorganize the management of the municipal utility entity and thus began a search for a new CEO. Ross was originally on the search committee formed for the purpose of identifying potential candidates for that position. Indeed, while the search for CEO was ongoing, Ross was appointed as part of the three-person management team to be in charge of the day-to-day operations of Greenwood Utilities. Once Ross submitted his application for the CEO position, however, he was removed from the search committee. Ross and two other candidates were interviewed in late summer of 2010. The three-member Greenwood Utilities Commission, however, was unable to unanimously agree to any of the candidates. In his Complaint, Ross contends that the two African Americans on the Commission supported him, while the Caucasian Chairman, James Quinn, supported a Caucasian candidate. The Commission never formally voted on any of the candidates to become the Greenwood Utilities' CEO.

In November of 2011, the Commission make-up changed from a majority African-American Commission, to a majority Caucasian Commission. The new Commission renewed efforts to find a CEO for Greenwood Utilities. The Commission only interviewed one candidate, Brian Finnegan, a Caucasian male. On January 21, 2012, all three Commissioners unanimously agreed on his hire and an employment contract between Finnegan and the Commission was signed. It is undisputed that Chairman Quinn notified the management team on January 24, 2012, of Finnegan's hire. However, the record fails to reflect Greenwood Utilities Commission minutes officially hiring Finnegan.

Finnegan documented complaints about Ross' work performance on May 18, 2012, and placed him on a six months' probation period pending improvement. In particular, Finnegan cited Ross's failure to respond to emails, failure to represent Greenwood Utilities in a positive manner, and failure to attend a scheduled meeting. Finnegan also claimed Ross failed to produce an assigned project and noted that "Mr. Ross does not appear to be a team player." Three days later, Ross submitted his resignation.

Ross filed a Charge with the EEOC on July 26, 2012 on the basis that he was not selected as CEO and was constructively discharged because of his race. Once he received his right to sue letter, he instituted this action in which he alleges Greenwood Utilities discriminated him based on his race under Title VII by failing to promote him and by constructively discharging him, discriminated against him pursuant to Section 1981, and breached his employment contract by constructively discharging him. Defendant has filed a Motion for Summary Judgment. Plaintiff's response was extremely untimely without any explanation; therefore, the Court has struck that Response and will not consider it on summary judgment.

Summary Judgment Standard

Summary judgment is warranted under Rule 56(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure when the evidence reveals no genuine dispute regarding any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. The rule "mandates the entry of summary judgment, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett , 477 U.S. 317, 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986).

The party moving for summary judgment "bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of [the record] which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact." Id. at 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548. The nonmoving party must then "go beyond the pleadings" and "designate specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'" Id. at 324, 106 S.Ct. 2548 (citation omitted). In reviewing the evidence, factual controversies are to be resolved in favor of the nonmovant, "but only when... both parties have submitted evidence of contradictory facts." Little v. Liquid Air Corp. , 37 F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th Cir. 1994) (en banc).

Here, Plaintiff's untimely response has been struck by the Court. Therefore, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(e), the Court considers the facts as represented in the Motion for Summary Judgment to be undisputed for purposes of the motion.

Analysis and Discussion

Failure to Promote under Title VII

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