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Calvin v. Mississippi Department of Rehabilitation Services

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

May 3, 2017




         Before this court is defendant Mississippi Department of Rehabilitation Services' summary judgment motion filed pursuant to Rule 56[1] of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure [doc. no. 23]. Plaintiff John Calvin opposes the motion. On April 18, 2017, this court heard oral arguments from each side and, thereafter, ruled from the bench. This court denied defendant's motion. Set out below is the rationale for the court's ruling.


         The plaintiff herein, John Calvin (“Calvin”), instituted on November 17, 2015, this lawsuit against the defendant Mississippi Department of Rehabilitation Services (“MDRS”). Calvin, a former employee of MDRS, claims that the defendant has discriminated against him on account of his race, African American. He contends that the defendant unlawfully denied him a promotion to Bureau Director Deputy. MDRS' conduct in this matter, he says, violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964[2] and 42 U.S.C. § 1981.[3]

         As earlier stated, on April 18, 2017, this court heard oral arguments on the outstanding claims. During that hearing, plaintiff abandoned his §1981 claim, confessing that it was not appropriate in that the defendant is a public entity. Oden v. Oktibbeha County, 246 F.3d 458 (5thCir. 2001) (Section 1981 implies a cause of action against private actors). Where the defendant is a state actor, plaintiffs have no cause of action under §1981; rather violations of § 1981 must be brought under § 1983. Shedrick v. District Bd. of Trustees of Miami-Dade College, 941 F.Supp.2d 1348 (S.D. Fla. 2013; Bryant v. Jones, 575 F.3d 1281 (11th Cir. 2009); See Jett v. Dallas Independent School Dist., 491 U.S. 701 (1989), Calvin was employed with the defendant from 1975 until April, 18, 2013. Three times the defendant promoted him during this time period.

         In May of 2012, Calvin applied for the Bureau Director Deputy position. The defendant appointed an interview panel consisting of Tarea Stout, Shirley Brown, Ryan Beard, and Lee Alderman to interview the applicants. Four persons applied. These four applicants included plaintiff and a Mike Byrd (“Byrd”), a Caucasian. Byrd was the successful applicant; supposedly, the interview panel scored Byrd the highest, based upon the panel's interview of all four applicants.

         At the time of the interview, Calvin had thirty-seven years of experience with MDRS. Byrd had thirty-two years with the organization. Both Calvin and Byrd have master's degrees. At the time of the interviews, Calvin served as a district manager. Byrd was a facility manager. Their positions are at equal levels in the MDRS organizational structure.

         Calvin contends that the questions by the interview panel intentionally were developed in Byrd's favor, in that they focused on facility management experience, despite the fact that facility management was not an important function of the position being filled. According to Calvin, the duties he was performing as a district manager at the time of the interview were more in line with the duties of the position for which he was applying, than were the duties of a facility manager. Calvin also contends that Tarea Stout, a member of the interview panel, and supposedly, the person who had created the interview questions, asked one of the other interviewers on the panel, an African American, to lower the score she had given to Calvin. That other interviewer refused to do so.

         On February 7, 2013, aggrieved over the selection process, Calvin filed his charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”). After investigation, the EEOC found reasonable cause to believe defendant had not selected Calvin because of his race. The EEOC, thereafter, on October 29, 2015, issued Calvin a right to sue letter.[4]


         Summary judgment is appropriate if “the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a); Copeland v. Nunan, 250 F.3d 743 (5th Cir. 2001); see also Wyatt v. Hunt Plywood Company, Inc., 297 F.3d 405, 408-09 (2002). When assessing whether a dispute to any material fact exists, all of the evidence in the record is considered, but the court refrains from making credibility determinations or weighing the evidence. Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 150, 120 S.Ct. 2097, 147 L.Ed.2d 105 (2000); instead, we “draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party.” Id.; Wyatt, 297 F.3d at 409. All evidence and the reasonable inferences to be drawn therefrom must be viewed in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion. United States v. Diebold, Inc. 369 U.S. 654, 655 (1962).

         A party, however, cannot defeat summary judgment with conclusory allegations, unsubstantiated assertions, or “only a scintilla of evidence.” TIG Ins. Co. v. Sedgwick James of Wash. 276 F.3d 754, 759 (5th Cir. 2002); S.E.C. v. Recile, 10 F.3d 1093, 1097 (5th Cir. 1997); Little v. Liquid Air Corp., 37 F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th Cir.1994). Summary judgment is appropriate if a reasonable jury could not return a verdict for the nonmoving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986).


         The case of McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 802-05 (1973), establishes a three-step, circumstantial ...

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