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Coleman v. City of Hattiesburg

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

January 24, 2018




         This matter is before the Court on the Motion for Summary Judgment [47] filed by Defendants City of Hattiesburg and Johnny Dupree. After considering the submissions of the parties, the record, and the applicable law, the Court finds that this motion should be granted in part and denied in part.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Dana Coleman (“Plaintiff”) was employed by Defendant City of Hattiesburg (the “City”) from 2012 until 2016, as the office manager for Municipal Court Judge Jerry Evans (“Judge Evans”). Her position required her to work directly with Faye Hicks (“Hicks”), the municipal clerk. The deputy clerks of the municipal court answered to both Hicks and Plaintiff. Plaintiff and Judge Evans are white. Hicks and most[1] of the deputy clerks are African American.

         On September 9, 2016, Plaintiff filed suit in this Court against Defendants the City and former Mayor Johnny Dupree (“Dupree”) (collectively “Defendants”), alleging that she had been the victim of racial harassment and bringing claims under Title VII, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981 and 1983, and state law claims of intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress. She later filed an Amended Complaint [28], alleging that, because of this ongoing harassment, she was forced to quit her job, and adding a claim of constructive discharge.


         A. Standard of Review

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 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). “Where the burden of production at trial ultimately rests on the nonmovant, the movant must merely demonstrate an absence of evidentiary support in the record for the nonmovant's case.” Cuadra v. Houston Indep. Sch. Dist., 626 F.3d 808, 812 (5th Cir. 2010) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). The nonmovant must then “come forward with specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Id. “An issue is material if its resolution could affect the outcome of the action.” Sierra Club, Inc. v. Sandy Creek Energy Assocs., L.P., 627 F.3d 134, 138 (5th Cir. 2010) (quoting Daniels v. City of Arlington, Tex., 246 F.3d 500, 502 (5th Cir. 2001)). “An issue is ‘genuine' if the evidence is sufficient for a reasonable [fact-finder] to return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Cuadra, 626 F.3d at 812 (citation omitted).

         The Court is not permitted to make credibility determinations or weigh the evidence. Deville v. Marcantel, 567 F.3d 156, 164 (5th Cir. 2009) (citing Turner v. Baylor Richardson Med. Ctr., 476 F.3d 337, 343 (5th Cir. 2007)). When deciding whether a genuine fact issue exists, “the court must view the facts and the inferences to be drawn therefrom in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party.” Sierra Club, 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) (citation omitted). Summary judgment is mandatory “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.” Brown v. Offshore Specialty Fabricators, Inc., 663 F.3d 759, 766 (5th Cir. 2011) (quoting Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986)).

         B. Conceded Claims

         Plaintiff has explicitly conceded all claims against Johnny Dupree, in both his official and individual capacity. All claims against Dupree will therefore be dismissed with prejudice. Plaintiff has also stated that she will not be pursuing any claims under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981 and 1983. These claims will also be dismissed with prejudice. Finally, because Plaintiff makes no argument as to her wage discrimination claim under Title VII, [2] this claim will be dismissed with prejudice as well.

         C. Hostile Work Environment under Title VII

         To establish a hostile work environment claim under Title VII, Plaintiff must establish:

(1) she belongs to a protected group; (2) she was subjected to unwelcome harassment; (3) the harassment complained of was based on race: (4) the harassment complained of affected a term, condition, or privilege of employment; (5) the employer knew or should have known of the ...

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