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Spann v. United Parcel Service, Inc.

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

June 29, 2018

LORA SPANN PLAINTIFF
v.
UNITED PARCEL SERVICE, INC. DEFENDANT

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

         Now before this Court is Defendant United Parcel Service, Inc's ("UPS") Motion for Summary Judgment [60]. Having considered the matter, the Court finds the motion should be granted.

         Background

         Since 1991, Plaintiff Lora Spann has been a part time employee of UPS at its Columbus Customer Center. Spann, an African American, claims that over the years, UPS has passed her over for full-time employment and pay raises because of her race. On May 2nd, 2016, Spann filed a charge of discrimination with the EEOC, and on December 20, 2016, she filed her complaint in this cause, alleging that UPS racially discriminated against her in the course of her employment in violation of Title VII and 42 U.S.C. § 1981.[1] She alleges that UPS routinely promoted less qualified white employees to full-time positions for which she was qualified and provided less qualified white employees with pay raises that she did not receive. Compl. [1] at 2. Spann further alleges that UPS retaliated against her for complaining about the discrimination. Id. at 3.

         UPS now moves for summary judgment. Spann has responded, and the matter is now ripe for review.

         Summary Judgment Standard

         Summary judgment "should be rendered if the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a)). The rule "mandates the entry of summary judgment, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party who fails to make a sufficient showing 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." Id. at 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548.

         The party moving for summary judgment bears the initial responsibility of informing the Court of the basis for its motion and identifying those portions of the record it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine dispute of material fact. See Id. "An issue of fact is material only if'its resolution could affect the outcome of the action'." Manning v. Chevron Chem. Co., LLC, 332 F.3d 874, 877 (5th Cir. 2003) (quoting Wyatt v. Hunt Plywood Co., 297 F.3d 405, 408 (5th Cir. 2002)).

         The burden then shifts to the nonmovant to "go beyond the pleadings and by ... affidavits, or by the depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, designate specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324, 106 S.Ct. 2548 (internal quotation marks omitted.); Little field v. Forney Indep. Sch Dist., 268 F.3d 275, 282 (5th Cir. 2001); Willis v. Roche Biomedical Labs., Inc., 61 F.3d 313, 315 (5th Cir. 1995). The Court "resolve[s] factual controversies in favor of the nonmoving party, but only where there is an actual controversy, that is, when both parties have submitted evidence of contradictory facts." Antoine v. First Student, Inc., 713 F.3d 824, 830 (5th Cir. 2013) (quoting Boudreaux v. Swift Transp. Co., Inc., 402 F.3d 536, 540 (5th Cir. 2005)). "[T]he nonmoving party 'cannot defeat summary judgment with conclusory allegations, unsubstantiated assertions, or only a scintilla of evidence."' Hathaway v. Bazany, 507 F.3d 312, 319 (5th Cir. 2007) (quoting Turner v. Baylor Richardson Medical Center, 476 F.3d 337, 343 (5th Cir. 2007)).

         Analysis

         Race discrimination claims brought under Title VII and § 1981 require the same proof to establish liability. See Criner v. Tex.-NM Power Co., 470 F. App'x. 364, 370 n. 3 (5th Cir. 2012) (citing Byers v. Dall Morning News, Inc., 209 F.3d 419, 422 n. 1 (5th Cir. 2000)). Therefore, both Spann's Title VII and § 1981 claims can be analyzed under the Title VII framework. Courts employ the McDonnell Douglas burden-shifting framework where the plaintiffs claims of discrimination are based upon circumstantial evidence, as they are here. See McCoy v. City of Shreveport, La., 492 F.3d 551, 556 (5th Cir. 2007). First, Spann must establish a prima facie case of discrimination. See Septimus v. Univ. of Hous., 399 F.3d 601, 609 (5th Cir. 2005) (citing Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 142, 120 S.Ct. 2097, 147 L.Ed.2d 105 (2000)). If Spann has done so, UPS bears the burden of setting forth a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for its decision. See Id. If UPS does so, the presumption of discrimination or retaliation disappears, and Spann must demonstrate a genuine dispute of material fact as to whether UPS's reasons are actually a pretext for discrimination or retaliation. See Id. (citing Okoye v. Univ. of Tex. Hous. Health Sci. Ctr., 245 F.3d 507, 512 (5th Cir. 2001)).

         UPS argues that Spann cannot establish a prima facie case of race discrimination for any of her claims, and that even if she could, she cannot offer evidence that UPS's legitimate, nondiscriminatory explanations are pretextual.

         Although Spann nominally filed a "response" in opposition to UPS's motion, its substance is woefully lacking. It is only three pages in length, contains no citations to either the law or the factual record, and fails to respond to hardly any of the arguments presented by UPS. Although the response refers to a list of exhibits that Spann contends support her position, the plaintiff apparently could not bother to attach them to her motion so that the Court may consider them.

         "Rule 56 does not impose upon the district court a duty to sift through the record in search of evidence to support a party's opposition to summary judgment.... Rule 56 allocates that duty to the opponent of the motion, who is required to point out the evidence, albeit evidence that is already in the record, that creates an issue of fact." Skotak v. Tenneco Resins, Inc., 953 F.2d 909, 916 n.7 (5th Cir. 1992) (citing Nissho-Iwai American Corp. v. Kline, 845 F.2d 1300, 1307 (5th Cir. 1988)). As the Court will explain, UPS has met its initial burden in showing that Spann cannot establish a prima facie case for any of her discrimination claims.[2] Because Spann did not appropriately respond, she cannot rebut that showing to create issues of fact and defeat summary judgment.

         1. Failure to Promote

         In her deposition, Spann identified four individuals and five promotions upon which she bases her claim: (1) Bryan McLaughlin, a white male who was promoted to a sales position; (2) Andrew Jernigan, a white male who was promoted to an engineering position; (3) David Hubner, a white male who was promoted to a systems specialist position; and (4) Becky Swords, a white female, who was first promoted to Package Dispatch Supervisor, and then received a second promotion to On-Road Supervisor. Spann Dep. at 77, 85-87, 98-99.

         a. Prima Facie Case

         To establish a prima facie case for race discrimination based on a failure to promote, Spann must show that (1) she was not promoted; (2) she was qualified for the position she sought; (3) she fell within a protected class at the time of the failure to promote; and (4) UPS either gave the promotion to someone outside of that protected class or otherwise failed to promote her because of her race. See Autry v. Fort Bend Indep. ...


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