United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Northern Division
MARY L. M. BOLAND PLAINTIFF
MISSISSIPPI DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY DEFENDANT
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER DENYING MOTION FOR
GUIROLA, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
THE COURT is the  Motion for Summary Judgment filed by
Defendant Mississippi Department of Public Safety
(“DPS”). Plaintiff Mary L. M. Boland, who goes by
“Nicki, ” claims she suffered discrimination
based on her race and sex, in violation of Title VII, and she
suffered pay discrimination, in violation of the Equal Pay
Act. The present Motion argues that Plaintiff has failed to
establish a prima facie claim of race discrimination or pay
discrimination, and that Plaintiff has otherwise failed to
meet her burden of production so as to avoid summary judgment
on any of her claims. The parties have fully briefed the
Motion. Having considered the submissions of the parties, the
record, and relevant law, the Court finds that material
questions of fact remain as to all of Plaintiff's claims.
Summary judgment is thus inappropriate, and Defendant's
 Motion for Summary Judgment will be denied.
Nicki Boland filed her Complaint on October 6, 2017, naming
DPS the sole defendant. She subsequently amended her
allegations through a First Amended Complaint. Boland, who is
Caucasian and female, was hired by DPS as an attorney in
DPS's general counsel office in October of 2015. Her
title was “Attorney, Senior” and she began with a
salary of $75, 000. In this role, Boland worked three days
per week at Public Service Planning (“PSP”) and
two days per week at the Criminal Information Center
(“CIC”). She reported to Captain Donald McCain,
the director of PSP, and Captain Lamond Wilson, the director
of CIC. After Captain McCain retired in April or May of 2016,
Boland reported directly to DPS Commissioner Albert Santa
Cruz until Ray Sims became director of PSP - and therefore
Boland's direct supervisor - around August 2016.
says that Sims demonstrated that he wanted only black persons
working at PSP. Boland testified that Sims talked abusively
to the white women working under him and, within months of
becoming the interim director of PSP, the top two persons in
the department - both of whom were white females - were
terminated. Five white females working under Sims were
terminated in the first seven months of Sims's tenure as
PSP director. Additionally, Boland says she was paid
considerably less than male attorneys working in the same
capacity at DPS. Boland was terminated on April 21, 2017 and,
she says, replaced by a white male, Jay Eads. Marshall Fisher -
who had replaced Santa Cruz as commissioner of DPS on
February 1, 2017 following Santa Cruz's retirement - was
the final decisionmaker and made the decision to fire Boland.
However, Boland asserts that Sims's animus towards white
women is attributable to the termination decision because
Fisher relied on Sims's recommendation and conducted no
independent review of his own.
November 15, 2018, DPS filed the instant Motion for Summary
Judgment. DPS argues that it is entitled to summary judgment
on all of Boland's claims because (1) she cannot
establish a prima facie claim of race discrimination; (2) she
cannot overcome the numerous legitimate, nondiscriminatory
reasons proffered for her termination to create a fact issue
as to her claim of sex discrimination; and (3) she cannot
establish a prima facie disparate pay claim because she has
not identified nearly identical male comparators. Boland
challenges the manner in which DPS has framed the issues and
contends that summary judgment is inappropriate because
material issues of fact remain as to all claims.
Summary Judgment Standard
Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) provides that summary judgment
is appropriate “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). “When the moving party has carried its burden
under Rule 56(c), its opponent must do more than simply show
that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material
facts.” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio
Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). “[T]he nonmovant
must go beyond the pleadings and designate specific facts
showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.”
Little v. Liquid Air Corp., 37 F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th
Cir. 1994) (en banc).
genuine dispute of material fact means that ‘evidence
is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the
nonmoving party.'” Royal v. CCC & R Tres
Arboles, L.L.C., 736 F.3d 396, 400 (5th Cir. 2013)
(quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S.
242, 248 (1986)). If the evidence presented by the nonmovant
“‘is merely colorable, or is not significantly
probative,' summary judgment is appropriate.”
Cutting Underwater Techs. USA, Inc. v. ENI U.S. Operating
Co., 671 F.3d 512, 516 (5th Cir. 2012) (quoting
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249). In deciding whether
summary judgment is appropriate, the Court views the evidence
and inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving
party. RSR Corp. v. Int'l Ins. Co., 612 F.3d
851, 857 (5th Cir. 2010).
Discrimination Under Title VII
VII provides that it is “an unlawful employment
practice for an employer . . . to discriminate against any
individual with respect to his compensation, terms,
conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such
individual's race [or] sex . . . .” 42 U.S.C.
§ 2000e-2(a)(1). Plaintiff does not purport to have
direct evidence of discrimination, thus the framework of
McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792,
802-05 (1973), and its progeny applies, “and the
plaintiff must prove discrimination by circumstantial
evidence.” Herster v. Bd. Of Supervisors of La.
State Univ., 887 F.3d 177, 184 (5th Cir. 2018). To make
out a prima facie case of discrimination under this
framework, Boland must demonstrate that (1) she is a member
of a protected group, (2) she was qualified for the position
at issue, (3) she was subject to an adverse employment
action, and (4) she was replaced by someone outside her
protected group or was treated less favorably than similarly
situated employees outside of her protected group under
nearly identical circumstances. Lee v. Kansas City S. Ry.
Co., 574 F.3d 253, 259 (5th Cir. 2009); McCoy v.
City of Shreveport, 492 F.3d 551, 556 (5th Cir.
plaintiff meets her burden of making a prima facie case, the
defendant must then rebut this showing by producing a
legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for its actions. If the
defendant meets its burden, the presumption of discrimination
disappears, and the issue becomes discrimination vel non.
See Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., Inc., 530 U.S.
133, 142 (2000). The plaintiff can still establish disparate
treatment by showing that the defendant's explanation for
the employment action is a pretext for discrimination.
Id. at 143. In other words, the plaintiff can meet
her burden by showing that “the employer's
proffered explanation is unworthy of credence.”
Tex. Dep't of Cmty. Affairs v. Burdine, 450 U.S.
248, 256 (1981). Still, the “ultimate burden of
persuading the trier of fact that the defendant intentionally
discriminated against the plaintiff remains at all times with
the plaintiff.” Id. at 253.
employment discrimination claims “involve nebulous
questions of motivation and intent, ” summary judgment
is generally an inappropriate tool for resolving these cases.
Thornbrough v. Columbus & Greenville R.R. Co.,
760 F.2d 633, 640-41 (5th Cir. 1985) (citations omitted).
However, if the plaintiff fails to establish a prima facie
case, or if defendant presents strong evidence of a
legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for its actions, and the
plaintiff is unable to counter with additional evidence of
pretext, summary judgment may ...