United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Northern Division
P. JORDAN III, CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
employment dispute is before the Court on three motions: (1)
Plaintiff Bernitha Rice's motion for partial summary
judgment ; (2) a motion for summary judgment  filed
by Defendant Eddie Fair, in his individual capacity; and (3)
a motion for summary judgment  filed by Hinds County on
behalf of Defendant Eddie Fair in his official capacity. For
the following reasons, all motions are denied.
Bernitha Rice worked as a teller in the Hinds County Tax
Collector's Office for roughly three months. She claims
Eddie Fair, the elected Hinds County Tax Collector, sexually
harassed her throughout her brief three months of employment.
says Fair verbally harassed her, making comments “about
how her lips looked and saying he wanted to kiss her
lips.” Compl.  at 2; see also Rice Aff.
[73-1] at 1; Rice Dep. [55-1] at 6. He also allegedly
remarked “how he loved the way [she] walked and how her
rear fit into her pants, ” suggesting she “was
going to find herself in some trouble.” Compl.  at
2; see also Rice Aff. [73-1] at 1; Rice Dep. [55-1]
at 6. Rice says comments like these occurred two to three
times a day during her tenure working for Fair. See
Rice Aff. [73-1] ¶ 3. She also alleges physical
harassment, describing an incident where Fair rubbed his
genitals on her “back right on the rear part of [her]
butt.” Rice Dep. [55-1] at 6.
says the harassment continued outside the office. First, she
asserts that Fair repeatedly called and texted her in the
evenings. Id.; id. at 9. Second, at an
event attended by several office employees, Rice felt
uncomfortable when Fair repeatedly complimented her clothing
and said “he'd really like to get under [her]
skirt.” Id. at 18. Finally, Fair purportedly
invited Rice to his home several times and suggested they
travel to New Orleans, Memphis, Atlanta, and the Mississippi
Delta together. Id. at 6.
part, Fair denies Rice's factual allegations and insists
that her work performance was substandard, citing rude
behavior and an inability to handle transactions properly.
Fair Aff. [55-5] at 2. On July 7, 2016--less than three
months after her arrival--Fair terminated Rice's
employment for alleged insubordination. Fair Letter [55-8].
Aggrieved by her termination, Rice filed a charge of
discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity
Commission. After receiving notice of her right to sue, Rice
filed this action against Fair, in his individual capacity,
and Hinds County. Compl. .
Complaint, Rice advanced claims of sexual harassment and
retaliation, invoking Title VII and the Equal Protection
Clause. She has since conceded her Title VII and retaliation
claims. As mentioned, all parties have filed motions for
summary judgment. Fair and Hinds County both seek dismissal
of all claims; Rice asks for partial summary judgment on
Defendants' affirmative defense of failure to mitigate
damages. Both Defendants declined to file replies in support
of their motions, and the time to do so has
judgment is warranted under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
56(a) when evidence reveals no genuine dispute regarding any
material fact and that 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 (1986).
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.
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 (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). When such contradictory facts exist,
the court may “not make credibility determinations or
weigh the evidence.” Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing
Prods., Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 150 (2000). Conclusory
allegations, speculation, unsubstantiated assertions, and
legalistic arguments have never constituted an adequate
substitute for specific facts showing a genuine issue for
trial. TIG Ins. Co. v. Sedgwick James of Wash., 276
F.3d 754, 759 (5th Cir. 2002); Little, 37 F.3d at
1075; SEC v. Recile, 10 F.3d 1093, 1097 (5th Cir.
alleges that Fair sexually harassed her at work and
ultimately fired her because she resisted his advances, all
in violation of the Equal Protection Clause. See Southard
v. Tex. Bd. of Criminal Justice, 114 F.3d 539, 550 (5th
Cir. 1997) (“Sex discrimination and sexual harassment
in public employment violate the Equal Protection Clause of
the Fourteenth Amendment.”). Sexual-harassment claims
under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 follow the same standards as
claims under Title VII. See Lauderdale v. Tex. Dep't
of Criminal Justice, ...