United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Aberdeen Division
NAOMI J. FULTON PLAINTIFF
MISSISSIPPI STATE UNIVERSITY, et. al DEFENDANTS
Naomi Fulton works for Defendant Mississippi State
University's Extension Service. In this case, she sues
Mississippi State, alleging her superiors transferred her to
another office location in retaliation after she and another
employee complained of racial discrimination. Mississippi
State has filed a motion for summary judgment . Because
Fulton does not point to evidence that would show she engaged
in a protected activity or that she suffered an adverse
employment action, that motion is granted.
an African American female, began working in the Monroe
County office of Mississippi State's Extension Service in
October 2008 as an Extension Program Assistant. In that role,
she assisted local schools in providing nutrition education
and programming. Paula Threadgill Affidavit [43-1], ¶ 4.
In 2014, Mississippi State hired Elois Smith, also an African
American female, as an Extension Program Agent. Id.,
¶ 7. Like Fulton, some of Smith's job duties
included nutrition education programming. Id.
fall of 2015, Mississippi State transferred Fulton to the
Extension office in the adjacent Chickasaw County office.
Id., ¶¶ 8-9. According to Mississippi
State, this transfer occurred for three reasons. First, the
Chickasaw County office was without any employee who provided
nutrition programming to schools in that county, while the
Monroe County office had both Fulton and Smith. Second,
because Fulton lived in Chickasaw County, Mississippi State
believed the transfer would be good for Fulton. Third, Fulton
had previously discussed transferring to Chickasaw County
with another employee. Id., ¶ 9
time of Fulton's transfer, Dr. Scott Cagle was the County
Director of the Chickasaw County Extension office. Scott
Cagle Affidavit [43-3], ¶ 2 After learning that Fulton
would be transferring to the office, Cagle set about trying
to lease additional office space from the United States
Department of Agriculture, which owned the building the
office was located in. Id., ¶ 6. Upon
Fulton's arrival, Cagle informed Fulton that while he was
in the process of leasing additional space for Fulton's
office, he had not yet been able to obtain it. Id.,
¶ 8 Therefore, she would temporarily be assigned to a
desk which she shared with a secretary. Id.
Additionally, Cagle provided her with storage space for her
work files. Id., ¶ 9. By March 2016, Cagle was
able to acquire an office for Fulton, which turned out to be
the largest in the Chickasaw County location. Id.,
¶ 7. Cagle ensured that the office was renovated, and
even involved Fulton in selecting some furniture for the
January 1, 2016, after her transfer to Chickasaw County, but
before she received her new office space, Fulton filed a
charge of Discrimination with the EEOC. On February 10, 2017,
the EEOC issued a right to sue notice, and Fulton timely
filed this suit. Fulton alleges in her complaint that
Mississippi State did not transfer her for legitimate,
work-related reasons. Instead, she alleges that she was
transferred as punishment for complaining about racial
harassment occurring at the Monroe County location and for
associating with Smith, who complained about sexual
harassment she was receiving from a supervisor in the Monroe
County office. She further alleges that when she arrived at
the Chickasaw County office, Cagle told her that he was not
expecting any transfer, and that as a result of being forced
to store her materials in storage, she was unable to properly
perform her job.
State has now moved for summary judgment.
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
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
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.); Littlefield 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)).
VII prohibits employers from retaliating against employees
that oppose unlawful discriminatory practices. 42 U.S.C.
§ 2000e-3. "Title VII discrimination can be
established through either direct or circumstantial
evidence." Laxton v. Gap Inc., 333 F.3d 572,
578 (5th Cir.2003) (citing Wallace v. Methodist Hosp.
Sys., 271 F.3d 212, 219 (5th Cir.2001)). If the employee
cannot show direct evidence of discriminatory retaliation,
the McDonell Douglas burden-shifting framework
applies. Septimus v. Univ. of Houston, 399 F.3d 601,
608 (5th Cir. 2005). Under this framework, the employee must
first establish a, prima facie case of retaliation.
Id. at 607. An employee establishes by a prima
facie case of retaliation by providing evidence that
"(1) that she engaged in activity protected by Title
VII, (2) that an adverse employment action occurred, and (3)
that a causal link existed between the protected activity and
the adverse employment action." Evans v. City of
Houston, 246 F.3d 344, 352 (5th Cir. 2001) (quoting
Long v. Eastfield College, 88 F.3d 300, 304 (5th
Cir. 1996) (internal quotation marks omitted)). The burden
then shifts to the employer to articulate a legitimate
non-retaliatory reason for the employment action.
Septimus, 399 F.3d at 607. Finally, the burden
shifts back to the employee to show that the employer's
reason is just a pretext for retaliation by showing that her
protected conduct is the "but-for" cause of the
adverse employment action. Id. at 607-608 (citations
filed her response three weeks after it was due. She did not
ask the Court to grant her additional time to respond or ask
for permission to file her response out of time. Thus, the
Court is under no obligation to consider her response. Even
if the Court were to consider it, the response fails to
challenge Mississippi State's motion. Although this is a
summary judgment motion, Fulton does not point to a single
piece of record evidence to establish a material factual
dispute; she instead contends that her complaint contains an
adequate factual basis to defeat summary judgment. Indeed, a
portion of her ...