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Smith v. Mississippi Department of Child Protective Services

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

September 16, 2019



         The defendants in this case, the Mississippi Department of Child Protective Services, Jess H. Dickinson, and Misty McCammon, have filed a motion for summary judgment [33]. For the reasons set forth below, the motion is granted.

         I. Background

         Mattie Smith is a social worker with the Mississippi Department of Child Protective Services ("CPS") in its Grenada office. Mattie Smith Depo. at 5 [33-1]. On March 17, 2017, Smith and her supervisor, Misty McCammon, went for an after-work dinner. Id. at 15. During their car ride to dinner together, McCammon called her boyfriend on speaker-phone. Id. at 17. During their conversation, McCammon and her boyfriend began discussing group sexual activities. Id. at 18-19. Smith did not participate in the conversation but did hear it. Id.

         A few days later (the exact date is unknown) Smith and McCammon were having a phone conversation after work. Id. at 20. During this phone call, McCammon's boyfriend, speaking from the background, invited Smith to join in group sex with the couple. Id. Smith refused the invitation. During the call, however, Smith did ask McCammon whether she really participated in group sex. Id. McCammon replied, "I can do a person and see them the next day and act like nothing never [sic] happened." Id. at 20. Smith did not allege any other instances of conversation involving sexual topics. Id. at 21.

         Smith, who is black, alleges that after she refused the sexual offer, McCammon, a white female, began retaliating against her. In 2017, Smith received two grievances filed against her by Carnell Farmer and Antonio Bledsoe, two police officers with the Grenada Police Department, who claimed that Smith refused to work a case and was rude to them on a call. Id. at 34-35. These grievances were placed in Smith's personnel file. Id. at 35. Smith alleges that Farmer and McCammon had a private relationship. Id. at 37-39. She further alleged that she believed Grenada police officers followed her at McCammon's direction, although she admitted she had no proof beyond her speculation. Id. at 55. In late April, Smith filed a sexual harassment complaint against McCammon. Smith also alleges that McCammon began transferring "ill-prepared" and unwanted cases from white employees to Smith and other black employees. Id. at 57.

         On February 6, 2018, filed a charge of discrimination with the EEOC. The EEOC issued a Right to Sue letter, and Smith filed her complaint within 180 days of her receipt of that letter.

         Smith brought this action against the CPS, Commissioner Jess Dickinson in his official capacity, and McCammon in her official and individual capacity, for race discrimination, sex discrimination, and retaliatory discharge. Defendants now move for summary judgment.

         II. Standard of Review

         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.); Littlefleld 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)).

         III. Analysis

         Smith brings claims for 1) race discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964; 2) sex discrimination under Title VII; 3) retaliatory discharge in violation of Title VII; 4) race discrimination in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981; and 5) retaliatory discharge in violation of § 1981.

         At the outset, the Court finds Smith's retaliatory discharge claims under Title VII and § 1981 are entirely without merit. Smith has never been terminated from CPS and still works there to this day. Therefore, the Court grants summary judgment in favor of defendants on those claims.

         A. Title VII Claims

         Smith asserts that Defendants violated Title VII by discriminating against her because of her race and sex. Under Title VII, it is "an unlawful employment practice for an employer ... to discharge any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual's race, color, religion, sex, or national origin." 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(1).

         Smith seeks to impose liability on McCammon in her individual capacity. Individual employees are not liable under Title VII. Foley v. Univ. of Houston Sys., 355 F.3d 333, 340 (5th Cir. 2003). Therefore, summary judgment on Smith's Title VII claims is granted in favor of McCammon.

         Smith also brings her Title VII claims against Dickinson and McCammon in their official capacities. A plaintiff cannot maintain a Title VII action against both her employer and one its agents in his or her official capacity. Indest v. Freeman Decorating, Inc.,164 F.3d 258, 262 (5th Cir. 1999). On Smith's Title VII claims, therefore, the ...

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