holding ". . . this Court is not in a position to second guess executive hiring decisions that are based on legitimate, non-discriminatory rationales. . ."Summary of this case from Lafountain v. Nationwide Mutual Insurance
Civ. No. AMD 99-637.
October 19, 1999.
Plaintiff, Willie J. Dudley, filed a single-count complaint against his long-time employer, Bell Atlantic Network Services, Inc., asserting a failure to promote claim of race discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., on the basis of his non-selection for the position of Facilities Management Analysis Manager. Discovery is complete and pending before the Court is defendant's motion for summary judgment. No hearing is necessary. For the reasons discussed below, the motion shall be granted.
Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c), summary judgment is appropriate "if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. 242, 247 (1986). A party moving for summary judgment is entitled to a grant of summary judgment only if no issues of material fact remain for the trier of fact to determine at trial. Matsushita Elec. Indust. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). A fact is material for purposes of summary judgment if, when applied to the substantive law, it affects the outcome of the litigation. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. "Summary judgment is not appropriate when there is an issue of fact for a jury to determine at trial, which is the case when there is sufficient evidence favoring the non-moving party upon which a jury can return a verdict for that party." Shealy v. Winston, 929 F.2d 1009, 1012 (4th Cir. 1991).
A party opposing a properly supported motion for summary judgment bears the burden of establishing the existence of a genuine issue of material fact. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248-49. The nonmovant "cannot create a genuine issue of fact through mere speculation or the building of one inference upon another." Beale v. Hardy, 769 F.2d 213, 214 (4th Cir. 1985). See O'Connor v. Consolidated Coin Caterers Corp., 56 F.3d 542, 545 (4th Cir. 1995), rev'd on other grounds, 116 S.Ct. 1307 (1996). "When a motion for summary judgment is made and supported as provided in [Rule 56], an adverse party may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials of the adverse party's pleading, but the adverse party's response, by affidavits or as otherwise provided in [Rule 56] must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e). See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324 (1986); Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252; Shealy, 929 F.2d at 1012. In deciding whether there is a genuine issue of material fact, the evidence of the non-moving party is to be believed and all justifiable inferences must be drawn in his favor. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255.
The gravamen of Dudley's failure to promote claim is an allegation of disparate treatment on the basis of race. In the absence of any direct evidence of racial discrimination, Dudley has attempted to establish his case under the familiar three-part scheme of proof set forth in McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792 (1973). First, he must present evidence sufficient to establish a prima facie case of discrimination. Id. at 802; see also Texas Dep't. of Community Affairs v. Burdine, 450 U.S. 248, 252-53 (1981). The elements of a discriminatory non-promotion prima facie case require a showing by plaintiff that:
1. he is a member of a protected group;
2. he applied for the position in question;
3. he was qualified for the position; and
4. he was rejected for the position in favor of someone not a member of the protected group, under circumstances giving rise to an inference of unlawful discrimination.Alvarado v. Board of Trustees, 928 F.2d 118, 121 (4th Cir. 1991).
If plaintiff establishes a prima facie case, then at the second step of the McDonnell Douglas proof scheme, defendant must undermine the inference of discrimination arising from the establishment of a prima facie case. Burdine, 450 U.S. at 253; McDonnell Douglas, 411 U.S. at 802. That is, it must produce evidence of its legitimate, nondiscriminatory reasons for the non-promotion. Burdine, 450 U.S. at 253; Alvarado, 928 F.2d at 121-22. While Bell Atlantic "need not persuade the court that it was actually motivated by the proffered reasons," Burdine, 450 U.S. at 254, it must "clearly set forth . . . the reasons for the plaintiff's rejection" and thereby raise a genuine factual dispute whether it discriminated against Dudley. Id. at 255.
Third, should Bell Atlantic successfully carry its burden of production, the presumption of discrimination "drops out of the picture," St. Mary's Honor Ctr. v. Hicks, 509 U.S. 502, 510-11 (1993), and Dudley must project evidence sufficient to prove "pretext." "To meet [his] burden of proving pretext, a plaintiff must prove both that the reason given for the adverse action by the employer was false, and that discrimination was the real reason. . . . Vaughan v. Metrahealth Cos., Inc., 145 F.3d 197, 201-02 (4th Cir. 1998)." Taylor v. Virginia Union Univ., ___ F.3d ___, ___ 1999 WL 765871, *7 (4th Cir. September 27, 1999) (en banc) (affirming grant of judgment as a matter of law on failure to promote claim).
As a matter of law, Dudley has established a prima facie case of race discrimination because Bell Atlantic selected a white male for the position he coveted. See Patterson v. McLean Credit Union, 491 U.S. 164, 186-87 (1989) (holding in § 1981 case that black plaintiff met fourth element by showing position was filled by white applicant) (superseded on other grounds by § 101 of the Civil Rights Act of 1991, 42 U.S.C. § 1981). Nevertheless, what is equally indisputable on the present record is that he has not generated a genuine dispute of material fact on the issue of pretext, relying exclusively, as he does, upon his own uncorroborated attribution of statements by others (or his own subjective opinion) that he was better qualified than the selectee . To the contrary, as a matter of law, the record compels the conclusion that, at best (viewing the facts and drawing the inferences in favor of Dudley), the two were equally well qualified.
None of the evidence relied on by Dudley in respect to his allegations that the selecting official attempted to prevent Dudley from learning of the vacancy is material to the ultimate issue in this case.
Thus, Bell Atlantic's reliance on the selectee's (1) superior final interview and (2) lack of any articulated reluctance to work in Baltimore City (in contrast to Dudley, who, during his final interview, expressed a desire to remain in Northern Virginia where he resided, rather than work in Baltimore, if he were selected for the position) constitutes an articulation of unrebutted nondiscriminatory reasons for Dudley's non-selection. This disposes of the entire case. "A subjective belief of discrimination, however genuine, [cannot] be the basis of judicial relief." Moore v. Reese, 817 F. Supp. 1290, 1295 (D. Md. 1993) (quoting Elliott v. Group Med. Surg. Serv., 714 F.2d 556, 557 (5th Cir. 1983), cert. denied sub nom. Elliott v. Group Hosp. Serv. Inc., 467 U.S. 1215 (1984)). See also Evans v. Technologies Applications Servs. Co., 875 F. Supp. 1115, 1120 (D. Md. 1995) ("[A]n employee's perceptions of her qualifications are irrelevant."), aff'd, 80 F.3d 954, 959 (4th Cir. 1996). "While [Dudley] may have been qualified to fill the [Facilities Management Analysis Manager] position, this Court is not in a position to second guess executive hiring decisions that are based on legitimate, non-discriminatory rationales. . . . See Holmes v. Bevilacqua, 794 F.2d 142, 146-47 (4th Cir. 1986) (en banc)." Causey v. Balog, 162 F.3d 795, 801 (4th Cir. 1998). Accordingly, defendant's motion for summary judgment shall be granted. A separate order is entered herewith.
Evans is controlling here:
Job performance and relative employee qualifications are widely recognized as valid, non-discriminatory bases for any adverse employment decision. See Burdine, 450 U.S. at 258-59, 101 S.Ct. at 1096-97; Young, 748 F.2d at 198. Because "the employer has discretion to choose among equally qualified candidates provided the decision is not based upon unlawful criteria," Wileman v. Frank, 979 F.2d 30, 38 (4th Cir. 1992) (citing Burdine, 450 U.S. at 259, 101 S.Ct. at 1096-97), Evans must present proof that the company's explanation is pretextual and that she was the victim of intentional discrimination. Hughes, 48 F.3d at 1384; Wileman, 979 F.2d at 33. In a failure to promote case, the plaintiff must establish that she was the better qualified candidate for the position sought. Gairola v. Virginia Dep't of Gen. Servs., 753 F.2d 1281, 1287 (4th Cir. 1985); Young, 748 F.2d at 198.80 F.3d at 960.
In accordance with the foregoing Memorandum, it is this 19th day of October, 1999, by the United States District Court for the District of Maryland, ORDERED
(1) That the Motion for Summary Judgment IS GRANTED AND JUDGMENT IS HEREBY ENTERED IN FAVOR OF DEFENDANT; and it is further ORDERED
(2) That the Clerk shall CLOSE THIS CASE and TRANSMIT copies of this Order and the foregoing Memorandum to counsel.