Cause No. IP 99-0557 C-M/S
June 30, 2000
ORDER ON MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
This matter comes before the Court on the motion of defendants, State of Indiana and Indiana State Police (collectively hereinafter "State Police"), seeking judgment in their favor as a matter of law on all of the claims presented in the complaint filed by Karol Ruby ("Ruby") on April 22, 1999. Ruby brought this action under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. Ruby alleges that she suffered discrimination when the State Police denied her permission to retake a promotional examination because of her race and gender. Compl. ¶¶ 9, 14. The Court has fully considered the parties' arguments and, for the reasons discussed below, GRANTS the defendants' motion for summary judgment.
I. FACTUAL PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
Ruby is a fifty-five year old caucasian female who began her employment with the State Police in July of 1976 as a police trainee. Meek Decl. ¶ 3. Over the course of her career, Ruby has been promoted four times: (1) Sergeant for the Indianapolis District in May of 1981, (2) First Sergeant for Field Operations in March of 1990, (3) Captain of Research, Development and Planning in January of 1993, and (4) Major in Research, Development and Planning in June of 1994. Id. ¶ 6. Ruby is presently assigned to the Field Operations Division as a First Sergeant. Id. ¶ 7.
In March of 1997, Ruby was demoted from Major to First Sergeant as a result of disciplinary action for improper dissemination of confidential information from the State Police's promotional system. Id. ¶ 8. Since her demotion, Ruby has participated in the State Police's promotional system. Id. ¶ 9. The promotional system incorporates written tests in four different job tracks: administration, supervision, investigations and enforcement. Id. ¶ 13.
Ruby took the administration exam in 1998. Id. ¶ 10. The scores were released in March and Ruby received a 69.6% which was just below the passing rate. Id. ¶¶ 10, 11. Ruby requested to retake the exam on April 23, 1998. Id. ¶ 18. Her stated reason for wanting to retake the test was that she was suffering from a headache and allergies at the time she took the test. Id. ¶ 19; Carraway Decl. Ex. A.
Under the State Police's promotion system, the Superintendent or Deputy Superintendent of the Bureau of Human Resources and Financial Management may authorize an employee to retake an exam in exceptional circumstances which are evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Meek Decl. ¶ 26; Carraway Decl. ¶ 6. In this case, Ruby's request was denied by Superintendent Melvin Carraway ("Carraway") on June 16, 1998. Carraway Decl. ¶ 4. In a letter notifying Ruby of his decision, Carraway explained:
I have considered your request to retake the Administrative Promotion Exam thoroughly. Significant in our promotion process is the notion that everyone has equal status, meaning that regardless of rank, personal issues or any other factors, each employee competes and takes the test once and only once. I understand that there may be circumstances that require a person to reschedule; we frequently have those types of occurrences. We have also had instances where the testing environment was not appropriate and we had to make significant changes in the arrangements. However, these are instances few and outside the control of the individuals concerned. That individual control and choice is also an important factor.
The integrity of equal status is eroded if individuals are allowed to take the test a second time, and is further disintegrated if based on issues in their control. Therefore, your request to take the test is denied.
I would urge you to consider preparation for the next testing period, and should there be a medical condition that prevents your participation at that time, contact the Human Resources Division to reschedule.
Carraway Decl. Ex. B.
On December 8, 1998, Ruby filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") against the State Police concerning Carraway's denial of her request to retake the promotional exam. Ruby believes that she was discriminated against based on her race and gender because of an incident involving David Smith ("Smith"), an African-American male who was allowed to retake the promotional exam around the same time that Ruby's request was denied. Smith is a Sergeant in the Training Division. Johnson Decl. ¶ 2. In 1998, Smith requested to retake a promotional exam on the basis that he had experienced an inappropriate amount of noise and distractions at an alternative test site to which he had been assigned. Id. ¶ 3. Smith's request was filed before he received the results of his exam. Id. ¶ 5. After discussing Smith's request with an attorney for the State Police, Deputy Superintendent Cody Johnson ("Johnson") granted permission for Smith to retake the exam. Id. ¶ 4.
After receiving a right to sue letter from the EEOC, Ruby filed this action on April 22, 1999. At present, this case is before the Court on the motion for summary judgment filed by the State Police on January 28, 2000. The State Police assert that there are no genuine issues of material fact and that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. The Court has jurisdiction over this matter pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(g) and 28 U.S.C. § 1331. Having reviewed the factual background, the Court now turns to a brief overview of the standards governing its decision.
II. SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD
As stated by the Supreme Court, summary judgment is not a disfavored procedural shortcut, but rather is an integral part of the federal rules as a whole, which are designed to secure the just, speedy, and inexpensive determination of every action. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 327 (1986); see United Ass'n of Black Landscapers v. City of Milwaukee, 916 F.2d 1261, 1267-68 (7th Cir. 1990), cert. denied, 111 S. Ct. 1317 (1991). Motions for summary judgment are governed by Rule 56(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which provides in relevant part:
The judgment sought shall be rendered forthwith 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 a judgment as a matter of law.
Once a party has made a properly-supported motion for summary judgment, the opposing party may not simply rest upon the pleadings but must instead submit evidentiary materials which "set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e). A genuine issue of material fact exists whenever "there is sufficient evidence favoring the nonmoving party for a jury to return a verdict for that party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986). The nonmoving party bears the burden of demonstrating that such a genuine issue of material fact exists. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-87 (1986); Oliver v. Oshkosh Truck Corp., 96 F.3d 992, 997 (7th Cir. 1996), cert. denied, 520 U.S. 1116 (1997). It is not the duty of the court to scour the record in search of evidence to defeat a motion for summary judgment; rather, the nonmoving party bears the responsibility of identifying the evidence upon which he relies. Bombard v. Fort Wayne Newspapers, Inc., 92 F.3d 560, 562 (7th Cir. 1996). When the moving party has met the standard of Rule 56, summary judgment is mandatory. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322-23; Shields Enters., Inc. v. First Chicago Corp., 975 F.2d 1290, 1294 (7th Cir. 1992).
In evaluating a motion for summary judgment, a court should draw all reasonable inferences from undisputed facts in favor of the nonmoving party and should view the disputed evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Estate of Cole v. Fromm, 94 F.3d 254, 257 (7th Cir. 1996), cert. denied, 519 U.S. 1109 (1997). The mere existence of a factual dispute, by itself, is not sufficient to bar summary judgment. Only factual disputes that might affect the outcome of the suit in light of the substantive law will preclude summary judgment. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248; JPM Inc. v. John Deere Indus. Equip. Co., 94 F.3d 270, 273 (7th Cir. 1996). Irrelevant or unnecessary facts do not deter summary judgment — even when in dispute. Clifton v. Schaefer, 969 F.2d 278, 281 (7th Cir. 1992). "If the nonmoving party fails to establish the existence of an element essential to his case, one on which he would bear the burden of proof at trial, summary judgment must be granted to the moving party." Ortiz v. John O. Butler Co., 94 F.3d 1121, 1124 (7th Cir. 1996), cert. denied, 519 U.S. 1115 (1997). Cases in which the parties agree that no genuine issues of material facts are in dispute and that the contested issues are purely legal ones are especially appropriate for summary judgment. Amax Coal Co. v. United Mine Workers of America, 92 F.3d 571, 574 (7th Cir. 1996).
On certain occasions, the Seventh Circuit had suggested that a court approach a motion for summary judgment in an employment discrimination case with a particular degree of caution. See, e.g., Sarsha v. Sears, Roebuck Co., 3 F.3d 1035, 1038 (7th Cir. 1993); Holland v. Jefferson Nat'l Life Ins. Co., 883 F.2d 1307, 1312 (7th Cir. 1989). The language implied that summary judgment might be less appropriate in this context based upon the presence of issues of motive and intent. Holland, 883 F.2d at 1312. However, as the Seventh Circuit has recently emphasized, these cases do not establish a heightened summary judgment standard for employment-related cases. Instead, the language from the prior cases simply means "that courts should be careful in a discrimination case as in any case not to grant summary judgment if there is an issue of material fact that is genuinely contestable, which an issue of intent often though not always will be." Wallace v. SMC Pneumatics, Inc., 103 F.3d 1394, 1396 (7th Cir. 1997). Even when discriminatory intent is at issue, summary judgment is appropriate when the nonmovant presents no evidence to indicate motive or intent in support of her position. See Holland, 883 F.2d at 1312. Further, the nonmovant will not defeat summary judgment merely by pointing to self-serving allegations without evidentiary support. Cliff v. Board of School Comm'rs, 42 F.3d 403, 408 (7th Cir. 1994).
Ruby contends that the State Police denied her permission to retake the promotional exam because of her race and gender in violation of Title VII. In the traditional Title VII action, a plaintiff can prove discrimination in one of two ways. She can meet her burden of proof by offering direct proof of discriminatory intent or she can rely on the indirect burden-shifting method first articulated in McDonnell Douglas v. Green, 411 U.S. 792 (1973). Vanasco v. National-Louis Univ., 137 F.3d 962, 965 (7th Cir. 1998). Under the McDonnell Douglas framework, the plaintiff initially must introduce sufficient evidence that, if believed or undisputed, would support a prima facie case of discrimination. St. Mary's Honor Center v. Hicks, 113 S.Ct. 2742, 2746-47 (1993). Once the plaintiff makes a showing sufficient to prove a prima facie case she will enjoy a rebuttable presumption of discrimination that shifts the burden of production to the defendant to articulate a "legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason" for the adverse action about which the plaintiff complains. Hughes v. Brown, 20 F.3d 745, 746 (7th Cir. 1994). If the defendant meets this burden, the presumption dissolves and the burden of production shifts back to the plaintiff to demonstrate that the proffered reason for the adverse action is a pretext for discrimination. Essex v. United Parcel Service, Inc., 111 F.3d 1304, 1309 (7th Cir. 1997).
The McDonnell-Douglas presumption is only a "procedural device" intended to establish an order of proof and production, not a means of deciding the merits. Hicks, 113 S.Ct. at 2755.
Here, Ruby has produced no direct evidence of discrimination on the basis of her race or gender. Thus, the McDonnell Douglas analysis is applicable. To demonstrate a prima facie case of discrimination based on her race or gender, Ruby must show that: (1) she is a member of a protected class, (2) she performed her job satisfactorily, (3) she suffered an adverse employment action, and (4) her employer treated similarly-situated employees outside her classification more favorably. Lenoir v. Roll Coater, Inc., 13 F.3d 1130, 1132 (7th Cir. 1994). For purposes of both claims, it is undisputed that Ruby is a member of a protected class, that she was performing her duties as a First Sergeant satisfactorily and that she suffered an adverse employment action when she was denied permission to retake the promotional exam. To demonstrate that the State Police treated similarly situated employees outside the protected class more favorably, Ruby points to Smith, an African-American male, who she claims was granted permission to retake the promotional exam for a reason similar to that presented in her request.
With regard to race discrimination, Ruby is caucasian and thus her claim is one of reverse discrimination. In reverse discrimination cases, the Seventh Circuit recently modified the McDonnell Douglas framework such that a majority plaintiff must present "background circumstances" that "support an inference that the defendant is one those unusual employers who discriminates against the majority" in order to establish a prima facie case. Mills v. Health Care Serv. Corp., 171 F.3d 450, 455 (7th Cir. 1999). Because the Court concludes that Ruby has failed to prove her prima facie case, however, it need not address whether she has introduced sufficient evidence to meet this burden.
Smith is not similarly situated to Ruby. The circumstances under which Smith filed a request to retake the exam are hardly comparable to that of Ruby for two reasons. First, unlike Ruby who made no mention of her health condition prior to or during the examination and requested a retake only after she received notification of a failing grade, Smith complained to Deputy Superintendent Johnson about the testing conditions shortly after the exam and requested a retake before he received information concerning the results of his exam. Second, in requesting a retake, Ruby complained of conditions which were within her control to the extent that she could have rescheduled her exam at the point that she developed a headache or began to feel ill as a result of her allergies. In contrast, Smith's performance on the exam was jeopardized by a large amount of noise and distractions. Unlike personal issues such as illness, these factors were beyond Smith's control because he was forced to take the exam at this particular site and he was unaware of these conditions until he showed up to take the test. Taken together, these distinctions represent more than a slight difference in timing or variation in justifications for retaking the exam. Indeed, the differences in these two factors were the foundation for Superintendent Carraway's decision to deny her request. In notifying Ruby of his decision, Carraway explained: "The integrity of equal status is eroded if the individuals are allowed to take the test a second time and is further disintegrated if based on issues in their control." Def.'s Ex. B. Because Ruby has not shown that Smith was a similarly situated employee, she has failed to establish a prima facie case of discrimination and summary judgment is proper.
Even if Ruby had met her burden, however, the State Police would still be entitled to judgment as a matter of law because Ruby has not demonstrated that the proffered reason for denying her permission to retake the exam was pretextual. To show pretext at the summary judgment stage, Ruby must produce sufficient evidence from which a rationale fact-finder could infer that the State Police lied about its proffered reasons for denying her permission to retake the promotion exam. Russell v. Acme-Evans Co., 51 F.3d 64, 68 (7th Cir. 1995) (pretext does not mean mistake, "[i]t means a lie, specifically a phony reason for some action."); Schultz v. General Elec. Cap. Corp., 37 F.3d 329, 334 (7th Cir. 1994). Here, in deciding not to permit Ruby to retake the exam, the State Police found that Ruby had presented no evidence that the testing environment for her examination had been improper. Ruby has submitted no facts to negate these findings. Nor has she offered any evidence to suggest that the real reason for denial of her request was in fact the State Police's discriminatory animus towards her race or gender. Although she points to several comments and incidents in the past which she contends are evidence of a pattern and practice of discrimination towards caucasian or female employees, Ruby wholly fails to establish that such discrimination, if it exists, was at work here. Accordingly, summary judgment is warranted.
Ruby has failed to present sufficient evidence from which the Court could find a genuine issue of material fact for trial in this matter. Therefore, the motion for summary judgment filed by the State Police is GRANTED.