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King v. Butts County

United States District Court, M.D. Georgia, Macon Division

March 29, 2013

DERON W. KING, Plaintiff,
v.
BUTTS COUNTY, GEORGIA, and VAN G. WHALER, in his individual capacity, Defendants

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For Deron King, Plaintiff: Regan E Keebaugh, ATLANTA, GA.

For BUTTS COUNTY GEORGIA, Van G. Whaler, in his individual capacity, Defendants: G. Kevin Morris, Buford, GA.

OPINION

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C. ASHLEY ROYAL, CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

ORDER ON DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

Plaintiff Deron W. King, a former employee of Defendant Butts County, Georgia, claims tat his supervisor, Defendant Van G. Whaler, discriminated against him on the basis of his race by (1) failing to promote him; (2) suspending him with pay on November 24, 2008; (3) extending his suspension with pay on December 1, 2008; (4) extending his suspension without pay on January 5, 2009; and, finally, (5) terminating his employment on January 20, 2009. He also claims that Defendants used these suspensions and his ultimate termination as retaliation for submitting a charge of discrimination to the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (" EEOC" ), all in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq. (" Title VII" ), and 42 U.S.C. § 1981. In opposition, Defendants filed the instant Motion for Summary Judgment [Doc. 25]. For the reasons addressed below, Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED.

LEGAL STANDARD

Summary judgment is proper if the movant " shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." [1] The moving party " always bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact" and that entitle it to a judgment as a matter of law.[2] If the moving party discharges this burden, the burden then shifts to the non-moving party to go beyond the pleadings and present specific evidence showing that there is a genuine issue of material fact.[3]

The Court must view the facts, and any reasonable inferences drawn from those facts, in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion.[4] " The inferences, however, must be supported by the record, and a genuine dispute of material fact requires more than 'some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts.'" [5] In cases where opposing parties tell different versions of the same events, and one is " blatantly contradicted by the record, so that no reasonable jury could believe it, a court should not adopt that version of the facts." [6] A disputed fact will preclude

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summary judgment only " if the dispute might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law." [7] " The court many not resolve any material factual dispute, but must deny the motion and proceed to trial if it finds that such an issue exists." [8]

BACKGROUND

For purposes of this Motion, the facts taken in the light most favorable to King, the non-movant, are as follows:

King's Initial Employment with Butts County and First EEOC Charge

As of late 2007, Butts County, Georgia, (" Butts County" or " the County" ) employed a County Administrator and two Deputy County Administrators: Deputy County Administrator for Development and Deputy County Administrator for Operations.[9] One deputy position was held by Michael Brewer (" Brewer" ), a white male; the other position had been vacated by Steven Lease, also a white male.[10] Steven Lease left Butts County and the deputy position after three years of employment and after initially being employed as the Director of Community Development.[11] Accordingly, the County posted a job opening for the vacant deputy position in December 2007.[12]

Deron W. King (" King" ), a black male, first contacted the County in early 2008 to apply for the open deputy position.[13] On March 8, 2008, then-County Administrator Van Whaler (" Whaler" ), a white male, wrote to King and advised him that he was a finalist for the " Deputy Administrator" position.[14] However, between that time and April 16, 2008, the Butts County Board of Commissioners decided that a deputy position would be earned, and any person who was going to be placed into that position would be evaluated " prior to being considered for promotion" --like Steven Lease, King's predecessor, and Brewer, the County's other deputy, had been.[15]

Accordingly, Brewer contacted King by telephone and informed him that the County was offering him the position of Director of Community Development instead of the vacant deputy position. During this call, Brewer told King that he would serve as a director for a short period of time, and that he would be promoted to Deputy County Administrator, with its added compensation and duties, after a short " trial period." [16] King received a written offer to this effect on April 16, 2008, and he began his probationary employment as Director of Community Development on May 12, 2008.[17]

On August 8, 2008, Whaler met with King to discuss a three-month performance

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review.[18] During the meeting, King asked Whaler why the performance evaluation was being done at three months and stated that he was told his first evaluation would occur after six months on the job.[19] In response, Whaler tore up the evaluation and told King the evaluation would be postponed.[20] The same day, Whaler gave King a 5% pay raise, which he indicated was the result of King's completion of a " 3 month working test." [21]

A few weeks later, on August 27, 2008, Whaler announced at a staff meeting that King would be " promoted" and given the " titles and duties" of Deputy County Administrator effective September 2, 2008.[22] However, on September 2nd, Whaler sent King a letter which explained that he would remain a director; King's position would not be reclassified to Deputy County Administrator.[23] Unbeknownst to King, Whaler also advised Brewer, a white male, that his title would be reclassified from deputy to Director of Operations.[24]

Shortly thereafter, King filed his first EEOC Charge of Discrimination on September 19, 2008, in which he alleged that Butts County refused to increase his pay, despite being assigned the duties of a Deputy County Administrator, due to his race. As stated in his EEOC Charge, King believed he was a victim of race discrimination because (1) he applied for a deputy position; (2) he was offered a lesser position " with the stipulation that at some time in the future the Deputy County Administrator duties would be added to this position with a commensurate increase in pay" ; (3) he was assigned the duties of a deputy in September 2008 without an increase in pay; and (4) the previous deputy, a white male, " was placed directly into his position with full salary." [25] Whaler became aware of King's EEOC Charge on September 29, 2008.[26]

Artistica Stodghill's Allegations

On or after November 18, 2008, a receptionist/clerk, Artistica Stodghill (" Stodghill" ), a black female, complained to a coworker, Jessica Reynolds (" Reynolds" ), about certain assignments from King.[27] Reynolds then shared this information with another employee, Christy Lawson (" Lawson" ). Lawson, in turn, told Brewer about Stodghill's conversation with Reynolds. Brewer then asked Lawson to talk to Stodghill about her issues. At Brewer's instruction, Lawson, accompanied by Stodghill's immediate supervisor, Billy Singley (" Singley" ), interviewed Stodghill.[28]

Lawson and Singley generated a written report of the following: (1) on Stodghill's second day with the County, King told her not to trust anyone or converse with any other employees; (2) King claimed everyone in the office was racist; (3) Stodghill

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felt like King was trying to manipulate her because of their shared race and repeatedly told her that they needed to " stick together" ; (4) King consistently reminded her that she was a probationary employee and, as a director, he could hire and fire her; and (5) King had Stodghill " research" at least two grants and, for one, he directed her to write a memorandum for a grant and then altered some of the details " to make it look like he had done all the research." [29]

Most recently, King gave Stodghill an assignment on November 18, 2008, to read information pertaining to the " Fire Fighters Budget/Insurance" and provide " a response and/or suggestions." [30] When Stodghill explained that she " did not fully understand what she was reading," King became " ugly and nasty to her" because he was not going to meet the assignment deadline without her assistance.[31] Stodghill reiterated her confusion, and King asked her if " anyone else sitting in her position [had] been black" before telling her " that no one else wanted her in that position because of that fact." [32] The same day, a customer asked for assistance from Roger Jewell, another County employee, and instead King tried, unsuccessfully, to answer the question. Stodghill then retrieved Roger Jewell to answer the question, and " ...


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