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Hamilton v. Boys and Girls Club of Metropolitan Atlanta, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. Georgia, Atlanta Division

July 21, 2014

SUSAN HAMILTON, Plaintiff,
v.
BOYS AND GIRLS CLUB OF METROPOLITAN ATLANTA, INC., Defendant.

MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S FINAL REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

LINDA T. WALKER, Magistrate Judge.

This case is presently before the Court on Defendant Boys and Girls Clubs of Metropolitan Atlanta, Inc.'s Motion for Summary Judgment. (Doc. 26). For the reasons outlined below, Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment should be GRANTED. (Doc. 26).

DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

Plaintiff Susan Hamilton ("Plaintiff'), who is African American and fifty-five years old, filed the instant lawsuit on October 16, 2012. (Doc. 1). In Plaintiffs Complaint, Plaintiff contends Defendant Boys and Girls Clubs of Metropolitan Atlanta, Inc. ("Defendant") discriminated against her on the basis of her race when it moved her to a nonexistent and unfunded position and terminated her as part of a reduction in force 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 ("Section 1981"). (Compl. ¶¶ 31-38). Plaintiff also contends that her termination and placement into the nonexistent and unfunded position constituted discrimination on the basis of her age in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq. ("ADEA"). (Compl. ¶¶ 36-40).

Defendant contends that summary judgment should be granted as to Plaintiff's race and age discrimination claims because (1) Plaintiff cannot show that Defendant's decision to reassign her constituted an adverse employment action; and (2) Defendant had legitimate, nondiscriminatory reasons for the challenged employment actions which Plaintiff cannot show are pretextual. Defendant further contends that Plaintiff cannot show that age was the "but for" reason for her reassignment or her termination.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND[1]

Defendant is a private, nonprofit organization that works with young people from disadvantaged economic, social, and family circumstances and serves 17, 000 youth in 30 clubs in metropolitan Atlanta. (DSMF ¶ 1; Aff. of Melissa Dugan, hereinafter "Dugan Aff., " ¶ 5). Plaintiff, who is African-American, began working for Defendant in 1977, and was promoted to the position of Vice President of Strategic Programming in 2003. (PSMF ¶¶ 1, 2). As Vice President of Strategic Programming, Plaintiff reported directly to Defendant's President. (DSMF ¶ 10). Plaintiff was responsible for planning, coordination, and overseeing implementation of a broad range of programs that support Defendant's strategic plan, program initiatives, and core program areas of health, education, and employability. (Pl.'s Ex. I).

In February 2009, Defendant's board of directors hired William Lampley, a forty-four-year-old African-American, to serve as President of the organization and Lampley began his service that month. (DSMF ¶¶ 12, 13). Lampley testified that at the time of his hire, the board was very clear that it wanted the organization to shift from a charity-centric model to a business model. (Dep. of William Lampley, hereinafter "Lampley Dep." 18-19). Lampley stated that the board wanted him to get the organization "out of the red, into the black without closing clubs impacting kids." (Lampley Dep. 19-20; Aff. of William Lampley, hereinafter "Lampley Aff., " ¶ 8). In March 2009, Lampley placed Missy Dugan in the Chief Operating Officer role to run Defendant's day-to-day operations. (Lampley Dep. 30-31; Lampley Aff. ¶ 10). Plaintiff testified that she has never heard Lampley or any other managers use racially derogatory slurs against her or make any derogatory comments about African-Americans. (Pl.'s Dep. 131-32).

I. Defendant Experiences a Drop in Donations and Shifts Focus to Outcome Measurement

Defendant relies upon private, corporate, individual, and United Way funding to fill the gap between membership dues and operational expenses. (Dugan Aff. ¶¶ 5, 6). For years, Defendant has operated at a budget deficit, and covered fundraising shortfalls by tapping into its investment endowment fund. (Pl.'s Dep. 133; Lampley Aff. ¶ 6). According to William Lampley, when the economy suffered a downturn, the endowment cushion continued to shrink as private, corporate, and individual donations declined. (Lampley Aff. ¶¶ 6, 7). Lampley further explains that during a tough economic climate, donors expected to see more of a return on their investment for donated dollars and became more selective about their charitable giving. (Lampley Aff. ¶ 7). Because Lampley spent a significant amount of time meeting with members of the community and potential donors, Lampley was extremely interested in being able to show the donors the success of the programs Defendant offered. (Lampley Aff. ¶ 11). As a result, Lampley wanted to see more objective measures put into place to evaluate outcome determinations of the programs offered. (Lampley Aff. ¶ 11).

Lampley testified that at some point, he was beginning to have "some doubts as to whether or not [Plaintiff] was really moving the needle from a impacting the kids perspective and then definitely doubts around how we were recapturing any impact that we were having on the young people." (Lampley Dep. 35; Lampley Aff. ¶ 12). Lampley also had doubts as to whether Plaintiff spent sufficient amounts of time in the individual clubs where she was ultimately responsible for the programming.

According to Lampley, it was Plaintiff's responsibility to locate and find curriculum that would get children interested. (Lampley Dep. 45-46). Lampley explains that he had a series of discussions with Plaintiff regarding programming and, in particular, the lack of engaging teen programs. (Lampley Dep. 51). Lampley testified that he discussed with Plaintiff that teen numbers in the program were declining and that teens told him that the programs were the same things they had already done. (Lampley Dep. 48). Lampley testified that when he had a conversation about the "needle not moving, " with respect to teen programs, Plaintiff would simply tell him that the organization was doing what "national" says we should do. (Lampley Dep. 48-50). Lampley states that he told Plaintiff he wanted engaging programs in which the organization could measure the impact that the organization was having on kids. (Lampley Dep. 51). Lampley also states that Plaintiff did not provide an adequate response on how to find engaging programs where the organization would be able to measure the impact on the children served. (Lampley Aff. ¶ 13). Lampley testified that after talking with Plaintiff, Lampley saw no changes in the program. (Lampley Dep. 49). Lampley states that he concluded someone else needed to fill the Plaintiff's role as Vice President of Strategic Programs because of his belief that existing programs in the organization were not having a sufficient impact on the children served, there were no effective teen programs, and there were insufficient qualitative measures in place to evaluate the programs. (Lampley Aff. ¶ 13; Lampley Dep. 45-46).

According to Plaintiff, when Lampley's predecessor hired her for the Vice President of Strategic Programming position in 2003, he told her that he wanted special emphasis to be placed on outcome measurements. (Pl.'s Dep. 39-42). Plaintiff admits that her responsibility included ensuring that the outcome measurements were conducted at the club level annually, coordinating with staff so outcome measurements were performed, reviewing and tabulating the information obtained, sharing the information with staff, the board, and the United Way, and making recommendations as to where the organization needed to strengthen programs based on the results. (Pl.'s Dep. 43-44). To accomplish that, Plaintiff utilized a tool developed by Boys & Girls Club of America and used by clubs across the country, but did not come up with her own tools. (Pl.'s Dep. 45-46). Plaintiff avers that she was not required to develop an outcome measurement tool and was only required to implement the organization's outcome measurement tool. (Pl.'s Aff. ¶ 9). Lampley testified that he did not believe that the tools that they received from the national organization provided a qualitative measure. (Lampley Dep. 43-44).

Plaintiff states that Lampley never shared his views of performance measures with her or his view that the national organization's outcome measurement tool was not adequate. (Pl.'s Aff. ¶ 10). Plaintiff further states that Lampley never shared his concerns about the lack of teen programs with her. (Pl.'s Aff. ¶ 11). Plaintiff testified that neither Lampley nor Dugan ever expressed concerns about her performance and that when she asked Lampley whether he was satisfied with her performance in March or April 2009, Lampley told her that he was satisfied. (Pl.'s Dep. 74-75). Plaintiff admits in her deposition, however, that in April 2009, Lampley met with her and told her that he did not think Plaintiff was a good fit for her Vice President of Strategic Programming position, but did not give her the specific reasons for his conclusion and told her he would talk to her about it later. (Pl.'s Dep. 94-97). Lampley told Plaintiff he did not think that she was happy in the position. (Pl.'s Dep. 95).

II. Lampley Places Plaintiff Into a New Role

Lampley states that because of Plaintiff's tenure and commitment, he believed that Plaintiff was still a good fit for the organization. (DSMF ¶ 47). Thus, Lampley decided to transfer Plaintiff to lead the pilot program for the national organization's participation in the Center for New Generation ("CNG") program. (DSMF ¶ 50; Lampley Aff. ¶¶ 14, 15; Lampley Dep. 67-68, 70, 86). The CNG program was an academic enrichment program created by Condoleezza Rice to help bridge the academic gap in lower income students. (Lampley Aff. ¶¶ 14, 15). According to Lampley, he believed that the CNG program was going to be a flagship example for not only metro Atlanta but for the nation. (Lampley Dep. 73). If the pilot was successful, Defendant's goal was to transition the program to other clubs in the metro Atlanta area. (Pl.'s Dep. 101; DSMF ¶ 51). Lampley states that the CNG program was a more appropriate position for Plaintiff because it was an established, self-driven program model that already had outcome measurements in place. (Lampley Aff. ¶ 15). Lampley formally announced Plaintiff's reassignment on May 26, 2009. (DSMF ¶ 58; Pl.'s Dep. 110, Ex. 29; Lampley Aff. ¶ 15). Lampley testified that he had no intention of terminating Plaintiff at that time. (Lampley Dep. 67-68).

Plaintiff's new title was to be the Vice President of Center for New Generation. (Lampley Dep. 73). Plaintiff's reporting relationship within the organizational chart remained the same. (Lampley Dep. 73). The CNG position from a hierarchy perspective was on the same level, Plaintiff's office location did not change, Plaintiff's pay did not change, and Plaintiff retained her company car and benefits. (Lampley Dep. 73; Pl.'s Dep. 48; Dugan Dep. 43-44, 145-46; DSMF ¶ 62). Plaintiff maintains, however, that she was already providing oversight of the CNG program as part of her former role as Vice President of Strategic Planning. (Pl.'s Dep. 88; Pl.'s Aff. ¶ 12). Plaintiff admits that she presented the new CNG program initiative to the board, that it was a valid initiative of the agency, and that she was not upset when she was moved into the new position. (Pl.'s Dep. 99-103; DSMF ¶ 57).

The national organization promised to provide funding for the pilot program, and at the time of Plaintiff's reassignment, Lampley believed that the national organization would provide the funding as it promised. (Lampley Dep. 65-72; Pl.'s Dep. 87). The national organization, however, did not come through with the funding for the pilot as it had promised. (Lampley Dep. 65-66; Pl.'s Dep. 87).

Plaintiff never was able to get started in the new position because just after her new role was announced, she was out of work for a number of weeks on both medical and personal leave unrelated to the transition. (DSMF ¶ 123). There was no formal Personnel ...


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