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Sidney v. Flash Foods Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Mapecross Division

September 10, 2014

EDDY SIDNEY, Plaintiff,
FLASH FOODS INC., Defendant.


LISA GODBEY WOOD, District Judge.

Plaintiff Eddy Sidney commenced this employment discrimination action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5, alleging that Defendant Flash Foods Inc. discriminated against Sidney based on his race and national origin when the convenience store chain fired him. Since initiating this claim, Plaintiff, who is proceeding pro se, has done little else to make his case. He has not provided any evidence of discrimination beyond his own allegations. Furthermore, he failed to respond to Defendant's interrogatories and requests for admissions. While he did subject himself to Defendant's deposition, his testimony at that deposition strengthened Defendant's case for summary judgment. The Defendant's motion for summary judgment (Dkt. no. 22) is presently before the Court, along with its motion for dismissal based on Plaintiff's failure to participate in discovery (Dkt. no. 16). In light of the evidence presented by Plaintiff and admitted in his deposition, Defendant's motion for summary judgment (Dkt. no. 22) is GRANTED. As such, its motion for dismissal (Dkt. no. 21) is DENIED as moot, and its request for attorney's fees is DENIED for reasons stated herein.

I. Background[1]

This case arises from Defendant's alleged discriminatory termination of Plaintiff from his employment as a cashier at one of Defendant's convenience stores in Ocilla, Georgia. Dkt. no. 1, ¶¶ 10-11.

Plaintiff alleges in his complaint that his store manager, Torris Jordan, removed Plaintiff from the work schedule on May 10, 2013, because money was missing from Plaintiff's cash register. Id. at ¶ 10. Plaintiff also claims that two other employees, both of them white women, also had money missing from their cash registers, but that they were not terminated from employment. Id . Instead, Plaintiff says these women were given the opportunity to repay the missing funds from their paychecks. Id . Plaintiff, who is black and originally from Haiti, claims he was treated differently than these women because of his race and national origin. Dkt. no. 1, p. 11.

After being removed from the schedule, Plaintiff was told he would have to meet with Area Manager Dianne LaSalle to discuss his shortcomings in keeping his register before he would be placed back on the schedule. Dkt. no. 22-4, 57:5-24; Dkt. no. 1, ¶ 4. Plaintiff claims he tried to speak with LaSalle on two occasions. Dkt. no. 1, ¶ 4. The first scheduled meeting was canceled due to a complication in Ms. LaSalle's schedule. Dkt. no. 22-4, p. 61:18-24. When Plaintiff called her at home around 9:00 on a Saturday evening to reschedule, Ms. LaSalle asked him not to call her at home that late again. Id. at 62:1-63:3. After that conversation, Plaintiff did not make any further efforts to speak with Ms. Lasalle. Id. at 63:1-20. Plaintiff was terminated from employment two months after being removed from the work schedule.

II. Discussion

a. Summary Judgment Standard

Summary judgment "shall" be granted if "the movant shows that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." FED. R. CD/. P. 56(a). "An issue of fact is material' if, under the applicable substantive law, it might affect the outcome of the case. An issue of fact is genuine' if the record taken as a whole could lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party." Harrison v. Culliver, No. 11-14864, 2014 WL 1304010, at *5 (11th Cir. Apr. 2, 2014) (quoting Hickson Corp. v. N. Crossarm Co. , 357 F.3d 1256, 1259-60 (11th Cir. 2004)).

To avoid summary judgment, the plaintiff must provide evidence demonstrating that specific facts exist that raise genuine issues for trial. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett , 477 U.S. 317, 324 (1986). "Rule 56(c) mandates the entry of summary judgment... against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient 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.

b. Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act makes it unlawful for an employer "to fail or refuse to hire or 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). "A plaintiff may prove a claim of intentional discrimination through direct evidence, circumstantial evidence, or statistical proof." Alvarez v. Royal Atl. Developers, Inc. , 610 F.3d 1253, 1264 (11th Cir. 2010) (quoting Rioux v. City of Atlanta , 520 F.3d 1269, 1264 (11th Cir. 2008)).

Plaintiff has not offered any direct or statistical evidence showing that Defendant fired him for being black or Haitian. He has, though, alleged that he was treated differently than similarly situated employees who were not black or Haitian and that this circumstantial evidence shows he was fired for discriminatory reasons.

Discrimination claims supported by circumstantial evidence are evaluated under a particular burden-shifting framework established by the Supreme Court in McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green , 411 U.S. 792 (1973) and Texas Department of Community Affairs v. Burdine , 450 U.S. 248 (1981). Wilson v. B/E Aerospace, Inc. , 376 F.3d 1079, 1087 (11th Cir. 2004). "Under this framework, the plaintiff first has the burden of establishing a prima facie case of discrimination, which creates a rebuttable presumption that the employer acted illegally." Id . The plaintiff can meet this burden by showing that he is a qualified member of a protected class who was treated adversely and differently in his employment than similarly situated employees outside of the protected class. Id . The similarly situated employee, known as a "comparator, " must be similarly situated "in all relevant respects, " and must be "nearly identical to the plaintiff to prevent courts from second-guessing a reasonable ...

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