Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Shockley v. Macon Bibb County

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

August 21, 2017

ROBERT LEE SHOCKLEY, JR., Plaintiff,
v.
MACON BIBB COUNTY, GEORGIA, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER

          MARC T. TREADWELL, JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

         Defendants Macon-Bibb County, Georgia and Sheriff David Davis have moved for summary judgment. Docs. 28; 29. For the following reasons, the motions are GRANTED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Robert Shockley, an African-American, was an investigator for the Bibb County Sherriff's Office. Doc. 32-1 at 1-2. Previously, Shockley worked for the Macon Police Department but became an employee of the Sheriff's Office when the Macon and Bibb County governments merged on January 1, 2014. Id. At that time, one of Shockley's superiors was Captain Jimmy Barbee, a Caucasian. Docs. 20 at 7; 29-5 at 2. According to Shockley, beginning in March 2014, Barbee began accusing him of not doing his job and then began a “campaign” of harassment towards Shockley. Docs. 32-1 at 3; 32-14 at 2. On August 28, 2014, Shockley complained to Bibb County's EEO Compliance Officer, Doron Dvorak, that he was being harassed due to his race. Doc. 32-1 at 6; 32-17 at 7. Shockley ultimately filed a complaint with the EEOC on September 17, 2014 regarding the alleged harassment. Docs. 1 at 3; 18 at 3-4. The Sheriff's Office investigated Shockley's complaint; as a part of that investigation, Lieutenant Gary Minter interviewed Shockley on December 3, 2014. Doc. 32-20. In that interview, when asked if he could amicably work with Barbee, Shockley stated he had “let [things] slide” before but was “not going to take that no more.” Id. at 36. Less than 24 hours after learning of Shockley's comments, fearing an escalation of tension between the two, Chief Deputy Russell Nelson, Major Brady Fields, and Colonel Henderson Carswell decided to move Shockley to a separate office building, about a block away from his previous office, during the investigation into Shockley's complaints. Docs. 29-2 ¶¶ 18-19; 29-4 ¶ 11-12. Later, in January 2015, a position became available in another unit. Docs. 29-2 ¶ 22; 29-5 ¶ 17; see also 29-4 ¶ 17. Captain Barbee took that position “within two or three weeks, ” and Shockley was “promptly moved back” to his previous office space. Id.

         Shockley filed this lawsuit on December 7, 2015 alleging claims against Barbee, Carswell, Fields, Macon-Bibb County, Georgia, the Macon-Bibb Sheriff's Office, and Russell Nelson. Doc. 1. Barbee, Carswell, Fields, Nelson, and the Macon-Bibb Sheriff's Office then moved to dismiss for failure to state a claim. Doc. 6. Shockley then filed an Amended Complaint (Doc. 18) against only Defendants Macon-Bibb County, Georgia and Sheriff David Davis. In his Amended Complaint, Shockley asserted hostile work environment and retaliation claims pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. Doc. 18 at 2-3. The Defendants then moved for judgment on the pleadings as to Shockley's hostile work environment claim (Doc. 28) and summary judgment on his retaliation claim (Doc. 29). The Defendants have since moved to convert their motion for judgment on the pleadings as to the hostile work environment claim into a motion for summary judgment (Doc. 36 at 2-3); the Court granted this motion (Doc. 43) and, in turn, gave Shockley an opportunity to respond, which he did (Doc. 44).[1] Thus, the Court now addresses the Defendants' motions for summary judgment regarding both of Shockley's claims.

         II. SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD

         A court shall grant summary judgment “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.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A factual dispute is not genuine unless, based on the evidence presented, “‘a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.'” Info. Sys. & Networks Corp. v. City of Atlanta, 281 F.3d 1220, 1224 (11th Cir. 2002) (quoting United States v. Four Parcels of Real Prop., 941 F.2d 1428, 1437 (11th Cir. 1991)); see also Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). “The moving party bears the burden of proving no genuine issue of material fact exists.” Info. Sys. & Networks Corp., 281 F.3d at 1224. The movant may support its assertion that a fact is undisputed by “citing to particular parts of materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations (including those made for purposes of the motion only), admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(A).

         The burden then shifts to the non-moving party, who must rebut the movant's showing “by producing . . . relevant and admissible evidence beyond the pleadings.” Josendis v. Wall to Wall Residence Repairs, Inc., 662 F.3d 1292, 1315 (11th Cir. 2011). The non-moving party does not satisfy its burden “if the rebuttal evidence ‘is merely colorable, or is not significantly probative' of a disputed fact.” Id. (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249-50). Further, where a party fails to address another party's assertion of fact as required by Rule 56(c), the Court may consider the fact undisputed for purposes of the motion. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)(2). However, “[c]redibility determinations, the weighing of the evidence, and the drawing of legitimate inferences from the facts are jury functions, not those of a judge . . . . The evidence of the non-movant is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255.

         III. HOSTILE WORK ENVIRONMENT CLAIM

         Shockley's hostile work environment claim is based on Barbee's treatment of him over a six-month period, which Shockley alleges caused him embarrassment, to become “silent and withdrawn from his co-workers, ” and to fear future reprisals from Barbee. Doc. 32-1 ¶ 4. Shockley contends that Barbee carried out a campaign of harassment, which included: (1) accusing him of not doing his job; (2) calling him a “goddamn liar” in front of other members of the unit; (3) calling him a “little bitch to his supervisors;” (4) taunting him about not getting a new vehicle and ultimately assigning one to a Caucasian officer; (5) reassigning one of his cases to a Caucasian officer; (6) preventing him from entering a crime scene; (7) preventing him from retrieving video surveillance for one of his cases; (8) publicly threatening to re-assign Shockley's cases; (9) “repeatedly yelling profanities at [him]”; (10) “hitting [him] in the testicles with a bag of Tupperware bowls”; (11) demanding that he wash his car; (12) “calling [him] at home and yelling at him”; and (13) shoving him during a meeting and taking his seat. Doc. 32-1 ¶ 3.

         “To establish a hostile work environment claim, [a plaintiff] must show: ‘(1) that [he] belongs to a protected group; (2) that [he] has been subject to unwelcome harassment; (3) that the harassment must have been based on a protected characteristic of the employee . . .; (4) that the harassment was sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the terms and conditions of employment and create a discriminatorily abusive working environment; and (5) that the employer is responsible for such environment under either a theory of vicarious or of direct liability.'” McCann v. Tillman, 526 F.3d 1370, 1378 (11th Cir. 2008) (quoting Miller v. Kenworth of Dothan, Inc., 277 F.3d 1269, 1275 (11th Cir. 2002)). Here, Shockley's claim fails because there is no genuine dispute of fact as to (1) whether the alleged harassment was sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the terms and conditions of employment and create a discriminatorily abusive working environment, and (2) whether the harassment he suffered was because of his race.

         To prove a plaintiff suffered harassment sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the terms and conditions of employment and create a discriminatorily abusive working environment, the employee must prove that he “subjectively perceive[d] the harassment as sufficiently severe and pervasive” and “this subjective perception must be objectively reasonable.” Guthrie v. Waffle House, Inc., 460 F.App'x 803, 806 (11th Cir. 2012) (quoting Mendoza v. Borden, Inc., 195 F.3d 1238, 1246 (11th Cir. 1999)). Courts look at the totality of the circumstances to determine the objective severity of harassment, including: “‘(1) the frequency of the conduct; (2) the severity of the conduct; (3) whether the conduct is physically threatening or humiliating, or a mere offensive utterance; and (4) whether the conduct unreasonably interferes with the employee's job performance.'” Alhallaq v. Radha Soami Trading, LLC, 484 F.App'x 293, 295 (11th Cir. 2012) (quoting Miller, 277 F.3d at 1275); see also Mendoza, 195 F.3d at 1246. However, “Title VII is not a ‘general civility code, ' and simple teasing . . . offhand comments, and isolated incidents (unless extremely serious) do not constitute a hostile work environment.” Guthrie, 460 F. App'x at 806 (quoting Faragher v. City of Boca Raton, 524 U.S. 775, 778 (1998)); see also Davis v. Town of Lake Park, 245 F.3d 1232, 1242 (11th Cir. 2001). Moreover, “[w]orkplace conduct is viewed cumulatively and in its social context.” Guthrie, 460 F. App'x at 806 (citing Reeves v. C.H. Robinson Worldwide, Inc., 594 F.3d 798, 807 (11th Cir. 2010)).

         Here, it is undisputed that Shockley subjectively perceived the harassment to be sufficiently severe and pervasive. But considering the totality of the circumstances and the relevant factors, there is no material issue as to whether Shockley's subjective belief was objectively reasonable. Shockley and Barbee worked close to one another so their contemptuous relationship certainly affected Shockley regularly. But the evidence does not show that he suffered extreme harassment on a daily basis. Cf. Miller, 277 F.3d at 1276 (stating a jury could find plaintiff established hostile work environment claim where his supervisor “hurled” ethnic slurs at him “three to four times a day”). Shockley also states that the harassment was physical on two occasions-when Barbee shoved him during a meeting and allegedly hit him in the testicles with a bag of tupperware-and that he feared a physical altercation with Barbee, especially because Barbee bragged about how many men he had shot. Docs. 32-1 ¶ 3, 4; 32-3 at 6; 32-14 at 4. But these physical altercations, in context, are relatively mild and the evidence shows no objective basis for Shockley to be personally threatened by Barbee. Shockley also claims that Barbee briefly prevented him from entering a crime scene on one occasion, obstructed his ability to procure video surveillance evidence on another, and that he re-assigned a case from Shockley to a Caucasian officer. Docs. 32-1 ¶ 3; 32-14 at 3-5. However, the evidence does not show that the harassment unreasonably interfered with Shockley's ability to perform his job.

         Ultimately, based on the evidence, the harassment was simply not severe enough to establish that Shockley's “workplace [was] permeated with discriminatory intimidation, ridicule, and insult that is sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of the victim's employment and create an abusive working environment.” Miller, 277 F.2d at 1275 (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). There was certainly personal animosity between the two, and Barbee undoubtedly treated Shockley poorly, which Shockley was understandably unhappy about. But, again, conduct in the workplace is viewed “cumulatively and in its social context.” Guthrie, 460 F. App'x at 806. And “Title VII is not a general civility code for the workplace, and its protections ‘do not extend to everything that makes an employee unhappy.'” Hudson v. Middle Flint Behavioral Healthcare, 2013 WL 256740 at *8 (M.D. Ga.) (quoting Davis, 245 F.3d at 1242); see also Guthrie, 460 F. App'x at 806 (“‘[S]imple teasing . . . offhand comments, and isolated incidents (unless extremely serious)' do not constitute a hostile work environment.” (quoting Faragher, 524 U.S. at 788)); Alhallaq, 484 F. App'x at 296 (stating that “offensive conduct, ” even if “rude and insensitive, is not actionable under Title VII, ” which does not regulate “offensive ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.