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Armour v. Century Communities, Inc.

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

January 10, 2018

TEMEKIA V. ARMOUR, Plaintiff,
v.
CENTURY COMMUNITIES, INC., and MICHAEL STONE, Defendants.

          FINAL REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          JANET F. KING, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff Temekia V. Armour filed the above-styled employment discrimination action against Defendants Century Communities, Inc., and Michael Stone on May 23, 2016. [Doc. 1]. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants terminated her employment on the basis of her race and color in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981 and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”), as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq. [Doc. 1, Counts I, II]. Defendant Century Communities, Inc., has moved for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 on Plaintiff's claims based upon the pleadings, statements of material facts, exhibits, and discovery materials submitted to the court. [Doc. 27].

         I. Defendant Michael Stone

         A plaintiff is responsible for serving a defendant with summons and the complaint within 90 days of the complaint being filed. Fed.R.Civ.P. 4(c)(1) and 4(m) (as amended 2015). Although Plaintiff Armour named Michael Stone as a Defendant in this action, Plaintiff never served him. Plaintiff mailed Mr. Stone a request for waiver of service more than a year and a half ago, on May 23, 2016, but he never executed the waiver of service. [Doc. 3]. In her response to Defendant's summary judgment motion, Plaintiff informed the court that she “cares not whether Defendant Stone remains a party, as long as his employer, Century Community, Inc. [sic] remains in this action.” [Doc. 31 at 2 n.1]. The undersigned, therefore, finds that Plaintiff has abandoned her claims against individual Defendant Michael Stone.

         II. Facts

         When evaluating the merits of a motion for summary judgment, the court must “view the evidence and all factual inferences raised by it in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, and resolve all reasonable doubts about the facts in favor of the non-moving party.” Comer v. City of Palm Bay, Florida, 265 F.3d 1186, 1192 (11thCir. 2001). However, mere conclusions and unsupported self-serving statements by the party opposing summary judgment are insufficient to avoid summary judgment. See Ellis v. England, 432 F.3d 1321, 1326 (11th Cir. 2005). In accordance with the foregoing principles, the following facts are deemed to be true for the limited purpose of evaluating Defendant's motion [Doc. 27] for summary judgment.

         Plaintiff Temekia Armour, who is African-American, graduated from high school in 1992. [Defendant's Statement of Material Facts (“DSMF”) ¶ 15]. Plaintiff attended DeKalb Technical College (“DeKalb Tech”) for several years, but she did not receive a degree or certificate of any type from that school. [DSMF ¶ 16]. Plaintiff did not receive any degree or enroll in any education program after her high school graduation and incomplete studies at DeKalb Tech. [DSMF ¶ 17].

         Plaintiff was employed with DeKalb County as a Permit Technician from December 2010 until the spring of 2015. [DSMF ¶ 18]. When Plaintiff was asked to describe her job duties as a Permit Technician with DeKalb County, she testified: “I would intake permits from the customers coming in to get permits; electrical permits, building permits, plumbing permits. We would actually - I would actually enter them in the system and then rate the permit for the particular customers.” [Plaintiff's Deposition (“Pla. Dep.”) at 9]. Plaintiff was asked and testified to the following:

Q. But were you the person who was at the front desk when somebody came in to seek a building permit?
A. Yes, exactly.
Q. And you would take that relevant information and input it into the county system?
A. That's correct.
Q. Did you have any responsibilities for determining whether the permit should be issued or not?
A. Not - I would enter the permit in the system. I didn't determine if it was going to be issued or not.

[Pla. Dep. at 9-10]. If the applicant was seeking a permit for a residential repair, Plaintiff was able to generate the permit at the time. [DSMF ¶ 20]. Anything grander in scale, such as new residential or commercial projects of any kind, required higher-level zoning and site review, so Plaintiff simply processed those applications. [DSMF ¶ 21]. Plaintiff had no involvement in reviewing zoning codes or rulings. [DSMF ¶ 22; Pla. Dep. at 16-17]. In her work with DeKalb County, Plaintiff did not work with other municipalities. [DSMF ¶ 23; Pla. Dep. at 17].

         Defendant Century Communities, Inc. (“Century”) is a residential homebuilder with many concurrent projects in multiple Georgia counties. [DSMF ¶ 1]. In November of 2014, Century acquired the assets of another homebuilding company, Peachtree Communities, LLC (“Peachtree”). [DSMF ¶ 2]. Defendant Century's Georgia office relies upon one Permit Coordinator to monitor all the projects and ensure each is progressing through the permit process as necessary. [DSMF ¶ 3]. The Permit Coordinator is in charge of tracking and overseeing the permit process for all Century's Georgia projects. [DSMF ¶ 4]. The Permit Coordinator is vital in ensuring that the permit process for each project progresses smoothly. [DSMF ¶ 5]. The position requires a certain level of organization, critical thinking, and the ability to multi-task. The Permit Coordinator must be able to juggle multiple projects and be able to organize and coordinate all the documentation and monitor the status of each ongoing project. [DSMF ¶ 6]. The Permit Coordinator's responsibilities include ensuring that the plans for each project reach the correct government office and monitoring the progress and status of permit runners, variance applications, and permit approvals. [DSMF ¶ 7].

         The Permit Coordinator must work with surveyors and engineers to gather the proper documentation and ensure that approved permits are sent to the right project. [DSMF ¶ 8]. The Permit Coordinator is also required to interact with many different departments and parties, both within and outside of Century. [DSMF ¶ 9]. The job description for the Permit Coordinator position states, inter alia: “Computer skills as required: Word, Excel, and Outlook experience.” [DSMF ¶ 10; Plaintiff's Response (“Pla. Resp.”) to DSMF ¶ 10; Doc. 31, Ex. 13].

         Beth Fowler, who is Caucasian, testified that she held the Permit Coordinator position at Peachtree from 2008 and then at Defendant Century through early 2015, when she made a lateral transfer to the land department. [DSMF ¶ 11; Fowler Declaration (“Dec.”) ¶¶ 3-4, 13; Plaintiff's Statement of Material Facts (“PSMF”) ¶ 8]. Ms. Fowler obtained the position after the prior Permit Coordinator was laid off during the recession. [DSMF ¶ 12]. Due to the prior Permit Coordinator's sudden departure, Ms. Fowler was provided no training when she took the position and had to build it from the ground up. [DSMF ¶ 13; PSMF ¶ 12]. At all times relevant to this suit, Mike Stone was the Director of Purchasing or the Vice President of Purchasing and supervised the Permit Coordinator. [DSMF ¶ 14; PSMF ¶ 9].

         Defendant Century's Permit Coordinator position came open in spring 2015 due to Ms. Fowler's transfer. [DSMF ¶ 24; Fowler Dec. ¶ 13]. Plaintiff Armour applied for the Permit Coordinator position online. [DSMF ¶ 25]. Mr. Stone then contacted Plaintiff by phone and set up an in-person interview. [PSMF ¶ 3; Pla. Dep. at 33-34]. Mr. Stone conducted an in-person interview with Plaintiff on March 2, 2015. [PSMF ¶ 5; DSMF ¶ 26; Pla. Dep. at 34]. Afterwards, Mr. Stone made the decision to hire Plaintiff and offered her the position of Permit Coordinator on March 10. [DSMF ¶¶ 26, 27; PSMF ¶¶ 1, 6; Pla. Dep. at 34]. Plaintiff was offered an annual salary of $40, 000 and was an at-will employee. [DSMF ¶ 28; Pla. Resp. to DSMF ¶ 28; PSMF ¶ 7]. Mr. Stone ...


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