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Marcum v. City of Rincon

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

March 14, 2018




         Before the Court is Defendant's motion for summary judgment. (Doc. 32.) The Clerk has given Plaintiff notice of the summary judgment motion and the summary judgment rules, of the right to file affidavits or other materials in opposition, and the consequences of default. Therefore, the notice requirements of Griffith v. Wainwright, 772 F.2d 822, 825 (11th Cir. 1985) (per curiam), have been satisfied. For the following reasons, Defendant's motion is GRANTED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         This case arises out of Plaintiff's dismissal from Defendant City of Rincon's Police Department (the "CRPD"). Plaintiff claims she was fired because of her gender and in retaliation for filing a grievance with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). Making all inferences in favor of Plaintiff, the facts of the dispute are as follows.

         In April 2012, shortly after graduating from the police academy, Plaintiff accepted a position as a police officer for the CRPD. (Marcum Dep., Doc. 32-3, at 22.) Although Defendant usually hired officers with prior law enforcement experience, Phillip Scholl, the CRPD Chief of Police, supported Plaintiff's hiring. (Id. at 23-24.) At the time, Plaintiff was the only female officer, but two more women were hired the following year. (ld. at 24; Scholl Aff., Doc. 32-8, ¶ 4.)

         In August 2012, Plaintiff was reprimanded after she backed her patrol car into another driver at the scene of an accident. (Marcum Dep., Ex. 4, at 52.) Officer Joshua Moseley, Plaintiff's former partner, claims the accident was not Plaintiff's fault. (Moseley Dep., Doc. 32-5, at 38-39.) Plaintiff received a second reprimand on February 9, 2013, for failing to complete a case file, sign an arrest warrant, and submit an incident report in a timely fashion. (Marcum Dep., Ex. 7, at 59.) Around this time, Plaintiff was also accused of being rude to a member of the Rincon City Council during a softball game. (Scholl Aff. ¶ 5.) When Chief Scholl spoke to Plaintiff, she claimed she had not been to the ballfield in months. (Id.) However, when Chief Scholl mentioned Ashley Zoller, a CRPD clerk who the councilman said was at the game with Plaintiff, Plaintiff confessed that she had attended the game but explained that Chief Scholl did not specify which ballfield.[1] (Id.) Plaintiff also denied having any contact with the councilman. (Marcum Dep. at 28.)

         On February 14, 2013, Plaintiff requested to work off-duty for the Chatham County Sheriff's Department. (Scholl Aff. ¶ 6.) Chief Scholl denied her request and claims his decision was based on Plaintiff's misconduct and that she was still on her one-year new hire probationary period.[2] (Id.) Plaintiff maintains that other male officers were allowed to take off-duty work during their probationary period, but acknowledges that most of these officers had prior law enforcement experience. (Marcum Dep. at 37-38.)

         Plaintiff received her third reprimand on April 5, 2013. (Id., Ex. 10, at 66.) Plaintiff had been assigned to prepare and perform a Power Point presentation on the challenges of being a female police officer, which was due April 4, 2013. (Marcum Dep. at 46, 57.) Plaintiff concedes she knew about the assignment and its formatting requirements but maintains she was not given a due date until 24 hours before the deadline. (Id.) When the deadline came, Plaintiff handed in "a few pages in Word format which looked like they had been put together hurriedly.'' (Scholl Aff. ¶ 8.) After Chief Scholl complained about the format, Plaintiff said she had a PowerPoint version on a thumb drive at home. (Marcum Dep. at 52-53.) When Plaintiff returned with the thumb drive, Chief Scholl discovered the file on the drive was also in Word format. (Id. at 54) Plaintiff insists that while she made a PowerPoint presentation, she accidentally converted the file by saving her draft in Word format. (Id. at 51.)

         Plaintiff's problems at work escalated toward the end of June 2013. On June 17, Plaintiff was reprimanded for failing to maintain her patrol car. (Id., Ex. 12, at 71.) Plaintiff was also reprimanded after calling in sick three days in a row. (Adams Dep., Doc. 32-7, at 30; Scholl Dep., Ex. 20, at 47.) When Corporal John Adams, Plaintiff's supervisor, told her she would need a doctor's note, Plaintiff responded, "[f]uck them if they don't like it. There's not a damn thing they can do about it."[3] (Marcum Dep., Ex. 11, at 69.) Moreover, when Plaintiff returned to work, her doctor's note only addressed one absence. Plaintiff was given two reprimands for this episode: one for her insufficient doctor's note[4] and one for her reaction to Corporal Adams.

         On June 18, 2013, Plaintiff was placed on administrative leave pending an internal affairs investigation into her failure to complete an incident report about a stolen trailer. (Id., Ex. 14, at 79.) The investigators found that Plaintiff failed to follow standard procedure for filing information, and on June 20, Plaintiff was suspended without pay for three days.[5] (Id.) When Chief Scholl tried to give Plaintiff her suspension notice, she refused to sign and claimed that CRPD policy entitled her to a copy of the internal affairs report. (Scholl Dep. at 43-44.) Chief Scholl ordered Plaintiff to leave the building but Plaintiff remained outside his office talking on her cell phone until Sergeant Jose Ramirez arrived to escort her off CRPD premises. (Marcum Dep. at 68.) This incident led to Plaintiff's seventh reprimand and another three-day suspension without pay, which began on June 26. (Id., Ex. 15, at 81.)

         When Plaintiff returned from suspension, Chief Scholl had drafted her notice of termination. (Scholl Dep., Ex. 23, at 49.) However, after talking to Wesley Corbitt, Defendant's City Manager, Chief Scholl agreed to place Plaintiff on a six-month corrective action plan. (Id. at 45.) Pursuant to that plan, Plaintiff's probation would be extended an additional six months. (Id.) If Plaintiff had no further misconduct, her probation would end in January 2014. (Id. at 46.) Plaintiff showed improvement under the corrective action plan. On October 6, 2013, Plaintiff received a commendation for her work on a runaway case. (Marcum Dep. at 75.) Plaintiff also received favorable remarks during her January 2014 review and was taken off probation. (Id. at 79; Scholl Dep. at 48.)

         Plaintiff presumably began considering legal action against Defendant at some point before December 2013. Sometime during that month, Mr. Corbitt asked Plaintiff if she was considering legal action against Defendant and whether there was any way they could settle the dispute without litigation. (Marcum Dep. at 77.) Plaintiff told Mr. Corbitt that she would not talk about the matter and to speak to her attorney. (Id.) On April 11, 2014, Plaintiff filed a Charge of Discrimination ("Charge") with the EEOC claiming she had been the victim of sexual discrimination. (Id., Ex. 20, at 93.)

         Plaintiff was terminated on July 7, 2014. Plaintiff's firing was allegedly due to a wrongful detention and a wrongful arrest, both of which occurred in June 2014. (Id., Ex. 23, at 117.) The wrongful detention dispute arose after Plaintiff arrested Jacob McFadden on June 15 for failing to register as a sex offender. (Marcum Dep. at 89.) Four days later, Amy Kendrick, a clerk for the Effingham County Sheriff's Department, told Plaintiff that Mr. McFadden was not required to register as a sex offender and needed to be released. (Id. at 92.) However, Mr. McFadden was not released until July 1, 2014, after his attorney complained to the Chatham County District Attorney. (Ramirez Dep. at 62.) Before she was fired, Plaintiff told Sergeant Ramirez that she did not remember whether she told Corporal Adams about Mr. McFadden, which would presumably satisfy her duty to report issues up the chain of command. (Marcum Dep. at 93.) Plaintiff now claims she told Corporal Adams shortly after speaking with Ms. Kendrick. (Marcum Dep. at 92-93.)

         The wrongful arrest occurred on June 24, 2014, when Plaintiff arrested Aguilar Tiniguar for unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle. (Id. at 97.) Because Mr. Tiniguar was driving on a private throughway, Chief Scholl believed the arrest was unsupported by Georgia law. (Scholl Dep. at 55.) The notice of termination cited this event and the detention of Mr. McFadden as grounds for firing Plaintiff. (Marcum Dep., Ex. 23, at 117.) Plaintiff appealed her termination claiming that she had authority to arrest Mr. ...

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