United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Augusta Division
RANDAL HALLCHIEF JUDGE
the Court are Defendants' motions to dismiss
Plaintiff's amended complaint. (Docs. 30, 35.) Plaintiff
filed a response in opposition to both motions. (Docs. 33,
37.) Accordingly, Defendants' motions are fully briefed
and ripe for review.
suit involves Plaintiff's termination from her employment
with the Richmond County Probate Court. Plaintiff claims that
her firing was due to her race in violation of Title VII of
the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), 42
U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., and the Fourteenth
Amendment, under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
began her tenure at the Richmond County Probate Court as an
administrative assistant and eventually became Director of
Probate Court. (Am. Compl., Doc. 23, ¶ 20.) On January
1, 2013, Defendant Judge Harry B. James III ("Judge
James") was elected Chief Judge of the Richmond County
Probate Court. (Id. ¶ 21.) Plaintiff claims
that upon taking office, Judge James began a pattern of
discrimination against his Caucasian employees. (Id.
asserts that Judge James restructured his office to
"implement his strongly held racist beliefs, " and
Defendant Augusta, Georgia (the "City"),
facilitated this process by approving Judge James'
"Budget Transfer Request." (Id. ¶ 38,
40, 42.) Within five months of taking office, Judge James
allegedly fired or forced two Caucasian employees to quit and
subsequently filled both vacancies with African-American
employees. (Id. ¶ 33-34.) On July 31, 2013,
Judge James announced that the Director of Probate Court
position would be eliminated and replaced by a "Chief
Clerk." (Id. ¶ 46.) Judge James then
selected Felecia Bray, an African-American employee who was
allegedly less qualified than Plaintiff, to serve as Chief
Clerk. (Id. ¶¶ 46, 51.) Consequently,
Plaintiff was demoted to the level of administrative
assistant. (Id. ¶ 47.) Judge James assured
Plaintiff that her demotion was not due to her work
performance and that she had "nothing to fear."
(Id. ¶ 55.)
James also created the position of "Deputy Chief
Clerk." (Id. ¶ 44.) On August 3, 2013,
Plaintiff submitted an application to serve as Deputy Chief
Clerk. (Id. f 58.) However, Joy Daniels, an
African-American employee with fewer years of experience than
Plaintiff, was selected for the position. (Id.
¶ 62.) On August 22, after learning that she had been
passed over for the Deputy Chief Clerk position, Plaintiff
met with the director of the City's Equal Employment
Office ("EEO") to complain about Judge James'
discriminatory conduct. (Id. ¶ 76.)
claims that Judge James learned about Plaintiff's EEO
complaint on or before September 9, 2013, and subsequently
began to engage in retaliatory conduct. (Id. ¶
92.) Despite Judge James' initial insistence that
Plaintiff's demotion was not due to her work performance,
on September 23, Judge James told the City's Director of
Human Resources that Plaintiff was demoted due to her
"inability to supervise other staff." (Id.
¶ 101.) On another occasion, Judge James chastised
Plaintiff for calling the I.T. Department, which presumably
prevented Judge James from accessing the court's
calendar. (Id. ¶ 96.) He told Plaintiff
"'not to call the Information Technology Department,
Human Resources, or anyone else again.7" (Id.
¶ 96.) When Plaintiff defended her actions, Judge James
sarcastically responded “[y]eah, nothing makes me
madder than to be accused of something not true."
(Id. ¶ 100.)
James also retaliated against Plaintiff by reducing her
salary. Despite her demotion, Plaintiff did not see an
immediate reduction in salary. (Id. ¶ 88.)
After learning about Plaintiff's discrimination charge,
however, Judge James asked the City to reduce Plaintiff's
pay. (Id. ¶ 93.) On September 30, 2013, the
City informed Plaintiff that her pay would be lowered by $15,
000 per year. (Id. ¶ 105.) Furthermore,
allegedly at the behest of Judge James, Plaintiff's
salary reduction was retroactively applied to begin on
September 12, 2013. (Id. ¶ 106.) Accordingly,
the City deducted $1, 153 from Plaintiff's next paycheck
to offset the difference in salary. (Id. ¶
November 15, 2013, Plaintiff was called into Judge James'
Office, where Ms. Bray and another African-American employee
were present. (Id. ¶108.) Judge James scolded
Plaintiff for not changing her voicemail to indicate that she
was no longer Director of Probate Court. (Id.) In
that vein, Judge James told Plaintiff “[o]h, you're
going to be a Director alright . . . the Director of
Traffic!" (Id. ¶ 109.)
January 14, 2014, Judge James issued Plaintiff a written
reprimand for not "being a team player, " making
improper gender references in court pleadings, and not having
a "pleasant demeanor" in the workplace.
(Id. ¶ 117.) The next day, during
Plaintiff's annual review, Judge James allegedly told
Plaintiff she should quit because no one liked her.
(Id. ¶ 122.)
filed a Charge of Discrimination regarding Judge James'
conduct with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on
November 13, 2013. (Id. ¶ 83.) On March 4,
2014, during a staff meeting with Plaintiff in attendance,
Judge James read aloud from Plaintiff's EEOC Charge in
front of her colleagues. (Id. ¶ 124.) Judge
James then pointed his finger at Plaintiff and said "I
don't trust you!" and that "change was going to
come real soon." (Id. ¶ 131, 133.) Judge
James also announced that staff meetings would be suspended
until his office became "more cohesive and
trustworthy." (Id. ¶ 134.) After the
meeting, Judge James called Lacey Grantham, the only other
Caucasian employee at the Richmond County Probate Court, into
his office. (Id. ¶ 135.) After speaking with
Judge James, Ms. Gratham refused to have' further
communication' with Plaintiff. (Id. ¶ 136.)
was terminated on March 17, 2014. (Id. ¶¶
137, 138.) Plaintiff alleges that she had not engaged in or
been punished for any misconduct beyond the written reprimand
she received in January. (Id. ¶ 140.) The City
conducted Plaintiff's exit interview where she received
her termination notice. (Id. ¶ 144.)
Plaintiff's termination notice indicated that she was
ineligible for rehire at any City department.(Id.)
initiated this action on April 6, 2017. (Doc. 1.) Plaintiff
alleges that Defendants engaged in intentional discrimination
and retaliation, in violation of Title VII and § 1983.
On October 5, 2017, the Court granted Plaintiff leave to
amend her complaint over Judge James'