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Porter v. City of Savannah

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

June 12, 2018

CHANDRA L. PORTER, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF SAVANNAH, GEORGIA, Defendant.

          ORDER

          J. RANDAL HALL, CHIEF JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

         Before the Court is Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment. (Doc. 44.) 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. (Doc. 45.) Therefore, the notice requirements of Griffith v. Wainwright, 772 F.2d 822, 825 (11th Cir. 1985) (per curiam), have been satisfied. The motion has been fully briefed and is ripe for decision.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff is an African-American who works as a Human Resources Analyst for Defendant City of Savannah, Georgia. Plaintiff alleges that she was not selected for several promotions due to Defendant's racial animus in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2OOOe, et seq. and 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

         Plaintiff began working for Defendant in 1998 as a Communications Specialist for the Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan Police Department ("SCMPD"). (Porter Dep., Doc. 44-3, at 10.) Between 2001 and 2011, Plaintiff applied for and was denied several promotions. (Porter Decl., Doc. 48-4, ¶¶ 10-20.) The candidates selected for those positions were non-African American employees. (Id.)

         In 2001, Plaintiff was transferred from the SCMPD to human resources. (Porter Dep. at 10.) During her tenure in the human resources department, Plaintiff received several reprimands. On May 27, 2005, Plaintiff was scolded for failing to make eye-contact or greet employees who visited the human resources department. (Id. at 17; Doc. 44-3, at 56-57.[1]) On September 20, 2006, Plaintiff received an oral reprimand for insubordination when she refused to cover the phones when the department was short-staffed. (Porter Dep. at 22-23; Doc. 44-3, at 58.)

         On July 15, 2008, Plaintiff received a written reprimand stemming from two incidents. (Porter Dep. at 27; Doc. 44-3, at 94-95.) The first incident involved how Plaintiff dealt with a former Savannah employee who called Plaintiff to ask about Defendant's Cobra Health Insurance policy. (Porter Dep. at 27.) Plaintiff was criticized for failing to obtain the information the employee sought and instead directing the employee to call the insurer. (Id.; Doc. 44-3, at 94-95.) The reprimand also involved how Plaintiff handled a mailing assignment. (Doc. 44-3, at 94-95.) Plaintiff had been ordered to determine the best and most practical method" for distributing a pamphlet involving long-term disability. (Id.) Instead of delivering these pamphlets herself, Plaintiff instructed all forty departments to pick up the pamphlets from the human resources department. (Id.) Plaintiff's supervisor accused her of choosing "what was easy and convenient for [Plaintiff]" instead of what was best for the other departments. (Id.)

         Other employees had also complained about Plaintiff's customer service. For example, on June 2, 2011, Laurie McCain, a city employee, complained that Plaintiff had failed to send the department any applicants for summer interns. (Doc. 44-3, at 132.) When Ms. McCain asked Plaintiff for help, Plaintiff refused explaining that she was too busy. (Id.)

         In November 2011, Plaintiff applied for a promotion as Senior Human Resources Analyst. (Porter Dep. at 39.) The minimum qualifications were a bachelor's degree in public administration, business management, or a related field, with three years of professional experience or an equivalent combination of education and experience. (Doc. 44-3, at 121.) The only other applicant was Heather Hilderbrand, a white employee who was allegedly less qualified than Plaintiff. (Robinson Aff., Doc. 44-4, ¶ 4.) Ms. Hilderbrand had her associate's degree and five years of experience. (Porter Decl., ¶¶ 20, 23.) Plaintiff, on the other hand, had her master's degree, eight years of experience with Defendant, and one and a half years of prior management experience at Lady Footlocker. (Id. ¶ 23.) Nevertheless, Ms. Hilderbrand was selected as Senior Human Resources Analyst. (Robinson Aff. ¶ 4.) Plaintiff was told that she was not selected for the position due to her inability to handle difficult employees. (Porter Dep. at 42.) Mary Elizabeth Robinson, who was part of the committee that made the decision, testified that Plaintiff's disciplinary record was also a factor in the decision to hire Ms. Hilderbrand. (Robinson Aff. ¶ 4.)

         In December 2011, Plaintiff was selected to serve as a Human Resources Analyst. (Porter Dep. at 11.) On May 30, 2011, Plaintiff filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”). (Second Amended Complaint, Doc. 23-1, ¶ 29.) On June 16, 2014, Plaintiff was transferred back to the SCMPD. (Doc. 44-3, at 83-84.) Despite the transfer, Plaintiff retained the title of Human Resources Analyst and continued to receive the same salary. (Id.)

         On July 12, 2016, more than six months after initiating this litigation, Plaintiff applied for a Human Resources Analyst position that was presumably different than the position Plaintiff currently held. (Porter Dep. at 107.) An African-American employee, Anthony Caston, was selected for the position. (Id. at 110.)

         On November 9, 2015, Plaintiff initiated the instant action alleging multiple incidents of discrimination and retaliation. Defendant now moves for summary judgment arguing that no reasonable jury could find that Plaintiff was not promoted due to a racial animus.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         A motion for summary judgment will be granted if there is no disputed material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a) . Facts are material if they could affect the results of the case. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). The court must view facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and draw all inferences in its favor. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co.,Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp.; 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). The movant initially bears the burden of proof and must demonstrate the absence of a disputed material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). The ...


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