United States District Court, M.D. Georgia, Macon Division
T. TREADWELL, UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE.
Aldi Food Market Inc. moves for summary judgment on the
Plaintiff's only remaining claim. For the following
reasons, that motion (Doc. 26) is GRANTED.
Tracy Walker started working at Aldi as a store associate on
April 15, 2016. Doc. 28-5 at 34:7-23. Aldi hired her to work
at a new store in Milledgeville, which was set to open in May
2016. Id. She trained at Aldi's location in
Covington, Georgia, under Deb Shupe. Id. After ten
days she was promoted to shift manager by Shupe and Synticee
Denmark, a regional manager. Id. at 34:24-35:1,
36:1-37:4; Doc. 26-5 ¶¶ 3-4. A shift manager would
typically continue to work some shifts as a store associate,
while working some shifts as a shift manager. Doc. 28-5 at
41:19-43:12. For instance, a shift manager would work a store
associate shift (meaning a shift with store associate duties
and pay) if a store manager was scheduled to work at the same
time. Id. at 41:19- 43:12, 79:21-80:1. If two shift
managers were scheduled, one would work as a store associate
instead. Id. at 43:3-12. When working a shift as a
manager, a shift manager would often be responsible for
opening or closing the store. Id. at 41:7-18.
2, 2016, the Plaintiff was transferred to a new store in
Milledgeville. Id. at 43:13-44:3. Shupe was also
transferred to the Milledgeville store for its opening.
Id. Shupe testified that shift managers on closing
shifts were expected to complete work and clock out by 8:30
p.m., due to low sales, even though they were scheduled to
work until 9:00 p.m. Doc. 26-5 ¶¶ 16-17, 19. Shupe
says that she communicated this expectation to the Plaintiff
during June and early July of 2016. Id. However, on
several occasions, the Plaintiff clocked out after 8:30. Doc.
26-4 at 52. Because she was scheduled until 9:00 p.m., the
Plaintiff testified that she now believes the expectation was
to work until 9:00 p.m., but that she cannot remember whether
Shupe or anyone else told her to leave at a certain time.
Doc. 28-5 at 55:11-59:6. She testified that she does remember
conversations with Shupe about being out of the store by 8:30
p.m., but does not remember when those conversations took
place. Id. at 64:11-24.
Plaintiff, Shupe, and other employees had a meeting on July
26, 2016, and Shupe claims she reiterated her expectation
that employees close out by 9:00 p.m. Id. at
63:18-64:16; Doc. 26-5 ¶¶ 23-24. According to
Aldi's time records, the Plaintiff clocked out at 9:06
p.m. that night. Doc. 26-4 at 52. The Defendant has adduced
evidence that at a meeting on July 28, 2016, the Plaintiff
was told she would receive one-on-one training with Shupe to
observe Shupe performing her closing duties, during which
time she would be assigned store associate shifts. Docs. 26-5
¶¶ 26-29. The Plaintiff acknowledged there was a
conversation about being retrained but disputed that it was
at the July 28 meeting. Doc. 28-5 at 66:4-67:15. The
Defendant says the Plaintiff was told that she would get more
management shifts once she was able to clock out on time.
Doc. 26-5 ¶ 28; see Doc. 28-5 at 66:4-67:15.
The Plaintiff was allowed to keep her shift manager shirt and
keys. Docs. 26-5 ¶ 34; 28-5 at 70:23-71:11. The
Plaintiff, however, testified that Shelby Ward-Fitzgerald,
the regional manager who replaced Denmark, told her she was
being demoted. Doc. 28-5 at 65:21-23, 71:22-76:1.
July, the Plaintiff requested a transfer to a different
store. Docs. 26-6 ¶ 17; 28-5 at 131:3-132:24. That
transfer was granted and was effective on August 15, 2016.
Id.; Doc. 28-5 at 135:16-136:5. After the transfer,
the Plaintiff continued to work until November 2016, when she
was terminated for missing work. Doc. 28-5 at
Plaintiff brought this lawsuit pro se against Defendant Aldi
Food Market, claiming her alleged demotion in July 2016 was
the result of discrimination in violation of Title VII of the
Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et
seq. See generally Docs. 3; 6; 8. After
screening and the Court's dismissal of two individual
defendants, only the Plaintiff's racial discrimination
claim against Aldi remains. Docs. 9 at 2; 21 at 1-2. The
Defendant now moves for summary judgment on that claim. Doc.
Summary Judgment Standard
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). In determining whether a genuine dispute
of material fact exists, “[t]he evidence of the
non-movant is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences
are to be drawn in his favor.” Anderson v. Liberty
Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986) (citation
omitted). A material fact is any fact relevant or necessary
to the outcome of the suit. Id. at 248. And a
factual dispute is genuine “if the evidence is such
that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the
non[-]moving party.” Id. (citation omitted).
Accordingly, “the mere existence of a scintilla of
evidence in support of the position will be insufficient;
there must be evidence on which the jury could reasonably
find for the non-moving party.” Johnson v. Bd. of
Regents of Univ. of Ga., 263 F.3d 1234, 1243 (11th Cir.
2001) (citation and punctuation marks omitted).
party moving for summary judgment bears the burden to show
that there is no issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). The movant may make
this showing 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, ” or by showing that the non-movant
cannot produce admissible evidence to support the issue of
material fact. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1). If the movant meets
this burden, the non-moving party must produce evidence
showing that an issue of material fact does exist.
Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 324. To do so, the
non-moving party must “go beyond the pleadings”
and identify “specific facts showing a genuine issue
for trial.” Id.; see also Fed. R.
Civ. P. 56(e)(2)-(3). 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.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at
255 (citation omitted).
receipt of the Defendant's motion for summary judgment,
the Court notified the Plaintiff that Local Rule 56 requires
a party opposing summary judgment to file a concise statement
of material facts responding to the numbered paragraphs of
the moving party's statement. Doc. 27. The
Plaintiff's response fails to comply with Local Rule 56.
See Docs. 28; 28-1; 28-2; 28-3; 28-4; 28-10; 28-11.
However, as required, the Court has still “review[ed]
the movant's citations to the record to determine if
there is, indeed, no genuine issue of material fact.”
Reese v. Herbert, 527 F.3d 1253, 1269 (11th Cir.
2008) (citation and quotation marks omitted). And despite the
deficiencies in the Plaintiff's response, because the
Plaintiff is proceeding pro se, and because summary judgment
would lead to dismissal of her claims with prejudice, the
Court has fully considered her claims for relief regardless
of these failings and insufficiencies in her response.
See United States v. 5800 SW 74th Ave., 363 F.3d
1099, 1101 (11th Cir. 2004) (“[T]he district court
cannot base the entry of summary judgment on the mere fact
that the motion was unopposed [or improperly opposed], but,
rather, must consider the merits of the motion.”
(citation omitted)). Therefore, if evidence in the record
shows that a fact is disputed, the Court draws all
justifiable inferences in the Plaintiff's favor for
purposes of summary judgment.
TITLE VII CLAIM
VII plaintiff may prove her case circumstantially when there
is no direct evidence of discrimination. The framework for
analyzing circumstantial evidence to establish discrimination
is found in McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411
U.S. 792 (1973). Pursuant to McDonnell Douglas, a
plaintiff must first establish a prima facie case of
discrimination. If a plaintiff establishes that prima facie
case, the burden of production, but not the burden of
persuasion, shifts to the employer to articulate a
legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for the employment
action. Tex. Dep't of Cmty. Affairs v. Burdine,
450 U.S. 248, 254-55 (1981). This burden of production means
the employer “need not persuade the court that it was
actually motivated by the proffered reasons”
but must produce evidence sufficient to raise a genuine issue
of fact as to whether it discriminated against the plaintiff.
Kragor v. Takeda Pharm. Am., Inc., 702 F.3d 1304,
1308 (11th Cir. 2012) (emphasis added) (quotation marks and
plaintiff then has the opportunity to show that the
employer's stated reason is a pretext for discrimination.
This may be done “either directly by persuading the
court that a discriminatory reason more likely motivated the
employer or indirectly by showing that the employer's
proffered explanation is unworthy of credence.”
Burdine, 450 U.S. at 256. “If a plaintiff
produces sufficient evidence that the employer's
proffered reason is merely pretextual, that evidence may
sometimes be enough to preclude summary judgment in favor of
the employer.” Kragor, 702 F.3d at 1309.
case of termination or demotion based on race, the
McDonnell Douglas framework requires proof of four