United States District Court, M.D. Georgia, Columbus Division
D. LAND CHIEF U.S. DISTRICT COURT JUDGE
George worked for Kia Autosport of Columbus, Inc.
(“Columbus Kia”) until 2010. His fiancé
worked for Columbus Kia from 2010 to 2014. George applied to
be rehired in January 2017, and he claims that Columbus Kia
refused to rehire him because he had helped his fiancé
complain of racial and national origin discrimination more
than two years earlier. Because George did not point to
evidence to create a genuine fact dispute on causation, the
Court grants Columbus Kia's motion for summary judgment
(ECF No. 22).
judgment may be granted only “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 to defeat a motion
for summary judgment, the evidence is viewed in the light
most favorable to the party opposing summary judgment,
drawing all justifiable inferences in the opposing
party's favor. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc.,
477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986). A fact is material if it
is relevant or necessary to the outcome of the suit.
Id. at 248. A factual dispute is genuine if
the evidence would allow a reasonable jury to return a
verdict for the nonmoving party. Id.
determining whether a genuine fact dispute exists, the Court
reviewed Columbus Kia's citations to the record in its
statement of material facts. And, though George did not
respond to Columbus Kia's statement of material facts as
required by the Court's local rules, the Court reviewed
George's citations to the record in his response brief
and the two declarations he submitted. The parties'
citations to the record reveal the following facts.
worked as a sales representative for Columbus Kia in 2006 and
again from January 2009 to July 2010. George's
fiancé, Bessie Williams, worked at Columbus Kia from
2010 until 2014. Williams, who is black, claims that she was
subjected to national origin discrimination and a racially
hostile work environment, mainly because Williams's
coworkers made several remarks about her Afro hairstyle. In
May 2014, George accompanied Williams to a meeting with Ed
Braun, Columbus Kia's general manager, to discuss the
alleged discrimination. Braun asked the couple, “Do you
think this is a black and white thing?” George Dep.
36:6-12, ECF No. 28. They both said no. Id. at
36:14-15, 49:15-20. In his Complaint, George alleged that
Braun told Williams after the meeting that if she continued
complaining, managers would make it difficult for her and
George to gain employment elsewhere. Compl. ¶ 18, ECF
No. 1. But George did not point to any evidence to prove this
allegation; in fact, he disavowed it in his response brief.
Pl.'s Resp. to Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. 1, ECF No.
39. Furthermore, Williams stated: “I never said Mr.
Braun would made [sic] it hard for Mr. George to get a
job.” Williams Decl. ¶ 4, ECF No. 39-2.
2010 and 2016, George worked for a Kia dealership in
Tallahassee, Florida. Columbus Kia and the Tallahassee
dealership are part of the same family of companies, but they
are separate companies with different owners. Lee Decl.
¶ 3, ECF No. 26. In August 2016, the Tallahassee
dealership where George worked was sold. George asked Monroe
Lee, who was a partner in Columbus Kia and had been a partner
in the Tallahassee dealership until it was sold, if he could
transfer to Columbus Kia. Id. ¶¶ 3-5. Lee
explained that he had signed an agreement not to solicit
employees of the Tallahassee dealership for competing
businesses, and he told George that he would have to get
permission from the new owners of the Tallahassee dealership
before he could apply for a job with Columbus Kia.
Id. ¶¶ 4-6. Lee was not involved in the
decision not to rehire George. Id. ¶ 7. George
did not point to any evidence to create a genuine fact
dispute on this issue.
George got permission from the Tallahassee dealership, he
visited Columbus Kia in January 2017 and applied to be
rehired. George asserts that Braun was preoccupied when
George visited the dealership but instructed two supervisors
to interview him. George believes that these two supervisors
would have supported rehiring him. George speculates that
Clay Green, the general sales manager who made the decision
not to rehire George, did not consult the two supervisors who
interviewed him, but George did not point to any evidence on
the general sales manager, made the decision not to rehire
George. Green Decl. ¶ 5, ECF No. 24. Green
did not consult Braun about his decision not to rehire
George, and Braun was not involved in the decision.
Id.; Braun Decl. ¶ 7, ECF No. 25. Green knew
that George had come to the dealership for a meeting with
Braun in 2014, but he did not know what the meeting was
about. Green Decl. ¶ 6. George suspects that Braun
was involved in the decision not to rehire him, but
he did not point to any evidence to create a genuine fact
dispute on this point.
VII makes it unlawful for an employer “to discriminate
against . . . applicants for employment . . . because [the
applicant] has opposed” racial or national origin
discrimination. 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-3(a). To prove a Title
VII retaliation claim, a plaintiff must show that he engaged
in activity protected under Title VII, that he suffered an
adverse action, and that his protected activity “was a
but-for cause of the alleged adverse action by the
employer.” Univ. of Texas Sw. Med. Ctr. v.
Nassar, 570 U.S. 338, 362 (2013). “To establish a
causal connection, a plaintiff must show that the relevant
decisionmaker was ‘aware of the protected conduct, and
that the protected activity and the adverse actions
were'” causally related. Kidd v. Mando Am.
Corp., 731 F.3d 1196, 1211 (11th Cir. 2013) (quoting
Shannon v. Bellsouth Telecomms., Inc., 292 F.3d 712,
716 (11th Cir. 2002)).
Court assumes for summary judgment purposes that George
engaged in statutorily protected conduct when he accompanied
Williams to her meeting with Braun in 2014. The remaining
question is whether George pointed to any evidence that this
conduct was a but-for cause behind Green's decision not
to rehire George. He did not. Although George believes that
he was not hired because he opposed unlawful practices at
Columbus Kia, he did not point to any evidence on this point.
Critically, George did not point to any evidence that Green
was aware of his 2014 protected activity. George also did not
point to any evidence to rebut Columbus Kia's evidence
that Green made the hiring decision without Braun's input
and that Braun was not involved in the decision. Without some
evidence that the decisionmaker was ...