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Willis v. Secretary, Department of Defense

United States District Court, M.D. Georgia, Columbus Division

October 3, 2019

LEROY WILLIS, Plaintiff,
v.
SECRETARY, DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE, Defendant.

          ORDER

          CLAY D. LAND CHIEF U.S. DISTRICT COURT JUDGE

         Leroy Willis was an employee at the commissary at Fort Benning, Georgia. He claims that he was discriminated against because of his race (“Black”), color (“Dark Skin”), gender (“Male”), religion (“Christian”), age (56 at the time of the alleged discrimination), and in retaliation for complaining of unlawful employment discrimination. Compl. §§ I.C & I.D., ECF No. 1. The Government filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings or, in the alternative, motion for summary judgment. Because the Government relies on matters outside the pleadings in support of its motion, the Court construes it as a motion for summary judgment. That motion (ECF No. 12) is granted.

         SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD

         Summary 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.

         In accordance with the Court's local rules, the Government submitted a statement of undisputed material facts with its summary judgment motion. See M.D. Ga. R. 56 (requiring statement of material facts that is supported by the record). Willis, who is proceeding pro se, received a notice regarding the significance of the Government's summary judgment motion and of his opportunity to respond to the motion and statement of material facts. Notice to Pro Se Party of Mot. for Summ. J., ECF No. 15. Though Willis filed a response brief and one attachment, he did not respond to the Government's statement of material facts. Therefore, the Government's statement of material facts is deemed admitted pursuant to Local Rule 56. See M.D. Ga. R. 56 (“All material facts contained in the movant's statement which are not specifically controverted by specific citation to particular parts of materials in the record shall be deemed to have been admitted, unless otherwise inappropriate.”). The Court reviewed the Government's citations to the record to determine if a genuine factual dispute exists. See Reese v. Herbert, 527 F.3d 1253, 1269 (11th Cir. 2008). Willis did submit, as part of his brief, a statement of facts with citations to “Investigative File.” The investigative file is not part of the present record, so the Court cannot verify Willis's citations to it.

         FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         Willis is a black man who was born in 1959. He is a Christian. In June 2014, he received a temporary appointment as a store worker at the Fort Benning commissary. His immediate supervisor was Phyllis Chenault. Willis asserts that he was discriminated against during his employment in two ways.

         First, Willis claims that he was not paid for three days while he was serving on jury duty. Willis Dep. 26:13-18, 26:24-27:1, ECF No. 14. Willis was not scheduled to work at the commissary on those three days. Id. He asserts that a black woman named Wanda was paid for her time on jury duty. Willis Dep. 29:3-18. There is no evidence that Wanda was not scheduled to work at the commissary on the days when she had jury duty.

         Second, Willis contends that his supervisor refused to grant him religious accommodations on Sundays. Willis knew when he was hired that he might have to work on Sundays. He asked his supervisor if he could “come in a little later on Sunday” so that he could attend Sunday School before work. Id. 39:8-11. Willis was scheduled to work on Sundays beginning at 11:00 a.m. Mot. for Summ. J. Attach. 5, Time Cards, ECF No. 12-5.

         Willis filed an “EEO complaint” on December 5, 2014 and told Chenault about it the same day. Compl. 5; Willis Dep. 63:6-24. According to Willis, Chenault began making negative comments about him the next day. Willis was terminated on January 16, 2015. In her termination memo, Chenault stated that Willis (1) “disturbed other employees while they were working, even after [he was] told not to do so” on December 5, 2014; (2) was unable to fill his section of the produce case in a timely manner and that another employee had to be assigned to help on December 20, 2014; and (3) failed to follow instructions when he was asked to help move pallets on December 22, 2014. Memo to L. Willis from P. Chenault (Jan. 16, 2015), ECF No. 12-3 [hereinafter “Termination Memo”]. Chenault further stated that Willis was counseled regarding his conduct and performance but did not improve. Id. Finally, Chenault stated that Willis's “conduct adversely affects the efficiency of [the commissary's] service and will not be tolerated. Therefore, for the efficiency of the service, your appointment is being terminated.” Id.

         Willis filed an administrative action claiming discrimination and retaliation. After an administrative law judge dismissed his complaint, Willis filed this action.

         DISCUSSION

         I. Willis's Discrimination Claims

         Willis's claims of discrimination based on race, color, gender, and religion arise under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e to 2000e-17. To prove these claims, Willis must establish that the Government discriminated against him in the terms and conditions of his employment because of his “race, color, religion, [or] sex” or that “race, color, religion, [or] sex . . . was a motivating factor” behind the employer's decision. 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e-2(a)(1), 2000e-2(m). Willis's age discrimination claim arises under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 621-634. To prove that claim, Willis must show that the Government discriminated against him in the terms and conditions of his employment “because of [his] age.” 29 U.S.C. § 623(a)(1). Willis did not present evidence or even allege any facts to suggest that the Government discriminated ...


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