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Clay v. Days Inn West/Pyramid

May 7, 2007


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Susan Webber Wright United States District Judge


Plaintiff Angie Clay ("Clay") brings this employment discrimination case pursuant to Title VII, as amended by the Civil Rights Act of 1991, 42 U.S.C. § 1981, and the Family and Medical Leave Act ("FMLA") against her former employer, Days Inn West/Pyramid ("Days Inn") and her former supervisor, Tim Albright ("Albright"). Before the Court is Defendants' motion for summary judgment (docket entries #17, #18, #19). The time for responding has passed, and Clay has not filed a response. After careful consideration, and for the reasons that follow, summary judgment will be entered in Defendants' favor and this action will be dismissed with prejudice.


Summary judgment is appropriate when "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). As a prerequisite to summary judgment, a moving party must demonstrate "an absence of evidence to support the non-moving party's case." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325 (1986). Once the moving party has properly supported its motion for summary judgment, the non-moving party must "do more than simply show there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). The non-moving party may not rest on mere allegations or denials of his pleading but must "come forward with 'specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'" Id. at 587 (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e)).


The following facts are undisputed.*fn1 Clay, who is black, began working for Days Inn on January 31, 2002, part time, as a front desk clerk. Between March 1, 2003 and July 30, 2004, Clay was tardy for work at least eighty-eight times and was absent without notice on at least seven occasions. Defs.' St. of Mat. Facts, ¶¶ 1-10. On April 11, 2003, Days Inn suspended Clay for three days for failure to complete work assignments, and it counseled her numerous times for failure to perform her duties satisfactorily. Albright Aff., ¶¶ 8, 18.

On June 1, 2004, Days Inn denied Clay a promotion to the position of front desk manager for the stated reason that she was constantly late for work, she had excessive unexcused absences, and her performance was unsatisfactory. Id., ¶ 19. On July 30, 2004, Days Inn terminated Clay's employment. Id., ¶ 21.

On November 15, 2005, Clay commenced this lawsuit, claiming that Days Inn terminated her employment and failed to promote her because of her race, in violation of Title VII and 42 U.S.C. § 1981, and in retaliation for her taking leave granted under the FMLA.


Race Discrimination

Because Clay presents no evidence that clearly points to the presence of an illegal motive for Days Inn's decisions to reject her bid for promotion and terminate her employment, "she must avoid summary judgment by creating the requisite inference of unlawful discrimination through the McDonnell Douglas analysis, including sufficient evidence of pretext." Griffith v. City of Des Moines, 387 F.3d 733, 736 (8th Cir. 2004); see also Lockridge v. Board of Trustees of University of Arkansas, 315 F.3d 1005, 1013 (8th Cir. 2003)(stating that the McDonnell Douglas burden-shifting analysis applies to claims brought under 41 U.S.C. § 1981).

Under the three-stage order of proof set forth in McDonnell Douglas, Clay must first establish a prima facie case of discrimination by showing (1) membership in a protected group, (2) that she met the legitimate expectations of her employer, (3) that she suffered adverse employment action, and (4) facts that permit an inference of discrimination. Id. If Clay establishes a prima facie case, Days Inn must articulate a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for its adverse decisions. Rothmeier v. Investment Advisers, Inc., 85 F.3d 1328, 1332 (8th Cir. 1996). Finally, the burden shifts back to Clay to show that the proffered reasons are pretextual and that her race was the real reason for her non-promotion and termination.

Days Inn asserts that Clay cannot establish a prima facie case of discrimination because she cannot show that she was meeting Days Inn's reasonable expectations or that her termination and non-promotion occurred under circumstances giving rise to an inference of discrimination. Days Inn further asserts that it rejected Clay's application for promotion and terminated her employment for legitimate nondiscriminatory reasons--unsatisfactory work performance and excessive absenteeism and tardiness.

The Court agrees that Clay has failed to present any evidence that would support an inference of race discrimination with respect to her termination. And although Clay alleges that Days Inn rejected her application for promotion in favor of a white female, she provides no evidence indicating that she was similarly situated to the successful applicant. In any event, even if Clay could establish a prima facie case of discrimination, she has failed to rebut Days Inn's legitimate, nondiscriminatory reasons ...

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