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Sykes v. University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences

July 5, 2007

EMMA BABBETTE SYKES PLAINTIFF
v.
UNIVERSITY OF ARKANSAS FOR MEDICAL SCIENCES DEFENDANT



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Wm. R. Wilson, Jr. United States District Judge

ORDER

Pending is Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment.*fn1 Plaintiff has responded,*fn2 and Defendant replied.*fn3

Plaintiff alleges race discrimination in violation of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.*fn4 Defendant contends that it is entitled to summary judgment because: (1) it is an institution of higher education, organized under the laws of the State of Arkansas and cannot be sued;

(2) Plaintiff has not presented sufficient evidence to establish a prima facie case of race discrimination.

I. Background

Plaintiff is an African American who has worked thirteen years for Defendant. Her job title is Administrative Assistant II, and she is classified as a grade 17.*fn5 At the time of the alleged discrimination, her immediate supervisor was Billie Milligan ("Milligan") and the department Director was Janet Lynn ("Lynn").*fn6

In 2004, Plaintiff began sharing on-call duties with Milligan and Lynn. She was paid for the extra on-call hours, and supervised the operators in the department. Plaintiff's oversight duties included interviewing applicants, scheduling work weeks, and keeping phone numbers updated.*fn7 Plaintiff did not discipline, and made no hiring or firing decisions.*fn8

Plaintiff alleges that Milligan and Lynn eliminated her supervisor position and on-call pay in May 2005. She also alleges that a Caucasian employee -- Donna Abbott ("Abbott") --replaced her.*fn9

In support of her allegations, Plaintiff offers a memorandum that describes her as "supervisor of the operators";*fn10 plus statements from co-workers confirming that she sought and was awarded such a position.*fn11

In response, Defendant offers evidence that: (1) Plaintiff never received a formal promotion but was merely allowed to assume "lead operator" duties;*fn12 (2) her wages, job title, and classification remained the same during the relevant time frame;*fn13 (3) she remains the highest paid operator in her department, and her salary and benefits never decreased;*fn14 (4) even though she lost on-call overtime wages, she does not want such duties, and she has the opportunity to work overtime;*fn15 (5) she cannot show that she was replaced by a similarly situated Caucasian, because her testimony regarding Abbott's promotion to supervisor is based on speculation, and she had a higher job classification than Jernigan.*fn16

II. Summary Judgment Standard

Summary judgment is only appropriate if the information found in pleadings, depositions, interrogatory answers, admissions, and affidavits, show that there is no genuine issue of any material fact left for final resolution.*fn17 Factual disputes that are irrelevant or unnecessary are not considered material facts.*fn18

The burden of showing that there is a genuine issue of material fact for trial is on the party opposing summary judgment.*fn19 To determine if Plaintiff can defeat the motion, the Court must consider the record as a whole, viewing the facts and inferences in the light most favorable to Plaintiff.*fn20 A motion should be denied if, in reviewing the evidence in this light, reasonable people can differ as to the conclusions to be drawn from it.*fn21

The Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit has cautioned that summary judgment is an extreme remedy that should only be granted when the movant has established a right to the judgment beyond controversy.*fn22 Nevertheless, summary judgment promotes judicial economy by preventing trial when no genuine issue of fact remains.*fn23 The Eighth Circuit ...


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