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Brooks v. Gillespie

United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Western Division

September 27, 2017

SHARRON BROOKS PLAINTIFF
v.
CINDY GILLESPIE, Director, ARKANSAS DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES DEFENDANT

          OPINION AND ORDER

          Susan Webber Wright, United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Sharron Brooks (“Brooks”) filed this employment dispute against Cindy Gillespie, Director of the Arkansas Department of Human Services (“ADHS”), sued in her official capacity only. Before the Court is ADHS's motion for summary judgment [ECF Nos. 23, 24, 25], Brooks's response in opposition [ECF Nos. 31, 33], and ADHS's reply [ECF No. 34]. After careful consideration, and for reasons that follow, summary judgment is granted in favor of ADHS.

         I. Summary Judgment Standard

         Summary judgment is appropriate when “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). 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 a genuine issue for trial. Id. at 587. “[A] genuine issue of material fact exists if: (1) there is a dispute of fact; (2) the disputed fact is material to the outcome of the case; and (3) the dispute is genuine, that is, a reasonable jury could return a verdict for either party.” RSBI Aerospace, Inc. v. Affiliated FM Ins. Co., 49 F.3d 399, 401 (8th Cir. 1995).

         II. Background

         Brooks, who is black, has worked for ADHS since 2007, and she brings this action claiming that ADHS rejected her applications for promotion because of her race and gender. Brooks started her employment with ADHS working as an administrative assistant, and in 2009, the agency promoted her to a program coordinator position. In January 2014, Brooks submitted applications for three openings for senior auditor positions, a job that carried minimum qualifications as follows:

The formal education equivalent of a bachelor's degree in accounting, finance, or related field; plus three years of experience in accounting, auditing, or a related area, including one year in an organizational auditing capacity. Additional requirements determined by the agency for recruiting purposes require review and approval by the Office of Personnel Management. OTHER JOB RELATED EDUCATION AND/OR EXPERIENCE MAY BE SUBSTITUTED FOR ALL OR PART OF THESE BASIC REQUIREMENTS, EXCEPT FOR CERTIFICATION OR LICENSURE REQUIREMENTS, UPON APPROVAL OF THE QUALIFICATIONS REVIEW COMMITTEE.[1]

         Brooks did not meet the minimum job qualifications for senior auditor, and ADHS cancelled the job openings for lack of qualified applicants.

         In December 2014, Brooks applied for another senior auditor job opening. This time, Brooks met the minimum qualifications and benchmark criteria, and ADHS interviewed her for the job but hired a white male named Mark Speight (“Speight”) for the position. In August 2014, approximately four months after ADHS hired Speight as a senior auditor, it posted an audit coordinator position, a job that required a bachelor's degree in accounting, finance, or a related field; four years' experience in accounting, finance or related field; and two years in a supervisory or leadership capacity. Brooks and Speight both applied for the position, and ADHS selected Speight for the job.

         On June 30, 2016, Brooks filed this action, charging that ADHS failed to promote her because of her race and sex, in violation of Title VII, the Arkansas Civil Rights Act, and 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

         III. Discussion

         ADHS and Gillespie assert Eleventh Amendment immunity, and they argue that there are no genuine issues for trial on the merits of Brooks's discrimination claims.

         Sovereign ...


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