United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Jonesboro Division
motion for summary judgment [Doc. No. 24] is granted on
plaintiff Erick Woodruff's race discrimination claims
under 42 U.S.C. section 1983 and the Arkansas Civil Rights
Act (“ACRA”). The remaining claim for retaliation
under the Arkansas Whistle-Blower Protection Act is hereby
remanded to state court.
viewed in the light most favorable to Woodruff, the
non-moving party, the facts are as follows. Woodruff was
hired to work as the Director of Public Works for the City of
Jonesboro on April 11, 2006. Pl.'s Resp. Def.'s
Statement F. (“Facts”) ¶ 3, Doc. No. 35. In
2009, defendant Mayor Harold Perrin hired Woodruff to head
the Information Technology (“IT”) department.
Facts ¶ 4. The mayor's son, Mark Perrin, worked part
time for the Jonesboro Police Department. Id. at
¶ 6. His job was to log sex-offender data. Id.
December 4, 2014, Woodruff caught Mark Perrin trying to
change the firewall settings on the police department's
computer. Woodruff Dep. 30:4-31:15, Doc. No. 25-1. When
Woodruff examined the computer, the contents of the hard
drive had been entirely deleted. Id. 38:13-39:9.
This was suspicious and greatly concerned Woodruff.
discussed the incident with the mayor. Facts ¶ 12.
Shortly thereafter, the mayor met with a company called
Edgewater to discuss having the city's IT department
audited. Id. ¶ 17. Edgewater was one of five
companies that submitted proposals to conduct the IT audit.
Id. ¶ 23. In April 2015, the Jonesboro City
Council's Finance Committee accepted Edgewater's bid,
and Edgewater, led by Cliff Rushing, began its audit.
Id. ¶¶ 24, 25. The results of the audit
were presented to the City Council in September 2015.
Id. ¶ 33.
undisputed that the audit was critical of Woodruff and
identified issues that needed to be corrected in the IT
department. Id. ¶¶ 40, 41. A legislative
audit conducted in 2015 corroborates this finding. Douglas
Aff. ¶ 14, Doc. No. 25-13; Doc. No. 25-11, at 11.
Suzanne Allen, who was hired as the city's new chief
financial officer on September 21, 2015, worked with Rushing
to draft a Performance Improvement Plan (“PIP)
following the audit. Facts ¶¶ 35, 38. Allen,
Woodruff, and Human Resources Director Dewayne Douglas met on
March 4, 2016, to review the PIP and discuss what was
expected of Woodruff going forward. Id. ¶ 41.
After consistently failing to meet the requirements of the
PIP, Woodruff was informed he was not eligible for a salary
increase in October 2016. Id. ¶¶ 46-58.
terminated Woodruff on January 9, 2017, for failing to
perform at an acceptable level and for failing to meet the
goals of the PIP. Id. ¶ 66. Woodruff disagrees,
claiming that the reasons given for his termination are
merely pretext and that he was actually denied a raise and
terminated at the behest of the mayor because he is black and
in retaliation for discovering incriminating information
about the mayor's son.
brought retaliation and race discrimination claims under the
ACRA; a retaliation claim under the Arkansas Whistle-Blower
Act; and retaliation and race discrimination claims under 42
U.S.C. section 1983. Compl., Doc. No. 2. He moved to dismiss
his claim for retaliation under the ACRA, and the motion was
granted without prejudice. Doc. Nos. 12, 17. Woodruff does
not dispute that his claim for retaliation under section 1983
should be dismissed; thus, the defendants' motion for
summary judgment is granted as to this claim as a preliminary
matter. See Doc. No. 36, at 1; Doc. No. 37, at 1.
His claims for race discrimination under 42 U.S.C. section
1983 and the ACRA and for retaliation under the Arkansas
Whistle-Blower Act remain.
judgment is appropriate when there is no genuine dispute as
to any material fact, and the moving party is entitled to
judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); Anderson
v. Liberty Lobby Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249-50 (1986). Once
the moving party demonstrates that there is no genuine
dispute of material fact, the non-moving party may not rest
upon the mere allegations or denials in his pleadings.
Holden v. Hirner, 663 F.3d 336, 340 (8th Cir. 2011).
Instead, the non-moving party must produce admissible
evidence demonstrating a genuine factual dispute requiring
trial. Id. When considering a motion for summary
judgment, all reasonable inferences must be drawn in a light
most favorable to the non-moving party. Holland v.
Sam's Club, 487 F.3d 641, 643 (8th Cir. 2007).
However, a plaintiff's own self-serving, conclusory
allegations will not suffice to defeat summary judgment.
Haas v. Kelly Servs., 409 F.3d 1030, 1034 (8th Cir.
2005). Additionally, the evidence is not weighed, and no
credibility determinations are made. Jenkins v.
Winter, 540 F.3d 742, 750 (8th Cir. 2008).
of race discrimination pursuant to the ACRA are analyzed
using the same legal framework as claims for race
discrimination under Title VII. Barber v. C1 Truck Driver
Training, LLC, 656 F.3d 782, 792 (8th Cir. 2011).
Woodruff lacks direct evidence of racial discrimination.
See Doc. No. 21, at 20 (“The reason for this
is that unlike the race claims, there is direct evidence of
intent”). Thus, to establish a prima facie
case of racial discrimination under the ACRA, Woodruff must
show that (1) he was a member of a protected group, (2) he
was meeting the legitimate expectations of his employer, (3)
he suffered an adverse employment action, and (4) the
circumstances give rise to an inference of racial
discrimination. Grant v. City of Blytheville,
Arkansas, 841 F.3d 767, 773 (8th Cir. 2016). The burden
at this stage is not onerous, and Woodruff can establish an
inference of discrimination in a variety of ways, such as by
showing differential treatment of similarly situated
employees outside the protected class. Id. at 774,
776. Woodruff is black, and he disputes whether he met the
legitimate expectations of his employer. It is undisputed
that he was denied a raise and that he was terminated
following a critical audit of the IT department.
judgment is granted for defendants on Woodruff's race
discrimination claims because Woodruff has pointed to no
evidence supporting an inference of race discrimination. In
support of his race claim, he points out that a white man
named Wixson Huffstetler got a raise. See Doc. No.
37, at 19. The problem with this is that Woodruff has failed
to demonstrate Huffstetler's situation was similar in all
relevant respects to his situation. Gilmore v.
AT&T, 319 F.3d 1042, 1046 (8th Cir. 2003). Simply
stating that Huffstetler is white and got a raise despite
having been disciplined is not sufficient.
“[Woodruff's] brief provides no explanation
regarding what specific [job Huffstetler] held and no
reference to any evidence in the record that provides such
information.” Grant, 841 F.3d at 774.
when the evidence is viewed in the light most favorable to
Woodruff and all reasonable inferences are drawn in his
favor, he has failed to establish his prima facie
case of race discrimination. For these reasons, summary
judgment is granted in favor of defendants on Woodruff's
claim for race discrimination under the ACRA. Although
Woodruff's brief indicates that he brought a race claim
under Title VII, he actually did not. Compl., ...