United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Western Division
OPINION AND ORDER
LEON HOLMES UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
McClure brings this lawsuit for race discrimination and
retaliation against the Little Rock School District. His
claims are based on the District's failure to promote him
in 2014 and elimination of his position in 2015 during a
reduction in force. See Document #1. The District
moves for summary judgment. For the reasons to be explained,
the motion is granted.
should grant summary judgment if the evidence demonstrates
that 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). The moving party bears the initial burden
of demonstrating the absence of a genuine dispute for trial.
Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106
S.Ct. 2548, 2553, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). If the moving party
meets that burden, the nonmoving party must come forward with
specific facts that establish a genuine dispute of material
fact. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio
Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 1356, 89
L.Ed.2d 538 (1986); Torgerson v. City of Rochester,
643 F.3d 1031, 1042 (8th Cir. 2011) (en banc). A genuine
dispute of material fact exists only if the evidence is
sufficient to allow a reasonable jury to return a verdict in
favor of the nonmoving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby,
Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2510, 91
L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). The Court must view the evidence in the
light most favorable to the nonmoving party and must give
that party the benefit of all reasonable inferences that can
be drawn from the record. Pedersen v. Bio-Med.
Applications of Minn., 775 F.3d 1049, 1053 (8th Cir.
2015). If the nonmoving party fails to present evidence
sufficient to establish an essential element of a claim on
which that party bears the burden of proof, then the moving
party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.
Id. The Eighth Circuit has made clear that
“[t]here is no discrimination case exception to the
application of summary judgment.” Torgerson,
643 F.3d at 1043 (internal quotations and citations omitted).
an African American, was a Preventative Maintenance Foreman
for seventeen years in the District's Maintenance and
Operations Department. See Document #24. In 2008 he
applied for but was denied the position of Preventative
Maintenance Supervisor. Based on this non-selection, McClure
sued the District for race discrimination in case number
4:10-cv-1172 SWW, which resulted in summary judgment for the
District in March 2013.
August 2014, McClure applied for the Maintenance and
Operations Supervisor position. He interviewed with a panel
of three individuals: Wayne Adams, who is Caucasian; and
Kelsey Bailey and Dr. Lilly Bouie, who are both African
American. Document #19-6 at 39. In this interview, McClure
received a total score of 89 based on each interviewer's
scores of McClure's answers to nine interview questions.
See Document #24-1 at 7-12. A Caucasian individual,
James Taggart, was selected instead. Taggart had held the
Maintenance and Operations Supervisor position for more than
a year on an interim basis. He scored a 123 in the interview.
filed an EEOC charge related to his non-selection in February
2015. A little more than a month later, then-District
Superintendent Dexter Suggs notified McClure that he
recommended McClure's contract not be renewed for the
following school year. After McClure received a hearing
before three individuals, Johnny Key, the Arkansas
Commissioner of Education, affirmed the recommendation not to
renew McClure's contract. Document #19-6 at 64-67. This
decision occurred as part of a reduction in force. There is
no evidence that Key, or any of the individuals on the
hearing panel, knew about McClure's prior EEOC charges or
prior lawsuit. See Document #67.
brings his claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1981 and §
1983. He first asserts race discrimination and
retaliation based on the District's failure to promote
him in August 2014. McClure presents no argument or evidence
of direct discrimination, so his race discrimination claim is
analyzed using the McDonnell Douglas framework.
Under this framework, McClure must first make a prima facie
showing of intentional discrimination. See McDonnell
Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 802-04, 93 S.Ct.
1817, 1824-25, 36 L.Ed.2d 668 (1973). To do so, McClure need
only show that (1) he is a member of a protected group; (2)
he was qualified and applied for a promotion to an available
position; (3) he was denied the promotion; and (4) similarly
situated employees outside of the protected group were
promoted instead. See Shannon v. Ford Motor Co., 72
F.3d 678, 682 (8th Cir. 1996); see also Sallis v. Univ.
of Minn., 408 F.3d 470, 476 (8th Cir. 2005) (explaining
that a prima facie case requires a plaintiff to show
“(1) that he is a member of a protected class; (2) that
he was qualified for his position and performed his duties
adequately; and (3) that he suffered an adverse employment
action under circumstances that would permit the court to
infer that unlawful discrimination was involved.”).
McClure makes out a prima facie case, the burden then shifts
to the District to articulate a legitimate, nondiscriminatory
reason for the hiring decision. See McDonnell
Douglas, 411 U.S. at 802-03, 93 S.Ct. at 1824-25. If
this “minimal” burden is met, McClure must show
that the proffered reason is pretext for unlawful
discrimination. Id. at 804, 93 S.Ct. at 1825.
McClure must both rebut the proffered reason and provide
evidence that the real reason for the move was unlawful
discrimination. See Johnson v. AT&T Corp., 422
F.3d 756, 763 (8th Cir. 2005). At all times, McClure bears
the ultimate burden “of proof and persuasion”
that he was the victim of unlawful discrimination. See
Torgerson, 643 F.3d at 1046.
District's August 2014 failure to promote McClure, the
District does not dispute that McClure has made out a prima
facie case of race discrimination. The Court proceeds
likewise. See Tusing v. Des Moines Indep. Cmty. Sch.
Dist., 639 F.3d 507, 515 (8th Cir. 2011). As its
legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for not promoting
McClure the District points out that Taggart scored higher
than McClure on the interview responses, as he scored a 123
versus McClure's score of 89. A higher score on a job
interview is a legitimate nondiscriminatory reason. See
Nelson v. USAble Mutual Ins. Co., 918 F.3d 990, 993 (8th
District says that McClure cannot establish this reason was
pretextual at step three of McDonnell Douglas. A
plaintiff can show pretext by, among other things, showing
that the employer's explanation is not worthy of credence
because it has no basis in fact or that a prohibited reason
more likely motivated the employer. Id. (citing
Torgerson, 643 F.3d at 1046). McClure argues that he
was the “far superior candidate for the position,
” that Taggart was preselected for the position, and
that the District's subjective interview process
attempted to neutralize his “obvious superior objective
qualifications.” Document #25 at 16, 22.
pretext based on a rejected applicant's qualifications,
McClure must show that the District “hired a
less qualified applicant.” Barber v. C1
Truck Driver Training, LLC, 656 F.3d 782, 793 (8th Cir.
2011) (quoting Kincaid v. City of Omaha, 378 F.3d
799, 805 (8th Cir.2004)). McClure believes he was the
superior candidate over Taggart because he has a college
degree and he has more supervisory experience. True, McClure
has a college degree while Taggart does not, but it is
undisputed that the Maintenance and Operations Supervisor
position did not require or prefer that the successful
applicant have a college degree. Document #24 at 2. As to
supervisory experience, Taggart had previously supervised six
to ten employees for nine years, and had supervised more than
twenty employees as interim Maintenance and Operations
Supervisor prior to being interviewed for the permanent
position. See Document #19-4 at 9-10. McClure had
supervised sixteen to nineteen employees in his position with
the District. See Document #19-6 at 26-27. “A
comparative analysis of [their relevant]
qualifications” gives the Court no reason to disbelieve
the District's proffered reason for hiring Taggart over
McClure. See Nelson, 918 F.3d at 993. Moreover,
“[t]he fact that [McClure] may have been capable of
filling the role of [Maintenance and Operations Supervisor],
or that he has specific strengths as a candidate, does not
show pretext.” Barber, 656 F.3d at 793. The
Court could parse the notes on the two men's interview
answers and provide its own judgment as to whom the District
should have hired, as McClure requests, but it is not the
role of the Court to “sit as super-personnel
departments to second-guess the business decisions of
employers.” See Dorsey v. Pinnacle Automation
Co., 278 F.3d 830, 837 (8th Cir. 2002).
also believes that Taggart was preselected for the job. To
support this contention, he points to the fact that the job
did not require a college degree, and he also argues that the
interviewers scored McClure and Taggart differently despite
their similar answers.
is true that ‘evidence of preselection and arbitrary
manipulation of job requirements to benefit the pre-selected
applicant may act to discredit the defendant's proffered
explanation.'” Nelson, 918 F.3d at 994
(quoting Tyler v. Univ. of Ark. Bd. of Trs., 628
F.3d 980, 988 (8th Cir. 2011)). In this case, however,
McClure has provided no evidence to support his belief that
Taggart was preselected. See Woods v. Steel Related
Tech., Inc., No. 3:09-cv-161-DPM (E.D. Ark, Mar. 31,
2011). He says it is “odd that an educational
institution would discount the importance of a college
degree, ” arguing that the job description, which did
not require a college degree, was tailored to Taggart.
Document # 25 at 21. But McClure presents no evidence that a
college degree would make a person better able to perform the
duties of the Maintenance and Operations Supervisor. The
Court will not second-guess the District's facially
neutral judgment in not requiring a degree for the position.
See Nelson, 918 F.3d at 994 (“Nelson presents
no evidence that the reduced requirements failed to
accurately represent the responsibilities of the
position.” (alteration and quotations omitted)).
also argues that because Taggart was placed as the interim
maintenance supervisor years before, it is “obvious
that Taggert (sic) had been preselected for the
position.” Document #25 at 20. However, this fact alone
does not show that Taggart was preselected for the permanent
position. McClure does not produce any evidence that
Taggart's selection as interim maintenance ...