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Farver v. McCarthy

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

July 31, 2019

Tyron D. Farver Plaintiff - Appellant
Ryan D. McCarthy, Acting Secretary, Department of the Army Defendant-Appellee

          Submitted: April 16, 2019

          Appeal from United States District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas - Pine Bluff Division

          Before SHEPHERD, MELLOY, and GRASZ, Circuit Judges.


         Tyron Farver challenges the decision of Pine Bluff Arsenal ("PBA"), an installation of the Department of the Army, not to hire him for either a temporary or a permanent position as a Chemical Equipment Repairer. Farver claims PBA violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e-2000e-17. The district court[1] granted the defendant's motion for summary judgment. We affirm.

         I. Background

         Farver, an African American, was employed at PBA as an Industrial Worker, but was loaned out to the Motor Powered and Systems Division ("motor pool") for his welding skills for approximately six months in 2009. There was not enough welding work to keep Farver busy welding each day at the motor pool. During times when work was slow, Farver sought training on chemical equipment such as the M17A3 ("M17") decontamination unit. With the assistance of his coworker Robert Lee, Farver became proficient in the fabrication of M17s. Farver was never assigned to work on these units during his time at the motor pool.

         Farver applied for a job as a Chemical Equipment Repairer at PBA on two occasions in 2009. First, Farver applied for a one-year term position with a possible year-to-year extension. There were multiple term positions open when Farver submitted his resume to his second-line supervisor, James Reed. Reed was uncertain of the exact number, but testified he may have received as many as 50 to 100 resumes for the one-year term positions. Reed did not select Farver. Later that year, Farver applied online for a permanent position. Reed again passed over Farver for the position.

         Reed selected Chad Adams, Brandon Wilson, JC Warren, and Anthony Foots for the term positions. Reed maintained the chosen candidates "had more the type of mechanical experience" he was looking for. This included "skills with engines, with hydraulics, pneumatics, troubleshooting, diagnostics, and those types of skills." Adams's mechanical experience included time spent as an HVAC technician, experience reading blueprints and diagrams, and installing components. Warren had experience with engines and hydraulics because he had previously owned and operated a trucking and construction business. Wilson had experience in chemical equipment repair and was familiar with M17 decontamination units because of his time as a work leader at PBA. Farver's resume highlighted his experience with welding and chemical equipment repair. However, welding experience was not required in order to be eligible for the position, and his work with chemical equipment had not been assigned by PBA.

         Regarding the permanent position, Reed selected seven individuals based on scores they received on a matrix he created to assess resumes. Despite the fact Farver's resume received a high rank from a resume-analyzing computer software program used by the Army, when Reed reviewed the materials himself he believed Farver's relevant experience had been inflated.[2] In his own matrix, Reed did not credit Farver's unassigned work experiences, work he had not observed Farver doing, and skills he doubted Farver could have acquired based on the available equipment in Farver's assigned area. In addition, Reed's matrix did not offer significant points for welding, Farver's primary assigned task in the motor pool. After Reed completed his own calculations, Farver received the lowest score of the considered applicants. Reed explained he did not hire Farver because "[Farver's] resume did not indicate that he could perform the functions that were required to do that job in the position description as well as the people [Reed] selected."

         Farver sued the Secretary of the Army ("Secretary") on the basis of race discrimination. In response to the Secretary's motion for summary judgment, Farver argued genuine issues of material fact existed as to whether Reed's failure to select him for the term and permanent positions was based on his race since he was more qualified than some of the white individuals selected. The district court granted the Secretary's motion and Farver appealed.

         II. Analysis

         Grants of summary judgment are reviewed de novo. Cox v. First Nat'l Bank, 792 F.3d 936, 938 (8th Cir. 2015). Summary judgment should be granted when "there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). There is a genuine issue of material fact if there is enough evidence" that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). The burden of demonstrating an absence of a genuine dispute of material fact is on the moving party. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). If the moving party satisfies the burden, the nonmoving party must present specific evidence, beyond "mere denials or allegations [that] . . . raise a genuine issue for trial." Wingate v. Gage Cty. Sch. Dist., 528 F.3d 1074, 1079 (8th Cir. 2008); see also Torgerson v. City of Rochester, 643 F.3d 1031, 1042 (8th Cir. 2011) (en banc) (discussing the nonmovant's burden of showing more than a "metaphysical doubt").

         "[T]o survive a motion for summary judgment on a discrimination claim, a plaintiff must present admissible evidence directly indicating unlawful discrimination, or create an inference of unlawful discrimination under the burden-shifting framework established in McDonnell Douglas . . . ." Rooney v. Rock-Tenn Converting Co., 878 F.3d 1111, 1115-16 (8th Cir. 2018) (citing McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792 (1973)). Farver does not supply any evidence of direct discrimination, so the question is one of indirect evidence. To establish an inference of discrimination, there are three steps: (1) the plaintiff must establish the prima facie case for race discrimination; (2) the burden of production then shifts to the employer to show a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for its decision; and, if the employer produces such evidence, (3) the burden of production shifts back ...

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