United States District Court, D. Maryland
DR. AKEDA PEARSON
BOARD OF EDUCATION OF ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY, et al,
Catherine C Blake United States District Judge.
before the court is a motion for summary judgment, filed by
defendants Board of Education of Anne Arundel County and
Mamie Perkins in her official capacity (collectively
"the Board"). For the reasons stated below, the
court will grant the motion for summary judgment.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
following facts are undisputed. Plaintiff Dr. Akeda Pearson,
an African American woman, was employed in the Office of
Equity and Human Relations ("OEHR") of the Board of
Education of Anne Arundel County ("BOE") from
January 2011 to July 31, 2014. The purpose' of the OEHR
was to address achievement disparities between racial groups
in Anne Arundel public schools. (Liverman Deposition, pp.
16-17, Pl.'s Resp. in Opp. to Def.'s Mot. for Summary
Judgment ["Pl.'s Resp."] Ex. 3, ECF No. 72-3).
Dr. Pearson's responsibilities included community
outreach and human relations, as well as investigation and
reporting of bias-motivated incidents within the Anne Arundel
August 1, 2013, defendant Mamie Perkins, an African American
woman, became the Interim Superintendent of Schools for the
BOE. (Aff. of Mamie Perkins, ECF No. 65-7 at 1). On May 28,
2014, Ms. Perkins announced the reorganization of the OEHR,
which became the Office of Equity and Accelerated Student
Achievement ("OEASA"). (Id. at 2). The
same day, Dr. Pearson was informed that her position would be
eliminated as part of the reorganization. (Id.). Ms.
Perkins told Dr. Pearson that she would be temporarily
reassigned, and that if she did not apply and get selected
for another position in the BOE, her employment would
terminate on July 31, 2014. (Id. at 3).
thereafter, Dr. Pearson applied for the position of
Specialist for School and Community Partnerships in the
newly-created OEASA. Anthony Alston, the Executive Director
of OEASA and an African American man, led the interviews.
(Aff. of Anthony Alston, ECF No. 65-15 at 1). Mr. Alston
wanted to hire two people to fill positions as Specialist for
School and Community Partnerships. (Id.). Dr.
Pearson and five other candidates interviewed for the
position on or about July 16, 2014. (Id.). Each
candidate's interview performance was rated on a
numerical scale; scoring cards from the July 16, 2014,
interviews show that Dr. Pearson ranked fifth out of the six
candidates. (Id; Interview Scoring Card, Def.'s
Mot. for Summary Judgment ["Def.'s Mot."] Ex.
H-1, ECF No. 65-16). The highest-scoring candidate was
Caucasian and not offered a position. (Aff. of Anthony
Alston, ECF No. 65-5 at 1). The candidates with the
second-and third-highest scores were offered positions.
(Id.). The candidate ranked second declined the
offer, but the candidate ranked third, an African American
woman, accepted the position. (Id. at 2). Dr.
Pearson was not offered a position in the OEASA and her
employment with BOE was terminated on July 31, 2014.
August 12, 2014, Mr. Alston conducted a second round of
interviews to fill the other position of Specialist for
School and Community Partnerships; Dr. Pearson was not
re-interviewed during this round. The highest-scoring
candidate during the second round of interviews was a
Caucasian man. (Id; Interview Scoring Card,
Def.'s Mot. Ex. H-2, ECF No. 65-17). Mr. Alston offered
him the position and he accepted it. (Id.).
Pearson initiated suit on August 17, 2017. Her original
complaint named BOE, Ms. Perkins, and BOE employees Arlen
Liverman and George Arlotto as defendants. On March 19, 2018,
this court granted motions to dismiss claims asserted against
Ms. Perkins, Mr. Liverman, and Mr. Arlotto in their
individual capacities. Dr. Pearson subsequently filed an
amended complaint, naming BOE and Ms. Perkins in her official
capacity as defendants (collectively "the Board").
The Board filed a motion for summary judgment, Dr. Pearson
filed her response in opposition, and the Board filed a reply
to Dr. Pearson's response. The issues have been fully
briefed and are ripe for review.
Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) provides that summary judgment
should be granted "if 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). "A dispute is genuine if 'a reasonable jury
could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.'"
Libertarian Party of Va. v. Judd, 718 F.3d 308, 313
(4th Cir. 2013) (quoting Dulaney v. Packaging Corp. of
Am., 673 F.3d 323, 330 (4th Cir. 2012)). "A fact is
material if it 'might affect the outcome of the suit
under the governing law.'" Id. (quoting
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248
(1986)). Accordingly, '"the mere existence of
some alleged factual dispute between the parties will
not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary
judgment[.]" Anderson, 477 U.S. at 247-48. The
court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to
the nonmoving party, Tolan v. Cotton, 134 S.Ct.
1861, 1866 (2014) (per curiam) (citation and quotation
omitted), and draw all reasonable inferences in that
party's favor, Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372,
378 (2007) (citations omitted); see also Jacobs v. N.C.
Admin. Office of the Courts, 780 F.3d 562, 568-69 (4th
Cir. 2015). At the same time, the court must "prevent
factually unsupported claims and defenses from proceeding to
trial." Bouchat v. Bait. Ravens Football Club,
Inc., 346 F.3d 514, 526 (4th Cir. 2003) (quoting
Drewitt v. Pratt, 999 F.2d 774, 778-79 (4th Cir.
Title VII Claims of Discrimination and Retaliation
VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits an employer
from discriminating against an employee on the basis of,
inter alia, the employee's race. 42 U.S.C.
§ 2000e-2(a). A plaintiff may avoid summary judgment on
a Title VII claim through "two avenues of proof"
See Hill v. Lockheed Martin Logistics Mgmt., Inc.,
354 F.3d 277, 284 (4th Cir. 2004) (overruled on other grounds
by University of Texas Sw. Med. Ctr. v. Nassar, 570
U.S. 338 (2013)). The first avenue requires the plaintiff to
present direct or circumstantial evidence that "raises a
genuine issue of material fact as to whether an impermissible
factor such as race motivated the employer's adverse
employment decision." Diamond v. Colonial Life &
Accident Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 310, 318 (4th Cir. 2005). If
the plaintiff lacks direct or indirect evidence of
discrimination, she may proceed using the second avenue: the
burden-shifting framework first established in McDonnell
Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 802 (1973).
See Diamond, 416 F.3d at 318. Under the
McDonnell Douglas framework, the plaintiff bears the
initial burden of establishing a prima facie case of racial
discrimination. McDonnell, 411 U.S. at 802. The
requirements of a prima facie case differ depending on the
type of discrimination alleged. Jenkins v. Baltimore City
Fire Dept., 862 F.Supp.2d 427, 444 (D. Md. 2012) (citing
McDonnell, 411 U.S. at 802 n.13). If a plaintiff
establishes a prima facie case, "the burden shifts to
the employer to articulate a legitimate, nondiscriminatory
reason for the adverse employment action."
Hill, 354 F.3d at 285. If the defendant provides a
non-discriminatory reason for the adverse employment action,
"the burden shifts back to the plaintiff to prove by a
preponderance of the evidence that the employer's stated
reasons were not its true reasons, but were a pretext for
discrimination." Id. (quoting Reeves v.
Sanderson Plumbing Prods., Inc., 530 U.S. 133; 143
(2000) (internal quotation marks omitted)). This court will
analyze Dr. Pearson's claims pursuant to the
McDonnell Douglas framework.