Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals 
Weekly Update
 April 5, 2019

Published Cases

There were no published labor or employment law cases last week.
Unpublished Cases
Case No. 18-11081
March 26, 2019

The Court affirmed summary judgment on Dukes’ claim that the County Board of Education, the Board Members, and the Superintendent discriminated against him by failing to promote him on the basis of race, in violation of Title VII and Sections 1981 and 1983.  

Dukes, an African-American bus driver, applied for the position of transportation route supervisor in 2012, after covering the same general area for 20 years.  He had several leadership positions, significantly as the Alabama Education Association’s representative for support personnel and President of the Shelby County Education Support Professionals.  The selected candidate was a white male who had five years’ experience as a full-time substitute bus driver, which required him to drive throughout the county.  The interview panel preferred that candidate’s experience driving over a variety of areas.  In 2014, Dukes again applied to be a transportation route supervisor when the County posted another vacancy for the position. This time, the Board voted to hire Copes, a white male who had previous experience as a principal.  In their response to Dukes’ EEOC charge, the Board provided incorrect information regarding who interviewed Copes and his experience with computer programming.  

The Court first analyzed the case under the  McDonnell Douglas framework and concluded that it could not say that either candidate chosen over Dukes was so unqualified that no reasonable person could have selected them over Dukes. 

Applying the convincing mosaic standard, the Court contrasted Smith v. Lockheed-Martin Corp. , where a convincing mosaic of circumstantial evidence was established, and  Connelly v. MARTA , where it was not.  The Court concluded a convincing mosaic was not established in this case. According to the Court, “the most convincing piece of circumstantial evidence” asserted by Dukes was the Board’s erroneous representations in the Board’s EEOC position statement.  Citing to the Fifth Circuit for the proposition that such erroneous statements can constitute circumstantial evidence of discrimination, the Court opined that the erroneous statements in this case, standing alone, were not enough to create a convincing mosaic of circumstantial evidence to allow a jury to infer intentional discrimination.    
Case No. 18-11704
March 29, 2019 

The Court affirmed summary judgment in favor of the City of Quitman on Monds’ race discrimination claims brought pursuant to Title VII and Section 1981.

Monds, an African-American, applied to be the City Clerk and Treasurer.  The job posting specified the minimum education and work experience requirements, which included a bachelor’s degree in the listed fields or a related field, and that comparable combinations of education and experience would be considered.  Monds has a B.A. in Criminal Justice, an M.S. in Administration, and ten years’ experience with the DOJ’s Bureau of Prisons, working in human resources positions. During his interview Monds was unable to answer a critical accounting question.  The selected candidate was a white female, Hudson, who possessed a GED equivalent and fourteen years’ experience in bookkeeping and accounting.  She was not asked the same key question as Monds or the three other candidates because she brought up the matter on her own initiative.  The district court concluded that Monds failed to produce evidence that the City’s justification for hiring Hudson, that she was more qualified, was pretextual.  The Eleventh Circuit agreed.

Quoting  Cooper v. Southern Co. , the Court explained that, while a disparity in qualifications  may evidence pretext, the disparity must be “of such weight and significance that no reasonable person, in the exercise of impartial judgment, could have chosen the candidate selected over the plaintiff.”  
It opined that the disparity in this case was not of such weight that no reasonable person could have chosen Hudson over Monds. The Court highlighted that Hudson had more years of relevant experience, while Monds lacked significant experience in finance, and the job posting specified comparable combinations of education and experience would be considered.  

The Court further concluded that Monds did not support his factual assertions with evidence.  Most notably, although Monds asserted the Mayor (who had participated in discussions regarding the candidates) had answered affirmatively when asked if he believed that race factored into the hiring decision, the Court pointed out the he did not testify to “a single event, statement, or occurrence that informed his conclusion.”  It opined that the Mayor’s unsupported subjective belief did not raise a genuine issue of material fact.  
Case No. 17-13258
March 28, 2019

The Court affirmed summary judgment to UPS on McGuire’s disability-discrimination claims under the ADA and FCRA and the dismissal of his hybrid FCRA/§440.205 retaliation claim.

While working as a package car driver for UPS, McGuire injured and then reinjured his shoulder.  After each injury, he applied for and received workers’ compensation benefits.  Following his second injury, McGuire’s doctor released him to full duty with no restrictions but explained he could not drive while taking pain narcotics.  Because he was on narcotics, McGuire could not return to his position.  According to UPS, there were no other full-time positions available that McGuire could bid into based on his seniority, so McGuire took a part-time “small sort” position instead.  A little over a year after McGuire’s first ADA accommodation request, McGuire was no longer on narcotics but still had not been placed in a full-time position.

McGuire brought his disability-discrimination claims under a “regarded as” disabled theory, asserting UPS erroneously regarded him as disabled despite being medically cleared following his second injury.  The Court rejected this theory based on the undisputed evidence that he was not allowed to drive while on narcotics.  The Court further explained McGuire could not proceed on this theory for the period of time after he initiated the ADA accommodation process and represented he was disabled.  The Court then found the accommodation UPS provided was reasonable and that McGuire did not meet his burden of showing  special circumstances requiring an exception from the seniority system.  Lastly, the Court upheld dismissal of McGuire’s retaliation claim on the ground he failed to adequately plead causation between his statutorily protected conduct and an adverse employment decision.  
The Eleventh Circuit Weekly Update was prepared by Reemployment Assistance Appeals Commission staff: case summaries by Chairman Frank E. Brown, and Appellate Counsel Cristina A. Velez and Katie E. Sabo; editing by Deputy General Counsel and Chief Appellate Attorney Amanda L. Neff; research and layout by Research Attorney Lesley Blanton.