United States District Court, S.D. Texas, Houston Division
MEMORANDUM AND OPINION
Rosenthal Chief United States District Judge.
Plumbar started working as an Acquisition and Reference
Librarian for the South Texas College of Law in December
2012. In 2014, Plumbar complained to his supervisors that he
thought he was being paid less than his white coworkers and
asked for an increase. His request was denied. That same
year, Plumbar asked that his full-time position be converted
to part-time. That request was granted. His part-time duties
were primarily to staff a reference desk in the law
school's library. In December of that year, his position
was terminated. Plumbar sued, alleging that he was paid less
than his coworkers because of his race and that his position
was terminated based on race and retaliation for his
complaint about pay, in violation of Title VII and 42 U.S.C.
§ 1981. South Texas College of Law responded that it
eliminated Plumbar's position based on an anticipated
budget shortfall that required cost savings. South Texas
asserted that it cut Plumbar's position after examining
the demand for reference-desk services during the day and
evening hours and learning that the demand was low during the
Thursday evening and Saturday hours Plumbar worked.
discovery, South Texas College of Law moved for summary
judgment, Plumbar responded, and South Texas replied. (Docket
Entry Nos. 28, 32, 34). Based on a careful review of the
motion, response, and reply; the record; and the relevant
law, the court grants South Texas College of Law's
summary judgment motion. (Docket Entry No. 28). The reasons
for the rulings are set out below, and final judgment is
Texas College of Law hired Joseph Plumbar in December 2012 to
work as an Acquisition and Reference Librarian in the Fred
Parks Library. (Docket Entry No. 32, Ex. A at ¶ 1).
Plumbar worked full-time until the summer of 2014.
(Id. at ¶ 3). His job duties included staffing
the library's reference desk, ordering new materials for
the library, and maintaining the materials budget.
(Id. at ¶ 4;Docket Entry No. 28, Ex. 1 A).
in 2014,  Plumbar complained about what he perceived
as his racially disparate pay. He complained to his direct
supervisor, Mary Lippold, Vice President and Director of
Library Services. (Docket Entry No. 32, Ex. A at ¶ 7).
Lippold told Plumbar to take his complaint to David Cowan,
Director of the library at the time. (Id.). Cowan
told Plumbar that his pay was set using the American
Association of Law Libraries Survey standards, and that his
pay was proper considering his job description and
responsibilities and his experience as a professional
librarian. (Id.). Plumbar asked to meet with Stephen
Alderman, Vice President of Human Resources and General
Counsel for South Texas College of Law. (Id.; Docket
Entry No. 28, Ex. 1 at ¶ 5). During that meeting,
Plumbar argued that the American Association of Law Libraries
Survey supported an increase in his pay. (Docket Entry No.
28, Ex. 1 at ¶ 5). Alderman disagreed, explaining that
Plumbar's position corresponded to several different job
categories on the Survey and that his pay was properly set
based on those categories. (Id.). Alderman and
Plumbar dispute whether Plumbar complained about race
discrimination in his pay during this meeting. (Compare
Id. with Docket Entry No. 32, Ex. A at ¶ 7).
Alderman does not dispute that he knew Plumbar had told Cowan
of his belief that his salary-increase request was denied
because of his race. (Docket Entry No. 28, Ex.1 at ¶ 6).
2014, Plumbar asked to reduce his full-time position to
part-time so he could concentrate on his private law
practice. (Docket Entry No. 28, Ex. 1 at ¶ 7). His
request was approved, and Plumbar became a part-time employee
in July 2014. (Id.). Plumbar's part-time
schedule included staffing the reference desk on Thursday
evenings and Saturday during the day. (Id., Ex. 2 at
summer of 2014, Cowan retired as Director of Library
Services. (Id. at ¶ 6). Mary Lippold, Associate
Director of Administrator Services, and Monica Ortale,
Associate Director of Public Services, were made co-directors
of the library until a new director was found.
(Id.). In the fall of 2014, South Texas faced a
budget shortfall in the coming fiscal year. ((Docket Entry
No. 28, Ex. 1 at ¶ 8). Lippold and Ortale were directed
to "be conscious of cost savings in every aspect of the
library." (Id; Ex. 1A; Ex. 2 at ¶ 7).
After reviewing the trends in the demand for library
reference services at different times, Lippold and Ortale
decided to cut Plumbar's hours from the reference desk
because low demand made it unnecessary to provide reference
services during those times. (Id., Ex. 2 at ¶
8). Lippold told Alderman that because of the low demand for
the reference librarian's services on Thursday evenings
and weekends, she recommended terminating Plumbar. (Id.,
Ex. 1 at ¶ 8). Alderman approved the decision.
(Id.). Plumbar was notified on December 5, 2014 that
his position was terminated. (Id. at ¶ 9).
4, 2015, Plumbar filed a discrimination charge with the EEOC,
alleging race discrimination and retaliation in violation of
Title VII. The EEOC issued a right-to-sue letter on October
16, 2015. On January 15, 2016, Plumbar filed this suit. He
alleges that he was paid less based on race discrimination
and that he was terminated based on both race discrimination
and retaliation for complaining about his disparate pay, in
violation of Title VII and 42 U.S.C. § 1981. (Docket
Entry Nos. 1, 23). South Texas moves for summary judgment on
the basis that Plumbar's position was terminated based on
budget cuts, a legitimate nondiscriminatory and
nonretaliatory reason. The parties' arguments and the record
evidence are analyzed under the applicable legal standards.
The Summary Judgment Standard
judgment is required when '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.'" Trent
v. Wade, 776 F.3d 368, 376 (5th Cir. 2015) (quoting
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a)). "A genuine dispute of material fact
exists when the 'evidence is such that a reasonable jury
could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.'"
Nola Spice Designs, LLC v. Haydel Enters., Inc., 783
F.3d 527, 536 (5th Cir. 2015) (quoting Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)). "The
moving party 'bears the initial responsibility of
informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and
identifying those portions of [the record] which it believes
demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material
fact.'" Id. (quoting EEOC v. LHC Grp.,
Inc., 773 F.3d 688, 694 (5th Cir. 2014)); see also
Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986).
the non-movant bears the burden of proof at trial, the movant
may merely point to the absence of evidence and thereby shift
to the non-movant the burden of demonstrating by competent
summary judgment proof that there is an issue of material
fact warranting trial." Id. (quotation marks
omitted); see also Celotex, 477 U.S. at 325.
Although the party moving for summary judgment must
demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact,
it does not need to negate the elements of the
nonmovant's case. Boudreaux v. Swift Transp.
Co., 402 F.3d 536, 540 (5th Cir. 2005). "A fact is
'material' if its resolution in favor of one party
might affect the outcome of the lawsuit under governing
law." Sossamon v. Lone Star State of Texas, 560
F.3d 316, 326 (5th Cir. 2009) (quotation omitted). "If
the moving party fails to meet [its] initial burden, the
motion [for summary judgment] must be denied, regardless of
the nonmovant's response." United States v. $92,
203.00 in U.S. Currency, 537 F.3d 504, 507 (5th Cir.
2008) (quoting Little v. Liquid Air Corp., 37 F.3d
1069, 1075 (5th Cir. 1994) (en banc)).
the moving party [meets its initial burden], the non-moving
party must' go beyond the pleadings and by her own
affidavits, or by the depositions, answers to
interrogatories, and admissions on file, designate specific
facts showing that there is a genuine issue for
trial.'" Nola Spice, 783 F.3d at 536
(quoting EEOC, 773 F.3d at 694). The nonmovant must
identify specific evidence in the record and articulate how
that evidence supports that party's claim. Baranowski
v. Hart, 486 F.3d 112, 119 (5th Cir. 2007). "This
burden will not be satisfied by 'some metaphysical doubt
as to the material facts, by conclusory allegations, by
unsubstantiated assertions, or by only a scintilla of
evidence.'" Boudreaux, 402 F.3d at 540
(quoting Little, 37 F.3d at 1075). In deciding a
summary-judgment motion, the court draws all reasonable
inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving
party. Connors v. Graves, 538 F.3d 373, 376 (5th
Cir. 2008); see also Nola Spice, 783 F.3d at 536.
Analysis A. Employment