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Perez v. Corpus Christi Independent School District

United States District Court, S.D. Texas, Corpus Christi Division

March 28, 2018

CYNTHIA PEREZ, Plaintiff,
v.
CORPUS CHRISTI INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT, Defendant.

          ORDER ON MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          NELVA GONZALES RAMOS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Cynthia Perez (Perez) filed this action against her former employer, Corpus Christi Independent School District (CCISD), alleging that her termination was discriminatory on the basis of race and sex. Before the Court is CCISD's Motion for Summary Judgment (D.E. 20), Perez's response (D.E. 21), CCISD's reply (D.E. 26), CCISD's objections to Perez's summary judgment evidence and motion to strike (D.E. 26), and Perez's response to CCISD's evidentiary objections (D.E 29). CCISD's summary judgment motion challenges all of Perez's claims that it discriminated against her[1]. For the reasons set out below, the Court GRANTS the motion (D.E. 20).

         Also before the Court is CCISD's Motion for Enforcement of Protective Order and for Sanctions (D.E. 22). CCISD's motion objects to Perez's filing of confidential materials in support of her summary judgment response without ensuring that they were filed under seal. The motion (D.E. 22) is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART. The Court GRANTS the request for enforcement of the protective order and ORDERS that the response and its exhibits be placed under seal. The Court DENIES sanctions as set out more fully below.

         SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Summary judgment is proper if there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). A genuine issue exists “if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). The Court must examine “whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law.” Id. at 251-52. In making this determination, the Court must consider the record as a whole by reviewing all pleadings, depositions, affidavits, and admissions on file, and drawing all justifiable inferences in favor of the party opposing the motion. Caboni v. Gen. Motors Corp., 278 F.3d 448, 451 (5th Cir. 2002).

         The Court may not weigh the evidence or evaluate the credibility of witnesses. Id. Furthermore, “affidavits shall be made on personal knowledge, shall set forth such facts as would be admissible in evidence, and shall show affirmatively that the affiant is competent to testify to the matters stated therein.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e); see also Cormier v. Pennzoil Exploration & Prod. Co., 969 F.2d 1559, 1561 (5th Cir. 1992) (per curiam) (refusing to consider affidavits that relied on hearsay statements); Martin v. John W. Stone Oil Distrib., Inc., 819 F.2d 547, 549 (5th Cir. 1987) (per curiam) (stating that courts cannot consider hearsay evidence in affidavits and depositions). Unauthenticated and unverified documents do not constitute proper summary judgment evidence. King v. Dogan, 31 F.3d 344, 346 (5th Cir. 1994) (per curiam).

         The moving party bears the initial burden of showing the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). If the moving party demonstrates an absence of evidence supporting the nonmoving party's case, then the burden shifts to the nonmoving party to come forward with specific facts showing that a genuine issue for trial does exist. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). To sustain this burden, the nonmoving party cannot rest on the mere allegations of the pleadings. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e); Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. “After the nonmovant has been given an opportunity to raise a genuine factual issue, if no reasonable juror could find for the nonmovant, summary judgment will be granted.” Caboni, 278 F.3d at 451.

         The evidence must be evaluated under the summary judgment standard to determine whether the moving party has shown the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. “[T]he substantive law will identify which facts are material. Only disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248.

         FACTS

         The facts set out in this section are undisputed. CCISD hired Perez as a Junior Buyer in its Purchasing and Distribution Department in 1993. CCISD later promoted her to Buyer and then, in 2001, to Senior Buyer. D.E. 20-1, ¶ 4. She served as an at-will employee throughout her employment. Id. CCISD terminated her employment after she was arrested and admitted guilt with respect to a criminal charge for furnishing alcohol to minors.

         As a part of CCISD employment, Perez was subject to a number of restrictions on her behavior:

• Policy DH-Educator's Code of Ethics, including:
Standard 1.7. The educator shall comply with state regulations, written local Board policies, and other state and federal laws. . . .
Standard 3.2. The educator shall not intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly treat a student or minor in a manner that adversely affects or endangers the learning, physical health, mental health, or safety of the student or minor. . . .
Standard 3.7. The educator shall not furnish alcohol or illegal/unauthorized drugs to any person under 21 years of age unless the educator is a parent or guardian of that child or knowingly allow any person under 21 years of age unless the educator is a parent or guardian of that child to consume alcohol or illegal/ unauthorized drugs in the presence of the educator.
D.E. 20-1, p. 28.
• Regulation DBAA-Employment Requirements and Restrictions; Criminal History and Credit Reports, setting out factors to be considered when evaluating criminal history and employment eligibility, including:
1. Nature, seriousness and extent of the crime; . . . [and]
6. Amount of time that has elapsed since the crime was committed . . . .
D.E. 20-1, p. 8.

See also, D.E. 20-2, pp. 2-3 (memorandum recommending termination of Perez's at-will employment, applying these restrictions).

         A. The Perez Criminal Charge

         On or about October 25, 2014, Perez's daughter celebrated her eighteenth birthday at the Perez home, serving alcohol to a number of minors which included CCISD students. D.E. 20-3, p. 10; D.E. 20-4, p. 3. Perez was home at the time. When police responded to a complaint about the party, Perez was arrested on misdemeanor charges of furnishing alcohol to minors. D.E. 20-1, pp. 36-43 (CCISD Investigation Report), 47-51 (Agreement for Pretrial Diversion). The next day, Perez complied with CCISD policy and advised the CCISD legal department and her supervisor, Brian Bray, of the arrest. D.E. 20-3, p. 19; D.E. 20-4, p. 3. No. adverse employment action was taken against Perez at that time.

         When Donna Adams, the CCISD Executive Director of Certified and Professional Personnel, learned of the arrest through local media several days later, CCISD placed Perez on administrative leave without pay pending an investigation. D.E. 20-1, ¶¶ 5, 6; D.E. 20-1, p. 32. CCISD's Chief of Police conducted that investigation and waited for a resolution of the charges. Ultimately, Perez admitted guilt in a written agreement for pretrial diversion. As a result, she avoided prosecution and conviction, but was subject to court supervision for several months. Perez submitted to monthly monitoring by the Nueces County Community Supervision and Corrections Department (Adult Probation) for six months, agreed to abstain from alcohol and drug use and to submit to random testing, agreed to perform thirty hours of community service, and agreed to pay a $500 pretrial diversion program fee and other fees. D.E. 20-1, pp. 48-51.

         After receiving a copy of the agreement and pursuant to CCISD Board Policy DBAA, the CCISD Criminal History Review Committee met to evaluate Perez's employment. D.E. 20-1, ¶ 6. The Committee recommended termination, but allowed that, after successful completion of her pretrial diversion agreement, Perez could apply anew for any positions for which she was suited. Her eligibility for employment at that time would be reevaluated. D.E. 20-2, p. 3. Upon the Committee's recommendation, CCISD terminated Perez's employment in a memorandum dated February 17, 2015, which also advised her of her eligibility to reapply. D.E. 20-2, pp. 5-6. Perez has not applied for any position at CCISD since she successfully completed her pretrial diversion agreement. D.E. 20-3, p. 26.

         B. Evidence of Discrimination; The Comparators' Facts

         Under deposition questioning, Perez could not identify any specific acts of discrimination by CCISD based on her being a female. D.E. 20-3, p. 14. Thus her case is based on a theory of disparate treatment. She contends that she was discriminated against because four other CCISD employees, who are male, were ...


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