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High v. City of Wylie, Texas

United States District Court, E.D. Texas, Sherman Division

August 5, 2019

DON HIGH
v.
CITY OF WYLIE, TEXAS et al.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          AMOS L. MAZZANT, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Pending before the Court is the Wylie Defendants' Brief in Support of its Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. #65). Having considered the motion and the relevant pleadings, the Court finds that motion should be granted in part and denied in part.

         BACKGROUND

         This case arises out of Plaintiff Don High's actions as a prosecutor for the Municipal Court with Defendant the City of Wylie (“the City”). Richard Abernathy, City Attorney, hired Plaintiff on April 10, 1995, to act as a prosecutor for the City in its Municipal Court on April 27, 1995 (“the Hire Letter”). The Hire Letter did not specify the amount of time Plaintiff would work for the City but included an attachment with the pre-trial and trial dates for 1995. Plaintiff remained working as a prosecutor for the City, while also working in private practice, for the next twenty-three years. Plaintiff is Caucasian and over the age of forty.

         On April 10, 2007, the City Council passed its first resolution in relation to Plaintiff's employment, Resolution 2007-15(R), appointing Plaintiff as a prosecutor for the City's Municipal Court for a time frame of two years. For the next ten years, the City Council passed a new resolution every two years, extending Plaintiff's position for an additional two years. Based on the resolution, it was unclear who acted as Plaintiff's supervisor. However, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Lisa Davis, the Court Administrator, acted as his supervisor alleging that “her conduct demonstrated that she was supervising [Plaintiff's] work conduct and performance.” (Dkt. #32 at p. 21).

         Plaintiff claims that Davis began treating Plaintiff in a disparate manner in February 2017, that this conduct was brought to the attention of Linda Bantz, the City's Finance Director, and Defendant Mindy Manson, the City Manager, and they did nothing about it or even encouraged the behavior. According to Plaintiff, Davis successfully reduced Plaintiff's hours and removed him from all jury trial dockets, even though it was made known that Plaintiff wanted to work more hours to take advantage of a retirement plan. Specifically, Plaintiff claims “Davis almost single handedly changed the terms and conditions of High's employment with the City.” (Dkt. #32 at p. 13). Further, on March 14, 2017, Davis proposed a resolution to the City Council which would only extend Plaintiff's position for one year, as opposed to two years as had been typical up until this point. The City Council voted the resolution, Resolution 2017-07(R), through and extended his position for one year. During this time, while Davis reduced Plaintiff's hours, Victor Cristales, a younger Hispanic male, was given more prosecution hours.

         On September 1, 2017, Davis drafted a performance improvement plan (“PIP”), with the help City Attorney Abernathy. It was intended to be presented to him by the City Attorney and City Manager Manson. It allegedly indicated that Plaintiff was going to be closely monitored by the City Manager, the Human Resources Director, and the City Attorney. However, the PIP was never presented to Plaintiff and he never signed it.

         Plaintiff filed three complaints with the City's human resources department, with the last complaint being filed on March 13, 2018. On March 27, 2018, the City Council held its regular meeting. At that meeting, the City Council voted to revoke Resolution 2017-07(R), but Plaintiff remained as a prosecutor for the City, but on an at-will basis as opposed to with a resolution.

         Based on this set of facts and relevant to this motion, Plaintiff sued the City, Davis, and City Manager Manson (collectively “the Wylie Defendants”) for violations of Age Discrimination in Employment Act 29 U.S.C. §§ 12201 et seq. (“ADEA”), Race Discrimination in Violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et seq.) (“Title VII”), First Amendment Retaliation, and creating a hostile work environment.

         On April 16, 2019, the Wylie Defendants filed their motion for summary judgment (Dkt. #63). On April 17, 2019, the motion was marked deficient. The Wylie Defendants filed their corrected motion on April 22, 2019 (Dkt. #65). Plaintiff filed a response on May 6, 2019 (Dkt. #67). Then on May 9, 2019, Plaintiff filed objections to the motion (Dkt. #68). On May 13, 2019, the Wylie Defendants filed their reply and responses to the objections (Dkt. #69).

         LEGAL STANDARD

         The purpose of summary judgment is to isolate and dispose of factually unsupported claims or defenses. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-24 (1986). Summary judgment is proper under Rule 56(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure “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 about a material fact is genuine when “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). Substantive law identifies which facts are material. Id. The trial court “must resolve all reasonable doubts in favor of the party opposing the motion for summary judgment.” Casey Enters., Inc. v. Am. Hardware Mut. Ins. Co., 655 F.2d 598, 602 (5th Cir. 1981).

         The party seeking summary judgment bears the initial burden of informing the court of its motion and identifying “depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations (including those made for purposes of the motion only), admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials” that demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(A); Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. If the movant bears the burden of proof on a claim or defense for which it is moving for summary judgment, it must come forward with evidence that establishes “beyond peradventure all of the essential elements of the claim or defense.” Fontenot v. Upjohn Co., 780 F.2d 1190, 1194 (5th Cir. 1986). Where the nonmovant bears the burden of proof, the movant may discharge the burden by showing that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmovant's case. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 325; Byers v. Dall. Morning News, Inc., 209 F.3d 419, 424 (5th Cir. 2000). Once the movant has carried its burden, the nonmovant must “respond to the motion for summary judgment by setting forth particular facts indicating there is a genuine issue for trial.” Byers, 209 F.3d at 424 (citing Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248-49). A nonmovant must present affirmative evidence to defeat a properly supported motion for summary judgment. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 257. Mere denials of material facts, unsworn allegations, or arguments and assertions in briefs or legal memoranda will not suffice to carry this burden. Rather, the Court requires “significant probative evidence” from the ...


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