United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division
ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART
DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
EVANS BARKER, UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE
cause is before the Court on Defendant's Motion for
Summary Judgment. [Dkt. 50.] The motion was filed on
September 10, 2018, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 56 and is fully briefed. Plaintiff Sherrie Tuwanna
Dunn-Lanier filed this lawsuit against her former employer,
Defendant Indianapolis Public Schools (“IPS”),
alleging that IPS denied her promotions based on her race and
age in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII)
and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967
(“ADEA”), respectively. We have jurisdiction over
the subject matter of this case pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
1331. For the reasons detailed below, we GRANT IN
PART and DENY IN PART Defendant's Motion
for Summary Judgment.
“the school corporation charged with the education of
Indianapolis' urban youth, ” Pack Aff. ¶ 2,
ECF No. 50-2, and operates within the boundaries of the
Southern District of Indiana. “IPS employs thousands of
individuals, including teachers across many schools who are
primarily responsible for teaching students.”
Id. ¶ 3. Plaintiff Sherrie Tuwanna Dunn-Lanier
resides within the Southern District of Indiana.
September of 1997 until about August of 2013, Ms.
Dunn-Lanier, who is African-American, served in various roles
for IPS, including as an elementary school teacher,
substitute teacher, and tutor. Dunn-Lanier Dep. Ex. 24, ECF
No. 50-1. During that time, she was selected as Teacher of
the Year at three different schools. Dunn-Lanier Dep.
75:15-16. In August of 2013, IPS hired Ms. Dunn-Lanier to be
a Pre-K Instructional Assistant, Dunn-Lanier Deposition
Exhibit 24, at School 44, Dunn-Lanier Dep. 28:15-17. Ms.
Dunn-Lanier stated that her transfer to the preschool
assistant position was a matter of her own choosing.
Dunn-Lanier Dep. 26:19-21.
in November 2015, Ms. Dunn-Lanier began applying for teaching
positions within IPS. Dunn-Lanier Dep. Ex. 32; Pl.'s
Resp. to Def.'s Interrog. No. 1. IPS offered Ms.
Dunn-Lanier a first-grade teaching position at School 69 on
December 7, 2015, at a salary of $52, 000. Pack Aff. ¶
9. At that time, Ms. Dunn-Lanier raised concerns about the
salary IPS offered her because she said it was $1500 less
than what she had made previously as a teacher. Dunn-Lanier
Dep. Ex. 22; ECF No. 53-11. On December 10, 2015, Ms.
Dunn-Lanier sent an email to Stephanie Hardaway, an IPS HR
employee, inquiring about the salary discrepancy. Dunn-Lanier
Dep. 99:2, 11-17. Ms. Hardaway informed Ms. Dunn-Lanier on
December 10, 2015, that the offered salary was “in line
with the current contract.” ECF No. 53-1. IPS stated
that it had revised its salary structure before the 2015-16
school year resulting in “returning teachers and
newly-hired teachers [being] . . . compensated
differently.” Pack Aff. ¶ 7. Ms. Dunn-Lanier said
that she contacted various people in IPS about her salary and
tried to talk with the Superintendent. Dunn-Lanier Dep.
97:12-23. However, she claimed, IPS never resolved the pay
issue. Dunn-Lanier Dep. 100:17-19. Ultimately, IPS hired
Natalie Banks on January 11, 2019, instead of Ms.
Dunn-Lanier, for the position at School 69. Pack Aff. ¶
9. Ms. Banks is African American and was born in 1973.
Id. Over the ensuing year, Ms. Dunn-Lanier applied
for several other teaching positions within IPS, but IPS
selected other candidates for each position. ECF No. 53-2.
The positions for which Ms. Dunn-Lanier applied, but was not
• a first-grade teaching position at School 99; IPS
transferred Leanne Wheeler to the position on December 14,
2015. Ms. Wheeler is Caucasian and was born in 1980;
• a first-grade teaching position at School 58; on
January 4, 2016, IPS hired Jillian Hardee who is Caucasian
and was born in 1988;
• a first-grade teaching position at School 346; IPS
hired Amanda Pereda on January 4, 2016, who is Caucasian and
was born in 1990;
• a first-grade teaching position at School 79; IPS
hired Patricia Bosley, who is African American and was born
in 1967, on January 5, 2016;
• a preschool teaching position at School 60; IPS
selected Mary Tuttle who is Caucasian and was born in 1976;
• a first-grade teaching position at School 65; IPS
transferred Debra Padgett, who was returning from a leave of
absence, to the position instead of hiring a new candidate;
• one of two available second-grade teaching positions
at School 42; IPS hired Edward Bloom and Dave Siegelin for
the positions. Mr. Bloom is Caucasian and was born in 1952.
Mr. Siegelin is Caucasian and was born in 1978.
Hardee, whom IPS hired for the first-grade teaching position
at School 58, resigned on January 29, 2016, a few weeks after
she was hired. Pack Aff. ¶ 10. The principal at School
58, Susan Kertes, emailed Ms. Dunn-Lanier on February 12,
2016, to inquire if Ms. Dunn-Lanier was still interested in
the first-grade teaching position. ECF No. 53-4; Dunn-Lanier
Dep. Ex. 16. Ms. Dunn-Lanier responded to Ms. Kertes's
email six days later, on February 18, 2016, stating that she
was interested in the position and wanted to learn more about
it. ECF No. 53-4; Dunn-Lanier Dep. Ex. 16.
February 19, 2016, Ms. Dunn-Lanier again contacted School 58
and sent a follow up email to Ms. Kertes. ECF No. 53-4.
However, Ms. Dunn-Lanier said when she spoke to Ms. Kertes at
a job fair on February 26, 2019, Ms. Kertes informed her that
the position had already been filled by another candidate
because Ms. Dunn-Lanier “took too long to
respond” to the email. Dunn-Lanier Dep. Ex. 17. Ms.
Dunn-Lanier stated that, prior to the job fair, she had not
received notification that the position had been closed, and
in fact, it was still listed as an available position on the
IPS website. Dunn-Lanier Dep. 91:8-12. On March 7, 2016, IPS
hired Claire Hindsley, a Caucasian woman born in 1993, for
the first-grade teaching position at School 58. Pack Aff.
being passed over for several teaching positions, Ms.
Dunn-Lanier eventually accepted an assignment with School 44
on May 17, 2016 to continue her work as a preschool classroom
assistant. Dunn-Lanier Dep. 45:5-15. Ms. Dunn-Lanier
thereafter signed her retirement notice on September 28,
2016. Dunn-Lanier Dep. 46:5-7; Dunn-Lanier Dep. Ex. 8.
months prior to the filing of her retirement notice, on July
27, 2016, Ms. Dunn-Lanier filed a Charge of Discrimination
with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
accusing IPS of age discrimination based on its failure to
award her a teaching position. Dunn-Lanier Dep. Ex. 27. She
alleged that the discrimination had occurred over a
four-month period, from January 1, 2016, to April 30, 2016,
indicating by checking the appropriate box on the form that
it was a continuing violation. Id. Ms. Dunn-Lanier,
who was born in 1961, was approximately fifty-five years of
age at the time she filed the charge. Id. She filed
a second Charge of Discrimination on January 13, 2017,
claiming race and age discrimination as evidenced by her
failure to be hired for a teaching position. Dunn-Lanier Dep.
Ex. 28. In her charge, Ms. Dunn-Lanier claimed that the
discrimination occurred between December 1, 2015 and March 4,
2016. Id. She also alleged that “the majority
of new hires are younger, and White individuals brought in
through [the] Teach for America program.” Id.
October 13, 2017, Ms. Dunn-Lanier filed this lawsuit after
receiving her notice of right to sue from the EEOC. [Dkt. 1.]
She amended her complaint on December 22, 2017. [Dkt. 16.] In
the motion currently before us, IPS seeks summary judgment on
Ms. Dunn-Lanier's race and age discrimination claims.
Standard of Review
judgment is appropriate when the record shows that there is
“‘no genuine issue as to any material fact and
that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of
law.'” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). There is a genuine
issue of material fact when the “evidence is such that
a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving
party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477
U.S. 242, 248 (1986). In determining whether genuine issues
of material fact exist, the court construes all facts in a
light most favorable to the non-moving party and draws all
reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party.
See Id. at 255. However, neither the “mere
existence of some alleged factual dispute between the
parties, ” id. at 247, nor the existence of
“some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts,
” Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. v. Zenith
Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986), “will
defeat a motion for summary judgment.” Michas v.
Health Cost Controls of Ill., Inc., 209 F.3d 687, 692
(7th Cir. 2000).
motion for summary judgment, 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.” Celotex, 477
U.S. at 323. The party seeking summary judgment on a claim on
which the non-moving party bears the burden of proof at trial
may discharge its burden by showing an absence of evidence to
support the non-moving party's case. Id. at 325.
judgment is not a substitute for a trial on the merits, nor
is it a vehicle for resolving factual disputes. Waldridge
v. Am. Hoechst Corp., 24 F.3d 918, 920 (7th Cir. 1994).
Therefore, after drawing all reasonable inferences from the
facts in favor of the non-movant, if genuine doubts remain
and a reasonable fact-finder could find for the party
opposing the motion, summary judgment is inappropriate.
See Shields Enters., Inc. v. First Chi. Corp., 975
F.2d 1290, 1294 (7th Cir. 1992); Wolf v. City of
Fitchburg, 870 F.2d 1327, 1330 (7th Cir. 1989). But if
it is clear that a plaintiff will be unable to satisfy the
legal requirements necessary to establish his or her case,
summary judgment is not only appropriate, but mandated.
See Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322; Ziliak v.
AstraZeneca LP, 324 F.3d 518, 520 (7th Cir. 2003).
Further, a failure to prove one essential element
“necessarily renders all other facts immaterial.”
Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323.
summary judgment standard is applied rigorously in employment
discrimination cases, because intent and credibility are such
critical issues and direct evidence is rarely available.
Senner v. Northcentral Tech. Coll., 113 F.3d 750,
757 (7th Cir. 1997); Wohl v. Spectrum Mfg., Inc., 94
F.3d 353, 355 (7th Cir. 1996). To that end, we carefully
review affidavits and depositions for circumstantial evidence
which, if believed, would demonstrate discrimination.
However, the Seventh Circuit has also made clear that
employment discrimination cases are not governed by a
separate set of rules, and thus remain amenable to
disposition by summary judgment so long as there is no
genuine dispute as to the material facts. Giannopoulos v.
Brach & Brock Confections, Inc., 109 F.3d 406, 410
(7th Cir. 1997).
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