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Williams v. Kentucky State Police

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Central Division, Frankfort

December 21, 2016




         In June 2014, the Kentucky State Police fired Trooper Marcus Williams for habitually falsifying his citation counts over a three year period. Although Williams admits to that misconduct, he argues he was punished more severely because of his race. Since Mr. Williams has not put forth sufficient evidence of a Civil Rights Act of 1964 Title VII violation, the Court GRANTS summary judgment in favor of the Kentucky State Police.



         Marcus T. Williams, an African American man, was hired as a Cadet Trooper by the Kentucky State Police (“KSP”) in January 2004. [R. 1 at 2.] Throughout his tenure of employment, Mr. Williams consistently received positive feedback. [Id.] KSP evaluations of Mr. Williams state that he “projects a positive image;” “has great work attitude;” “is knowledgeable of all criminal and traffic laws, criminal investigation, accident investigation, court proceedings, and Kentucky State Police policies;” and that “[h]is citations and reports are complete, accurate, well written, and submitted in a timely manner.” [See R. 13 at 4; R. 13-2 at 2-4.]

         From 2011 through 2014, Kentucky State Troopers were required to call in their daily activities at the end of their shifts to a dispatcher. The Troopers were required to self-report the exact number of citations, DUI's, and arrests that they had issued that day, and any citations a Trooper self-reported to the dispatcher were recorded. [See R. 13 at 4-5.] Further, the citations and/or case reports a Trooper actually wrote and issued were recorded in a different database, where supporting documentation was always required. [Id.]

         Around March 2014, the KSP began investigating discrepancies found in Mr. Williams's total citation counts. In short, supervisors noticed that Williams was self-reporting a higher number of citations than the number of citations he actually issued, documented, and logged into the computer system. [Id.; see also R. 16 at 2.] Mr. Williams initially denied any misconduct but shortly thereafter admitted to falsifying his citations in order to remain in good standing with the KSP. [R. 16 at 2.] On or about July 16, 2014, the KSP terminated Mr. Williams's employment based on a Class A Honesty violation. [R. 1 at 3; see also R. 13-28.]

         Williams subsequently requested a trial board hearing to appeal his termination, but the trial board upheld the termination on appeal. [See R. 13-29.] During the hearing, the KSP introduced evidence that in 2011, Mr. Williams called in 819 citations but actually filed only 765 of those citations. In 2012, Williams called in 812 citations but filed only 517 citations. In 2013, Williams called in 848 citations but only filed 280 citations, and in early 2014, Williams called in 183 citations but filed only 71. [See R. 13 at 7; R. 13-30.] In his testimony before the trial board, Williams admitted to falsifying his citation counts. [R. 13-32.] Williams also stated he would not have come forward about the dishonesty on his own accord had he not been caught and accused. [R. 13-34 at 2.] In addition, Mr. Williams testified he always felt he was treated fairly by his supervisors and other KSP employees. [Id.] However, Williams thought termination was too severe a punishment for his misconduct and referenced less serious treatment given to other KSP employees he deemed to be similarly situated. [Id.; R. 16-1 at 3-5.]

         Following the failed trial board appeal, Mr. Williams filed a civil complaint alleging racial discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. [R. 1.] Williams claims the KSP have not terminated similarly situated Caucasian employees who engaged in comparable behavior. [See Id. at 3.] The Kentucky State Police seek summary judgment on the allegations.[1] [See R. 13.]


         When sitting in diversity, a federal court applies the substantive law of the state in which it sits. Hayes v. Equitable Energy Resources Co., 266 F.3d 560, 566 (6th Cir. 2001) (citing Klaxon Co. v. Stentor Elec. Mfg. Co., 313 U.S. 487, 496 (1941)). However, when considering summary judgment arguments, a federal court applies the standards of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 rather than Kentucky's summary judgment standard as expressed in Steelvest, Inc. v. Scansteel Serv. Ctr. Inc., 807 S.W.2d 476 (Ky. 1991). See Gafford v. Gen. Elec. Co., 997 F.2d 150, 165 (6th Cir. 1993). Under Rule 56, summary judgment is appropriate where the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with any affidavits, show 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 fact's materiality is determined by the substantive law, and a dispute is genuine if “the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).

         Summary judgment is inappropriate where there is a genuine conflict “in the evidence, with affirmative support on both sides, and where the question is which witness to believe.” Dawson v. Dorman, 528 F. App'x 450, 452 (6th Cir. 2013). “Credibility determinations, the weighing of the evidence, and the drawing of legitimate inferences from the facts are jury functions, not those of a judge.” Morales v. American Honda Motor Co., Inc., 71 F.3d 531, 535 (6th Cir. 1995) (quoting Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. at 255). Further, the Court must view all facts and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party. See, e.g., Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986).


         Title VII claims based on circumstantial evidence are analyzed pursuant to the burden-shifting framework set forth in McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 802 (1973). According to this framework, a plaintiff must first establish a prima facie case of discrimination. See Wright v. Murray Guard, Inc., 455 F.3d 702, 706-07 (6th Cir. 2006). If the plaintiff does so, he is then entitled to a presumption that his defendant employer discriminated against him in violation of Title VII, and the burden shifts to the defendant to present a “legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason” for the adverse treatment or termination. Id. (citing DiCarlo v. Potter, 358 F.3d 408, 414 (6th Cir. 2004)). If the ...

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