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Taylor v. G.P.E.D.C., Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Paducah Division

July 11, 2017

JEFFERY R. TAYLOR, PLAINTIFF
v.
G.P.E.D.C., INC. d/b/a PADUCAH ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT, DEFENDANT and G.P.E.D.C., INC. d/b/a PADUCAH ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT, THIRD-PARTY PLAINTIFF
v.
LOGAN DEVELOPMENT GROUP, LLC, THIRD-PARTY DEFENDANT

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          THOMAS B. RUSSELL, SENIOR JUDGE.

         This matter is before the Court on Defendant GPEDC's Motion for Summary Judgment, [DN 29.] Plaintiff Jeffery R. Taylor responded, [DN 31], as did Third-Party Defendant Logan Development Group, [DN 32.] Defendant replied to both responses, [DN 33; DN 35.] Defendant also filed a Motion for Leave to Amend Third Party Complaint, [DN 34], to which Third-Party Defendant Logan responded, [DN 36], and Defendant replied, [DN 37.] Fully briefed, these matters are ripe for adjudication. For the reasons that follow, Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment, [DN 29], is GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN PART and Defendant's Motion for Leave to Amend Third Party Complaint, [DN 34], is GRANTED.

         BACKGROUND

         This matter arises out of Plaintiff Jeffrey R. Taylor's application for the position of Vice President for Special Projects at Defendant GPEDC d/b/a Paducah Economic Development (“GPEDC”). Taylor is a 57-year-old African-American male who has been a resident of Hopkinsville, Kentucky, for the past twenty-two years. [See DN 1 (Complaint); DN 50-3 at 5-6 (Taylor Deposition).] He holds a bachelor's of science degree in communication from Western Kentucky University and a master's of arts degree in community counseling from University of North Alabama. [DN 31-5 at 32 (Taylor Resume).] ¶ 1994, he obtained a certification in Basic Economic Development from the Georgia Institute of Technology, and thereafter spent two years at the Economic Development Institute at the University of Oklahoma. [Id.] Finally, Taylor is certified as an Economic Development Finance Professional by the National Development Council. [Id.]

         From 1981 to September 2014, Taylor was employed at the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), where he held multiple positions and had numerous responsibilities. [Id.] Taylor held the position of Project Manager from May 1981 to August 2003, the position of Project Manager Minority Economic Development from May 2000 to August 2003, and the Position of Senior Project Manager of Economic Development from August 2003 to September 2014. [Id.] Among his responsibilities concerning economic development were working with elected officials and economic development partners, managing loan funds, technical assistance, and grant programs, coordinating with communities, and generating industrial projects. [See id.; see DN 50-3 at 26- 45.] Taylor retired from TVA in September 2014. [DN 50-3 at 48.]

         GPEDC is a private, non-profit corporation that was incorporated in 1990. [DN 29-7 at 3 (Articles of Incorporation).] GPEDC's stated purpose “is to develop and market property, ” and it can “also own, sell, and lease real and personal property.” [Id.] During his deposition, GPEDC's President and CEO, Scott Darnell, described GPEDC's function as being to “allocate resources, ” “grow the economy, ” and see to “the economic development of Paducah and McCracken County.” [DN 50-1 at 13, 25 (Darnell Deposition).] GPEDC seeks to bring together the public and private sectors “to accomplish the goals of the community.” [Id. at 13.]

         In late 2014, Darnell decided that GPEDC needed to hire another employee, and, after presenting it to the board of directors, “moved forward” with the hiring process. [DN 50-1 at 52.] To aid GPEDC in its search, GPEDC entered into an agreement with Logan Development Group (“Logan Development”) in January of 2015. [Id. at 53-55; DN 29-3 at 1-2 (Consulting Services Agreement)[1].] Pursuant to this agreement, Logan Development would recruit applicants for the position of Vice President for Special Projects at GPEDC. [DN 29-3 at 1.] After entering into the Agreement, Darnell met with Logan Development's CEO, Daniel Logan, to discuss a list of desired qualifications for applicants. [DN 50-1 at 56-57.] The result was a document titled “Recruitment Profile, Vice President, Special Projects.” [DN 29-4 at 1- 5 (Recruitment Profile).] The Recruitment Profile listed several attributes under “Desired Job Experience, ” including “7 years of proven experience in a corporate environment, ” a “[s]trong history of leadership, ” “[k]nowledge and understanding of business functions and principles, ” “[e]xperience working with grants and governmental programs, ” “[e]xecutive management experience, ” “[p]roject management experience, ” and “[e]conomic development experience.” [Id. at 1.] Under “Education, ” the Recruitment Profile stated that a bachelor's degree was required, but that an advanced degree, training, and certifications were preferred. [Id. at 2.]

         Around mid-January, 2015, Taylor learned of the job opening at GPEDC after seeing it on the evening news. [DN 50-3 at 44.] Taylor submitted his resume electronically to Logan on January 14. [Id. at 52-53.] Logan responded within fifteen to twenty minutes in an email in which he stated “Jeff, thank you for your interest. Please complete the attached written interview form and return to me.” [Id. at 53.] This form, titled the “Candidate Interview Questionnaire, ” asked respondents to provide additional information “[t]o help [Logan Development] further evaluate [their] qualifications.” [DN 31-1 at 23 (Taylor Candidate Interview Questionnaire).] The Questionnaire asked applicants to explain, among other things, their educational and professional backgrounds, personal strengths, management experience, previous economic development projects, current employment packages (including salaries, bonuses, and benefits), and desired future employment packages. [Id. at 23-25.] In response to the question regarding employment packages, Taylor gave the following response:

I am retired as of September 31st 2014. My last position paid a salary of $120, 000 with health, medical, and retirement benefits and a yearend bonus that ranged from $13, 000-$20, 000. I was provided a company car, gas card and credit card for travel, entertaining clients and partners. I desire a benefit package that would come close to my previous benefits and exceed my previous salary. The ranges are negotiable.

[Id. at 25.]

         Out of approximately eighteen to twenty applicants, Logan Development forwarded a total of five applicants' resumes and Questionnaires to Darnell for his consideration. [DN 50-1 at 60; DN 50-2 at 39-41 (Logan Deposition).] Of those applicants, GPEDC conducted phone interviews with three individuals and an in-person interview with one individual, William McDowell. [DN 50-1 at 61-62.] Taylor's resume and Questionnaire were not among those forwarded to Darnell. [DN 50-1 at 60; 50-2 at 41-42.] When asked why this was, Logan testified in his deposition that Darnell communicated to him that GPEDC wished to pay the new Vice President for Special Projects between $70, 000 and $100, 000, and therefore that Taylor's desire to “exceed his previous salary” of $120, 000 meant he was out of GPEDC's price range. [DN 50-2 at 49-52.] During his deposition, Darnell testified that he never received Taylor's resume while the job search was ongoing and that he did not know why Logan did not forward Taylor's application materials to GPEDC. [DN 50-1 at 60-61.] However, Darnell confirmed that GPEDC wished to pay the new Vice President no more than $85, 000 to $90, 000, plus a bonus. [Id. at 69.]

         In a text exchange between Darnell and Logan on January 16, two days after Taylor emailed Logan his application and completed Questionnaire, Logan told Darnell “May have found a really strong candidate. Depends on salary and personality. Not sure what he makes yet but looks good on paper. Will let you know.” [Id. at 72.] When asked whether that message was about Taylor, Logan responded “No, ” though he could not “recall which candidate it was.” [Id. at 73.] Darnell responded to this text message with “Great, referred a young guy to you today. Very young, but great references. Had dinner with Mardie from Paducah bank and he said good things about you.” [Id.]

         On January 19, Logan sent Darnell and email that said “Really hate this candidate is so expensive. Think the background is right on the money.” [Id. at 74.] Darnell responded the next day with “Yes, very good candidate, but too expensive unfortunately. Keep up the good work.” [Id.] When asked whether this conversation pertained to Taylor, Logan again replied “No, ” though he did not “recall which candidate that was.” [Id.] Logan further testified that he “never discussed” Taylor or Taylor's application with Darnell. [Id. at 76.]

         When asked whether GPEDC was aware that Taylor had applied for the job, Darnell stated that he had “no recollection of that.” [DN 50-1 at 62.] On January 22, 2015, Taylor sent an email to David Denton, a member of GPEDC's board of directors, notifying him that he applied for the Vice President for Special Projects position with GPEDC. [DN 50-1 at 123.] Denton replied that same day with “Good news!” [Id.] However, Darnell testified that he and Denton never discussed Taylor. [Id. at 63.] Darnell further testified that he never discussed any of the applicants with the GPEDC board of directors. [Id. at 62.]

         McDowell, who GPEDC ultimately hired, is a white male in his late twenties. [DN 50-1 at 61.] McDowell graduated from college in May 2010 and worked at the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development from November 2012 until his application with GPEDC in 2015. [DN 50-2 at 116 (McDowell Resume).] In response to the same question regarding employment packages, McDowell gave the following response:

Current Salary: $52, 500 Retirement: 401k, state pension Benefits: Health Insurance
Given my experience in economic development, management, and commercial real estate and the list of responsibilities for this position I would anticipate a salary around $100, 000 plus benefits. This jobs [sic] would be a destination and an honor for me. This is not a stepping stone I'm looking to hop across. It would be a privilege to serve my community in this role.

[DN 50-1 at 128 (McDowell Candidate Interview Questionnaire).] Logan emailed Darnell about McDowell on February 6, saying that he had a “[g]reat talk” with McDowell and that “[h]e is going to re-work. Very open and receptive. We are good on compensation. He basically took some advice from someone on how to answer that question and they steered him wrong. No big deal. Really like him. Will get you his stuff when he gets it back to me.” [DN 50-2 at 78.] When asked to elaborate on this email exchange, Logan testified that he thought there was a large gap between McDowell's current salary of $52, 500 and his desired salary of $100, 000. [Id. at 78- 79.] Accordingly, Logan “brought it up to him, ” and McDowell “said he was willing to rework.” [Id.] Upon his hire, GPEDC ultimately agreed to pay McDowell a salary of $70, 000. [Id. at 81, 147; DN 50-1 at 69.]

         When asked whether anyone “communicate[d] to [Taylor] that if he reworked his answer to [the salary question], he might have been a viable candidate for the position, ” Logan responded “No.” [DN 50-2 at 79.] Logan explained that this was because, unlike Taylor, McDowell's requested salary of $100, 000 “was within the salary range” that GPEDC said it would pay, and that, had McDowell requested more than $100, 000, “we wouldn't have had the conversation.” [Id.]

         Taylor did not interview with GPEDC, nor did he ever hear back from GPEDC after sending in his resume and Questionnaire. [DN 50-3 at 68-69.] However, Darnell repeatedly testified that Logan never forwarded Taylor's application materials to him and therefore that he never reviewed Taylor's application materials. [DN 50-1 at 60-64.] Taylor learned that GPEDC hired McDowell sometime in March, and initially did not think much of it. [DN 50-3 at 68-70.] However, Taylor ultimately discovered that, based on McDowell's college graduation date and his hire date with GPEDC, he did not have the desired seven years of experience qualification that was listed in the Recruitment Profile. [Id. at 69-70.]

         Taylor brought suit against GPEDC, claiming that he was denied the opportunity to interview for the position of Vice President for Special Projects based on his race and age. [See DN 1.] GPEDC denies these allegations, arguing that Taylor was not qualified for the position, was never considered for the position, and therefore that GPEDC had a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for not interviewing Taylor for the position. [DN 29-1 at 16-17 (Memorandum in Support of GPEDC's Motion for Summary Judgment).] GPEDC also filed a Third Party Complaint against Logan Development, claiming that, should GPEDC be found liable on any of Taylor's claims, Logan Development is liable to GPEDC pursuant to an indemnity provision contained in the agreement between Logan Development and GPEDC. [See DN 22 (Third Party Complaint).]

         STANDARD

         Summary judgment is appropriate when the record, viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, reveals “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 genuine dispute of material fact exists where “there is sufficient evidence favoring the nonmoving party for a jury to return a verdict for that party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986). The Court “may not make credibility determinations nor weigh the evidence when determining whether an issue of fact remains for trial.” Laster v. City of Kalamazoo, 746 F.3d 714, 726 (6th Cir. 2014) (citing Logan v. Denny's, Inc., 259 F.3d 558, 566 (6th Cir. 2001); Ahlers v. Schebil, 188 F.3d 365, 369 (6th Cir. 1999)). “The ultimate question is ‘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.' ” Back v. Nestlé USA, Inc., 694 F.3d 571, 575 (6th Cir. 2012) (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 251-52).

         The moving party must shoulder the burden of showing the absence of a genuine dispute of material fact as to at least one essential element of the nonmovant's claim or defense. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); see also Laster, 746 F.3d at 726 (citing Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324). Assuming the moving party satisfies its burden of production, the nonmovant “must-by deposition, answers to interrogatories, affidavits, and admissions on file-show specific facts that reveal a genuine issue for trial.” Laster, 746 F.3d at 726 (citing Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324). “[N]ot every issue of fact or conflicting inference presents a genuine issue of material fact.” Street v. Bradford & Co., 886 F.2d 1472, 1477 (6th Cir. 1989). The test is “whether the party bearing the burden of proof has presented a jury question as to each element in the case.” Hartsel v. Keys, 87 F.3d 795, 799 (6th Cir. 1996). Nor will mere speculation suffice to defeat a motion for summary judgment: “[t]he mere existence of a colorable factual ...


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