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Turner v. Pulaski Fiscal Court

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Southern Division, London

May 23, 2018

RONALD D. TURNER and WILLIAM L. WARREN, Plaintiffs,
v.
PULASKI FISCAL COURT, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER

          GREGORY F VAN TATENHOVE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Ronald D. Turner and William L. Warren contend they were passed over for promotion due to their age. They also claim their due process rights were violated as a result of Pulaski County's promotional process. As explained below, Pulaski County failed to hire either of the plaintiffs to the Tile Foreman position in 2015, instead hiring a younger Ryan Price. Turner and Warren identified enough facts to establish a prima facie case for age discrimination, and they sufficiently demonstrated that Pulaski County's nondiscriminatory reason for the employment decision was pretextual. However, Turner and Warren did not respond to Pulaski County's request for summary judgment on the due process claim. Therefore, for the reasons stated below, Pulaski Fiscal Court's motion for summary judgment is DENIED IN PART and GRANTED IN PART.

         I

         In September 2015, Pulaski County was looking to fill the position of Tile Foreman, a supervisory position within the Pulaski County Road Department.[1] [See R. 16-2.] While the job description does not contain any mandatory qualifications, the description does list as desirable qualifications: experience with employee supervision; “considerable knowledge of the methods, materials, equipment maintenance and repair of roads”; and the “[a]bility to supervise employees and assign various tasks to complete projects.” [Id.]

         In 2015, Plaintiff Ronald D. Turner had more than 26 years' experience with the Pulaski County Road Department. [R. 1 at 1.] His most recent stint with Pulaski County began in 2006 when he was 51 years old. [See R. 16-19 at 3-4.] At that time, he served approximately three months in a supervisory role as a Bridge Foreman, but since that time Turner has been employed as a machinery operator, which is a non-supervisory position. [R. 16-1 at 2.] He previously applied for the Tile Foreman position, but was not hired. [See R. 16-19 at 4.] When Pulaski County made the personnel decision in question, Turner was 60 years old. [R. 21 at 2.]

         In 2015, Plaintiff William L. Warren had approximately 20 years' experience with Pulaski County. [See R. 1 at 1.] He was approximately 46 years old when he was hired, and he has served as a truck driver for the entirety of his employment with Pulaski County. [Id.; R. 16-20 at 8.] He has never served in a managerial role. [R. 16-20 at 9-10.] He previously applied for the Tile Foreman position twice, but was not hired. [See R. 16-20 at 3-5.] Warren was 64 years old when Pulaski County made the personnel decision at issue. [R. 21 at 2.]

         Pulaski County maintains a Personnel Policies and Procedures Manual, copies of which both Turner and Warren received and acknowledged reviewing. [See R. 16-5; R. 16-8.] While the Manual states that applicants for positions must submit application forms provided by the county, nothing in the Manual mandates Pulaski County officially post job openings. [See generally R. 16-4.] Pulaski County never formally posted the Tile Foreman position in the fall of 2015 [R. 16-1 at 10], but both Turner and Warren knew the Tile Foreman position was open as the previous Tile Foreman was retiring. [See R. 16-19 at 8; R. 16-20 at 6.] Ultimately, Pulaski County hired Ryan Price to fill the open Tile Foreman position. [R. 1 at 2.] Ryan Price is younger than both Turner and Warren, and has less experience with the county. [Id.]

         Turner and Warren previously filed EEOC complaints. [Id.] In December 2016, they both received their EEOC right-to-sue letters. [Id.] In February 2017, Turner and Warren brought suit against Pulaski County Fiscal Court for violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) and the Kentucky Civil Rights Act (KCRA) for passing them over for the Tile Foreman position in 2015. [See generally R. 1.] Pulaski County now seeks summary judgment.

         II

         A

         Summary judgment is appropriate “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 genuine dispute exists on a material fact, and thus summary judgment is improper, if the evidence shows ‘that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.'” Olinger v. Corporation of the President of the Church, 521 F.Supp.2d 577, 582 (E.D. Ky. 2007) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986)). Stated another way, “[t]he mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the plaintiff's position will be insufficient; there must be evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the plaintiff.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252.

         The moving party has the initial burden of demonstrating the basis for its motion and identifying those parts of the record that establish the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Chao v. Hall Holding Co., Inc., 285 F.3d 415, 424 (6th Cir. 2002). The movant may satisfy its burden by showing “that there is an absence of evidence to support the non-moving party's case.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325 (1986). Once the movant has satisfied this burden, the non-moving party must go beyond the pleadings and come forward with specific facts demonstrating the existence of a genuine issue for trial. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56; Hall Holding, 285 F.3d at 424 (citing Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324). Moreover, “the nonmoving party must do more than show there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material fact. It must present significant probative evidence in support of its opposition to the motion for summary judgment.” Hall Holding, 285 F.3d at 424 (internal citations omitted).

         When applying the summary judgment standard, the Court must review the facts and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party. Logan v. Denny's, Inc., 259 F.3d 558, 566 (6th Cir. 2001) (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986)). However, the Court is under no duty to “search the entire record to establish that it is bereft of a genuine issue of material fact.” In re Morris, 260 F.3d 654, 655 (6th Cir. 2001). Rather, “the nonmoving party has an affirmative duty to direct the ...


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