United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Bowling Green Division
WOODSON D. BROWN PLAINTIFF
HOUSING AUTHORITY OF TOMPKINSVILLE, et al. DEFENDANTS
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
N. Stivers, Chief Judge.
matter is before the Court on Defendants' Motion for
Summary Judgment (DN 36). The motion is ripe for
adjudication. For the reasons outlined below, the motion is
STATEMENT OF FACTS AND CLAIMS
Brown (“Plaintiff” or “Brown”) is a
former employee of the Housing Authority of Tompkinsville
(“Housing Authority”). (Compl. 3, DN 1). The
Housing Authority operates the Tompkinsville Housing Project
under a contract with the U.S. Department of Housing and
Urban Development. (Am. Compl. 1, DN 28). During the time
relevant to this action, Defendant Mike Turner
(“Turner”) was the executive director of the
Housing Authority. (Turner Dep. 9:7-12, Mar. 21, 2018, DN
36-3). Brown began his employment with the Housing Authority
as a maintenance director in September 2015, and he resigned
in January 2016. (Compl. 3). The events giving rise to this
action concern voluntary on-the-job prayer sessions conducted
by Turner while Brown was an employee.
addition to his work for the Housing Authority, Turner is a
minister. (Turner Dep. 22:5-7). Prior to Brown's tenure,
the Housing Authority had only three total employees: Turner,
Ernest Eldridge (“Eldridge”), and Cindi Burnett
(“Burnett”). (Turner Dep. 22:24-25:1). Turner
testified that the three had become close in the wake of
difficult times in each employee's family. (Turner Dep.
23:1-4). It was common for Turner, Eldridge, and Burnett to
discuss their belief systems and faith in God. (Turner Dep.
23:4-6). Eventually, Turner began offering an option to
Burnett and Eldridge that, if they wished, they could pray
together as a group. (Turner Dep. 23:6-10). Turner testified,
however, that he never preached in the office. (Turner Dep.
daughter passed away unexpectedly on December 11, 2015.
(Brown Dep. 90:8-9). Both Turner and Burnett came to the
funeral home to express their sympathies. (Brown Dep.
91:7-11). Following his daughter's passing, Brown took
some time off work. (Brown Dep. 90:7-16). Upon his return,
Brown mentioned for the first time to Turner that he took
issue with the office prayer sessions. (Brown Dep.
89:25-90:5). Brown told Turner he did not want to pray, and
in fact he was mad at God at the moment. (Brown Dep.
134:2-10). Brown testified that when he raised the issue to
Turner, Turner told Brown he needed to open his mind to the
possibility of allowing God to heal him. (Brown Dep.
136:5-8). Brown thought Turner was well-intentioned and
sincerely trying to help. (Brown Dep. 135:18-24). Turner did
not tell Brown he was required to pray with him, and Brown
stated Turner was not praying or preaching in that
interaction. (Brown Dep. 136:1-3, 136:8-9).
wake of his daughter's death, Brown's work suffered
and he struggled with concentration and staying on task.
(Brown Dep. 137:12-16). Brown testified that Turner knew of
his struggles and performance issues but did not fire him.
(Brown Dep. 137:17-21). On Brown's final day of
employment with the Housing Authority, Turner came to the
maintenance building where Brown worked, and the two began to
talk about “a little bit of everything.” (Brown
Dep. 135:21-23). They discussed what was bothering Brown and
what might help him. (Brown Dep. 135:23-25). In the course of
the conversation, Turner said he could tell Brown did not
want to remain at the Housing Authority, and Brown agreed,
stating he in fact no longer wanted to work there. (Brown
Dep. 135:23-24, 136:3-5). Turner informed Brown that he did
not need to give two weeks' notice, and if he wanted that
day to be his last, he could quit immediately. (Brown Dep.
136:5-10). Brown responded that he did want that day to be
his last and quit on the spot. (Brown Dep. 136:10-13).
now brings claims of religious discrimination seeking damages
under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C.
§§ 2000e to 2000e-17, and injunctive relief under
42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Compl. 1-2). Following discovery,
Defendants moved for summary judgment on Brown's claims.
(Defs.' Mot. Summ. J., DN 36).
Court has original jurisdiction over the subject matter of
this action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the Court must
determine whether there is any genuine issue of material fact
that would preclude entry of judgment for the moving party as
a matter of law. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The moving party
bears the initial burden of stating the basis for the motion
and identifying evidence in the record that demonstrates an
absence of a genuine dispute of material fact. See
Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). If
the moving party satisfies its burden, the non-moving party
must then produce specific evidence proving the existence of
a genuine dispute of fact for trial. See Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986).
the Court must view the evidence in the light most favorable
to the non-moving party, the non-moving party must do more
than merely show the existence of some “metaphysical
doubt as to the material facts.” Matsushita Elec.
Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586
(1986) (citation omitted). Rather, the non-moving party must
present specific facts proving that a genuine factual dispute
exists by “citing to particular parts of the materials
in the record” or by “showing that the materials
cited do not establish the absence . . . of a genuine dispute
. . . .” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1). “The mere
existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the
[non-moving party's] position will be insufficient”
to overcome summary judgment. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252.