United States District Court, D. Arizona
Honorable G. Murray Snow United States District Judge.
before the Court is the Motion for Summary Judgment of
Defendants Alhambra School District No. 68, Robert Zamora,
Ray Martinez, and Mari Alvarado. (Doc. 72). For the following
reasons, the Court grants the motion in part and denies the
motion in part.
Karen Williams was employed by the Alhambra Elementary School
District No. 68 as Superintendent, with her initial contract
running from July 1, 2010 to June 30, 2013. (Doc. 73, Ex. 3).
At this time, the Alhambra School Board consisted of
Elizabeth Sanchez, Robert Zamora, Mari Alvarado, Paul Enniss,
and Adam Lopez Falk. Id. Her contract was for $151,
000 base pay with yearly increases. Id. In 2012, Dr.
Williams and the Alhambra School Board negotiated a new
contract for the period of July 1, 2012 to June 30, 2015.
Id. at Ex. 4. Billie Foltz had replaced Mr. Enniss
on the Board. Id. Under this contract, Dr.
Williams's base salary was $185, 000. Id. A May
2013 addendum increased Dr. Williams's salary for the
2013-2014 year to $191, 475; a similar addendum from May 2014
increased the salary for the 2014-2015 year to $198, 176.
Id. at Exs. 5, 6. In November of 2014, elections for
the Board were held and resulted in two new board members.
Ms. Foltz and Ms. Sanchez were replaced by Ray Martinez and
Cathleen O'Neil Frantz. With the new members seated, the
Board, on January 22, 2015, unanimously authorized an
additional one-year contract with an increase of 5% to the
performance-based pay. Id. at Ex. 13. A contract was
drafted, but it was not signed by any of the parties.
Id. at Ex. 14.
the Board authorized the contract, the parties continued to
discuss specific terms. Dr. Williams sought to be employed
through Educational Services Incorporate (“ESI”),
a third-party contractor. In this arrangement, Dr. Williams
could retire from the District but continue to work in her
role as Superintendent. A February 19, 2015 Board meeting
contained two contract proposals for Dr. Williams: (1) a
one-year contract through ESI, or (2) a traditional one-year
contract, the same as the one agreed to at the January 22,
2015 Board meeting. Id. at Ex. 17. Ms. O'Neil
Frantz moved for the Board to approve the ESI contract, but
no Board Member seconded the motion. Id. Ms.
O'Neil Frantz then moved for the Board to approve the
traditional contract, and again, there was no second.
Id. Both motions failed. On March 26, 2015, Dr.
Williams was placed on non-disciplinary paid leave. This vote
was supported by Mr. Zamora, Mr. Martinez, and Ms. Alvarado
and opposed by Ms. O'Neil Frantz and Mr. Lopez Falk.
(Doc. 83, Ex. 19). The Board voted not to renew Dr.
Williams's contract on April 2, 2015. (Doc. 73, Ex. 18).
The Board selected a firm to conduct a search for a new
Superintendent. Mr. Zamora, Mr. Martinez, and Ms. Alvarado
voted in favor of selecting a search firm, while Ms.
O'Neil Frantz voted against and Mr. Lopez Falk abstained.
Id. at Ex. 19. The Board offered interviews to four
candidates, comprised of two Caucasians, one Hispanic, and
one African American. Id. at Ex. 10. Two candidates,
Mark Yslas, an Hispanic, and Michael Robert, an
African-American, were given second interviews. Id.
at Ex. 21. Mr. Zamora was absent from the May 12, 2015
meeting where the final two candidates were selected. The
Board eventually hired Mr. Yslas, whose contract provided for
a $150, 000 base salary. Mr. Zamora, Mr. Martinez, and Ms.
Alvarado voted in favor of hiring Mr. Yslas, and Ms.
O'Neil Frantz and Mr. Lopez Falk voted against the
motion. (Doc. 83, Ex. 21).
Williams, an African-American, filed this suit alleging
discrimination on the basis of race. Dr. Williams alleges
that Mr. Martinez, Mr. Zamora, and Ms. Alvarado made various
statements revealing that they disapproved of Dr. Williams
because she was not Hispanic. Id. at Exs. 3, 9, 15,
18, 22. The School District serves a predominantly Hispanic
population. Id. at Ex. 3.
judgment is appropriate if the evidence, viewed in the light
most favorable to the nonmoving party, demonstrates
“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). Substantive law determines
which facts are material and “[o]nly disputes over
facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the
governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary
judgment.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc.,
477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). “A fact issue is genuine
‘if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could
return a verdict for the nonmoving party.'”
Villiarimo v. Aloha Island Air, Inc., 281 F.3d 1054,
1061 (9th Cir. 2002) (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at
248). When the nonmoving party “bear[s] the burden of
proof at trial as to an element essential to its case, and
that party fails to make a showing sufficient to establish a
genuine dispute of fact with respect to the existence of that
element, then summary judgment is appropriate.”
Cal. Architectural Bldg. Prods., Inc. v. Franciscan
Ceramics, Inc., 818 F.2d 1466, 1468 (9th Cir. 1987)
(citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317,
Race and National Origin Discrimination
Williams alleges that her contract was not renewed due to her
status as an African American, because the Board sought to
have a Hispanic Superintendent to reflect the population of
the area. Dr. Williams bring four counts containing
allegations of racial or national origin discrimination:
Count I, race discrimination under Title VII; Count II,
national origin discrimination under Title VII; Count IV, a
42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim for violations of the Equal
Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment; and Count V, a
§ 1981 claim for racial discrimination in contracting.
Defendants seek summary judgment on all four counts, arguing
that Plaintiff has not established racial discrimination was
the cause of her termination.
employer may not “discriminate against any individual
with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or
privileges of employment, because of such individual's
race . . . or national origin.” 42 U.S.C. §
2000e-2(a)(1). A plaintiff must establish a prima facie case
of discrimination, offering proof that: (1) “the
plaintiff belongs to a class of persons protected by Title
VII;” (2) “the plaintiff performed his or her job
satisfactorily;” (3) “the plaintiff suffered an
adverse employment action;” and (4) “the
plaintiff's employer treated the plaintiff differently
than a similarly situated employee who does not belong to the
same protected class as the plaintiff.” Cornwell v.
Electra Central Credit Union, 439 F.3d 1018, 1028 (9th
Cir. 2006) (citing McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green,
411 U.S. 792, 802 (1973)). Once the plaintiff has established
a prima facie case, the defendant must rebut the presumption
of discrimination by “articulat[ing] some legitimate,
nondiscriminatory reason for the employee's
rejection.” McDonnell Douglas, 411 U.S. at
802. If the defendant provides such evidence, the
McDonnell Douglas presumption “simply drops
out of the picture” and “the trier of fact
proceeds to decide the ultimate question: whether plaintiff
has proven ‘that the defendant intentionally
discriminated against [him]' because of his race.”
St. Mary's Honor Center v. Hicks, 509 U.S. 502,
511 (1993) (quoting Texas Dept. of Community Affairs v.
Burdine, 450 U.S. 248, 253 (1981)). At this point,
plaintiffs must “be afforded a fair opportunity to show
that the [defendant's] stated reason for
[plaintiff's] rejection was in fact pretext.”
McDonnell Douglas, 411 U.S. at 804. A plaintiff may
respond to a summary judgment motion by “using the
McDonnell Douglas framework, or alternatively, may
simply produce direct or circumstantial evidence
demonstrating that a discriminatory reason more likely than
not motivated [the defendant].” McGinest v. GTE