United States District Court, D. Nevada
DEFENDANT'SMOTIONFOR SUMMARYJUDGMENT (ECF NO.
P. GORDON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Nedra Wilson worked for defendant Nevada Affordable Housing
Assistance Corporation (NAHAC) as its controller. After she
was fired, she filed this lawsuit against NAHAC, alleging
race discrimination and retaliation. NAHAC moves for summary
judgment, arguing there is no evidentiary basis to support a
race discrimination claim because Wilson is only speculating
that race played a role in her termination. As to the
retaliation claim, NAHAC contends it had a legitimate reason
for firing Wilson and there is no evidence of pretext.
responds that she was fired for sharing her bank
token but Caucasian employees did the same thing
and were not fired. She also argues that there is evidence of
retaliation because she was fired shortly after Kolleen
Kelley took over as chair of the board for NAHAC; Kelley had
a retaliatory motive related to a separate lawsuit alleging
race discrimination; Kelley denied her involvement in the
firing decision but NAHAC's executive director, Amber
Lopez Lasater, says Kelley made the termination decision; and
Lopez Lasater did not believe Wilson should have been
parties are familiar with the facts of this case and I will
not repeat them in detail here. I deny NAHAC's motion.
judgment is appropriate if the pleadings, discovery
responses, and affidavits demonstrate “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), (c). A fact is material if it “might affect the
outcome of the suit under the governing law.”
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248
(1986). An issue is genuine if “the evidence is such
that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the
nonmoving party.” Id.
party seeking summary judgment bears the initial burden of
informing the court of the basis for its motion and
identifying those portions of the record that demonstrate the
absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex
Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). The burden
then shifts to the non-moving party to set forth specific
facts demonstrating there is a genuine issue of material fact
for trial. Fairbank v. Wunderman Cato Johnson, 212
F.3d 528, 531 (9th Cir. 2000). I view the evidence and
reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the
non-moving party. James River Ins. Co. v. Hebert Schenk,
P.C., 523 F.3d 915, 920 (9th Cir. 2008).
VII makes it unlawful for an employer to discriminate against
an individual with respect to the terms, conditions, or
privileges of employment because of the individual's
race. 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(1). To establish a prima
facie case of disparate treatment based on race, “a
plaintiff must offer evidence that give[s] rise to an
inference of unlawful discrimination.” Reynaga v.
Roseburg Forest Prod., 847 F.3d 678, 690-91 (9th Cir.
2017) (quotation omitted). “One way to establish an
inference of discrimination” is by establishing a prima
facie case under McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green,
411 U.S. 792, 802 (1973). Id. Under McDonnell
Douglas, a plaintiff makes out a prima facie case by
showing: (1) that she is a member of a protected class; (2)
that she was qualified for her position and performing her
job satisfactorily; (3) that she was subjected to an adverse
employment action; and (4) that “similarly situated
individuals outside [her] protected class were treated more
favorably, or other circumstances surrounding the adverse
employment action give rise to an inference of
discrimination.” Hawn v. Exec. Jet Mgmt.,
Inc., 615 F.3d 1151, 1156 (9th Cir. 2010) (quotation
plaintiff makes out a prima facie case, “the burden
shifts to the defendant to provide a legitimate,
non-discriminatory reason for the adverse employment
action.” Reynaga, 847 F.3d at 690-91.
“If the defendant meets this burden, then the plaintiff
must . . . raise a triable issue of material fact as to
whether the defendant's proffered reasons . . . are mere
pretext for unlawful discrimination.” Id.
(quotation omitted, second alteration in original).
alternative to the McDonnell Douglas burden shifting
analysis, a plaintiff facing a summary judgment motion
“may simply produce direct or circumstantial evidence
demonstrating that a discriminatory reason ‘more likely
than not motivated' the employer.” Id.
(quotation omitted). Regardless of the method chosen,
“very little evidence” is required for a
plaintiff “to survive summary judgment in a
discrimination case, because the ultimate question is one
that can only be resolved through a searching inquiry-one
that is most appropriately conducted by the factfinder, upon
a full record.” Id. (quotation omitted).
has presented evidence of a prima facie case. She is a member
of a protected class because she is African-American. She has
presented evidence that she was qualified for the position
and performed her job satisfactorily. She was hired through a
competitive hiring process and there is no evidence of any
disciplinary action or comments about poor performance prior
to the events immediately preceding her termination. ECF Nos.
78-2 at 13-15; 78-21 at 29-30 (former chair of the board
testifying he heard no complaints about Wilson's
performance and he believed she was making progress in
addressing problems in the organization). She suffered an
adverse employment action when she was fired. Finally, she
has presented evidence that similarly situated individuals
outside her protected class were treated differently.
Specifically, two Caucasian employees apparently shared their
bank tokens and were not terminated for this conduct. ECF No.
78-3 at 23-25; 78-24 at 4-5. Additionally, Lopez Lasater, who
was the executive director/chief executive officer and
Wilson's immediate supervisor, did not think Wilson
should have been fired. ECF No. 78-2 at 6.
offers a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for
Wilson's termination. According to NAHAC, Wilson released
a wire transfer without authorization and shared her bank
token with other employees in violation of NAHAC policies.
has met her burden of raising a genuine dispute that these
given reasons are pretextual. As set forth above, similarly
situated Caucasian employees were not fired for sharing their
bank tokens. Beck v. United Food & Commercial Workers
Union, Local 99, 506 F.3d 874, 883 (9th Cir. 2007)
(stating that “a showing of disparate treatment raises
an inference of discrimination ‘because experience has
proved that in the absence of any other explanation it is
more likely than not that those actions were bottomed on
impermissible considerations.'”) (quoting
Furnco Constr. Corp. v. Waters, 438 U.S. 567, 579-80
(1978)). Additionally, Wilson has presented evidence that she
was disciplined for authorizing a wire transfer even though
Lopez Lasater was aware of and did not object to Wilson's
actions at the time, and Lopez ...