A United States District Court judge has found for the city of Mobile and the Mobile County Personnel Board (MCPB) in a lawsuit claiming racial and gender discrimination in the Parks and Recreation Department.
In an order dated Jan. 31, Judge Kristi DuBose entered a summary judgment for the city and against Katrina Frazier, a longtime Parks and Recreation Department employee.
In the suit, Frazier argued that she was passed over for a series of promotions because of both racial and gender discrimination, as well as in retaliation for filing an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint against the city.
Court records indicate Frazier was passed over for a number of promotions within the department, including recreation superintendent and director, multiple times.
Starting in July 2014, another candidate was chosen over Frazier for the position of recreation superintendent. The following month, the city passed over Frazier for the position of director of parks and recreation.
In December of the same year, Frazier was not chosen for the position of recreation program supervisor at the Connie Hudson Senior Center. In 2015 the city did not fill an open position of superintendent of recreation, even though Frazier had applied for it twice and was interviewed three times. In 2016, the city did not fill a director of parks and recreation position when it became available again.
In each case, Frazier argues she was not chosen for the jobs due to racial and gender bias.
“Frazier was determined to be qualified for each position to which she applied,” the order read. “Frazier contends each denial involved some manifestation of unlawful discrimination, including gender, race, and retaliation. As a result of these contentions, Frazier filed two EEOC charges of discrimination.”
For the position of recreation superintendent, for which she applied in 2014, Frazier argued that then Parks and Recreation Director Sherryll White selected Julius Shine, a black male, over her. Frazier argued Shine was less qualified for the position than she was because he only had an associate’s degree at the time and she had a master’s degree.
On the argument that it discriminated against Frazier because of her gender, the city argued that while she had more education, Shine had more experience and “was the most qualified for the job.” The position required a bachelor’s degree, or a mix of education and experience. Shine had worked for the city since 1992 and had served as athletic program manager since 2008.
On the claim of racial discrimination, the city contends that since Shine is also black they can’t be held accountable for racial discrimination. While DuBose argued against that rationale in her order, she did grant summary judgment in favor of the city on this charge because the city had “legitimate, nondiscriminatory reasons” for choosing Shine.
Later in 2014, Executive Director of Public Works Bill Harkins selected Dan Otto, a white male, to serve as White’s replacement as interim parks and recreation director. Frazier’s was among the three names given to Harkins by the MCPB. Although Frazier interviewed for the permanent job two months later, Otto was selected again.
Frazier claims she missed out on a position as recreation program manager for the Connie Hudson Senior Center due to retaliation for an EEOC complaint. Despite being listed among 10 names for the position, Frazier was not selected for a final round of interviews for the position.
She claims Otto became aware of the complaint before the interviews were conducted. Ultimately, Ashley Flowers, a white woman, was chosen for the position.
For this charge, the city again argued it had legitimate, nondiscriminatory reasons for selecting Flowers. The court agreed.
“Frazier has not put forth sufficient evidence to permit a reasonable fact-finder to conclude Frazier’s qualifications exceeded those of Flowers, such that racial animus in the city’s decision could be inferred,” DuBose wrote. “Flowers acquired an advanced degree, managed a budget and worked with seniors. A reasonable person very well could have selected Flowers over Frazier.”
Frazier applied and interviewed for a second superintendent of recreation vacancy after Shine was demoted in April 2015. Otto interviewed Frazier on Nov. 19, 2015. In notes that he forwarded to human resources, Otto questioned Frazier’s loyalty, according to court records. Otto did not fill the position after interviewing two additional candidates.
Frazier would interview for the position again with Parks and Recreation Director Matt Capps. Capps again left the position open.
In the case of the second recreation superintendent vacancy, DuBose wrote that Frazier’s claim raised a “difficult question” in this circumstance because of Otto’s comment in his notes.
“Although Otto proffers a different explanation, when viewed in a light most favorable to Frazier, a reasonable jury could find her EEOC charges were a reason Otto did not promote Frazier,” DuBose wrote. “Otto stated he did not promote Frazier because Otto believed she lacked necessary supervisory and budgetary experience. Indeed, next to where Otto wrote ‘questionable loyalty,’ he observed that she oversold her experience and the number of individuals she supervised.”
DuBose, however, argued that Otto’s comment alone did not make his belief that Frazier lacked supervisory experience “implausible.”
City Attorney Ricardo Woods did not comment on the lawsuit or the order. Frazier’s attorney, Temple Trueblood, also had no comment. It is unclear whether the case will be appealed.