Clive Pettis, Sr. v. Nottoway County School Board, No. 14-1192 (4th Cir. 2014)

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UNPUBLISHED UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE FOURTH CIRCUIT No. 14-1192 CLIVE C. PETTIS, SR., Plaintiff - Appellant, v. NOTTOWAY COUNTY SCHOOL BOARD; DANIEL J. GROUNARD, Individually and in his official capacity as Division Superintendent, Nottoway County Schools, Defendants - Appellees, and HELEN SIMMONS, Individually and in her official capacity as a duly elected Member of the Nottoway School Board; WALLACE HURT, Individually and in his official capacity as a duly elected Member of the Nottoway School Board; ROBERT HORN, Individually and in his official capacity as a duly elected Member of the Nottoway School Board; JACQUELINE HAWKES, Individually and in her official capacity as a duly elected Member of the Nottoway School Board; SHELLI HINTON, Individually and in her official capacity as a duly elected Member of the Nottoway School Board, Defendants. Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, at Richmond. Henry E. Hudson, District Judge. (3:12-cv-00864-HEH-DJN) Submitted: October 31, 2014 Decided: November 13, 2014 Before NIEMEYER, DUNCAN, and FLOYD, Circuit Judges. Affirmed by unpublished per curiam opinion. JeRoyd W. Greene, III, ROBINSON AND GREENE, Richmond, Virginia, for Appellant. R. Craig Wood, Melissa Wolf Riley, MCGUIREWOODS LLP, Charlottesville, Virginia, for Appellees. Unpublished opinions are not binding precedent in this circuit. 2 PER CURIAM: Clive order denying C. Pettis, his Sr., motion for appeals summary the district judgment and court’s granting summary judgment for the Nottoway County School Board and its superintendent, Daniel J. Grounard (collectively, “Defendants”) and its order denying Pettis’ Fed. R. Civ. P. 59(e) motion to alter or amend the judgment. contract was not renewed Pettis alleges that his employment on the basis of his race and in retaliation for his complaints of discrimination, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981 (2012), 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (2012), and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e to 2000e-17 (2012). Finding no error in the district court’s orders, we affirm. We review de novo whether a district court erred in granting summary judgment, viewing the facts and drawing all reasonable inferences nonmoving party. Cir. 2013). in the light most favorable to the Glynn v. EDO Corp., 710 F.3d 209, 213 (4th When reviewing an appeal from cross-motions for summary judgment, however, we separately review the merits of each motion, taking care to resolve all factual disputes and competing rational inferences in favor of the party opposing that motion, to ascertain whether “either deserves judgment as a matter of law.” 316 F.3d 516, 523 (4th Cir. 2003) 3 of the parties Rossignol v. Voorhaar, (internal quotation marks omitted). Summary judgment is properly granted “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). Where, as here, a plaintiff does not allege direct evidence of discrimination, a plaintiff asserting racial discrimination may avoid summary judgment by proceeding under the burden-shifting framework established in McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792 (1973). ∗ To demonstrate a prima facie case of discrimination under that framework, a plaintiff must show that: he is a member of a protected class; he suffered an adverse employment action; at the time of the action, he was performing employees his job favorably. outside satisfactorily; the protected and class similarly were situated treated more Hill v. Lockheed Martin Logistics Mgmt., Inc., 354 F.3d 277, 285 (4th. Cir. 2004). We conclude that Pettis failed to establish that he was performing his job satisfactorily at the time his contract was not renewed. Grounard received complaints from coworkers and Pettis’ supervisor about his interactions with them and his failures to satisfactorily perform his required tasks. ∗ During The elements of a discrimination claim are identical under the three statutes from which Pettis’ claims arise. Love-Lane v. Martin, 355 F.3d 766, 786 (4th Cir. 2004). 4 meetings with Grounard and other School Board employees, Pettis was insubordinate. discipline about Pettis these received issues but numerous failed warnings and improve his to performance. Next, Pettis argues that the district court ignored his most recent complaints of harassment when it concluded that he failed to establish a necessary element of his retaliation claim. To establish a prima facie case of retaliation, a plaintiff must demonstrate that: (1) he engaged in protected activity; (2) an adverse employment action was taken against him; and (3) there was a causal link activity and the employment action. between the protected Holland v. Wash. Homes, Inc., 487 F.3d 208, 218 (4th Cir. 2007). We harassment conclude are not that Pettis’ protected vague activity. complaints Protected includes both participation and opposition activity. of activity Kubicko v. Ogden Logistics Servs., 181 F.3d 544, 551 (4th Cir. 1999). A complaint a response plaintiff is to protected an as employment reasonably opposition practice believes is, activity that is, unlawfully if it or that is the discriminatory. Jordan v. Alt. Res. Corp., 458 F.3d 332, 338-39 (4th Cir. 2006). Pettis could not reasonably believe, nor did he at the relevant time ever assert, that his employer’s actions were unlawfully discriminatory. 5 We further find that Pettis fails to establish a causal connection between his only protected activity — filing an EEOC complaint — and the nonrenewal of his contract. “[A] causal connection for purposes of demonstrating a prima facie case exists where the employer takes adverse employment action against an activity.” employee Price shortly v. after Thompson, learning 380 F.3d of 209, the 213 protected (4th Cir. 2004). However, the temporal nexus between two events cannot provide proof of causation unless the “temporal proximity between an employer’s knowledge of protected activity and an adverse employment action” was “very close.” Dist. v. Breeden, 532 U.S. 268, (internal quotation marks omitted). 273 Clark Cnty. Sch. (2001) (per curiam) Pettis’ EEOC complaint was filed nearly four years before his contract was not renewed. While other relevant evidence may be used to support a claim of causal connection where temporal proximity is lacking, Lettieri v. Equant Inc., 478 F.3d 640, 650 (4th Cir. 2007), Pettis has failed to proffer any such evidence. Finally, Pettis challenges the district court’s denial of his Rule 59(e) motion to alter or amend. of discretion. We review for abuse Wilkins v. Montgomery, 751 F.3d 214, 220 (4th Cir. 2014). A district court may grant a Rule 59(e) motion “if the shows movant controlling law, either (2) new (1) an evidence 6 intervening that was change not in available the at trial, or (3) that there has been a clear error of law or a manifest injustice.” Robinson v. Wix Filtration Corp., 599 F.3d 403, 407 (4th Cir. 2010). We find no abuse of discretion here. Although Pettis disputed the district court’s substantive rulings on his claims, “mere disagreement does not support a Rule 59(e) motion.” Hutchinson v. Staton, 994 F.2d 1076, 1082 (4th Cir. 1993). Accordingly, We dispense with oral we affirm argument the district because the court’s facts orders. and legal contentions are adequately presented in the material before this court and argument will not aid the decisional process. AFFIRMED 7