David Meadows is a police officer with the City of North Bay Village in Florida. In January 2017, Meadows sat for the sergeant’s examination and placed second on the promotional list. The City uses a rule of three. Under the collective bargaining agreement between the City and the FOP, the police chief has discretion in his promotional decisions, except that he must select from the top three ranked candidates. When Meadows was twice passed over for promotion he sued, claiming he was the victim of age discrimination.
The City’s police chief testified that he bypassed Meadows because of concerns about Meadows’ integrity. The concerns arose in connection with a set of incidents where Meadows was seen on camera entering the mail or message boxes of other police department personnel. Two officers had complained that they felt that their correspondence and personal information had been compromised – probably taken out of their message box, locker, or desk – and their information had been posted on a web blog. Upon receiving the complaints, a lieutenant started checking video footage inside the police department and observed Meadows going through message boxes that were not his, including the lieutenant’s own message box.
The lieutenant proposed an “integrity test,” whereby he would put some potential promotional scenarios into his message box. These scenarios were potential questions for the sergeant’s exam. The chief approved this plan. Meadows was caught on camera entering the lieutenant’s message box, pulling out the integrity test envelope, looking at its contents, making copies of the potential test questions, and then putting the envelope back in the message box. This occurred roughly two weeks before Meadows sat for the sergeant’s exam. Meadows explained that he was “nosey” and that “he was concerned that the test may have been compromised to the extent that the lieutenant had test questions and other officers may have seen those questions.”
A federal court had no problem dismissing Meadows’ lawsuit, finding that “the City has met its burden of articulating a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for not promoting Meadows. Meadows fails to meet his burden of proof because the City’s reason is not pretext for discrimination unless it is shown both that the reason was false, and that discrimination was the real reason. Meadows is required to tackle head on why these reasons were pretextual and to show that age must then be the ‘but for’ reason. Meadows has provided no evidence to show that age discrimination was the real reason he was not promoted.
“In fact, Meadows has admitted he has no such evidence. When specifically asked what evidence he has that ageism played a role in the City’s decision, Meadows testified that he bases his allegations on the fact that he has the training, education, and experience for the job and, therefore, ‘there is no reason except for his age that he could think of’ that would permit the City to ‘skip’ over him. He also testified that neither Chief Noriega nor anyone else at the City had told him he was not being promoted because of his age.
“Here, the Court is satisfied that the City has provided an honest explanation for its behavior. The chief considered the message box incident to be egregious enough to make Meadows a less ideal candidate for the sergeant’s position than the officer selected. Meadows has not demonstrated that this decision was the result of age discrimination, and the Court will not otherwise second-guess the Chief’s decision.”
Meadows v. City of North Bay Village, 2020 WL 374305 (S.D. Fla. 2020).