United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division
Glen E. Conrad Senior United States District Judge
Derrick Edwards, a Virginia inmate proceeding pro se, filed
this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983,
alleging that defendant A. DeBord violated his First
Amendment rights by retaliating against him for filing
grievances. DeBord filed a motion for summary judgment, and
Edwards has responded, making this matter ripe for
disposition. After review of the record, the court concludes
that the defendant's motion for summary judgment must be
record indicates that Edwards, at all times pertinent, was
confined at River North Correctional Center ("River
North") and DeBord was the Assistant Food Service
Director at River North. Edwards worked in the kitchen at
River North, under the supervision of DeBord. Edwards was
fired from his job on July 12, 2018.
to Edwards, on July 12, 2018, he submitted three emergency
grievances complaining that he had been forced to wear a
jumpsuit due to a prior incident. After the third emergency
grievance, Edwards went to the supervisor's office to
talk with DeBord. DeBord allegedly told Edwards that "if
[he] had time to file grievances, [he] must not be
working." Resp. D. Mot. Summ. J. 2, ECF No. 19-1.
Following this conversation, a correctional officer in the
kitchen told Edwards that he would not be returning to the
kitchen, and another correctional officer told him that he
"was going to be fired over a jumpsuit."
Id. Edwards then wrote a fourth emergency grievance.
The unit manager told Edwards that he "didn't have
to worry about working in the kitchen anymore over the
grievances and shredded the [fourth] grievance."
Id. Later that day, the unit manager and
institutional ombudsman told Edwards that he had lost his job
in the kitchen.
evidence recounts a different version of events. When Edwards
arrived for work on July 11, 2018 "to change into his
kitchen clothes, he was wearing a prison jumpsuit. On this
day, Edwards had an attitude about an issue that had occurred
in his housing unit. Due to his poor attitude and behavior,
he was removed from the kitchen at 3 p.m. to return to his
housing unit." DeBord Aff. ¶ 6, ECF No. 14-1. On
July 12, 2018, when Edwards returned to work, he
"continued to demonstrate a poor attitude and behavior
that day and was removed from the kitchen at 8:30 a.m. to
return to his housing unit." Id. DeBord arrived
to work at 8:00 a.m. on July 12, 2018, thirty minutes before
Edwards was removed from the kitchen. As of 8:30 a.m., DeBord
was not aware that Edwards had filed or was writing any
emergency grievances. DeBord also "did not tell Edwards
that if he has time to file grievances than he must not have
been working." Id. at ¶ 7.
did not have the authority to fire Edwards from his kitchen
job. On July 12, 2018, she completed an Offender Work Program
Job Suspension and Termination form, whereby she recommended
that Edwards be terminated from his kitchen job due to poor
job performance. DeBord submitted the form to L.
Morgan-Bowman, Senior Counselor at River North, who conducted
an administrative review, and approved Edward's
termination from his kitchen job. Morgan-Bowman "based
[her] termination approval on Ms. DeBord's statement that
termination request was due to Edwards' poor job
performance." Morgan-Bowman Aff. ¶ 7, ECF No. 14-2.
filed an informal complaint on July 12, 2018, complaining
that he was fired in retaliation for filing grievances.
DeBord responded, stating that Edwards was released from the
kitchen for poor job performance - "due to Mr. Edwards
on Thurs 7/12/18 wanting his ID and walking out and then his
attitude carrying over to Friday 7/13/18." See V.S. 2, ECF
No. 2. Edwards states that he never asked for his ID nor did
he have an attitude about work; he claims that he worked
throughout the day, "even while on break." Edwards
Aff. 1, ECF No. 19-2.
18, 2018, Edwards filed a regular grievance. The responding
officer informed him that he had to attach his termination
paperwork before the grievance would be accepted. On July 20,
2018, Edwards submitted a second regular grievance. On July
25, 2018, after investigation, the warden responded that
Edwards was "terminated from the kitchen due to [his]
behavior which led to poor job performance."
See V.S. 9. Edwards appealed. On August 13, 2018,
the regional ombudsman upheld the decision.
then filed the present action. Edwards' sole claim is
that DeBord fired him in retaliation for his filing of
emergency grievances, in violation of his First Amendment
Standards of Review
Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) provides that a court should
grant summary judgment "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." "As to
materiality, . . . [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). The dispute over a material fact must be genuine,
"such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for
the nonmoving party." Id; see also JKC Holding Co.
v. Wash. Sports Ventures, Inc.. 264 F.3d 459, 465 (4th
Cir. 2001). As such, the moving party is entitled to summary
judgment if the evidence supporting a genuine issue of
material fact "is merely colorable or is not
significantly probative." Anderson. 477 U.S. at
moving party bears the burden of proving that judgment on the
pleadings is appropriate. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett.
477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). If the moving party meets this
burden, then the nonmoving party must set forth specific,
admissible facts to demonstrate a genuine issue of fact for
trial. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio
Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). In considering a motion
for summary judgment, the court must view the record as a
whole and draw all reasonable inferences in the light most
favorable to the nonmoving party. Celotex. 477 U.S.
at 322-24; Shaw v. Stroud.13 F.3d 791, 798 (4th
Cir. 1994). However, the nonmoving party may not rely on
beliefs, conjecture, speculation, or conclusory allegations
to defeat a motion for summary judgment. Baber v. Hosp.
Corp. of Am.,977 F.2d 872, 874-75 (4th Cir. 1992).
Instead, the nonmoving party must ...