ROSS, Circuit Judge.
James Scroggins appeals from a summary judgment entered by the district court
Scroggins, an African-American, had worked for the University as a custodian. In October 1996, he was suspended following a complaint by a student-worker, who was responsible for unlocking the doors and turning on the lights in the recreational center. On several occasions, after the student-worker turned on the lights, she was startled because Scroggins, who was a night custodian for the center, had been sitting in the dark. Scroggins had asked her if she was afraid of him because of his race. Although she said no, over the next few weeks he continued to confront her
On March 5, 1997, Scroggins filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). On March 18, 1997, Cecilia Sheehan, Scroggins' supervisor, found him on a couch, apparently napping. Sheehan told Scroggins it was past his break time and he needed to get back to work. After Sheehan consulted with her supervisor, Dave Peterson, and others, Scroggins was terminated.
Scroggins filed a Title VII action against the University, alleging that the October 1996 suspension was racially motivated and the termination was retaliatory. The district court granted the University's motion for summary judgment. The court held that Scroggins had established prima facie discrimination and retaliation cases, but the University had articulated legitimate, nondiscriminatory reasons for the actions, and Scroggins had offered no evidence that the reasons were pretextual.
We review the district court's grant of summary judgment de novo. As Scroggins notes, in Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prod., Inc., ___ U.S. ___, 120 S.Ct. 2097, 2109, 147 L.Ed.2d 105 (2000), the Supreme Court held that a prima facie case of discrimination combined with sufficient evidence of pretext may support a finding of intentional discrimination. The Court, however, emphasized such a showing will not always be adequate to support a finding of liability. Id. In this case, we need not decide the issue presented in Reeves. Scroggins failed to produce evidence of pretext on his discrimination claim and failed to establish a prima facie case on his retaliation claim.
As to the discrimination claim, Scroggins argues that the University's reason for the October 1996 suspension was pretextual because he broke no rules by sitting in the dark.
As to the retaliation claim, the district court concluded that Scroggins had established a prima facie case, because he had filed an EEOC complaint, was terminated, and the termination "was causally linked to the protected conduct." Kiel v. Select Artificials, Inc., 169 F.3d 1131, 1136 (8th Cir.) (en banc), cert. denied, ___ U.S. ___, 120 S.Ct. 59, 145 L.Ed.2d 51 (1999).
Moreover, even if Peterson knew of the complaint before the termination, in the circumstances of this case, "the mere coincidence of timing" does not raise an inference of causation. Nelson v. J.C. Penney Co., 75 F.3d 343, 346 (8
Moreover, we agree with the University that even if Scroggins had established a prima facie case of retaliation, he failed to produce evidence that the University's reason for firing him was pretextual. As Scroggins notes, the district court stated it would have denied the University's motion for summary judgment on the retaliation claim had he introduced evidence in support of his assertion that he had not been sleeping on the job. Whether he was sleeping or not, however, is irrelevant. Scroggins has offered no evidence to dispute Peterson's and Sheehan's testimony that he was fired for taking an unauthorized break. Indeed, in his brief he admits Sheehan accused him of "taking an unauthorized break," noting she testified she saw him fifteen minutes after the end of his scheduled break time. Moreover, as the University argues, also irrelevant is Scroggins' belief that he was still on break when Sheehan confronted him. Rather, the "relevant inquiry is whether [the University] believed [he was] guilty of [the] conduct justifying discharge," Harvey, 38 F.3d at 972 n. 2, and here there is no evidence suggesting anything other than the University's honest belief.
Accordingly, the judgment of the district court is affirmed.