United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Southern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
WALLACE CAPEL, Jr., Magistrate Judge.
On May 14, 2014, Plaintiff Kimberly Rogers ("Plaintiff") filed a three-count Complaint against the following defendants: Southeast Psychiatric Services, Inc. ("SPS"); Professional Resource Management of the Wiregrass ("PRM"); and Meghani Medical, P.C. ("Meghani Medical"). This complaint alleged: unlawful sex and pregnancy discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et. seq.; unlawful interference in violation of the Family Medical Leave Act, 29 U.S.C. § 2601 et. seq.; and breach of contract under Alabama state law. Jurisdiction is proper under 28 U.S.C. § 1331. All parties have consented to the conduct of all proceedings and entry of a final judgment by the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge. Pl.'s Consent to Jurisdiction (Doc. 13); Defs.' Consent to Jurisdiction (Doc. 14).
Before the court is Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 37) and Memorandum of Law in Support (Doc. 38). Plaintiff filed a Response to Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 39), and Defendants filed a reply (Doc. 40).
Upon consideration of the Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 37), the pleadings of the parties, and the evidentiary materials filed in support thereof, and for the reasons that follow, the court finds that the Motion is due to be granted in part and denied in part.
II. STANDARD OF REVIEW
Under Rule 56(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a reviewing court shall grant a motion for "summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). Only disputes about material facts will preclude the granting of summary judgment. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986). A dispute "is genuine' if the record as a whole could lead a reasonable trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party. A [dispute] is material' if it might affect the outcome of the case under the governing law." Redwing Carriers, Inc. v. Saraland Apartments, 94 F.3d 1489, 1496 (11th Cir. 1996) (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248).
The party asking for summary judgment "always bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion[, ]" and alerting the court to portions of the record which support the motion. Celotex Corp. v. Cartrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). However, once the movant has satisfied this burden, the nonmovant is then similarly required to cite to portions of the record which show the existence of a material factual dispute. Id. at 324. In doing so, and to avoid summary judgment, the nonmovant "must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). The parties must support their assertions "that a fact cannot be or is genuinely disputed" by "citing to particular parts of materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations, admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials" or by "showing that the materials cited do not establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute, or that an adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(A) & (B).
If a party "fails to properly support an assertion of fact or fails to properly address another party's assertion of fact" as required by Rule 56(c), then the court may "consider the fact undisputed for purposes of the motion" and "grant summary judgment if the motion and supporting materials-including the facts considered undisputed-show that the movant is entitled to it." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)(2) & (3).
In determining whether a genuine dispute for trial exists, the court must view all the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmovant. McCormick v. City of Fort Lauderdale, 333 F.3d 1234, 1243 (11th Cir. 2003). Likewise, the reviewing court must draw all justifiable inferences from the evidence in the nonmoving party's favor. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255. After the nonmoving party has responded to the motion for summary judgment, the court must grant summary judgment if there is no genuine dispute of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a).
III. STATEMENT OF FACTS
The court has carefully considered the pleadings in this case and all documents submitted in support of, and in opposition to, the Motion for Summary Judgment. The submissions of the parties, viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, establish the following relevant facts.
A. Statement of Undisputed Facts
SPS contracted with Plaintiff on January 25, 2010, to provide neuropsychology services to patients in the Dothan, Alabama area. Pl.'s Ex. (Doc. 1-1) at 1. The contract specified that Plaintiff would commence employment by February 1, 2010, and the term of the contract would be for three years. Id. Thus, the contract would have expired on February 1, 2013.
In 2010 and 2011, Meghani Medical did business as SPS, the entity with which Plaintiff contracted to perform services. Mr. Meghani Depo. (Doc. 38-2) at 6. Plaintiff worked for Meghani Medical during the years of 2010 and 2011, receiving her W-2 from that entity. Compl. (Doc. 1) at 3. On December 28, 2011, Meghani Medical merged with PRM. Id. PRM employed Plaintiff from that time until her termination in 2012. Id.
Plaintiff's salary was originally set at $80, 000.00 per year. Pl.'s Ex. (Doc. 39-1) at 2. In 2011, Plaintiff was given a $10, 000.00 raise, and Plaintiff's salary remained at $90, 000.00 through the date of her termination. Pl.'s Depo. (Doc. 38-3) at 11.
Plaintiff's contract did not contain set hours during which Plaintiff was to be at work or a total number of hours that Plaintiff was expected to work, other than stating that Plaintiff "agreed to work full time." Pl.'s Ex. (Doc. 39-1) at 2. Defendants did not maintain any attendance records to reflect the specific hours Plaintiff was at work or to reflect the total hours Plaintiff worked. Mr. Meghani Depo. (Doc. 38-2) at 26. As part of her duties, Plaintiff saw patients in her office on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays, and reported to the hospital to provide in-patient care on Thursdays and Fridays. Pl.'s Depo. (Doc. 38-3) at 13.
At all times relevant to this proceeding, Dr. Meghani was both the highest officer of SPS, Meghani Medical, and PRM, and a physician working therefor. Dr. Meghani Depo. (Doc. 38-1) at 5; Mr. Meghani Depo. (Doc. 38-2) at 7. Dr. Meghani had the ultimate decision-making authority for Defendants. Dr. Meghani Depo. (Doc. 38-1) at 7; Mr. Meghani Depo. (Doc. 38-2) at 7; Ms. Gilley Depo. (Doc. 38-5) at 4. Mr. Meghani worked for Defendants as Director of Physical Plant and Information Technology. Pl.'s Ex. (Doc. 39-3) at 6. Mr. Meghani's duties included supervising the front desk and billing departments. Mr. Meghani Depo. (Doc. 38-2) at 5. Ms. Nancy Gilley ("Ms. Gilley") worked for Defendants as a Business Manager and, for the majority of the time Plaintiff was employed with Defendants, was responsible for maintaining personnel files. Pl.'s Ex. (Doc. 39-3) at 6. Mr. Meghani and Ms. Gilley shared many roles in the administration of the office, including counseling employees for poor work performance. Mr. Meghani Depo. (Doc. 38-2) at 10; Ms. Gilley Depo. (Doc. 38-5) at 5. Shortly before Plaintiff's termination, Defendants hired Mr. Adam Bollaert ("Mr. Bollaert") as the Director of Human Resources and named Ms. Jennifer Simmons ("Ms. Simmons"), a nurse working for Defendants, as Director of Clinical Departments. Mr. Bollaert Depo. (Doc. 38-4) at 5; Ms. Simmons Depo. (Doc. 38-6) at 3; Pl.'s Ex. (Doc. 39-3) at 6. Soon after he started as the Director of Human Resources, Mr. Bollaert formed an executive committee to formally designate Defendants' core managers. Mr. Bollaert Depo. (Doc. 38-4) at 6. That committee was comprised of Mr. Meghani, Ms. Gilley, Mr. Bollaert, and Ms. Simmons. Id.
At all times relevant to this action, Defendants had an Employee Handbook that called for progressive discipline "involv[ing] a verbal warning, followed by a written warning, followed by more severe action including possible termination, if the conduct does not improve." Pl.'s Ex. (Doc. 39-7) at 20. Defendants have no documentation of Plaintiff receiving verbal or written warnings. Dr. Meghani Depo. (Doc. 38-1) at 8; Mr. Meghani Depo. (Doc. 38-2) at 21; Ms. Gilley Depo. (Doc. 38-5) at 15.
While Plaintiff was employed with Defendants, Defendants designed and built a new office building, which included a space specifically for Plaintiff's practice. Mr. Meghani Depo. (Doc. 38-2) at 26-27; Ms. Gilley Depo. (Doc. 38-5) at 18.
On July 30, 2012, prior to the move to the new building, Plaintiff emailed Dr. Meghani the following:
Dear Dr. Meghani,
I had the opportunity to visit the new office with [Ms. Gilley] today. It looks very nice, and I know it will serve us well. However, I do have concerns about the office space that has been assigned to me. Aside from obvious logistics that only concern space, I am more concerned about my job security, my ability to ethically treat patients and the possibility of safety issues that could arise with me seeing patients in one of those three offices.
If there are plans in the near future to terminate me and that is why my office space was so significantly cut, I would appreciate some advanced warning. If there are no plans to terminate me, I have concerns about my ability to safely and ethically treat patients in one of those three offices. As I know you are aware, it is necessary for me to have some degree of a quiet environment in which to test patients and provide confidential therapy. It is also necessary for me to have the ability to situate the room such that I have an exit without having to physically confront the patient to get to the door. While it is not a frequent occurrence that I feel threatened by a patient, it does happen.
I sincerely appreciate everything you have done for me. I look forward to hearing any suggestions you have to ...