United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Northern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
HAROLD ALBRITTON SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
cause is before the court on a Motion for Summary Judgment
(Doc. # 14) by Defendant Corizon Health, Inc.
(“Corizon”), together with supporting and
opposing briefs and exhibits.
filed a Complaint on May 31, 2016 (Doc. # 1), alleging race
and age discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil
Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, and
the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. §
621, et seq., respectively. Specifically, Nalls brings claims
of hostile work environment (Count I), disparate treatment
(Count II), age discrimination (Count III); and retaliation
5, 2017, Corizon filed a Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. #
14) on all of Nalls's claims. Subsequently, Nalls
responded (Doc. # 18), and Corizon replied (Doc. # 22). For
the reasons to be discussed, the Motion for Summary Judgment
is due to be GRANTED, in part, and DENIED, in part.
SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD
Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, summary
judgment is proper if “there is no genuine issue as to
any material fact and . . . the moving party is entitled to a
judgment as a matter of law.” Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986).
party asking for summary judgment “always bears the
initial responsibility of informing the district court of the
basis for its motion, ” relying on submissions
“which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine
issue of material fact.” Id. at 323. Once the
moving party has met its burden, the nonmoving party must
“go beyond the pleadings” and show that there is
a genuine issue for trial. Id. at 324.
the party “asserting that a fact cannot be” and
the party asserting that a fact “is genuinely
disputed” must support their assertions by
“citing to particular parts of materials in the
record” 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). Acceptable materials under Rule 56(c)(1)(A)
include: “depositions, documents, electronically stored
information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations
(including those made for purposes of the motion only),
admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials.”
To avoid summary judgment, the nonmoving party “must do
more than 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). On the
other hand, the evidence of the nonmovant must be believed
and all justifiable inferences must be drawn in its favor.
See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. 242, 255
the nonmoving party has responded to the motion for summary
judgment, the court shall 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. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a).
facts before the court, viewed in the light most favorable to
the Plaintiff, are as follows:
is a 70-year-old, black female. She has been a registered
nurse since 1990. (Doc. # 19-1, p. 8:11-8:15; 12:13-12:15).
In 2005, Prison Health Services, which later became Corizon,
hired Nalls to work the day shift as a charge nurse. (Doc.
19-1, p. 12:16-12:23). As a charge nurse, Nalls worked in the
infirmary and in the emergency room. Her regular duties
included paperwork, checking charts for audits, prison
inspections, making assignments for other nurses, keeping up
with inventory of needles and syringes, and “whatever
needed to be done.” (Doc. # 19-1, p. 70:18-71:14);
(Doc. # 19-2, p. 6:18-7:4; 21:1-21:14; 41:1-41:10)
reported to the Director of Nursing (“DON”); and
the DON reported to the Health Services Administrator
(“HSA”) (Doc. # 19-1, p. 53:8-54:14). On July 7,
2014, Jessica Duffell (“Duffell”) was hired at
Corizon as the HSA. (Doc. # 19-7, p. 6:9-6:15). In October
2014, Corizon hired Dorothy Price (“Price”) as
DON. (Doc. # 14-3, p. 6:2-6:9).
after Duffell was hired, Nalls overheard Duffell on the
telephone stating that “there were more black nurses
and only two white nurses, and she was afraid of reverse
discrimination, and there are too many of y'all.”
(Doc. # 19-1, p. 54:16-20). When Nalls heard Duffell's
remark, she responded that she did not like that word
‘y'all.' “What do you mean
y'all?” She told Duffell that she believed the term
was a “racial statement” that was
“obviously prejudicial.” (Doc. # 19-1, p.
61:1-61:14). Nalls further told Duffell that her previous HSA
did not have a problem with there being more black nurses
than white nurses, to which she responded “he is not
here now.” (Doc. # 19-4, p. 3).
in 2015, when Duffell was either 68 or 69-years-old, Duffell
made other comments that Nalls found offensive. Duffell
testified in her deposition that:
A. “Now, she kept saying stuff like, I just looked at
your chart -- I mean looked at your record, how old are you?
I said, well, if you looked at my record, you already know
how old I am. How do you make so much money? I said I've
been here ten years, I get incentive raises every year. And
one year the administrator thought I was really Cracker Jack,
and he gave me an extra over -- across-the-board raise. She
said: Hmm, don't you have grandchildren? I almost said
none of your business, but I didn't. I was polite, I said
yes, I do. Well, don't you need to be at home with your
grandchildren? Are you drawing your Social Security too, Miss
Rich? Don't you need to be at home with your
grandchildren? She just really pushed all kinds of buttons
with me, because she was out of her place. So I -
Q. What do you mean out of her place?
A. Asking me those questions.
Q. Oh, you mean that was none of her business?
A. Thank you. She went right over the cup of tea, right over
the top. You know when you pour so much and the cup runs
over? Now, this was not -- This is not a professional
question. We were not -- I could have a -- I had had a more
casual conversation with Dorothy Price than I had ever had
with Ms. Duffell, and she just went right over the top. Then
she said things like, well, I know what I'm going to call
you since you got grandchildren and you just insist on
working, I'm going to call you Nana Nalls. I said my name
is Ms. Nalls; my grandchildren don't call me Nana. Well,
I'm going to call you Nana. And that's what she
called me from then on.
(Doc. # 19-1, p. 108:18-110:12). In March 2015, Nalls
objected to Duffell for calling her “Nana, ”
because she believed it was offensive. She told Duffell,
“None of my children, grandchildren, or anybody called
me Nana. That sounds like an old-timey, excuse my French,
white name from when they used to have nannies and mammies to
take care of the children, they called them Nana. I am not
that.” (Doc. # 19-1, p. 112:9-112:14). Nevertheless,
even after Nalls objected, Duffell continued calling her
“Nana” both to her face and in front of other
employees. (Doc. # 19-1, p. 113:6-113:8; 121:7-121:8). One of
her coworkers, Dawn Young, overheard Duffell calling Nalls
“Nana” “[m]aybe about two times.”
(Doc. # 19-2, p. 56:3-57:3)
after Nalls objected, Duffell responded, “Since you are
so smart, why don't you stay in the back of the infirmary
and don't come back here until we need you.” (Doc.
# 19-1, p. 121:3-121:8). Nalls was thereafter assigned to
work in the Infirmary, where she would work until she was
fired in May 2015.
working in the Infirmary, Nalls was responsible for feeding
and cleaning nine older, heavier men. (Doc. # 19-1, p.
142:4-142:9). Nalls complained that she needed help with
these responsibilities, but Duffell responded, sarcastically,
“You're so smart and know everything, I'm sure
you can handle it. And walked away.” (Doc. # 19-1, p.
146:6-11). Nalls also asked for a Hoya lift and a hospital
bed, but her request was denied. (Doc. # 19-1, p. 148:20-22).
Although other nurses were assigned to work in the Infirmary,
(Doc. # 19-7, p. 33:22-34:22), (Doc. # 14-3, p. 14:6-15:1),
at that point, Nalls believed Duffell was doing everything
she could to try and make Nalls quit.
8, 2015, Nalls injured her back lifting a patient off of his
bed. (Doc. # 19-10); (Doc. # 19-21). Duffell drove Nalls to the
hospital. On their way to the hospital, Duffell told Nalls,
“you're too old for this. You need to draw your
Social Security, and stay home with your
grandchildren.” (Doc. # 19-1, p. 159:1-159:12). Later
on, Duffell called Nalls and told her that she had to be back
at work on Monday or else she would be fired. (Doc. # 19-1,
p. 164:7-165:8). Over the weekend, it became clear that she
would not be able to make it into work on Monday. She called
and left a message on the answering machine saying that she
could not make it to work on the following Monday because she
was still under her doctor's care. (Doc. # 19-1, p.
prior to Nalls's injury, Price and Duffell had begun an
investigation into allegations that Nalls had violated a
workplace rule prohibiting inmate runners from performing
skilled nursing tasks. The investigation began when Leo Nunez
(“Nunez”), an inmate at Bullock Correctional
Facility and a runner assigned in the Infirmary, under the
supervision of Nalls, reported to Price that he was concerned
about another patient's blood pressure. When Price asked
why he was concerned about another inmate's vitals, Nunez
responded, “well, because I've been taking it, you
know, and its been high and it hasn't been high.”
(Doc. # 19-7, p. 107:9- 107:15). This raised Price's
suspicion that Nalls was inappropriately delegating skilled
nursing tasks to untrained inmates. Accordingly, Price began
personnel and training manual provides that “Inmates do
not provide health care services.” (Doc. # 14-7, p.
28). It further provides, in relevant part, that “(1)
Inmates do not make treatment decisions or provide patient
care. (2) Inmates do not . . . or handle medical records,
medications, or surgical instruments and sharps.”
Id. A discussion of the intent of this work rule is
that “the health services are provided by health staff
are not substituted with inmates workers.” Id.
Finally, an employer manual provided by the Alabama
Department of Corrections explicitly states that employees
shall not “Direct inmates to provide direct patient
care. Inmates are to be used only as custodians in the
hospital area.” (Doc. # 14-7, p. 32).
Nunez reported that he had been taking another inmate's
blood pressure, Price and Duffell began an investigation,
including collecting written statements from other inmates
and nurses, to determine whether it was true-and, ultimately,
whether to fire Nalls. First, Duffell and Price corroborated
Nunez's story with another inmate, Kevin Vines
(“Vines”), who was also assigned as a runner in
the Infirmary. (Doc. # 19-7, p. 110:15-111:2). Additionally,
Vines informed them that other nurses in the Infirmary were
aware that Nalls was having runners take vital signs from
inmates in the infirmary. (Doc. # 19-7, p. 108:21-108:23).
response to these allegations, Duffell organized a meeting
with her staff to explain what inmate runners are allowed to
do-and what they are not allowed to do. After the meeting,
some of the nurses independently came to Duffell to report
that Nalls was having inmate runners take vital signs of the
other inmates. Duffell then instructed them to “write
me a statement.” (Doc. # 19-7, p. 113:11-114:1).
14, 2015, Duffell and Price received written statements from
Pauline Perryman, RN, LPN; and Marty Thomley, LPN, confirming
that Nalls had ordered inmates to take vitals from inmate
patients. Additionally, inmates Nunez and Vines did the same.
On May 16, 2015, Edwanna McNeil, LPN wrote a similar
statement. After gathering all of those statements, Duffell
and Price wrote a formal recommendation to ...