United States District Court, S.D. Alabama, Southern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
KATHERINE P. NELSON UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
action is before the Court on the motion for summary judgment
under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 (Doc. 21) filed by
Defendant A & E Supported Living, Inc. (“A &
E”). Plaintiff Corrine Carter has timely filed a
response (Doc. 23) in opposition to the motion, and A & E
has timely filed a reply consisting of objections (Doc. 24)
to certain of Carter's submissions in her
response. The motion is now under submission
(see Doc. 22) and is ripe for disposition. Upon
consideration, the Court finds that A & E's motion
for summary judgment (Doc. 40) is due to be
party may move for summary judgment, identifying each claim
or defense--or the part of each claim or defense--on which
summary judgment is sought. 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).
“An issue of fact is ‘material' if it might
affect the outcome of the suit under governing law and it is
‘genuine' if the evidence is such that a reasonable
jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.”
Ave. CLO Fund, Ltd. v. Bank of Am., N.A., 723 F.3d
1287, 1294 (11th Cir. 2013) (quotations omitted).
“Summary judgment is only appropriate if a case is
‘so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter
of law.' ” Quigg v. Thomas Cty. Sch.
Dist., 814 F.3d 1227, 1235 (11th Cir. 2016) (quoting
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242,
251-52 (1986)) (citation omitted). However, a “
‘mere scintilla' of evidence is insufficient; the
non-moving party must produce substantial evidence in order
to defeat a motion for summary judgment.”
Garczynski v. Bradshaw, 573 F.3d 1158, 1165 (11th
Cir. 2009) (per curiam). In other words, “there must be
enough of a showing that the jury could reasonably find for
that party … Where the record taken as a whole could
not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving
party, there is no genuine issue for trial.” Allen
v. Tyson Foods, Inc., 121 F.3d 642, 646 (11th Cir. 1997)
are required to view the facts and draw reasonable inferences
in the light most favorable to the party opposing the summary
judgment motion.” Jackson v. West, 787 F.3d
1345, 1352 (11th Cir. 2015) (quoting Scott v.
Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 378 (2007) (alteration adopted)
(quotations omitted)). See also Allen, 121 F.3d 642,
646 (11th Cir. 1997) (“The evidence of the non-movant
is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be
drawn in his favor.” (quotations omitted)). “The
Court ‘must avoid weighing conflicting evidence or
making credibility determinations.' ” Ave. CLO
Fund, 723 F.3d at 1294 (quoting Stewart v. Booker T.
Washington Ins., 232 F.3d 844, 848 (11th Cir. 2000)).
However, “ ‘an inference based on speculation and
conjecture is not reasonable.' ” Id.
(quoting Blackston v. Shook & Fletcher Insulation
Co., 764 F.2d 1480, 1482 (11th Cir. 1985)).
as here, the non-moving party bears the burden of proof on an
issue at trial, the moving party, in order to prevail, must
do one of two things: show that the non-moving party has no
evidence to support its case, or present ‘affirmative
evidence demonstrating that the nonmoving party will be
unable to prove its case at trial.' ” Hammer v.
Slater, 20 F.3d 1137, 1141 (11th Cir. 1994) (quoting
United States v. Four Parcels of Real Property, 941
F.2d 1428, 1437-38 (11th Cir. 1991) (en banc)). “Once
the movant adequately supports its motion, the burden shifts
to the nonmoving party to show that specific facts exist that
raise a genuine issue for trial.” Dietz v.
Smithkline Beecham Corp., 598 F.3d 812, 815 (11th Cir.
2010). “For issues on which the non-moving party will
bear the burden of proof at trial, the non-moving party must
either point to evidence in the record or present additional
evidence ‘sufficient to withstand a directed verdict
motion at trial based on the alleged evidentiary
deficiency.' ” Hammer, 20 F.3d at 1141
(quoting Fitzpatrick v. City of Atlanta, 2 F.3d
1112, 1116 (11th Cir. 1993)).
party asserting that a fact cannot be or is genuinely
disputed must support the assertion by: (A)
citing to particular parts of materials in the record,
including depositions, documents, electronically stored
information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations
(including those made for purposes of the motion only),
admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials; or
(B) 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). “The
nonmoving party may avail itself of all facts and justifiable
inferences in the record taken as a whole.”
Allen, 121 F.3d at 646 (quotation omitted).
“If reasonable minds could differ on the inferences
arising from undisputed facts, then a court should deny
summary judgment.” Id. (quotation omitted).
“Conclusory allegations and speculation are
insufficient to create a genuine issue of material
fact.” Valderrama v. Rousseau, 780 F.3d 1108,
1112 (11th Cir. 2015) (citing Cordoba v. Dillard's
Inc., 419 F.3d 1169, 1181 (11th Cir. 2005)
(“Speculation does not create a genuine issue of fact;
instead, it creates a false issue, the demolition of which is
a primary goal of summary judgment.”)).
“ ‘[t]here is no burden upon the district court
to distill every potential argument that could be made based
on the materials before it on summary judgment. Rather, the
onus is upon the parties to formulate arguments; grounds
alleged in the complaint but not relied upon in summary
judgment are deemed abandoned.' ” Solutia, Inc.
v. McWane, Inc., 672 F.3d 1230, 1239 (11th Cir. 2012)
(per curiam) (quoting Resolution Trust Corp. v. Dunmar
Corp., 43 F.3d 587, 599 (11th Cir. 1995) (en banc)).
Relatedly, while “it may consider other materials in
the record[, ]” the “court
only the cited
materials…” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(3) (emphasis
E operates several group homes for intellectually disabled
individuals. (Doc. 21-8 [Defendant's Ex. 7, Ezell Aff.]
at 1, ¶ 3). This involves providing a home environment
for them, and overseeing and assisting with their day-to-day
schedule and certain aspects of their medical treatment,
including distribution of medication. (Id.). Carter
was hired by A & E as a certified nurse and began work on
or about May 6, 2015. (Id., ¶ 5; Doc. 21-3
[Defendant's Ex. 2, Carter Depo.] at 2, p. 28).
Carter's duties included significant interaction with the
group home residents, including assisting them with adult
daily living such as bathing and dressing, helping them in
and out of bathtubs, general hygiene management, behavior
management, and general household duties. (Doc. 21-8 at 1 -
2, ¶ 5). Due to the nature of their disabilities,
residents could become aggressive towards their caregivers.
(Doc. 21-2 [Defendant's Ex. 1, Battiste Depo.] at 10).
Battiste is a registered nurse who works for A & E on a
contract basis as a medication assistant supervisor.
(Id. at 2). With Battiste's approval and
certification, unlicensed nurses such as Carter could, after
passing certain training, distribute medication to A & E
residents. (Id. at 2 - 3). Battiste was the sole
decision-maker on whether to allow A & E employees to
dispense medication under her license. (Id. at 10 -
to A & E, Carter was several months pregnant when she
started work there, though there is some dispute over whether
Carter was aware of her pregnancy at the time. A & E
first became aware of the pregnancy on June 4, 2015, when
Battiste met with Carter at one of A & E's facilities
to discuss setting up a time for medication distribution
training. This was Battiste's first time meeting Carter.
(Id. at 4 - 5). Carter requested that the training
take place during working hours because she often had doctor
appointments on her off days due to her high-risk pregnancy.
(Id. at 5). Carter also told Battiste that her doctor
had wanted to admit her to a hospital due to high blood
pressure at a recent appointment but didn't because
Carter's children were with her. (Id. at 6).
to Battiste, Carter “went ballistic” when
Battiste gave her a date for training, acted
“upset” about another employee, and complained
that A & E “was so unprofessional.”
(Id. at 5 - 6). Battiste determined that she would
not permit Carter to dispense medication under her
supervision because, in her opinion, Carter's behavior at
the June 4 meeting was “unprofessional.”
(Id. at 11).Without Battiste's approval to dispense
medication, Carter would be limited to working the
“third shift, ” “ten to six.”
(Id. at 11 - 12).
5, 2015, Carter was called into a meeting with two of A &
E's owners, Andrella Andrews and Melissa Ezell. (Doc.
21-5 [Defendant's Ex. 4, Ezell Depo.] at 2 - 3). Battiste
was also present. (Id.). Ezell informed Carter that
A & E management was concerned about her high-risk
pregnancy. (Id. at 4 - 5). Specifically, Ezell
shared her concerns that Carter “was at risk to be hurt
and [Ezell] didn't want that for her or her unborn child,
for her baby; nor did [she] want to put the people that [A
& E] serve at risk…” (Id. at 5).
Ezell also informed Carter that Battiste had declined to
certify her to dispense medication due to her purported
“unprofessional behavior.” (Id. at 5 -
informed Carter that she would still be willing to let Carter
work the third shift. (Id.). However, Ezell required
Carter to first obtain a doctor's note saying that it was
okay for her to perform her duties at A & E, before she
would be placed back on shift. (Id. at 5). Ezell
required that the note be very specific to indicate that the
doctor knew what Carter's job entailed from a physical
standpoint. (Id.). Carter subsequently gave A &
E management a letter dated June 12, 2015, signed by a
registered nurse rather than a doctor, stating that Carter
“has not been placed on any work restrictions and is
deemed medically able to maintain her current work schedule
and job functions.” (Doc. 21-6 [Defendant's Ex.
5]). The letter did not specifically indicate that the
signatory knew what Carter's job entailed from a physical
standpoint, as Ezell had requested. (Id.)
to A & E, on June 16 or 17, 2015, Ezell and Andrews again
met with Carter. (Doc. 21-7 [Defendant's Ex. 6, Andrews
Depo.] at 7). They asked her to get a supplemental letter
providing “additional input from the doctor
on…whether or not he specifically was aware of the job
duties [Carter] had to perform and the conditions under which
she had to perform them[.]” (Id. at 8).
However, they informed her that she was eligible to work the
third shift, as well as the first and second shifts on
weekends where she could work alongside someone that Battiste
would allow to dispense medication. (Id.). Carter
was “instruct[ed] to get in touch with management about
working one of those shifts that she was eligible for”
but “never” did. (Id. See also Doc. 21-5
at 7 (Ezell testified that Carter was asked to let A & E
“know when she wanted to be put back on the
schedule” but “was never put back on the
schedule…because she did not…say, okay, I'm
ready to be put back on the schedule.”)).
EEOC charge executed under penalty of perjury, Carter agrees
that she “was not returned to the schedule” after
she provided the note. (Doc. 23-1 at 6). However, Carter
“denies that a second meeting took place.” (Doc.