United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division
E. Ott, Chief United States Magistrate Judge.
court has before it the November 3, 2017 motion for summary
judgment filed by Defendant University of Alabama
Ophthalmology Service Foundation (“OSF”). (Doc.
9). Pursuant to the court's initial order (Doc. 6), the
motion was under submission as of December 8, 2017. After
consideration of the briefs and evidence, the motion is due
to be granted for the following reasons.
STATEMENT OF FACTS
a multispecialty ophthalmology practice with clinics located
in the Callahan Eye Hospital and several satellite offices
around Alabama. (Doc. 11-3 (“Grover Aff.”) ¶
2). Plaintiff began her employment with OSF in 2005 as an
office manager, but resigned in 2007. (Doc. 11-1 (“Pl.
Dep.”) at 14-19). In the spring of 2013, she applied
for employment with OSF, and in June 2013, OSF hired
Plaintiff as the Clinical Coordinator with an annual salary
of $44, 000 with the possibility of a $2, 000 performance
bonus. (Pl. Dep. at 40-44; Doc. 11-2 at 1; Grover Aff. ¶
12). Personnel Manager Cassandra Page, an African American
female, and then-Operations Manager Rett Grover, a white male,
made the decision to hire Plaintiff. (Grover Aff. ¶12;
Doc. 11-3 (“Page Aff.”) ¶ 3).
Clinical Coordinator, Plaintiff supervised front office
representatives, surgery schedulers, and phone
representatives for OSF's seven clinics. (Pl. Dep. at
48). Physicians reported any issues with clerical employees
and other office-related concerns, such as an unsatisfactory
job by the cleaning crew, to Plaintiff. (Id. at
63-64). She assisted with employee scheduling, kept track of
attendance, and filled in for clerical employees as needed.
(Id. at 48-49). Plaintiff also monitored call volume
and patient flow. (Id. at 49-51). She handled
patient complaints about non-medical issues, such as wait
time, bills, or co-pays. (Id. at 53).
steadily expanded its operations during Plaintiff's
employment with the addition of multiple new clinics and a
rise in patient volume. (Grover Aff. ¶¶ 5-8).
Sometime in 2013, OSF decided to integrate its clinics into
the Callahan Eye Hospital system to gain financial support
for OSF's continued expansion, streamline management
services, and better align physician practice and hospital
operations. (Id. ¶¶ 9-10). As part of this
expansion and integration, Grover decided to restructure
OSF's administrative support in the spring of 2014.
(Id. ¶¶ 13-14).
eliminated the Clinical Coordinator position and created a
new Lead Office Representative (“LOR”) role.
(Id. ¶ 14). With the elimination of this
position and the addition of five new LOR positions, the
clinics would have an LOR to schedule office employees,
monitor attendance, and fill in where needed, instead of one
central Clinical Coordinator to do the work for all the
clinics. (Id. ¶ 14-15). Grover believed
replacing one position with five LORs would provide better
administrative support for OSF's operations.
(Id. ¶ 15).
selected five existing employees for the new LOR positions:
Jennifer Boudreau Lorino, a white female; Kim Odom, a white
female; MacKenzie Rush, a black male; Jacqueline Ward, a
white female; and Tiffany Williams, a black female. (Page
Aff. ¶ 4). The new LORs absorbed the former Clinical
Coordinator responsibilities for their clinics, in addition
to the responsibilities they were already handling as front
office representatives or surgery schedulers. (Page Aff.
¶ 5). Each LOR received a raise for assuming the
additional duties. (Id. ¶ 5). All were paid
less than Plaintiff. (Id. ¶ 15; Doc. 11-4 at
the same time as this new position was created, in late June
2014, Plaintiff told Cassandra Page, the OSF Personnel
Manager, that African-American clerical employees were being
unfairly assigned to clinics with heavier workloads. (Pl.
Dep. at 73-76). Plaintiff told Page she did not agree with
the work assignments and that white clerical employees were
being assigned the outlying clinics with less workloads.
(Id.) When she tried to change the work assignments,
Plaintiff said doctors would complain and the assignments
would be returned to the pattern of African Americans at the
busiest clinics. (Id.). Page did not tell anyone
about Plaintiff's comments. (Page. Aff. ¶ 12).
weeks later, in early July 2014, Page told Plaintiff her
position had been eliminated and her employment would be
terminated effective July 9, 2014. (Id. ¶ 7).
Page was not involved in the decision to eliminate the
position and terminate Plaintiff. (Id.). Plaintiff
received severance benefits in accordance with OSF's
position elimination policy. (Id. ¶ 14; Doc.
11-2 at 4-7).
filed an EEOC charge on December 18, 2014, alleging
discrimination on the basis of his race and retaliation.
(Doc. 11-2 at 3). After an investigation, the EEOC dismissed
Plaintiff's charge on April 26, 2016, and she timely
filed her complaint on July 26, 2016. (Page Aff. ¶ 13;
Doc. 1-2 at 6-10).
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c), summary judgment is
proper “if the pleadings, depositions, answers to
interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the
affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to
any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to
judgment as a matter of law.” Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). The party asking for
summary judgment always bears the initial responsibility of
informing the court of the basis for its motion and
identifying those portions of the pleadings or filings which
it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of
material fact. Id. at 323. Once the moving party has
met its burden, Rule 56(e) requires the non-moving party to
go beyond the pleadings and by his own affidavits, or by the
depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on
file, designate specific facts showing there is a genuine
issue for trial. See Id. at 324.
substantive law identifies which facts are material and which
are irrelevant. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc.,
477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). All reasonable doubts about the
facts and all justifiable inferences are resolved in favor of
the non-movant. See Fitzpatrick v. City of Atlanta,
2 F.3d 1112, 1115 (11th Cir. 1993). A dispute is genuine
“if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could
return a verdict for the nonmoving party.”
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. If the evidence is merely
colorable, or is not significantly probative, summary
judgment may be granted. See id. at 249.
complaint states three claims: (1) race discrimination in
violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as
amended, 42 U.S.C. § 200e, et seq.
(“Title VII”) and 29 U.S.C. § 1981; (2)
retaliation in violation of Title VII and § 1981; and
(3) a violation of the Equal Pay Act, 29 U.S.C. § 206(d)
(“EPA”). (Doc. 1-2 at 6-10). After careful review
and for the reasons stated below, the court ...