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Thompson v. QCHC, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division

January 8, 2019

DEBRA THOMPSON, Plaintiff,
v.
QCHC, INC. and CLIFF HENDERSON, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          ANNEMARIE CARNEY AXON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Debra Thompson alleges that Defendant Cliff Henderson sexually harassed her and that Defendant QCHC, Inc. (“QCHC”) terminated her employment for complaining about Mr. Henderson's conduct. Ms. Thompson asserts claims against QCHC for hostile work environment and retaliation under Title VII. She asserts a claim against Mr. Henderson for invasion of privacy under state law.

         Before the court are Defendants' motions for summary judgment. (Doc. 34; Doc. 40). For the reasons explained below, the court GRANTS QCHC's motion for summary judgment (doc. 34), and in the absence of an independent basis for jurisdiction over Ms. Thompson's state law invasion of privacy claim against Mr. Henderson, the court will decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the claim.

         I. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         “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). “The moving party bears the initial burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine dispute of material fact.” FindWhat Inv'r Grp. v. FindWhat.com, 658 F.3d 1282, 1307 (11th Cir. 2011) (citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986)). A “material fact” is one that “might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).

         II. BACKGROUND

         QCHC is a Birmingham-based company that contracts with local governmental entities to provide healthcare services to city and county correctional facilities. (Doc. 34-1 at ¶ 2). QCHC hired Ms. Thompson in March 2015 as a part-time nurse and assigned her to work at the City of Trussville's Municipal Jail. (Doc. 34-1 at ¶ 5; Doc. 34-2 at 8). She remained on that assignment until the spring of 2016, when QCHC transferred her to another of the facilities it served. (Doc. 34-2 at 14).

         When Ms. Thompson was hired, her supervisor was Ashlei Porter, Chief Nursing Officer for QCHC at that time. (Doc. 34-1 at ¶ 6). According to Ms. Thompson, Stacie Thompson (“Stacie”) became her supervisor in the spring of 2016. (Doc 34-2 at 11). Stacie was a site administrator for the St. Clair County Jail, another facility where QCHC provides healthcare services. (Doc. 34-2 at 11; Doc. 34-4 at ¶ 1). Stacie was never formally assigned responsibility over the Trussville Jail, but she did cover shifts there. (Doc. 34-4 at ¶ 2). Victoria Singleton, QCHC's Regional Director of Nursing for Alabama, also supervised Ms. Thompson's work at the Trussville Jail beginning in the spring of 2016. (Doc. 34-1 at ¶ 6).

         Ms. Thompson alleges that Cliff Henderson sexually harassed her while she worked at the Trussville Jail. (Doc. 34-2 at 25). Mr. Henderson was a police officer who worked at the J a il, but he was not employed by QCHC. (Doc. 34-2 at 22). Ms. Thompson first met Mr. Henderson when he came into the office during her training and would “laugh and talk and flirt and cut up and get in the way.” (Doc. 34-2 at 22).

         In July 2015, Ms. Thompson and Mr. Henderson began texting frequently. (See generally Doc. 34-5). As time passed, the exchanges became increasingly flirtatious. (See Doc. 34-5 at 3-5, 137, 140-142). On one occasion, Ms. Thompson texted Mr. Henderson pictures of her feet after a pedicure, and Mr. Henderson replied that she had “sexy toes.” (Doc. 34-2 at 26-27). In another exchange, Mr. Henderson explained that he was so tired the night before that he never took his clothes off. (Doc. 34-5 at 51). Mr. Henderson continued, “I don't wear anything when I go to bed, but I still had my cop suit on lol.” (Doc. 34-5 at 51). Ms. T hompson replied, “lol . . . you are hilarious . . . I love it!” (Doc. 34-2 at 30; Doc. 34-5 at 51). In response to a number of Mr. Henderson's text messages, Ms. Thompson told Mr. Henderson that she either missed seeing him or was looking forward to seeing him at work. (Doc. 34-5 at 29, 44).

         In addition to the texts, Mr. Henderson and Ms. Thompson verbally communicated. During some conversations, Mr. Henderson referred to Ms. Thompson as “Miss 44” or “My 44 girl.” (Doc. 34-2 at 25). Ms. Thompson believes the reference to “44” was in relation to her breast or bra size, although she d e n ie s giv in g Mr. Henderson her breast or bra size, and she denies that “44” is the correct size. (Doc. 34-2 at 25). Mr. Henderson occasionally referred to Ms. Thompson as “Hottie Nurse, ” but Ms. Thompson testified that Mr. Henderson was joking on some occasions. (Doc. 34-2 at 26). Ms. Thompson never told Mr. Henderson that she was offended by the reference to “Hottie Nurse” and never told him to stop referring to her as “44.” (Doc. 34-2 at 26).

         Mr. Henderson also gave Ms. Thompson a few shoulder/back massages. (Doc. 34-2 at 33). Ms. Thompson texted Mr. Henderson on one occasion and said that the massage “felt good.” (Doc. 34-2 at 28). In another text message, Mr. Henderson suggested that he could give a better massage if Ms. Thompson took o ff her shirt. (Doc. 34-5 at 131). During one of the massages, Mr. Henderson “pushed back” Ms. Thompson's scrubs and “put[] his hands onto [her] skin.” (Doc. 34-2 at 28). Ms. Thompson “got up and felt very uncomfortable.” (Doc. 34-2 at 28). Ms. Thompson never complained to Mr. Henderson about the massages, and she never asked him to stop. (Doc. 34-2 at 33).

         Ms. Thompson testified that Mr. Henderson's conduct caused stress, but the stress did not prevent her from providing patient care to inmates at the Trussville J a il. (Doc. 34-2 at 46-47). In fact, Ms. Thompson sought to work more hours at the Trussville Jail. (Doc. 34-2 at 47). She asked QCHC to approach the City of Trussville and ask if the contract could be amended to allow for a full-time nurse position at the jail. (Doc. 34-2 at 13-14, 17). After the City of Trussville rejected the idea, Ms. Thompson transferred to another QCHC location where she could work more hours. (Doc. 34-2 at 14).

         After her transfer, Ms. Thompson returned to the Trussville Jail “a couple of times” to check on inmates there. (Doc. 34-2 at 38). One day in June 2016, Stacie asked Ms. Thompson whether she wanted to go check on the inmates at the Trussville Jail. (Doc. 34-2 at 38). Ms. Thompson told Stacie that she did not want to go back to the Trussville Jail because Mr. Henderson made her “feel uncomfortable” and “says sexual things.” (Doc. 34-2 at 38). Ms. Thompson showed Stacie some of the text messages from Mr. Henderson, and Stacie responded, “Oh, gosh.” (Doc. 34-2 at 38). This was the first time that Ms. Thompson reported Mr. ...


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