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Lindsey v. Bridge Rehab, Inc.

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

March 18, 2019

CHENETHA LINDSEY, Plaintiff,
v.
THE BRIDGE REHAB, INC., Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          KARON OWEN BOWDRE CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This Title VII religious discrimination case comes before the court on Defendant The Bridge Rehab, Inc.'s motion for summary judgment. (Doc. 41).

         Plaintiff Chenetha Lindsey contends that The Bridge changed her work status from part-time to “as needed” and terminated her because of her religion. She also contends that The Bridge failed to accommodate her desire to share her faith with clients.

         The Bridge tells another story. It asserts that it changed Ms. Lindsey's work status because she failed to complete required training and terminated her because she failed to communicate with her supervisor. Though it counseled Ms. Lindsey against what it characterizes as “forcing” her religion on The Bridge's clients, The Bridge maintains that it did not discriminate against Ms. Lindsey for being Christian and could not reasonably accommodate the extent to which Ms. Lindsey desired to express her faith with its clients.

         As further explained below, the court will GRANT The Bridge's motion for summary judgment. No. direct evidence of religious discrimination exists and Ms. Lindsey has failed to state a prima facie case of religious discrimination based on circumstantial evidence. Even if she had stated a prima face case, her claim fails because no evidence supports a finding that The Bridge's reasons for changing her work status and terminating her are pretext for discrimination. And no genuine issue exists that The Bridge did not discriminate against Ms. Lindsey by failing to accommodate the extent to which she desired to express her religious beliefs.

         I. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         A trial court can resolve a case on summary judgment only when the moving party establishes two essential elements: (1) no genuine disputes of material fact exist; and (2) the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a).

         Under the first element of the moving party's summary judgment burden, “‘[g]enuine disputes [of material fact] are those in which the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-movant.'” Evans v. Books-A-Million, 762 F.3d 1288, 1294 (11th Cir. 2014) (emphasis added) (quoting Mize v. Jefferson City Bd. of Educ., 93 F.3d 739, 742 (11th Cir. 1996)). And when considering whether any genuine disputes of material fact exist, the court must view the evidence in the record in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and draw reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party. White v. Beltram Edge Tool Supply, Inc., 789 F.3d 1188, 1191 (11th Cir. 2015).

         Inferences drawn from facts can create genuine issues to defeat a motion for summary judgment. Carlson v. FedEx Ground Package Sys., Inc., 787 F.3d 1313, 1318 (11th Cir. 2015). Conclusory allegations cannot. See Harris v. Ostrout, 65 F.3d 912, 916 (11th Cir. 1995).

         II. FACTS

         The Bridge is an Alabama non-profit corporation founded as a Christian-based mission that offers residential care and outpatient treatment for adolescents in need of substance abuse and behavioral modification treatment programs.

         Ms. Lindsey, a Christian, worked as a treatment aide at The Bridge, first from June 2013 to February 2014, and then from September 2014 to December 1, 2015. As a treatment aide, Ms. Lindsey supervised clients' safety and conducted basic living skills group instruction sessions.

         The court will present the facts of this case in the light most favorable to Ms. Lindsey under three general categories: (1) the training requirements at The Bridge; (2) Ms. Lindsey's expression of her faith with clients; and (3) the events surrounding Ms. Lindsey's termination on December 1, 2015.

         A. Training Requirements at The Bridge

         Ms. Lindsey first worked as a part-time treatment aide at The Bridge from June 2013 to February 2014. Before beginning her employment, she completed a mandatory two-week training course. She voluntarily left The Bridge in February 2014 because she was pregnant.

         She returned to The Bridge as a part-time treatment aide in September 2014. This time around, The Bridge required treatment aides to complete ongoing training sessions during their employment, not just the initial two-week training course. (See Doc. 42-2 at 17; Doc. 42-18 at 7; Doc. 42-19 at 19; Doc. 42-20 at 2; Doc. 42-22 at 6, 13).

         Ms. Lindsey did not attend any training sessions during her second tenure at The Bridge until March 11, 2015. (Doc. 42-2 at 20). On March 11, 2015, she attended training courses on managing difficult behaviors and cultural diversity. (Id. at 103-10). The Bridge offered those courses as part of the initial two-week training that Ms. Lindsey should have completed when she began her second employment with The Bridge in September 2014. (Id. at 19). The Bridge's program manager, Martell Hall, mistakenly told her not to complete the two-week training program when she began her second employment because she had completed it when she began her first tenure with The Bridge. (Id. at 16-17, 19).

         Ms. Lindsey did not participate in any further training after March 11, 2015. (Doc. 42-2 at 22).

         On March 16, 2015, The Bridge placed Ms. Lindsey on PRN status-that is, on an “as needed” basis. (Doc. 42-21). Mr. Hall testified that The Bridge changed her to PRN so Ms. Lindsey could complete her training requirements. (Doc. 42-19 at 12).

         Ms. Lindsey, on the other hand, testified that The Bridge changed her to PRN because she shared her faith with clients. (Doc. 42-2 at 22-23). So the court turns next to ...


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