United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Northern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER I. INTRODUCTION
STEPHEN M. DOYLE UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
an employment discrimination case where six former employees
of Opp Health & Rehabilitation (“OHR”) were
terminated for allegedly abusing a resident at the facility.
(Doc. 48) at 1; (Doc. 92) at 1. Plaintiffs argue their
termination was racially motivated and, therefore, they
assert claims pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act
of 1964, as amended 42 U.S.C. §2000e, et seq.,
and 42 U.S.C. § 1981. (Doc. 48) at 6-7. Defendant has
moved for summary judgment on Plaintiffs' claims, arguing
that Plaintiffs have not demonstrated a prima facie case of
discrimination and that OHR had legitimate,
non-discriminatory reasons for terminating Plaintiffs. (Doc.
92) at 29; 33. For the reasons below, the undersigned
concludes that Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment
(Doc. 91) should be granted.
STATEMENT OF FACTS
are six African-American women who were employed by OHR.
(Doc. 110) at 1-2; (Doc. 92) at 3-4. Plaintiff Beverly Berry
(“Berry”) started working at OHR in 1998 as a
Certified Nursing Assistant (“CNA”). (Doc. 110)
at 2-3; (Doc. 92) at 4-5. Plaintiff Kimberly Hill
(“Hill”) started working at OHR in 1996 as a CNA.
(Doc. 110) at 2-3; (Doc. 92) at 5. Plaintiff Lessie Lott
(“Lott”) started working at OHR in 1999 as a CNA.
(Doc. 110) at 2-3; (Doc. 92) at 5. Plaintiff Analyna Marshall
(“Marshall”) started working at OHR in 1994 as a
Housekeeping Assistant. (Doc. 110) at 2-3; (Doc. 92) at 6.
Plaintiff Barbara Tyson (“Tyson”) started working
at OHR in 2004 as a CNA. (Doc. 110) at 2-3; (Doc. 92) at 6.
Plaintiff Lacie Stoudemire (“Stoudemire”) started
working at OHR in 1994 as a nursing assistant. (Doc. 92) at
6. Stoudemire was promoted to be a Licensed Practical Nurse
(“LPN”) in 1998. Id. at 6-7.
employed at OHR, Plaintiffs were provided with an employee
handbook. (Doc. 110) at 3; (Doc. 92) at 7. The employee
handbook outlines disciplinary procedures employees face, to
include termination, if they violate OHR policies against
resident abuse. (Doc. 92) at 7; (Doc. 102-2) at 21. The OHR
abuse policy (Doc. 107-1) defines verbal abuse as “the
use of oral, written, or gestured language that willfully
includes disparaging and derogatory terms to residents or
their families, or within their hearing distance regardless
of their age, ability to comprehend, or disability.”
Id. at 2. The OHR abuse policy defines mental abuse
as “humiliation, harassment, threats of punishment or
deprivation.” Id. at 3. Employees receive
bi-yearly training on residence abuse. (Doc. 92) at 12.
February 22, 2016, a resident of OHR, J.G., made a complaint
to OHR, accusing Plaintiffs of verbal and mental abuse. (Doc.
110) at 5-7; (Doc. 92) at 20-21. J.G. is a 63-year-old
African-American male with multiple health conditions,
including an amputated left leg and a missing eye. (Doc. 92)
at 7-8. Specifically, J.G. claimed that Plaintiffs accused
him, on multiple occasions, of causing Stoudemire's
daughter, Shalonda Lawrence (“Lawrence”) to
suffer a miscarriage and lose her baby. Id. at
14-20. Plaintiffs' accusations stemmed from an incident
that occurred sometime during the week of February 14, 2016,
when Lawrence assisted Tyson with lifting J.G. from his bed
to his wheelchair. Id. at 14. A few days later,
Lawrence suffered a miscarriage. Id. There is no
evidence in the record regarding whether lifting J.G.
actually caused Lawrence's miscarriage. Id.
testified that, after Tyson learned of Lawrence's
miscarriage on February 21, 2016, she came into his room
“and said you know you made [Lawrence] to lose her
baby, didn't you. . . .” (Doc. 100-1) at 8-9. After
denying he made Lawrence lose her baby, J.G. testified that
Tyson was “yelling at the top of her voice” and
said “[y]es, you did make [Lawrence] lose her
baby.” Id. J.G. said the accusation
“really hurt [him].” Id.
went to speak to J.G. later that day when another CNA told
her J.G. was crying. (Doc. 93-1) at 37-38. Stoudemire
testified that J.G. “look[ed] kind of sad” and
told her that Tyson's comments “hurt [him] in [his]
heart.” Id. at 39-40. Stoudemire did not
report Tyson's or J.G.'s comments to OHR management
or complete an incident report as required by OHR policy.
Id. at 39.
and Berry accused J.G. of causing Lawrence's miscarriage
the next day, on February 22, 2016, when they were taking him
to the shower. (Doc. 93-3) at 23-24; (Doc. 93-5) at 28-29.
Hill testified that she told J.G. that “you might not
should have asked [Lawrence] to help you get up the other
day.” (Doc. 93-3) at 24. Marshall testified that she
heard Hill tell J.G. that “you the reason [Lawrence]
lost her baby.” (Doc. 93-5) at 29. J.G. also testified
that he heard Lott and Marshall talking in the hallway
saying, “you know you lost-you made [Lawrence] lose her
baby” and that he was upset by their comments. (Doc.
100-1) at 16-18.
February 22, 2016, J.G. complained to another CNA regarding
the comments made to him by Plaintiffs. (Doc. 92) at 20. The
CNA reported J.G.'s complaint to OHR management that same
day. Id. Plaintiffs were immediately suspended
pending an investigation into J.G.'s accusation. (Doc.
110) at 4-5; (Doc. 92) at 21-22. During the investigation,
each Plaintiff provided written and oral statements which
generally corroborated J.G.'s description of events.
(Doc. 92) at 22-25. After conducting their investigation, OHR
concluded Plaintiffs engaged in verbal and mental abuse of
J.G. and, therefore, terminated their employment. (Doc. 110)
at 4-5; (Doc. 92) at 25.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a reviewing court shall
grant a motion for “summary judgment if the movant
shows that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact
and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a
matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The Supreme Court
explains that ‘[o]ne of the principal purposes of the
summary judgment rule is to isolate and dispose of factually
unsupported claims. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477
U.S. 317, 323-324 (1986). When the non-moving party bears the
burden of proof at trial, summary judgment is warranted if
the nonmovant fails to “make a showing sufficient to
establish the existence of an element essential to [its]
case.” Id. at 322. The legal elements of the
claim dictate which facts are material and which are
irrelevant. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. A fact is not
material if a dispute over that fact will not affect the
outcome of the case under the governing law. Id.
determining whether a genuine issue for trial exists, the
court must view all the evidence in the light most favorable
to the non-movant. McCormick v. City of Fort
Lauderdale, 333 F.3d 1234, 1243 (11th Cir. 2003);
Patton v. Triad Guar. Ins. Corp., 277 F.3d 1294,
1296 (11th Cir. 2002). Likewise, the reviewing court must
draw all justifiable inferences from the evidence in the
nonmoving party's favor. Anderson, 477 U.S. at
the Court is bound only to draw those inferences that are
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) (quoting
Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587). “If the evidence
is merely colorable, or is not significantly probative,
summary judgment may be granted.” Anderson,
477 U.S. at 249-50 (internal citations omitted); see also
Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 586 (“[O]nce the moving
party has met ...