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Chaney v. Community Hospice of Baldwin County

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

October 24, 2019

TERRY CHANEY, Plaintiff,



         Now pending before the Court is a Motion for Partial Summary Judgment filed by the remaining defendant, Community Hospice of Baldwin County (“CHBC”) on August 29, 2018. Doc. 25. The Court has reviewed all the written pleadings, motions, responses, and replies, and the relevant law, and a hearing was held on the matter on July 10, 2019. Accordingly, the motion is ripe for review. For the reasons discussed below, the Court GRANTS the motion.

         I. Jurisdiction

         The Plaintiff, Terry Chaney (“Plaintiff” or “Chaney”) asserts claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331 (federal question jurisdiction), as she alleges violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq.; the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq.; and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”), 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq. Neither party contests either personal jurisdiction or venue and adequate support exists for both.

         II. Background and Procedural History

         Chaney, proceeding pro se, filed a complaint in this case asserting claims against CHBC, her former employer, of discrimination on the bases of race, national origin, disability, and age.[1]Doc. 1. She also asserts that CHBC retaliated against her for reporting discrimination and harassment. Specifically, Chaney alleges that she began working for CHBC in October 2008, and that she was harassed and discriminated against by Jennifer Stewart (“Stewart”), a nurse practitioner and administrator for CHBC, and another employee referred to as “Dr. Dan.” Id. at 2. She asserts that she reported the discrimination to a superior at CHBC and filed charges alleging discriminatory conduct with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) on May 6, 2017, and that Stewart retaliated against her for doing so. Chaney alleges that “she”- presumably Stewart-“remind[ed] me when she started back to work in April or May, 2017 that she [was] going to terminate me from my job, and [would] make sure I will never work again.” Id. at 1.

         Chaney asserts she was terminated on September 25, 2017 “because of my age and in retaliation for reporting” the discrimination and harassment to a vice president at CHBC. Id. at 3. She alleges Stewart stated that, “because of my age I can't do what I used to do. I could not believe Dr. Dan told me that they [were] firing me for that and some more, I could not believe his words.” Id. Chaney asserts that she received a right-to-sue letter from the EEOC on March 28, 2018. From this action Chaney seeks, inter alia, back pay and reinstatement to her former job.

         CHBC moved for partial summary judgment on August 29, 2018. Docs. 25, 26. On September 11, 2018, after CHBC filed its motion but before the Court issued a briefing schedule, Chaney filed a response.[2] Doc. 30. Subsequently, the Court issued a briefing schedule, and on October 17, 2018, Chaney filed another response. Docs. 29, 32.[3] CHBC did not file a reply.

         The motion subsequently was held in abeyance pending a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in Fort Bend Cty., Tex., v. Davis, 139 S.Ct. 1843 (2019), to determine whether, in the context of a Title VII discrimination claim, the requirement that a plaintiff exhaust her administrative remedies prior to filing suit is a jurisdictional prerequisite to suit or a waivable claim-processing rule-a question of relevance to this motion. See Doc. 37. The Supreme Court ruled on June 3, 2019, holding that the requirement is not jurisdictional. Davis, 139 S.Ct. at 1851-52.

         On June 5, 2019, this Court lifted the stay and permitted the parties to file supplemental briefing. Doc. 38. CHBC responded on June 17, 2019, with Defendant's Supplemental Brief Regarding Davis v. Fort Bend Cty., Tex. Doc. 39. Chaney did not file a supplemental response. A hearing was held on the motion for partial summary judgment on July 10, 2019.

         III. Motion

         CHBC has moved for partial summary judgment, arguing that Chaney's claims alleging discrimination on the basis of race, national origin, and disability should be dismissed because Chaney listed no such claims in her Charge of Discrimination, and thus, those claims were not investigated by the EEOC. Docs. 25, 26. More specifically, CHBC argues that Chaney's Charge of Discrimination alleged only that she was harassed and terminated from her position with CHBC due to her age and in retaliation for reporting the harassment, a protected activity. Defendant argues that Chaney's claims made no mention of her race, national origin, any disability, or any retaliation on those bases.

         CHBC argues that, because Chaney omitted those claims from her Charge of Discrimination, they could not reasonably be expected to have grown out of the facts contained in her Charge of Discrimination and, as a result, did not fall within the scope of the EEOC's investigation. CHBC asserts that there is no genuine dispute of material fact in relation to the claims listed in Chaney's Charge of Discrimination or the reasonable scope of the investigation that grew out of them. Consequently, CHBC seeks judgment as a matter of law as to Chaney's claims of race, national origin, and disability discrimination. CHBC attaches to its complaint a Charge of Discrimination filed by Chaney with the EEOC against CHBC. Doc. 26-1.

         In its supplemental response, CHBC argues that the Supreme Court's decision in Davis confirms that Chaney's claims are due to be dismissed because she failed to exhaust her administrative remedies. Doc. 39. CHBC notes that it pleaded failure to exhaust as an affirmative defense in its Answer in this case and then raised it in the instant motion, and thus, there is no reasonable argument that this defense has been waived. CHBC attaches ...

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