United States District Court, N.D. Florida, Panama City Division
ORDER GRANTING SUMMARY JUDGMENT
L. Hinkle United States District Judge..
an employment-discrimination case. The plaintiff alleges he
was terminated from his job at the defendant's nursing
home because of his race. But the record establishes that the
plaintiff was terminated for a legitimate, nondiscriminatory
reason: his no-contest plea to the crime of battery. This
order grants summary judgment for the defendant.
summary-judgment motion, disputes in the evidence must be
resolved, and all reasonable inferences from the evidence
must be drawn, in favor of the nonmoving party. The moving
party must show that, when the facts are so viewed, the
moving party “is entitled to judgment as a matter of
law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); see also Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). A summary-judgment
motion cannot be used to resolve in the moving party's
favor a “genuine dispute as to any material
fact.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). This order views the facts
based on these standards.
plaintiff Raymond Williams alleged in his complaint that he
is black but testified at deposition that he is biracial. He
performed maintenance and repair work at the Courtyard, one
of many nursing homes operated by the defendant Signature
Healthcare. Mr. Williams had regular contact with the
Courtyard's residents, who are elderly or disabled.
March 31, 2015, a Jackson County sheriff's deputy arrived
at the Courtyard with a warrant to arrest Mr. Williams for
felony battery. The charge was that Mr. Williams shot a man
in the face. Mr. Williams was not at work, so the deputy
asked the facility to notify the sheriff's office when
Mr. Williams returned. The next day, a deputy arrested Mr.
Williams at work.
Williams spent the next two weeks in jail. When he was
released, he informed the Courtyard's administrator, Brad
Nobles, of the charge. Mr. Nobles told Mr. Williams that he
could return to work if the charge was reduced to a
misdemeanor. Mr. Nobles confirmed the advice by text message.
the Courtyard's human-resources director, J. Clint
Baxley, emailed Signature's corporate human-resources
department to determine whether an employee facing a felony
charge could continue working. Mr. Baxley's e-mail did
not include Mr. Williams's name or race. Gina Harding, a
human-resources advisor, responded to the email by
recommending that Mr. Baxley not allow the employee to work
until Signature had proof of the charges. Ms. Harding
suggested that Mr. Baxley place the employee “on a
discretionary, unpaid [leave of absence] until we can obtain
more information. . . . If the process exceeds 60 days I
would terminate him until a decision can be made.” ECF
No. 20-3 at 30.
Williams later agreed to plead no contest to a reduced charge
of misdemeanor battery. His attorney provided the plea
agreement to Signature after Mr. Williams and the prosecutor
both signed it but before the judge approved it.
Baxley emailed the corporate human-resources department to
report on the plea papers and to ask for guidance on whether
the employee could return to work. Christy Wathen, a senior
human-resources advisor, responded that a battery charge of
any kind was disqualifying. She recommended termination. Ms.
Wathen did not know Mr. Williams's name or race. Based on
Ms. Wathen's recommendation, Mr. Baxley terminated Mr.
Williams. The email asking for advice, the response, and the
termination all occurred on a single day, June 3, 2015.
Signature later hired a white man to replace Mr. Williams.
16, 2015, about two weeks after the termination, Mr. Williams
formally entered a no-contest plea to the misdemeanor battery
as here, an employee relies on circumstantial evidence in
support of a discrimination claim, the employee may proceed
under the familiar burden-shifting framework set out in
McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792
(1973), and later cases. Under that framework, an employee
first must present a prima facie case. The employer then must
proffer a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for its
decision. The employee then must show that the proffered
reason was not the real reason for the decision and that
instead a reason was discrimination. Alternatively, the
employee may present other ...