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Williams v. Pediatric Alternative Treatment Care

United States District Court, S.D. Florida

December 27, 2017




         This cause is before the Court upon Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (DE 27). The Motion is fully briefed and ripe for review. The Court has carefully considered the Motion and is otherwise fully advised in the premises.

         I. Background

         The facts, as culled from affidavits, exhibits, depositions, answers, answers to interrogatories and reasonably inferred therefrom in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, for the purpose of this motion, are as follows:

         In July 2010, Plaintiff Jennifer Williams ("Plaintiff), who is African-American, was hired by Defendant Pediatric Alternative Treatment Care ("Defendant") as a certified nursing assistant in Fort Pierce, Florida. (Pl. Statement of Facts ¶ 1, DE 35.) In 2011, Gail Steward was promoted to director of nursing and administrator of Defendant's Fort Pierce facility and became Plaintiffs immediate supervisor. (Pl. Statement of Facts ¶ 2.)

         According to Plaintiff, she and Ms. Steward were "always at it" and Ms. Steward was "disrespectful, " "rude" and "nasty." (Pl. Dep. 44, 48, 69, DE 29-1.) Ms. Steward would get more upset with the workers who worked with the children as opposed to the office staff, and the child care workers were predominately African-American. (Pl. Dep. 48-49.) Once Ms. Steward was promoted to the directorship, Plaintiff felt her own job would be in jeopardy. (Pl. Dep. 52-53.)

         In January 2014, Plaintiff received a five-day suspension and 90 day probation period, for among other reasons, attendance. (Pl. Dep. 82.) The form was drafted by Ms. Steward nearly a year after the alleged disciplinary violation occurred. (Ex. 3, DE 29-1.) Next, according to Plaintiff, when she returned from maternity leave in October of 2014, her schedule changed. (Pl. Dep. 29; Steward Aff ¶ 5.) During her deposition, Plaintiff testified, "That's what this whole allegation about because she changed my schedule." (Pl. Dep. 31.) Plaintiff testified no one else's schedule was changed.[1] (Pl. Dep. 34.)

         On November 13, 2014, Plaintiff received another written warning regarding her attendance and hours. (Pl. Dep. 84-85; Ex. 4, DE 29-1.) Plaintiff claims she was not able to meet her hours, however, due to the schedule changes and because she was asked to leave early when there were no children present at the facility. (Pl. Dep. 88-90.) On November 25, 2014, Plaintiff received another disciplinary/counseling writeup concerning her attendance. (Pl. Dep. 86; Ex. 5, DE 29-1.) Plaintiff testified that she was not able to make her hours because she was sent home when there were no more children left at the facility. (Pl. Dep. 90.)

         Based on these issues with Plaintiffs hours and attendance, Defendant's chief executive officer and the human resources director decided a final warning should be given to Plaintiff. They directed Mary Ellmore, an employee in Florida City, to prepare the final warning document. The final warning document did not contain Ms. Ellmore's signature. Instead, it had the signature of Ms. Steward. (Steward Decl. ¶ 7; Ex. 6, DE 29-2.) The final warning provided that Plaintiff must work Monday through Wednesday one week and Wednesday through Friday the alternate week. The final warning provided that if Plaintiff could not follow this schedule she would be terminated immediately. (Pl. Statement of Fact ¶ 15.)

         Plaintiff received the final warning regarding her hours and attendance on December 18, 2014.[2][3] (Pl. Statement of Fact ¶ 17.) The day after being given the final warning, on December 19, 2014, Plaintiff told Ms. Steward that she could not work her schedule because of her baby's doctor appointments. (Pl. Dep. 70-72.)[4][5] At that meeting, which included the attendance of a witness (Cary Hazellief), [6] Ms. Steward notified Plaintiff that she was terminated for failure to comply with the final warning. (Steward Decl. ¶11.)

         In contrast, Plaintiff claims that Ms. Steward notified her of her termination over the telephone and called Plaintiff a "stupid nigger." (Pl. Dep. 64-69.) Ms. Steward denies the termination was over the phone or that she used that slur. (Steward Decl. ¶ 12.) Plaintiff does not know who decided to terminate her. (Pl. Dep. 74.) No other employee was terminated for attendance issues during the time period of 2010 through 2014. (Def. Resp. to Pl. Second Set of Interrog. No. 1, DE 34-4.)

         Defendant's headquarters is in Florida City and no one in Fort Pierce, including Ms. Steward, has the authority to terminate any employee without direction from headquarters. (Steward Decl. ¶ 3.) According to Defendant, Ms. Steward did not make the decision to put Plaintiff on a final warning, or prepare the final warning, or make the decision to terminate Williams. (Steward Decl. ¶ 13.)

         Defendant moves for summary judgment on the following ground: (1) Plaintiff has no direct evidence of discrimination by any decision maker: (2) neither the final warning nor the change in schedule constitutes an adverse employment action: (3) Plaintiff fails to identify a comparator and (4) Plaintiff cannot rebut Defendant's legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for her termination; namely, Plaintiffs failure to work the required schedule.

         II. Summary ...

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