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Larmond v. Osceola Regional Hospital, Inc.

United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Orlando Division

August 7, 2019




         I. Background

         The Plaintiff is a black female who has worked as a registered nurse at Osceola Regional Medical Center since 2008. Gloria Carmona, a Hispanic female, is her supervisor as the manager of critical care services at Osceola Regional. Lisa Frey, a white female, is the critical care director and is also in a supervisory role over the Plaintiff. “[O]n several occasions, ” the Plaintiff worked as a relief charge nurse in the critical care unit. Doc. 32 at 2. The relief charge nurse position was filled by different nurses at different times, but at the time in question, all of the relief charge nurses were competing for the full-time charge nurse position. In October of 2017, after the Plaintiff refused to accept the care of third patient, Frey informed the Plaintiff that she would no longer be working as a relief charge nurse. This removed her from consideration for the charge nurse position, which was given to a white female instead. The Plaintiff later filed charges with the EEOC, and ultimately, a Complaint alleging discrimination (Counts I and III) and retaliation (Counts II and IV) in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and the Florida Civil Rights Act (“FCRA”).

         II. Legal Standards

         A. Summary Judgment

         When a party moving for summary judgment points out an absence of evidence on a dispositive issue for which the nonmoving party bears the burden of proof at trial, the nonmoving party must “go beyond the pleadings and by [his] own affidavits, or by the depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, designate specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324-25 (1986) (internal quotations and citation omitted). Thereafter, summary judgment is mandated against the nonmoving party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish a genuine issue of fact for trial. Id. at 322, 324-25. The party opposing a motion for summary judgment must rely on more than conclusory statements or allegations unsupported by facts. Evers v. Gen. Motors Corp., 770 F.2d 984, 986 (11th Cir. 1985) (“conclusory allegations without specific supporting facts have no probative value”). The Court must consider all inferences drawn from the underlying facts in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion and resolve all reasonable doubts against the moving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255.

         B. Discrimination and Retaliation under Title VII and the FCRA[1]

         Title VII forbids employers from discriminating “against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual's race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.” 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(1). If there is no direct evidence of a violation, discrimination under Title VII can be established under the McDonnell Douglas burden-shifting framework. A prima facie case is established when a plaintiff sufficiently alleges that “(1) [he] is a member of a protected class; (2) [he] was subjected to adverse employment action; (3) [his] employer treated similarly situated employees more favorably; and (4) [he] was qualified to do the job.” McCann v. Tillman, 526 F.3d 1370, 1373 (11th Cir. 2008) (quoting EEOC v. Joe's Stone Crab, Inc., 220 F.3d 1263, 1286 (11th Cir. 2000)) (internal quotation marks omitted). “If the plaintiff succeeds in making out a prima facie case, the burden shifts to the defendant to articulate a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for its actions.” Lewis v. City of Union City, Georgia, 918 F.3d 1213, 1221 (11th Cir. 2019). If the defendant successfully articulates a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason, “the plaintiff must then demonstrate that the defendant's proffered reason was merely a pretext for unlawful discrimination, an obligation that ‘merges with the [plaintiff's] ultimate burden of persuading the [factfinder] that she has been the victim of intentional discrimination.'” Id. (quoting Tex. Dep't of Cmty. Affairs v. Burdine, 450 U.S. 248, 256 (1981).

         The McDonnell Douglas burden-shifting analysis applies in cases of retaliation relying on circumstantial evidence. Bryant v. Jones, 575 F.3d 1281, 1307 (11th Cir. 2009). To establish a prima facie case for retaliation, a plaintiff must show that “(1) he engaged in statutorily protected activity, (2) he suffered a materially adverse action, and (3) there is a causal relationship between the two.” Schiele v. S. E. Showclubs, LLC, No. 8:16cv-02308-JSM-MAP, 2017 WL 2834779, at *2 (M.D. Fla. June 30, 2017) (citing Brown v. Ala. Dep't of Transp., 597 F.3d 1160, 1181 (11th Cir. 2010)).

         III. Analysis

         A. Race Discrimination: Counts I and III

         1. Adverse Employment Action

         It is undisputed that the Plaintiff is a member of a protected class. Thus, the Court first analyzes whether the Plaintiff has made a prima facie showing that there was an adverse employment action. The Plaintiff alleges several adverse employment actions, including denial of her requests for lateral transfer and failure to get time off during the holidays, but only attempts to establish a prima facie case for one such action: her removal as relief nurse and the impact of that removal, which she claims prevented her from being promoted to the charge nurse position.

         The Plaintiff testified that, while they later had two charge nurses in her unit, they previously only had one charge nurse. Doc. 31-1 at 19. At that time, the unit needed the relief charge nurse position. Id. The Plaintiff testified that the relief charge had its own job description that was the same as that of a charge nurse. Doc. 31-1 at 20. The relief charge nurse essentially functioned as a substitute for times when the charge nurse was not working. So, if the charge nurse worked five days out of the week, the relief charge nurse would work the other two. Id. at 21. Thus, if they had a second charge-the role Stacey Russo eventually filled-there was no need for a relief charge. Id. At one point, in the Plaintiff's unit, two charge nurses were needed. Id. at 22. Gloria Carmona decided that everyone “interested in that [position] could act as relief charge.” Id. While acting as ...

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