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Gladue v. Saint Francis Medical Center

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Southeastern Division

June 18, 2015



CAROL E. JACKSON, District Judge.

The plaintiff brings this action asserting claims of employment discrimination and unlawful retaliation, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq., and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), 29 U.S.C. § 623, et seq. Presently before the Court are the parties' crossmotions for summary judgment, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The issues are fully briefed.[1]

I. Background

Defendant Saint Francis Medical Center is a private, Catholic hospital in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. After hiring a consulting firm to perform an external review of its Education Department in 2010, Saint Francis decided to create a new position titled Director of Training and Development. The Director would, among other things, spearhead the department's efforts to revise and enhance the hospital's medical education protocols and adopt best practices.

Plaintiff Marie Therese Gladue was fifty-two years old during the relevant time period. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in International Studies, a Master of Science degree in Training and Organizational Development, and a Master of Business Administration. Plaintiff has worked in the field of training and development since at least 1992, but she had no experience working for a hospital before she began working for Saint Francis.

Plaintiff was contacted by a recruiter on behalf of Saint Francis and was invited to interview for the position. She was interviewed by Wayne Smith, Steven Bjelich, Jeanette Fadler, Marilyn Curtis, Teri Kreitzer, and other staff. At Fadler's recommendation, Smith offered the job to plaintiff. Plaintiff was offered a starting of $96, 213.00, which she accepted without negotiation.

Plaintiff began her employment at Saint Francis on June 28, 2010. Initially plaintiff reported to Smith and continued to do so until he resigned in September 2010. Thereafter plaintiff reported to Fadler, the Vice President of Patient Care Services, who is female and several years older than plaintiff.

In the first months after she was hired, plaintiff performed an assessment of the Education Department and its staff, she created a business plan for the department, and she began reorganizing the department to address the deficiencies noted in the consultants' report. During the reorganization, two employees complained to Fadler about plaintiff, but Fadler did not take any disciplinary action against plaintiff based on those complaints. In August 2011, plaintiff received a positive performance evaluation from Fadler; her salary was then increased to $100, 131.00. Plaintiff was satisfied with her performance evaluation.

At some point, plaintiff reported to Fadler that she had heard a rumor that some employees had referred to plaintiff as "a bitch" and "the devil." Fadler told plaintiff that such comments would not be tolerated, though no disciplinary action was taken because the rumored employees were not identified. It is undisputed that Fadler never made any offensive or discriminatory comments about plaintiff or other individuals.

Saint Francis has a policy prohibiting sexual harassment. The policy states that complaints of sexual harassment are to be brought to the attention of the Human Resources Manager, Nicole Chance, for investigation. It is undisputed that plaintiff never filed a formal complaint of harassment, and she never lodged an informal complaint of harassment or a complaint of discrimination before she was terminated. Other than reporting rumors of the derogatory remarks made about her by unknown employees, plaintiff never complained of mistreatment by other employees.

On November 1, 2011, plaintiff met with Chance. They discussed rumors that employees outside the Education Department were concerned that plaintiff would attempt to have them fired. Chance never made any offensive or discriminatory comments about plaintiff's age or religion. Plaintiff also admits that, other than with regard to the investigation that ensued, plaintiff did not consider any of Chance's remarks to be offensive or discriminatory with regard to plaintiff's sex.

On November 23, 2011, Jessica Riley, who was one of plaintiff's subordinates, approached Chance to voice concerns about plaintiff. Though Riley asked Chance not to act on her complaints, Chance prepared notes of their meeting. Chance's summary of the meeting with Riley is as follows: Riley "stated that she was fearful of retaliation from Marie." [Doc. #115-3 at 74-75] Riley felt that "if her name is attached [to the investigation], her job would be [in] danger." Id. Riley reported that plaintiff had insisted on being allowed to attend a private baby shower that Riley had planned even though she was not invited. When Riley refused to permit plaintiff to attend, plaintiff continued to argue with her for an hour and a half. According to Riley, plaintiff's "tone and body language became aggressive several times, " and she said that she would attend the shower. Id. Plaintiff also said that former members of the department "had better not make the situation tense, ... or their jobs would be affected." Id.

Chance brought Riley's complaint to Fadler's attention. Chance then investigated the complaint. She met with Ashley Seabaugh and Elizabeth Stone, two of plaintiff's other subordinates, to discuss the matter, and she prepared notes of the meetings. Seabaugh told Chance that she was "very nervous talking to [Chance] about [plaintiff], that she didn't want to be targeted' for talking to [Chance]." [Doc. #115-3 at 77] She recalled seeing plaintiff "turn on others if they question a decision or do anything that [plaintiff] doesn't approve." Id. Seabaugh was "extremely nervous in th[e] meeting.... [H]er voice was very shaky. When she talked about her concern of [plaintiff] finding out she provided the information, tears were rolling down her face." Id. Stone similarly reported to Chance that she feared plaintiff and that it was a "very uncomfortable work environment." [Doc. #115-3 at 76]

Chance next prepared a memorandum to Fadler in which she summarized her investigation and recommended that Saint Francis terminate plaintiff's employment. In pertinent part, the memorandum reads:

I feel strongly that Marie Gladue should not be allowed to remain in a position of authority at Saint Francis Medical Center.... Employees are clearly in fear of losing their jobs if they, in any way, displease Marie and the evidence indicates that such fear may be justified.... [T]his case is not an isolated one and there has been a trend of Marie taking retaliatory actions against those individuals whom she felt had slighted her.... Placing Marie back into the Director position... is tantamount to telling employees that Saint Francis condones this behavior and employees have no recourse when treated unfairly. I don't believe that is the message we want to send to our employees, nor do these behaviors comply with the values of Saint Francis Medical Center.

[Doc. #115-3 at 73]

Fadler reviewed Chance's memorandum and her notes from the investigation. Fadler then decided to terminate plaintiff's employment. The notice of termination, which Fadler prepared and Chance reviewed and signed, explained that plaintiff was being terminated for: "Verbally intimidating, coercing or interfering with employees by engaging in behavior that has the effect of creating an uncomfortable environment for others; meddling in the affairs of others. This behavior cannot be tolerated by a leader of Saint Francis Medical Center." [Doc. #115-2 at 86] Plaintiff was issued the termination notice during a meeting with Chance and Fadler on December 27, 2011. She signed the notice, and was terminated immediately.

After plaintiff was terminated, Saint Francis again began a search to fill the Director position. The hospital hired Steven Firmland, a 51-year-old man, to replace plaintiff. He began working in the training and development field in 1989. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Political Science, a Master of Science in Political Science, and a Doctorate of Management in Organizational Leadership. Firmland had previously earned a salary of $150, 000.00 as a consultant. Saint Francis offered Firmland a starting salary of $100, 000.00, but he negotiated his starting salary to $109, 000.00. Firmland remains Director of the Education Department. Because ...

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