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Walker v. Northview Village Nursing Center

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

February 9, 2017




         This matter is before the Court on Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment [Doc. No. 65]. Plaintiff opposes the Motion. For the reasons set forth below, the Motion is granted.

         This is an employment discrimination case alleging claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as amended (“Title VII”), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. Specifically, plaintiff claims that defendant terminated his employment because of religious discrimination, religious harassment and in retaliation for claiming he was discriminated against.

         Legal Standard

         Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a), a district court may grant a motion for summary judgment if all of the information before the court demonstrates that “there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). The burden is on the moving party. City of Mt. Pleasant, Iowa v. Associated Elec. Co-op. Inc., 838 F.2d 268, 273 (8th Cir.1988). After the moving party discharges this burden, the nonmoving party must do more than show that there is some doubt as to the facts. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986). Instead, the nonmoving party bears the burden of setting forth affirmative evidence and specific facts by affidavit and other evidence showing that there is a genuine dispute of a material fact. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986); Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324, 106 S.Ct. 2548. “A dispute about a material fact is ‘genuine' only ‘if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.' ” Herring v. Canada Life Assur. Co., 207 F.3d 1026, 1030 (8th Cir.2000) (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505). A party resisting summary judgment has the burden to designate the specific facts that create a triable controversy. See Crossley v. Georgia-Pacific Corp., 355 F.3d 1112, 1114 (8th Cir.2004). Self-serving, conclusory statements without support are not sufficient to defeat summary judgment. Armour and Co., Inc. v. Inver Grove Heights, 2 F.3d 276, 279 (8th Cir.1993).

         “While employment discrimination cases are often fact intensive and dependent on nuance in the workplace, they are not immune from summary judgment.” Fercello v. County of Ramsey, 612 F.3d 1069, 1077 (8th Cir.2010) (citing Berg v. Norand Corp., 169 F.3d 1140, 1144 (8th Cir.1999)). There is no separate summary judgment standard for employment discrimination cases, and “it remains a useful pretrial tool to determine whether or not any case, including one alleging discrimination, merits a trial.” Id.

         In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the court must review the facts in a light most favorable to the party opposing the motion and give that party the benefit of any inferences that logically can be drawn from those facts. Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587; Woods v. DaimlerChrysler Corp., 409 F.3d 984, 990 (8th Cir.2005). The Court may not “weigh the evidence in the summary judgment record, decide credibility questions, or determine the truth of any factual issue.” Kampouris v. St. Louis Symphony Soc., 210 F.3d 845, 847 (8th Cir.2000). However, the court is required to resolve all conflicts of evidence in favor of the nonmoving party. Robert Johnson Grain Co. v. Chemical Interchange Co., 541 F.2d 207, 210 (8th Cir.1976).


         The following facts are taken from Defendant's statement of uncontroverted facts, Plaintiff's statement of material facts, and exhibits in the record.

         Plaintiff worked for Defendant as a temporary employee in the maintenance department from approximately January 2010 through July 2010. Defendant laid Plaintiff off in July 2010 because of the low resident census. Plaintiff did not complain of discrimination or harassment related to his 2010 employment.

         In September 2012, Defendant hired Plaintiff as a temporary painter. Plaintiff's direct supervisor was Director of Maintenance, Allen Koonce (“Koonce”). Koonce supervised all employees in the maintenance department, including painters and maintenance workers.

         In March 2013, Defendant changed Plaintiff's employment status to “full-time, ” and he became eligible for employee benefits. At that time, Defendant increased Plaintiff's pay from $10.00 per hour to$11.67 per hour.

         In the fall of 2013, Defendant's corporate office informed Defendant's Administrator, Judy Deering (“Deering”), that it had to make lay-offs due to payroll budget cuts. One of the departments in which Defendant had to make a lay off was the maintenance department. Deering also learned that Defendant had to make lay-offs in another department as well due to payroll budget cuts. To that end, Deering decided to lay off Emilie Bradford-Taylor, RN, In-Service Nurse, on October 4, 2013. Deering decided to lay off Bradford-Taylor because she had the least seniority, and an employee with more seniority than her could absorb her job duties. Deering decided to lay off Plaintiff because he was the last full-time employee hired in the maintenance department prior to the lay-off directive and therefore had the least seniority.

         Deering informed Koonce about Plaintiff's lay-off, and Koonce informed Plaintiff of his lay-off on October 3, 2013. His lay-off was effective October 4, 2013.

         During his employment, Plaintiff never told Koonce, Deering, Northview's Human Resources Manager, Ralph Menees (“Menees”), or anyone at Northview's corporate office about what his religion was. Moreover, during his employment, Koonce, Deering, Menees and Northview's corporate office never asked Plaintiff about his religion.

         In summer 2013, Defendant held a company picnic. Attendance was not mandatory. When Koonce asked Plaintiff if he was going to attend the picnic, Plaintiff told him “because of his religion [he] wouldn't be able to attend because of certain foods and stuff [he doesn't] deal with and [he doesn't] like to be around.” Koonce “didn't inquire into it any further.” Plaintiff did not attend the picnic, and he did not receive any discipline for not attending the picnic.

         With regard to his lay off, Plaintiff asked Koonce “why me, ” and Koonce told him that “they were laying off people throughout the building, … and it was budget cuts, that Mark Suissa told him he had to lay off someone in Maintenance - a painter in Maintenance is what he said.” During his deposition, Plaintiff admitted that ...

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