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Boyd v. BJC Health System

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

January 29, 2018



          Ronnie L. White, Judge

         This matter is before the Court on Defendant Christian Hospital Northeast-Northwest's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs Race and Disability Discrimination Claim (ECF No. 18), Defendant BJC Health System d/b/a BJC Healthcare's Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 20), and Plaintiffs Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 29). The Motions are fully briefed and ready for disposition. Upon review of the record, the Court will grant Defendants' motions and deny Plaintiffs motion for summary judgment without prejudice, subject to refiling after discovery.

         I. Background

         On January 4, 2017, Plaintiff filed a Pro Se Employment Discrimination and Retaliation Complaint in state court, alleging discrimination on the basis of race, disability, and retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e, et seq., and the Missouri Human Rights Act, Mo. Rev. Stat. §§ 213.010, et seq. (ECF No. 7) Defendants BJC Health System d/b/a BJC HealthCare ("BJC") and Christian Hospital Northeast-Northwest ("Christian Hospital") removed the Complaint to federal court on March 2, 2017 on the basis of federal question jurisdiction. (ECF No. 1)

         Plaintiff contends that she was employed at Christian Hospital as a Patient Access Representative beginning in June of 2015. She alleges in her Complaint that she sent correspondence to members of her management team and members of the Hospital's executive team regarding disparities in the department, including work conditions, inadequate staffing, favoritism, bias, and labor law regulations. (Compl. ¶¶ 2-4, ECF No. 7) Plaintiff asserts that after she sent the letters, she received disciplinary actions, was denied a request to transfer to a different department, and experienced a hostile work environment. (Id. at ¶¶ 5-6, 15(a)-(b), (h)) Plaintiff also claims that the Hospital's Patient Access Manager discriminated against her because Plaintiff resembled another African American female who also reported alleged racial discrimination and was terminated. (Id. at ¶ 7)

         In addition, Plaintiff contends that she suffers from Iron Deficiency Anemia, which causes lightheadedness, fatigue, shortness of breath, and weakness. (Id. at ¶ 8) Plaintiff claims her requests to wear a jacket or thick sweater in the Emergency Room as an accommodation were denied, and the Hospital accused her of a dress code infraction even though other employees were allowed to wear sweaters with no disciplinary action taken. (Id. at ¶¶ 8, 15(c)) On May 13, 2016, Plaintiff received a voicemail message from her manager indicating that Plaintiff had been terminated from her position with the Hospital. (Id. at ¶ 10) The termination letter indicated that Plaintiff was fired for cell phone use in the workplace, dress code violations, and leaving the premises for lunch without clocking out. (Id. at ¶ 12) However, Plaintiff avers that her termination was done in retaliation for complaining about disparities and hostile work conditions at Christian Hospital. (Id. at ¶¶ 4, 15(e)-(f)) She further claims that Christian Hospital disparately treated, and created a hostile work environment for, African-American female employees. (Id. at ¶ 15(g)-(h)) Plaintiff filed a Charge of Discrimination with the EEOC, No. 560-2016-01803. (Id. at¶ 17)

         Plaintiff was employed as a Patient Access Manager by Christian Hospital. (Def. BJC's Statement of Uncontroverted Material Facts ["SUMF"] ¶ 14, ECF No. 22) Although Plaintiff states that Christian Hospital is a BJC HealthCare affiliate, Christian Hospital is a separate and distinct corporate entity from BJC Health System. (Def.'s SUMF ¶¶ 7, 13) BJC is the parent company of non-profit, public benefit corporations, including Christian Hospital. (Def.'s SUMF ¶¶ 4-6) BJC provides some recruitment services, processes payroll for member entities and their affiliates, maintains an employment portal for all employees of BJC affiliates, and allows access into other hospitals with her Christian Hospital employee badge. (Pl.'s Mem. Objecting to Def.'s SUMF, ECF No. 28)

         On March 30, 2017, Defendant Christian Hospital filed a motion to dismiss Plaintiffs discrimination claims based on race and disability, asserting that Plaintiff failed to exhaust her administrative remedies with respect to those claims. Plaintiff responds that her Charge of Discrimination indicates that she checked the boxes for discrimination based on retaliation, race, and disability such that her administrative remedies are properly exhausted. Also on March 30, 2018, Defendant BJC filed a motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, for summary judgment arguing that BJC is not Plaintiffs employer and that Plaintiff failed to exhaust administrative remedies. Plaintiff claims that Christian Hospital and BJC are sufficiently connected.

         II. Legal Standard

         A. 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss

         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a complaint must be dismissed if it fails to plead "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007) (abrogating the "no set of facts" standard set forth in Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957)). While the Court cautioned that the holding does not require a heightened fact pleading of specifics, "a plaintiffs obligation to provide the 'grounds' of his ' entitle[ment] to relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Id. at 555. In other words, "[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level...." Id. This standard simply calls for enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of the claim. Id. at 556.

         Courts must liberally construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff and accept the factual allegations as true. See Id. at 555; see also Schaafv. Residential Funding Corp., 517 F.3d 544, 549 (8th Cir. 2008) (stating that in a motion to dismiss, courts accept as true all factual allegations in the complaint); Eckert v. Titan Tire Corp., 514 F.3d 801, 806 (8th Cir. 2008) (explaining that courts should liberally construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff). Further a court should not dismiss the complaint simply because the court is doubtful that the plaintiff will be able to prove all of the necessary factual allegations. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556. However, "[w]here the allegations show on the face of the complaint there is some insuperable bar to relief, dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) is appropriate." Benton v. Merrill Lynch & Co., 524 F.3d 866, 870 (8th Cir. 2008) (citation omitted).

         B. Motion for Summary Judgment

         Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c), a court may grant a motion for summary judgment only if all of the information before the court shows "there is no genuine issue of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett,477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). The court must view the evidence and all reasonable inferences in the light most ...

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