United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Western Division
BAIDEHI L. MUKHERJEE, Plaintiff,
THE CHILDREN'S MERCY HOSPITAL, Defendant.
ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY
JUDGMENT ON PLAINTIFF'S EQUAL PAY ACT CLAIM
D. SMITH, SENIOR JUDGE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT.
March 6, 2018, the Court issued an order pertaining to
Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment. Doc. #88. In
that order, which granted in part and denied in part
Defendant's motion, the Court deferred consideration of
Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment on
Plaintiff's Equal Pay Act (“EPA”) claim, and
directed the parties to provide supplemental briefing on that
claim. Id. The Court asked for supplemental briefing
on (a) the statute of limitations, (b) whether O'Neil had
the same job responsibilities as and similar working
conditions to Plaintiff, and (c) whether Defendant is
asserting a statutory affirmative defense. On March 16, 2018,
the parties filed their briefs. Docs. #94-95. With regard to
Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. #70) on
Plaintiff's EPA claim, the Court grants the motion.
moving party is entitled to summary judgment on a claim only
if there is a showing that “there is no genuine issue
as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled
to a judgment as a matter of law.” Williams v. City
of St. Louis, 783 F.2d 114, 115 (8th Cir. 1986).
“[W]hile the materiality determination rests on the
substantive law, it is the substantive law's
identification of which facts are critical and which facts
are irrelevant that governs.” Anderson v. Liberty
Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). Thus,
“[o]nly disputes over facts that might affect the
outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly
preclude the entry of summary judgment.” Wierman v.
Casey's Gen. Stores, 638 F.3d 984, 993 (8th Cir.
2011) (quotation omitted). The Court must view the evidence
in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, giving
that party the benefit of all inferences that may be
reasonably drawn from the evidence. Matsushita Elec.
Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 588-89
(1986); Tyler v. Harper, 744 F.2d 653, 655 (8th Cir.
1984). “[A] nonmovant may not rest upon mere denials or
allegations, but must instead set forth specific facts
sufficient to raise a genuine issue for trial.”
Nationwide Prop. & Cas. Ins. Co. v. Faircloth,
845 F.3d 378, 382 (8th Cir. 2016) (citations omitted).
PLAINTIFF'S EQUAL PAY ACT CLAIM
forth in the Court's March 6, 2018 Order and confirmed in
Plaintiff's supplemental briefing, Plaintiff claims her
male predecessor, Stephen O'Neil, held the same job with
the same duties and responsibilities, but was paid more than
she was paid. Docs. #88, 94. A cause of action under the EPA
“may be commenced within two years after the cause of
action accrued…except that a cause of action arising
out of a willful violation may be commenced within three
years after the cause of action accrued.” 29 U.S.C.
§ 255(a). In her supplemental brief, Plaintiff concedes
her claim is for Defendant's allegedly willful
violation of the EPA. She states “her claim and [the]
damages she seeks for Defendant's Equal Pay Act violation
relate to” the time period of December 13, 2013 (three
years prior to the date she filed her Complaint), to May 7,
2014 (the date her employment concluded). Doc. #94, at 2.
Statute of Limitations
argues Plaintiff's EPA claim is time-barred because she
waited more than two years to file her complaint, and she
failed to set forth factual support to establish the alleged
EPA violation was willful to meet the three-year statute of
limitations. “A finding of willfulness requires
behavior on the part of the employer that exceeds negligence;
the employer must act knowingly or with reckless disregard of
whether the contested conduct was prohibited.”
Simpson v. Merchs. & Planters Bank, 441 F.3d
572, 580 (8th Cir. 2006) (citation omitted) (finding a
reasonable jury could conclude the employer willfully
violated the EPA when presented with evidence the employer
had knowledge of the EPA, the employer's personnel
policies treated male and female employees differently, and a
statement by one of the employer's board members that men
were needed at the bank, and needed to be paid more than
responding to Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment,
Plaintiff did not cite anything in the record establishing a
genuine issue of material fact that Defendant's alleged
violation of the EPA was willful. Her statement of additional
facts did not cite to anything in the record evidencing (or
even suggesting) Defendant's behavior was or could be
considered willful. In fact, nowhere in Plaintiff's
opposition brief is the word “willful” mentioned.
Docs. #79-80. Likewise, in her supplemental brief, Plaintiff
did not mention the word “willful, ” other than
to inform the Court that her EPA claim is based upon a
willful violation. Doc. #94.
Simpson, the record does not establish facts such as
Defendant having personnel policies that treated men and
women differently, or a person associated with Defendant
making a statement about hiring more men and/or paying men
more than women. Rather, it is uncontroverted that Defendant
has an Equal Employment Opportunity Policy as well as an
Anti-Discrimination/Anti-Harassment Policy, and there is no
evidence that the policies are applied differently based upon
gender. There is also no evidence that Plaintiff complained
about unequal pay, and Defendant ignored that complaint.
See also Grover v. Smarte Carte, Inc., 836 F.Supp.2d
860, 871 (D. Minn. 2011) (finding the plaintiff demonstrated
a fact issue with regard to willfulness by pointing to her
complaints that her pay was unequal to her male counterparts
and the employer's failure to attend to those
complaints); Thomeczek v. Brownlee, 320 F.Supp.2d
884, 888 (E.D. Mo. 2004) (entering summary judgment in favor
of the employer because the plaintiff did not establish a
genuine issue of material fact of willfulness, and thus, the
two-year limitations period applied).
failed to cite anything in the record that would allow a
reasonable jury to conclude Defendant willfully violated the
EPA. Further, Plaintiff failed to cite any case wherein a
Court found similar evidence, albeit lacking, was sufficient
to establish a genuine issue of material fact. Plaintiff has
simply rested on her allegation that the EPA violation was
willful, and that is not sufficient to overcome a motion for
summary judgment. Nationwide Prop. & Cas. Ins.,
845 F.3d at 382. Even when reviewing the record in the light
most favorable to the non-moving party, the Court finds
Plaintiffs claim of a willful violation of the EPA fails. For
this reason alone, Defendant's Motion for Summary
Judgment with regard to Plaintiffs EPA claim is granted.
Plaintiffs EPA claim was not time-barred, Plaintiff failed to
establish a genuine issue of material fact with regard to her
substantive claim. To establish a claim under the EPA, a
plaintiff must identify a male employee who was paid more for
equal work in a job that required equal skill, effort, and
responsibility, and was performed under similar working
conditions. Dindinger v. Allsteel, Inc., 853 F.3d
414, 421-22 (8th Cir. 2017) (citation omitted).
the Court must determine whether O'Neil was paid more
than Plaintiff was paid. Importantly, Plaintiffs claim, as
set forth in her supplemental brief, is limited to her rate
of pay from December 13, 2013, to May 7, 2014. Doc. #94, at
2. Plaintiffs biweekly rate of pay, when hired in July 2012,
was $6, 154.50. In or about August 2013, Plaintiff
received a two percent pay increase. Although the exact
figure was not provided, it appears Plaintiffs biweekly rate
of pay increased to $6, 277.59. There is no evidence
indicating Plaintiffs rate ...