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Holbrook v. Associated Oral

July 30, 2007

DEBRA HOLBROOK
v.
ASSOCIATED ORAL AND MAXILLOFACIAL SURGEONS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Dennis H. Inman United States Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM

Claiming that she was fired from her employment with defendant because she became pregnant, plaintiff filed suit against her former employer under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964*fn1 and the Family Medical Leave Act.*fn2

Defendant has filed a motion for summary judgment. (Doc. 8). Only if there is no genuine issue as to any material fact, and only if the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law based on those undisputed facts, is a party entitled to summary judgment. F.R.Civ.P. 56(c). The party against whom a motion for summary judgment is filed must be indulged with all possible favorable inferences from the facts, Plott v. Gen. Motors Corp., 71 F.3d 1190 (6th Cir. 1995). It is incumbent upon the party opposing a motion for summary judgment to demonstrate that there exists a "genuine issue as to any material fact." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-24 (1986). A mere scintilla of evidence will not defeat a motion for summary judgment; there must be evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the party against whom a motion for summary judgment is pending. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 252 (1986).

Defendant has filed a "Statement of Undisputed Facts,"*fn3 and the plaintiff similarly has filed her version of undisputed facts.*fn4 From those two documents it appears there are relatively few disputes regarding facts, but nevertheless there are some disputes. Obviously this court is required to adopt plaintiff's version with regard to any disputed facts. With that principle in mind, for summary judgment purposes the facts are as follows:

As defendant's name indicates, it is a group or firm of oral surgeons. It never has had 50 or more employees.

Plaintiff was hired by defendant on September 12, 2004, as a medical receptionist. Her duties included checking patients in and out, answering the telephone, opening the office and books each morning, closing out at the end of the day, and making calls to schedule surgeries. Defendant provided training to plaintiff with respect to her duties, and she never complained about the adequacy of that training.

When she was hired in September 2004, one of the oral surgeons, Dr. Collins, asked her "pointed questions" regarding her marital status, and the number and ages of her children.

Defendant provided to plaintiff and the other employees an employee handbook which contained, among other things, a graduated disciplinary system consisting of an initial verbal warning, then a written warning with counseling, then a second written warning with more counseling, and then dismissal. The handbook, however, was not a contract between the parties; plaintiff was an employee at will.

In December 2004, plaintiff began fertility treatments, and she told various people in the office, including some of her employers, that she was being treated by a fertility specialist. Plaintiff went to the fertility clinic on her personal time, except for a "couple" of times that were approved by her employer.

Upon learning that plaintiff was attempting to become pregnant, Jan Hughes, dental assistant to Dr. Eilers, told plaintiff that she "should be very careful about getting pregnant because a girl, Jennifer Speller, in the Kingsport office had been let go based on pregnancy." Plaintiff also was told by another employee, Donna Arnold, that an unnamed employee had been let go because she had become pregnant.

Plaintiff became pregnant in March 2005. Upon learning of the pregnancy, Dr. Bacon asked plaintiff who would care for the child.

Claiming that there were problems with plaintiff's job performance in early April 2005, Dr. Bacon instructed Donna Fuller and Tina Musick to meet with plaintiff and discuss those problems with her. That meeting took place on April 6, 2005, and various alleged deficiencies in plaintiff's work were discussed; plaintiff's pregnancy was not discussed.

Prior to her meeting with Fuller and Musick, plaintiff felt secure in her job; she had never received any warnings, verbal or written, and she recently had been told by Dr. Hamlin that she was doing a good job.

Plaintiff was fired on April 8, 2005. Shortly thereafter she returned to the office to talk with Dr. Eilers, who told her that she had been a good employee and ...


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