United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee
TERESA E. BANKS, Plaintiff,
ARGOS RISK MANAGEMENT SERVICES, LLC, Defendant
[Copyrighted Material Omitted]
For Teresa E. Banks, Plaintiff: Lewis Alvin Williams, James A. Flexer Law Offices, Nashville, TN; Stephen W. Grace, Nashville, TN.
For Argos Risk Management Services, LLC, Defendant: Marcia McShane Watson, Mary Dohner Smith, Constangy, Brooks & Smith, LLP, Nashville, TN.
For Argos Risk Management Services, LLC, Counter Plaintiff: Marcia McShane Watson, Mary Dohner Smith, Constangy, Brooks & Smith, LLP, Nashville, TN.
For Teresa E. Banks, Counter Defendant: Lewis Alvin Williams, James A. Flexer Law Offices, Nashville, TN; Stephen W. Grace, Nashville, TN.
KEVIN H. SHARP, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
This is a wrongful termination case which arose after Plaintiff Teresa E. Banks was dismissed from her employment after filing a workers' compensation claim. Defendant Argos Risk Management Services, LLC has filed a Motion for Summary Judgment (Docket No. 18), to which Plaintiff has responded in opposition (Docket No. 20), and Defendant has replied (Docket No. 23). For the following reasons, the Motion for Summary Judgment will be granted.
I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND
So far as relevant, the underlying facts (many of which are undisputed) are as follows:
Argos is a third-party administrator of workers' compensation claims, meaning that it manages such claims for its clients, including insurance companies and their insured. Headquartered in Birmingham, Alabama, Argos maintains an office in Brentwood, Tennessee, where, during the
relevant time period, three or four individuals were employed.
Argos maintains an employee handbook containing an anti-discrimination policy. The handbook also includes an " Honesty and Integrity" provision that states, " [e]mployees are expected to demonstrate honesty and professionalism in the conduct of all business activities. . ." and lists " [f]alsification of records or documents (including time records, job applications, absence reports, expense accounts, and other business records)" as examples of " unacceptable" actions.
In October 2010, Argos posted a Claims Adjuster III position for the Brentwood office on Career Builder, an internet recruiting website. A Claims Adjuster III is a high level position, one that requires good judgment and trust, because those in the position are responsible for distributing large sums of money to Argos' clients, and making decisions regarding whether employees receive workers' compensation benefits. The position generally requires a minimum of five (5) years continuous employment in a position responsible for the overall handling of workers' compensation claims.
On November 17, 2010, Plaintiff responded to the ad by sending an email that included a " professional profile" and her resume. Plaintiff's profile indicated she was a " [r]esult oriented and conscientious insurance professional with 12 years in the insurance industry especially multi-state experience managing Workers' Compensation claims from date of injury through litigation." It also stated Plaintiff had " field experience with regards to investigating accident sites, interviewing claimants and insureds for fraud and compensability in TN, AL and GA."
In her resume, Plaintiff indicated that she was currently employed by the State of Tennessee as a Benefits Analyst in the Department of Finance & Administration. The resume also indicated that she was employed by Amerisafe Risk Services from November 2005 to August 2008 as a " Field Case Manager/Claims Examiner," and left that position due to travel. Additionally, the resume further represented that Plaintiff had been employed by American International Group (" AIG" ) as a " Workers' Compensation Disability Specialist" from July 1998 to March 2005, responsible for " Disability and Catastrophic Claims Management."
On December 6, 2010, Plaintiff was interviewed by Ivan Gunn, the Claims Supervisor of the Brentwood office. That same day, Plaintiff completed Argos' employment application. The employment application includes the question, " Have you received any written reprimands or disciplinary suspensions during your previous employment, been discharged or asked to resign?", to which Plaintiff responded, " No." The application also asks an applicant to list his or her previous employers and attach additional pages, " if necessary to list all additional employers."
On her employment application, Plaintiff stated that she was employed by the State of Tennessee from September 2009 to the present as a Benefits Analyst. In response to the question as to her reason for leaving, Plaintiff wrote, " still there," and Plaintiff listed a current annual salary of $35,000.00.
Plaintiff also indicated that she had been employed by Amerisafe Risk Services from November 2005 to August 2008 as a Field Case Manager, and that she left so that she could " stop traveling."  Plaintiff stated she was employed by AIG from July 1998 to March 2005 as a Disability Specialist. Plaintiff signed the last page of her employment application, certifying that it was true to the best of her knowledge and belief. Argos did not verify Plaintiff's employment, or contact her professional references at that time.
After interviewing Plaintiff, Gunn told Jan Peine, the Claims Manager located in Birmingham that Plaintiff " looked good," and asked if it was " okay" to hire her. Upon reviewing Plaintiff's resume, both Jan Peine and Todd Larry, President and Chief Executive Officer of Argos believed Plaintiff had been employed by AIG for seven (7) years in a position handling workers' compensation claims and that she was currently employed by the State of Tennessee. Based upon Plaintiff's representations about her work history, Gunn was given the go ahead to hire Plaintiff, and she was hired on December 13, 2010.
In November of each year, Argos undertakes an Annual Performance Review that assigns a numerical score to an employee's job performance, based upon such things as work conduct behavior, demeanor, record of attendance, and goal accomplishment. The numerical score serves as the basis for bonuses. On November 8, 2011, Plaintiff received a " very good ...