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Atkins v. LQ Management, LLC

United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division

August 26, 2014

GLENDA ATKINS, CHRYSTAL AKRIDGE, DARPHELIA AKRIDGE, DORIS GOODNER, AND CHICA ALEXANDER, Plaintiffs,
v.
LQ MANAGEMENT, LLC D/B/A LA QUINTA INN AND SUITES, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM

KEVIN H. SHARP, District Judge.

This employment dispute, removed from the Williamson County Circuit Court, is brought by five former employees of the La Quinta Inn and Suites in Franklin, Tennessee. Plaintiffs Glenda Atkins, Chrystal Akridge, Darphelia Akridge, Doris Goodner and Chica Alexander all claim that they were discriminated against and subjected to a hostile work environment in violation of the Tennessee Human Rights Act ("THRA"), Tenn. Code Ann. ยง 4-21-101 et seq ., most (if not all) claim that they were retaliated against in violation of the THRA, and two claim that they were constructively discharged.

Defendant LQ Management, LLC d/b/a La Quinta Inn and Suites has filed a separate Motion for Summary Judgment (Docket Nos. 30, 35, 40, 45 & 51) with respect to each Plaintiff, to which Plaintiffs have filed a consolidated response (Docket No. 56) and Defendant has replied (Docket No. 57). For the reasons that follow, summary judgment will be granted on all of Plaintiffs' claims, except each Plaintiff's claim that she was subjected to working in a racially hostile environment.

I.

In their consolidated response, Plaintiffs write:

... Although the Defendant has filed separate memoranda of law in support of their five separate motions for summary judgment, the relevant law is the same for each plaintiff in this case. Therefore, for efficiency, Plaintiffs are filing this single Memorandum. Plaintiffs would also note that, since the defendant filed each complete plaintiff's deposition with the court, that all references to plaintiff's depositions, herein, can be found in the depositions filed with the Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment.
* * *
Although each of the Plaintiffs alleged several causes of action, including retaliation, disparate treatment and hostile work environment, all of the relevant facts apply to their claims of a hostile work environment, and, the Plaintiffs, therefore, rely upon all facts alleged regarding the various causes of action, and proceed forward solely upon the hostile work environment claims.

(Docket No. 56 at 1-2). The last sentence seems to suggest that Plaintiffs are pursuing only their hostile work environment claims, a suggestion that is supported by the fact that the memorandum focuses exclusively on such claims. Further, while Plaintiffs have filed responses to each of the Statements of Undisputed Facts submitted by Defendants in support of its motion for summary judgment as to each Plaintiff, the vast majority of facts that Plaintiffs dispute center on whether the Franklin La Quinta Inn was a hostile place for black employees to work. Plaintiffs make no effort to contest such things as the time records that appear to refute their claims regarding disparity in room assignments and scheduling, other than pointing out that they believe they were required to clean more rooms and work fewer hours than white housekeepers. Moreover, the virtually identical affidavits filed by four of the Plaintiffs are directed exclusively at their allegations that General Manager Jeff Campbell allegedly made racially offensive comments.

Despite everything suggesting that they have abandoned their claims for race discrimination, retaliation, and constructive discharge, Plaintiffs conclude their consolidated response by broadly asserting that "defendant's summary judgment motions should be denied, and this case move [sic] forward to trial." Id. at 23. To the extent Plaintiffs are challenging Defendant's Motions for Summary Judgment on any of their claims apart from their claims relating to a hostile work environment, their consolidated response is insufficient under both this Court's Local Rules and Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

II.

Local Rule 7.01 states that a "party opposing a motion shall serve and file a response, " and that a "failure to file a timely response shall indicate there is no opposition to the motion." L.R. 7.01(b). Similarly, Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that "[i]f the opposing party does not... respond, summary judgment should, if applicable, be entered against that party." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)(2).

"Rule 56(e)(2) leaves no doubt about the obligation of a summary judgment opponent to make her case with a showing of facts that can be established by evidence that will be admissible at trial." Alexander v. CareSource , 576 F.3d 551, 558 (6th Cir. 2009). "In fact, [t]he failure to present any evidence to counter a well-supported motion for summary judgment alone is grounds for granting the motion.'" Id . (quoting Everson v. Leis , 556 F.3d 484, 496 (6th Cir. 2009)).

In addition to Alexander, there is further authority for the proposition that failing to respond to a properly supported arguments advanced in a motion for summary judgment means that the opponent concedes the argument and that summary judgment on the claim is appropriate. See e.g., Campbell v. Hines, 2013 WL 7899224, at *4 (6th Cir. Aug. 8, 2013) ("The district court properly concluded that Campbell had abandoned his hostile work environment and retaliation claims.... In light of Campbell's failure to address the defendants' arguments in his response to the summary judgment motion, the district court properly declined to consider the merits of the claims); Clark v. City of Dublin , 178 F.Appx. 522, 524-525 (6th Cir. 2006) (where plaintiff "did not properly respond to the arguments asserted against his ADEA and ADA claims, " the "district court properly granted summary judgment because [plaintiff] failed to meet his Rule 56 burden"). However, the Sixth Circuit has also stated:

a district court cannot grant summary judgment in favor of the movant simply because the adverse party has not responded. The Court is required, at a minimum, to examine the movant's Motion for Summary Judgment to ensure that he has discharged [his initial] burden.'... The federal rules require that the party filing a Motion for Summary Judgment always bears the burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue as to a material fact.'

Stough v. Mayville Cmty Sch. , 138 F.3d 612, 614 (6th Cir.1998) (quoting Carver v. Bunch , 946 F.2d 451, 452 (6th Cir. 1991)); see also Miller v. Shore Finan. Serv., Inc. , 141 F.Appx. 417, 419 (6th Cir. 2005).

III.

"The party requesting summary judgment bears an initial burden of demonstrating that no genuine issue of material fact exists, which it must discharge by producing evidence to demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact or by showing... that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case.'" Burdett-Foster v. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Mich., 2014 WL 3719111, at *6 (6th Cir. July 29, 2014) (quoting Celotex Corp. v. Catrett , 477 U.S. 317, 323-25 (1986)). ...


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