United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division
KEVIN H. SHARP, District Judge.
In this race discrimination, age discrimination, and retaliation case brought by Plaintiff Melinda Dannell Murphy under Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. , and the Tennessee Human Rights Act ("THRA"), Tenn. Code Ann. § 4-21-101 et seq .,  Defendant AHF/Central States, Inc. d/b/a Belcourt Terrace Nursing Home ("Belcourt") has filed a Motion for Summary Judgment (Docket No. 10). That Motion has been fully briefed by the parties (Docket Nos. 11, 18 & 29) and, for the reasons that follow, will be granted.
I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND
While working at Lakeshore Heartland Senior Care Service in the central supply/medical records section, Plaintiff received a call from Denise Patterson, MDS Coordinator at Belcourt, who informed her of an open medical records position at Belcourt. On November 23, 2009, Plaintiff became Belcourt's Medical Records Coordinator, replacing Phyllis Krnkkle who had been terminated for poor work performance. At the time of hiring, Plaintiff was 49 years old.
The Medical Records Coordinator position was part-time, consisting of five hour work days, five days a week. In addition to being responsible for ensuring that medical records were complete and filed appropriately, Belcourt claims Plaintiff was responsible for setting up in-house doctor visits and arranging transportation for patient visits to healthcare providers. It also claims Plaintiff had responsibilities relating to Medicare certifications and re-certifications ("certs and recerts"), and ICD-9 coding.
When Plaintiff was hired, she reported to Brian Vermillion, Belcourt's Administrator. The Director of Nursing was Barbara Adkins.
On March 29, 2010, Plaintiff was orally counseled for failing to turn in room check sheets. Such sheets are completed by department heads and indicate whether patients' rooms are clean, properly stocked, and safety alarms are in place. Plaintiff was not alone in being disciplined for failing to turn in room check sheets in a timely fashion. Plaintiff signed the Employee Counseling Form and did not write anything on the form in the space provided for "Employee Remarks."
On June 7, 2010, Plaintiff received a written warning for working more than 5 hours, not properly boxing up medical records, and failing to complete transportation paperwork timely and correctly. Although Mr. Vermillion did not believe that Plaintiff's termination was necessary at this point, he did make this a final written warning because he viewed the violations as severe. Again, Plaintiff signed the Employee Counseling Form acknowledging that she read the disciplinary action and did not place any remarks on the form.
On November 11, 2011, Mr. Vermillion ended his employment with Belcourt to work elsewhere. He was replaced by Luis Jimenez, who became the Interim Administrator.
Shortly after taking the reigns, Mr. Jimenez completed an employee evaluation for Plaintiff. That evaluation, dated November 17, 2011, gave Plaintiff an overall score of 74% (out of a possible 100%), and rated her as "dependable most of the time" in the Dependability category. In the comments section, Mr. Jimenez wrote that as "Administrator [he] "had only a week and a half to know Melinda, " and that he would "potentially do another eval early in the [next] year." (Docket No. 13-1 at 36).
However, four days later, and after consultation with Ms. Adkins and Carol Johnson, the Quality Assurance Nurse for American Health Foundation,  Mr. Jimenez, in conjunction with Ms. Adkins, performed another evaluation. This time, Plaintiff received an overall score of 60, and was rated as "ordinarily dependable." In the comments section, Mr. Jimenez wrote "MD visits, MD visits to bill, ICD-9 coding, filing, certs dates not right, frequently asks for other's assistance [and] discharge summaries are incomplete and out of compliance." (Docket No. 21-4 at 2).
The day after the November 21, 2011 evaluation, Plaintiff was given an "Employee Counseling Form" that placed her on a 60-day improvement plan. The plan, signed by both Mr. Jimenez and Ms. Adkins, indicated Plaintiff needed to "improv[e] in the following areas for accuracy, thoroughness and timeliness: MD visits, MD visits to bill, ICD-9 coding, filing certs/re-certs [and] discharge summaries." (Docket No. 13-1 at 32). It also indicated that Plaintiff would be re-educated on "monthly physician visit" and on "the proper way and date to complete recerts and certs." (Id.). Plaintiff was to be "monitored weekly for progress" and was informed that "[i]f all of the issues are not up to par per managment's satisfaction, these will be ground for termination." (Id.). Plaintiff admits signing the form, but claims that she did not write "planning to successfully meet standards, " which appeared in the Employee Remarks section.
With the improvement plan in place, Ms. Adkins was made Plaintiff's supervisor because Mr. Jimenez believed Ms. Adkins had a better understanding of medical records. Up until this time, Plaintiff had no day-to-day interaction with Ms. Adkins.
While Plaintiff was under the improvement plan, Mr. Jimenez and Ms. Adkins met with Plaintiff to educate her on her job responsibilities and review the progress she was making regarding the problems outlined in the plan. Nevertheless, on December 9, 2011, Plaintiff received a written counseling for continuing issues with physician visits and ICD-9 coding. Plaintiff was informed that "[f]urther incidents on action plan shall result in further disciplinary action." (Docket No. 13-1 at 21). Plaintiff signed the form, but no remarks appear in the Employee Remarks section.
On January 6, 2012, Ms. Murphy was issued another written counseling for continuing issues related to physician visits. In the "Summary of Violation" section of the Employee Counseling Form, Ms. Adkins wrote:
Employee is responsible for Dr. visits & Dr. visits for filling. There was [sic] several issues with the physician visits - several missed visits.... Dr. visits for billing was better but still missed one (dated 9/11/11).
(Docket No. 13-1 at 34). Plaintiff was informed that "further incidents of this nature shall result in further disciplinary action[.]" (Id.). Again, Plaintiff signed ...