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Bryant v. HTI Memorial Hospital Corp.

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

November 15, 2016




         This litigation under (1) Title VII of the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 (“Title VII”), (2) 42 U.S.C. § 1981, and (3) the Tennessee Human Rights Act (“THRA”) arose after Plaintiff Marilyn Bryant was discharged from her employment at Defendant HTI Memorial Hospital Corporation d/b/a TriStar Skyline Madison Campus. These causes of action are based on the allegation that Defendant discriminated against Plaintiff because of her race when Defendant terminated Plaintiff on June 5, 2014. Defendant has filed a Motion for Summary Judgment on all claims, (Docket No. 23), to which Plaintiff has responded, (Docket No. 31), and Defendant has replied, (Docket No. 33). The Court will grant Defendant's Motion and this case will be dismissed.


         The following facts are undisputed unless otherwise noted.

         Defendant is an inpatient and outpatient treatment facility that offers healthcare to adults and adolescents struggling with psychiatric disorders and behavioral concerns. Defendant employed Plaintiff, full-time, as a Registered Nurse (“RN”) from April 26, 2010 to June 5, 2014. Beginning in 2011, Plaintiff worked primarily in Defendant's Adolescent Unit. Plaintiff was also competent and qualified to work in other parts of the hospital too.

         Pam Mitchell (“Ms. Mitchell”), another RN, asked Plaintiff to fill in for her during the day shift on June 5, 2014. Plaintiff agreed. However, on that day and prior to that shift, Ms. Jamie White (“Ms. White”), the nursing supervisor, who oversaw the Adolescent Unit, assigned Plaintiff to float the Adult Unit. While parties dispute specifically how Plaintiff responded to this directive, they agree that Plaintiff's “initial refusal to float resulted in Plaintiff arriving to the Adult Unit 30 minutes late.” (Docket No. 32 at 5). This delay caused an RN working in the Adult Unit to stay after her shift ended. Plaintiff admits that this delay likely caused Defendant to incur overtime compensation costs.

         Ms. White reported this incident to Jill Howard (“Ms. Howard”). Ms. Howard is Defendant's Chief Operating Officer and served as the interim manager of the Adolescent Unit, the unit where Plaintiff primarily worked, from April 28, 2014 to August 11, 2014. Plaintiff was specifically supervised by Ms. Howard from April 28, 2014 until the time of her termination.

         Ms. White relayed to Ms. Howard Plaintiff's delay in arrival to her Adult Unit shift and her initial refusal to float. Ms. Howard confirmed with Penny Mathis, an employee who witnessed Plaintiff's conduct, that these events had occurred. Around this time, Ms. Howard received several other employee complaints about Plaintiff. These complaints accused Plaintiff of being “abusive, rude, confrontational, and a bully toward her coworkers. [They further assert that Plaintiff was] not a ‘team player' and ‘rarely assist[ed] coworkers when needed or requested.'” (Docket No. 32 at 6, ¶ 2). Plaintiff admits that none of these complaints referenced her race in any manner.

         On completion of her investigation, Ms. Howard concluded that Plaintiff's actions had violated Defendant's RN Floating Policy and its Behavioral Standards Policy. Defendant's Floating Policy ensures that patients receive timely and effective care from competent and qualified RNs at all times. Every RN is expected to abide by the RN Floating Policy. All RNs, except certain new hires, are expected to float. According to established practice in the Adolescent Unit, nursing supervisors assign RNs to float to other units. If a nursing supervisor assigns an RN to float, the RN is required to float.

         Defendant's Behavioral Standards Policy outlines expectations relating employee conduct in the workplace. Defendant's “mission statement” for Behavioral Standards is that employees “pledge to treat others with loyalty, respect and dignity.” (Docket No. 32 at 2). In tandem with this mission, bullying is prohibited conduct because employees are expected to “treat others with compassion and kindness.” Id. Plaintiff admits that bullying coworkers and refusing the instructions of supervisors would violate Defendant's Behavioral Standards.

         Ms. Howard expects all of the employees she is responsible for to comply with all of the Defendant's policies and procedures governing the performance of their job duties including the Defendant's Behavioral Standards Policy. Ms. Howard is responsible for disciplining employees who do not meet her performance or behavioral expectations. Because of Plaintiff's above-mentioned conduct, Ms. Howard and Plaintiff met around 2:30 p.m. on June 5, 2014 to discuss a corrective action plan. The plan, which was presented as a final written warning, was as follows:

(1) Going forward, Plaintiff would follow her supervisors' instructions; (2) [t]he Hospital would pay for Plaintiff to attend workplace sensitivity training; and (3) Plaintiff would re-acknowledge the requirements of her RN Job [D]escription and the Hospital's Behavioral Standards.

(Docket No. 32 at 7). Ms. Howard had no intention of terminating Plaintiff going into her June 5, 2014 meeting. During this meeting, Ms. Howard gave Plaintiff a copy of her Employee Corrective Counseling Performance Improvement Plan. As part of this Plan, Ms. Howard asked Plaintiff to re-sign her “job description and the Behavioral Standards [Policy].” (Docket No. 37-6 at 2, ¶ 6). Although Plaintiff admits at her deposition that the expectations, outlined in the RN Job Description and the Behavioral Standards Policy, were reasonable, Plaintiff did not sign these documents because she believed them to be an admission of guilt based on alleged representations made by Ms. Howard. Plaintiff believed it was in her “best interest” not to sign them (although she signed them earlier in her employment) because she denied the accusations that she had bullied others. (Docket No. 32 at 8). Ms. Howard saw this refusal as evidence that Plaintiff would not comply with the obligation required by her job in the future. Ms. Howard then discharged Plaintiff based on her behavior at the June 5th meeting. Plaintiff admits that race was never mentioned in this meeting and that Ms. Howard had never previously acted toward her with racial bias.

         On June 10, 2014, Plaintiff filed a charge of race discrimination against the Defendant with the Tennessee Human Rights Commission and the Employment Equal Opportunity Commission. The only date of discrimination listed in the charge is June 5, 2014, the date of Plaintiff's dismissal. After receiving a “notice of right to sue” on January 22, 2015, Plaintiff filed suit against Defendant on ...

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