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Coleman v. Parallon Enterprises Inc.

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

September 29, 2017

DEMETRIUS COLEMAN, PAMELA BROOKS, DELANO PORCHIA, and CAMILLE BRITTON
v.
PARALLON ENTERPRISES INC. Formerly known as HSS SYSTEMS, LLC.

          MEMORANDUM

          Jeffery S. Frensley U.S. Magistrate Judge.

         Defendant, Parallon Enterprises, Inc. (“Parallon”) has filed Motions for Summary Judgment as to the named Plaintiffs (Docket Nos. 48, 51, 54 and 57), to which Plaintiffs have filed a consolidated Response in Opposition (Docket No. 87-1), and Parallon filed replies (Docket Nos. 93, 95, 97 and 99). For the reasons stated herein the motions will be GRANTED.

         BACKGROUND

         A. Procedural History

         Each of the Plaintiffs was employed by Parallon in a division known as the Provider Enrollment Department. The Plaintiffs contend that discriminatory practices and policy enforcement by management resulted in the creation of a hostile work environment ultimately changing the racial demographics of the entire department from majority African American to majority Caucasian following a statement made by the department director of his intention to “change the face of provider enrollment” in 2010. From 2011 through 2012, Plaintiffs contend that 100% of the terminated employees were African American including the Plaintiffs who were terminated for various reasons. Plaintiffs allege that their terminations were discriminatory and as evidence point in part to the statement of “changing the face of the department.” Parallon has moved for summary judgment on all Plaintiffs' claims.

         B. Facts

         The Plaintiffs were all employees of the Provider Enrollment Department which is a division of Defendant Parallon that assists healthcare providers to enroll with insurance companies, Medicare and Medicaid to receive compensation for services provided through programs of those payment entities. During the Plaintiffs' employment the Provider Enrollment Department was split into divisions grouped by states. Each group had a manager, two or three Enrollment Coordinator Team Leads (“Team Lead”) and multiple Credentialing Specialists. The manager had overall responsibility for the division while the team leads were responsible for a subset of states or processes within the division and the Credentialing Specialists prepared and submitted credentialing applications and supporting documentation in order to enroll physicians and physician groups with payers.

         In the fall of 2008, Dennis Cook, became the Director of Provider Enrollment. At that time, the workforce of the department was 70% African American. In late 2010, Mr. Cook declared a department initiative to “change the face of provider enrollment.” In the two years subsequent to that statement each of the Plaintiffs were terminated though Mr. Cook was not involved in the decision to terminate all of the Plaintiffs' employment.

         1. Camille Britton

         Camille Britton, an African American female, was hired on February 7, 2006 as a Credentialing Specialist in the Provider Enrollment Department. She was promoted to the position of Team Lead on October 8, 2009. From 2006 until 2009, Ms. Britton reported to three different managers. During that time she was repeatedly counseled regarding unscheduled absences and tardies and disciplined seven times for failing to correct the pattern. She received two final written warnings and was placed on a Performance Improvement Plan (“PIP”) all related to her attendance issues. In 2012, she reported to another supervisor who issued additional disciplinary action for attendance problems. During this time, the Defendant allowed Ms. Britton to change her schedule on multiple occasions to address her attendance issues.

         In late 2010, Britton began reporting to a new manager. On January 4, 2011, she was issued a final written warning and three day suspension for an unscheduled absence in violation of her work schedule agreement from October 2010. Following her employee performance review in March 2011, again noting concerns about attendance; at Britton's request the Defendant agreed to modify her work schedule. On August 3, 2011, Britton was issued her fourth final written warning for attendance issues but she continued to have attendance problems culminating on November 3, 2011 when she was again late to work.

         In March 2011, Ms. Britton was approved for intermittent FMLA leave related to the health of her son. That leave was granted by the defendant and utilized by Ms. Britton on multiple occasions. On November 3, 2011, Ms. Britton sent her manager an email stating the following:

Will you please clock me in at 9:10? My Kronos was locked out this morning. I also called you because I was caught in traffic on the exit ramp.

         On November 4, 2011 Ms. Britton's manager recommended her termination to the Director of Provider Enrollment, Dennis Cook, and the Human Resources Manager both of whom agreed with the recommendation and Ms. Britton was terminated based on her pattern of poor performance not corrected through various counselings, schedule changes and prior disciplinary action.

         2. Pamela Brooks

         Pamela Brooks, an African American female, was hired in 2006 and was promoted in 2009 to a Team Leader positon. Prior to her promotion she was rated as “needs improvement” in the category of “teamwork” on her annual performance review. In her first evaluation after becoming a Team Leader, she again revived a rating of “needs improvement” this time in the area of “completes work in a timely manner.” Following a restructuring in 2010, Ms. Brooks received a new supervisor who had concerns with the manner in which Ms. Brooks communicated in person and by email with her subordinates. Brooks received several disciplinary actions culminating in a final written warning on June 17, 2011 for sending confidential and sensitive information to other employees by email. She received an overall rating of “needs improvement” on her July 20, 2011, performance review. Despite acknowledging the concerns of her supervisors and committing to meeting the job expectations, Ms. Brooks received a final warning and three day suspension on January 17, 2012, as a result of two incidences occurring in December and January wherein she took positions with and made statements to non-supervisory employees that were inconsistent with the goals and objectives of the company and undermined management. Brooks continued to exhibit a lack of leadership and good judgment ultimately resulting in her supervisor recommending her termination to the then director of Provider Enrollment, Amie Hamtil and Director of Human Resources, Kathyrn Mastin, both of whom agreed with the recommendation. Ms. Brooks was terminated for failing to demonstrate good judgment and leadership, failing to improve the work environment and unprofessional and ineffective communication skills.

         3. Demetrius Coleman

         Demetrius Coleman, an African American female, was hired by Parallon in 2004 as a Credentialing Specialist. She was promoted to a Team Lead position in 2008 and ultimately selected for special assignment as the Medicare Team Leader. Ms. Coleman's annual performance review in 2005 rated her as “needs improvement” in the areas of “business ethics” and “teamwork.” Her then manager, Shelia Chappell, an African American, indicated that Ms. Coleman “need[ed] to manage her anger better, ” “need[ed] to be cautious with her behavior and more reasonable, less disrespectful for policies and standards, and towards management, ” and “[needed to] have a professional relationship with her peers and management and remove intolerance she might have toward them due to issues she has with them personally.”

         Upon her promotion in 2008 to the position of Team Lead, Ms. Coleman's then manager rated her as “needs improvement” in the area of “gives and welcomes feedback” indicating she lacked skills in giving constructive feedback and needed to continue to work on delivery of coaching, and maintaining a professional approach in dealing with errors found in the department. Following her 2008 annual performance review, several employees complained about her management-style and in early 2010, her supervisory responsibilities were taken away from her though she experienced no change in title, pay or benefits. Notwithstanding her prior difficulties with supervision, her supervisor in 2010, Provider Enrollment Manager, Shirley Roberts, gave her a special assignment as the Medicare Team Lead. In July of 2010, Roberts gave Coleman a performance review noting concerns with Coleman's workplace behavior and interactions with other employees. Coleman received another performance review in September of 2010 with additional concerns regarding her interaction with other employees. Following that review, Roberts continued to have concerns with Coleman's workplace behavior and professionalism. Roberts continued to coach Ms. Coleman but nonetheless still received complaints from employees regarding Ms. Coleman's unprofessional behavior and management style.

         In January 2012, Roberts was advised by another manager that Coleman had openly celebrated the Department Director's reassignment advising staff that the director was demoted and that the new director would discover that Ms. Roberts was incompetent and she would be gone as well. Three days later, after asking Ms. Coleman to explain while she had missed an enrollment related conference call Coleman's response which included pointing her finger at Roberts and yelling at her in front of other employees, resulted in Roberts feeling threatened by Coleman. As a result, Roberts recommended Coleman's termination to the Director of Provider Enrollment, Dennis Cook and Director of Human Resources both of whom agreed with the recommendation resulting in Coleman's termination.

         4. Delano Porchia

         Delano Porchia, an African American male, was hired by Defendant on June 25, 2007 as a Credentialing Specialist. In his annual performance review in 2008, Porchia was rated by his then African American supervisor as “needs improvement” in the area of “quality” noting that his work was at times less accurate and thorough than required, that he did not always apply the feedback he received to improve performance or adequately monitor his work. After voluntarily resigning his employment in 2008, Mr. Porchia was rehired in February of 2009. In December 2009, he was placed on a Performance Improvement Plan by his new manager who was also African American, for failing to meet the department productivity benchmarks. In 2010, Ms. Roberts became Mr. Porchia's manager and noted in his September 2010 performance review that he continued to not meet productivity standards and have problems with accuracy in his records. In February 2011, Mr. Porchia was issued another employee performance review continuing to note his failure to meet departmental standards in productivity and while he made some improvements in his day to day productivity he continued to have issues with follow up and inaccuracy in his records. In March 2012, Roberts issued Mr. Porchia a written warning and three day suspension for continuing to work below productivity and quality standards and ultimately placed him on a Performance Improvement Plan. Based upon Mr. Porchia's failure to achieve the productivity and quality expectations set out in the performance plan, Roberts recommended Mr. Porchia's termination to Director of Provider Enrollment, Amie Hamtil and Director of Human Resources, who agreed with the recommendation. On May 8, 2012, Mr. Porchia was terminated for failing to successfully complete his PIP.

         ANALYSIS

         A. Relevant Legal Standards

         1. Motion for Summary Judgment

         Under Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c), summary judgment is appropriate only “if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.” A dispute is “genuine” only if “the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2510, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986).

         In order to prevail on a Motion for summary judgment, the moving party must meet the burden of proving the absence of a genuine issue as to material fact concerning an essential element of the opposing party's claim. Celotex v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 2553, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986); Street v. J.C. Bradford & Co., 886 F.2d 1472, 1477 (6th Cir. 1989). In determining whether the moving party has met its burden, the Court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Matsushita Electric Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 1356, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986).

         Fed. R. Civ. P. 56 provides that the nonmoving party may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials of his or her pleading, but his or her response, by affidavits or otherwise, must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. If a nonmoving party, however, fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial, there is no genuine issue as to any material fact because a complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322-23, 106 S.Ct. at 2552, 91 L.Ed.2d at 273. When this occurs, the moving party is entitled to summary judgment as a matter of law. Id. at 322-23, 106 S.Ct. at 2552; Williams v. Ford Motor Co., 187 F.3d 533, 537-38 (6th Cir. 1999).

         2. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act

         Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects employees from discrimination on the basis of an individual's race, color, religion, sex, or national origin, and provides, in part: It ...


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