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Edwards v. Vanderbilt University Medical Center

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

June 1, 2018




         This matter comes before the Court on Vanderbilt University Medical Center's motion for summary judgment, filed on November 8, 2017. (Doc. No. 29.) LaShawn Edwards has not responded to that motion or to the Court's order to show cause why this case should not be dismissed for her failure to do so (Doc. No. 40). For that reason, Vanderbilt University Medical Center's motion for summary judgment will be granted.

         I. Procedural Background

         Edwards filed the Complaint alleging employment discrimination and retaliation in violation of the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) in Davidson County Circuit Court on August 17, 2017. (Doc. No. 1-1.) Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) removed the action to this Court on October 3, 2016 (Doc. No. 1), and answered Edwards's complaint (Doc. No. 20.) Shortly after the action arrived in this Court, Edwards's attorney was suspended from the practice of law.

         The Court issued an order advising Edwards that she must obtain new counsel or go forward in this action representing herself. (Doc. No. 10.) Unable to find counsel in the time allowed by the Court, Edwards moved for additional time to obtain counsel which the Court granted. (Doc. Nos. 12, 13.) Edwards never retained a new attorney. The Court set a case management conference on March 8, 2017, to set a schedule for the litigation. (Doc. No. 16.) Edwards did not appear for that conference, and the Court's case management order was returned as undeliverable. (Doc. No. 24.) Edwards filed no change of address with the Court. However, on May 31, 2017, VUMC notified the Court of a new mailing address for Edwards. (Doc. No. 26.)

         On November 8, 2017, VUMC filed its motion for summary judgment. (Doc. No. 29.) The Court held a telephonic status conference with the parties on November 9, 2017, during which Edwards stated that she had not received certain orders of the Court. The Court directed the Clerk to send Edwards the orders she had not received, and a receipt reflecting that Edwards received the Court's orders by certified mail was filed on November 20, 2017. (Doc. No. 36.)

         Edwards has made no filings since the telephonic status conference. Because Edwards did not timely respond to VUMC's motion for summary judgment, VUMC filed a reply requesting that the Court consider its motion unopposed and grant the motion under Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e). (Doc. No. 37.) On May 2, 2018, the Court issued an order to show cause notifying Edwards that this matter is set for trial on June 26, 2018, and affording her fourteen days from the date of that order to explain why VUMC's motion for summary judgment should not be granted as unopposed. (Doc. No. 40.) Edwards was forewarned that her failure to respond would likely result in a recommendation that summary judgment be entered against her and this matter be dismissed. (Id.)

         The order to show cause was sent by certified mail to the address where Edwards had received prior mailings (Doc. No. 41), but was returned as undeliverable (Doc. No. 42). Edwards has not submitted any change of address to the Court. However, because the undelivered certified mail included a forwarding address for Edwards, the Clerk's office re-sent the order to show cause to Edwards at that address and received confirmation that Edwards received it on May 18, 2018. (Doc. Nos. 43, 44.) Edwards has filed nothing in response.

         II. Statement of Facts

         In her complaint, Edwards, who is an African-American woman, alleged that she was hired by VUMC as a surgery scheduler on or around March 8, 2004; that at the time she was hired, Sherry Knicks was the Director of Human Resources, Brenda Sandlin was her manager, Lori Graves was her immediate supervisor; and, beginning around 2008, Carolyn Manness was her supervisor.[1] (Doc. No. 1, PageID# 5.) In March 2011, Edwards was experiencing computer problems, which caused her to schedule patients on the wrong days. She informed Graves of the computer problem but nothing was done to fix it. (Id.) Edwards received a disciplinary “write-up” for failing to properly schedule patients and her yearly evaluation score was lowered, although the disciplinary write-up was rescinded after “Informatics” diagnosed the problem with Edwards computer and told Graves about it. (Id.)

         Sometimes in 2012, Edwards' co-worker, Lisa Larsens, was speaking with Edwards and stated that something looked too “n ----- ish.” (Id. at PageID# 6.) Edwards reported Larsens' conduct to Grave and made Larsens apologize to Edwards, however, Graves did not discipline Larsen. (Id.) Also in 2012, Edwards trained Sandra Sangren and another person on a “new system.” (Id. at 6.) When Edwards tried to correct an error Sangren made, Sangren became angry and yelled at Edwards. (Id.) Edwards was called into Graves' office to discuss the incident. (Id.) Edwards filed two complaints with Veritas, an online complaint system, but did not receive a response to either complaint. (Id.) Edwards was later told by a co-worker that Manness had “tossed” her complaints. (Id.)

         Around June 2013, because she was the sole scheduler, Edwards asked Graves for a raise. (Id.) Her request was denied. (Id.) In August, Edwards had “a breakdown” at work. (Id.) Edwards was sent to the Employee Assistance Program, which referred her to a program at Vanderbilt Psychiatric Hospital. (Id.) At the end of the program, Edwards told her counselor that she was not “mentally ready” to return to work. Edwards' counselor requested a ninety-day extension of Edwards' time off. (Id.) Apparently the extension was granted, but around the sixty day mark, VUMC began contacting Edwards asking her when she planned to return to work. (Id.)

         Edwards returned to work around October 28, 2013, at which time she asked Graves if she could work from home. (Id.) Graves denied her request. (Id.) Manness disagreed with Graves and told Edwards she would “get back to her, ” but Manness failed to get back to her. (Id.) Edwards learned that the “main schedule, Kizzy Hayes” worked from home. (Id.) Edwards contacted human resources and spoke to Knicks who told Edwards and that Manness never asked about whether Edwards could work from home. (Id.) Caucasian employees with the same job title as Edwards were allowed to work from home.

         In November 2013, Edwards “was assaulted at work by another co-worker.” (Id. at PageID# 7.) Edwards reported the incident but the employee was not disciplined. (Id.) Throughout her employment, Edwards was disciplined for things for which other non-African-American workers were not disciplined. (Id.) Commencing on March 5, 2014, Edwards went on FMLA medical leave. (Id.) Edwards was advised to return to work by June 7, 2014. (Id.) On September 23, 2014, Edwards was placed on paid administrative leave pending an investigation into her alleged misconduct, but Edwards contends she was placed on administrative leave in retaliation for taking FMLA medical leave. (Id.) In the Complaint, Edwards ...

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