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Courts v. Correct Care Solutions, LLC

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

July 30, 2019

PATRICIA COURTS, Plaintiff,
v.
CORRECT CARE SOLUTIONS, LLC, Defendant.

          Honorable Aleta A. Trauger, United States District Judge

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          JOE B. BROWN, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Pending before the Court is Defendant's motion for summary judgment. (Doc. No. 42). For the reasons stated below, the Magistrate Judge RECOMMENDS that Defendant's motion for summary judgment be GRANTED and that this action be DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff, Patricia Courts, proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, filed this action against Defendant, Correct Care Solutions, LLC, asserting claims for employment discrimination in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. (Doc. Nos. 1, 22). Plaintiff alleged discrimination based on age, race and retaliation. (Doc. No. 22, p. 16). The District Judge adopted the undersigned's Report and Recommendation to partially grant Defendant's motion to dismiss. (Doc. Nos. 29, 30). As a result, the only remaining claim was a Title VII claim of retaliation “for reporting a co-worker's offensive statements.” (Doc. No. 29, p. 20).

         On April 3, 2019, Defendant filed a motion for summary judgment (Doc. Nos. 42, 43) on the remaining Title VII retaliation claim, contending that (1) Plaintiff cannot establish a prima facie case of Title VII retaliation as a matter of law and (2) that Plaintiff has failed to offer evidence of retaliatory intent. (Doc. No. 42, p. 1). Pursuant to Local Rule of Court 56.01, Defendant contemporaneously filed a Statement of Undisputed Material Facts. (Doc. No. 44). Plaintiff filed a timely response to summary judgment (Doc. No. 45), and following the undersigned's Order directing Plaintiff to Local Rule 56.01 (Doc. No. 49), Plaintiff submitted a Response to Defendant's Statement of Undisputed Material Facts (Doc Nos. 50-52), to which Defendant responded. (Doc. Nos. 53-54).

         II. SUMMARY OF PERTINENT FACTS

         Defendant, Correct Care Solutions, LLC (“CCS”), [1] was a healthcare company that primarily contracted with government entities to arrange for healthcare for inmates at federal, state, and local correctional facilities. (Doc. No. 50, Pl. Resp. to Def.'s Statement of Undisputed Material Facts, ¶ 3). After starting as a temporary contractor in June 2015, Plaintiff, Patricia Courts was hired as a Contract Specialist in CCS's Network Development department in November 2015. (Doc. No. 50, ¶ 1). Contract Specialists help develop and manage relationships with targeted hospitals and providers, who enter into contracts to treat inmates from local jails and state and federal prisons. (Doc. No. 50, ¶ 4; see also Plaintiff Deposition, Ex. 3). Plaintiff performed those duties, in addition to other “interim director” and customer service duties. (Doc. No. 50, ¶ 5).

         In early July 2016, Plaintiff overheard her co-worker Duncan Gibson state on three separate occasions that he was a “redneck” and that it was “stupid to have a female for president, especially Hillary Clinton.” (Doc. No. 50, ¶¶ 7-8).[2] As an African American woman, Plaintiff found the comments offensive and reported Gibson's comments to her direct supervisor, Tracy Blair, and they discussed the comments. (Doc. No. 50, ¶¶ 9-10). After that meeting, Plaintiff sent an email on July 11, 2016 to Blair thanking him for addressing the comments with Gibson. (Doc. No. 42-1, p. 46).[3] Plaintiff also included in the email that she was “doing work at one time or another equated to the contractor, senior manager, and director position in this department” and copied the head of the Network Development department, Vice President Kenya Adams. Id. Plaintiff alleges that this director and manager work was a form of retaliation by Adams for reporting the “redneck” comments. (Doc. No. 42-1, p. 17). Plaintiff also alleges that she was later given customer service work, which no other Contract Specialists had to do, as a retaliation for reporting the “redneck” comments. (Doc. No. 52, Pl. Aff., ¶ 8).

         Between July 11 and July 15, 2016, Adams, who is African American, met with Blair and Plaintiff to discuss the “redneck” comments, the extra work Plaintiff was doing, and a raise or promotion requested by Plaintiff. (Doc. No. 50, ¶¶ 17-18). Adams summarized the meeting in a July 15 email. (Doc. No. 42-1, p. 45). Adams reported that Gibson was to “refrain from using such terms” and that Plaintiff was not eligible for a raise because raises occur in conjunction with annual reviews, which would not occur until November for Plaintiff. (Doc. No. 50, ¶¶ 19-20). In fact, Plaintiff did get a raise with her annual review, but that did not occur until March of the following year. (Doc. No. ¶ 30). In response to Plaintiff's complaint about increased work, which she contends was a report of retaliation, Adams advised Plaintiff on resources for work- life balance and told Plaintiff that she should “always be willing to step in and help” other team members. (Doc. No. 50, ¶¶ 21-22). Notably, Adams' email does not make a connection between the increased work and Plaintiff reporting the “redneck” comments, (Doc. No. 50, ¶ 19), so Plaintiff's affidavit is the only evidence supporting Plaintiff's contention that retaliation was discussed in the meeting with Adams and Blair. (Doc. No. 52, ¶ 6).

         After the meeting, Plaintiff alleges that she faced retaliation for reporting the increased workload as retaliation. (Doc. No. 50, ¶ 24). Plaintiff contends that CCS “significantly decreased” her contracting workload. (Doc. No. 50, ¶ 24). In August, less than a month after the July 15 email, Kenya Adams reorganized those people into two teams: one primarily for Federal Bureau of Prisons (“FBOP”) contracts and one primarily for jail and prison (“JAILS”) contracts. (Doc. No. 42-2, ¶¶ 3-5). In her Declaration, Adams maintains that the reorganization was to “streamline and improve efficiencies within Network Development.” (Doc. No. 42-2, ¶ 5). Adams assigned Gibson and Paulo Viteri to the FBOP team and the other Contract Specialists, including Plaintiff, Pamela Cane, and Bart Cunningham, to the JAILS team. (Doc. No. 50, ¶ 27). Viteri, who had previous experience with FBOP contracts at a competitor, joined the Network Development team to work on FBOP contracts (Doc. No. 50, ¶¶ 25, 27), and his addition siphoned off FBOP contracts from JAILS team members. (Doc. No. 42-2, p. 6). In the remainder of the year after Viteri joined in August, Plaintiff executed fewer FBOP contracts than Pamela Cane, one of her JAILS co-workers, but just as many contracts (9) as her other JAILS co-worker: Bart Cunningham. Id.

         In her 2016 annual review in March 2017, Adams noted that Plaintiff was “in line with the contract productivity standards, in that she is able to execute contract requests within a reasonable time.” (Doc. No. 50, ¶ 30). Furthermore, Plaintiff's number of executed contracts (133) was “slightly above the department average in 2016.” Id. She received a 1.5% raise for “Meeting Standards.” (Doc. No. 50, ¶ 30).

         Plaintiff was discharged on Monday, May 15, 2017. (Doc. No. 50, ¶ 33). Plaintiff alleges that she informed management on the preceding Friday, May 12, 2017 that she was going to file an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) complaint due to her decreased workload following her initial retaliation complaint in July 2016. (Doc. No. 52, ¶ 28). A meeting was scheduled for Monday to discuss the complaint with only Pamela Cane and Adams attending with Plaintiff. (Doc. No. 52, ¶ 16). The other two women were “much larger and aggressive” and became “verbally hostile.” (Doc. No. 52, ¶ 17). Plaintiff left the meeting and the office after the “retaliatory meeting, ” and was discharged later that day, allegedly for job abandonment and insubordination. (Doc. No. 50, ¶ 34). Plaintiff filed a Charge of Discrimination (“Charge”) with the EEOC, which issued a Dismissal and Notice of Rights on May 24, 2017. (Doc. No. 22, p. 15).

         III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         To prevail on a motion for summary judgment, the movant must show that “there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A genuine dispute of material fact exists if a “reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). The movant may successfully support its motion by showing that “the nonmoving party has failed to make a sufficient showing on an essential element of her case with respect to which she has the burden of proof.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). To defeat the motion, the nonmovant must provide more than “a mere ‘scintilla' of evidence in support of [her] position.” Tingle v. Arbors at Hilliard, 692 F.3d 523, 529 (6th Cir. 2012) (citing Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252). Finally, “[w]hen ruling on a motion for summary judgment, a court must consider the evidence ‘in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion.'” Risher v. Lappin, 639 F.3d 236, 239 (6th Cir. 2011) (quoting Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587-88 (1986)).

         IV. ...


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