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King v. Arkansas Children's Hospital

September 27, 2006


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Garnett Thomas Eisele United States District Judge


Presently before the Court is Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment.

I. Background

At the time of her discharge, Plaintiff Marie King, an African-American female, worked as a medical secretary in Arkansas Children's Hopsital ("ACH") in the Ear Nose & Throat ("ENT") Clinic.*fn1 At the time of her termination, Plaintiff King was assigned to assist Dr. Lisa Buckmiller with administrative duties and was supervised by Tammy Webb.*fn2 Ms. Webb was the Director of the ENT and Eye Clinics at ACH, and reported to Carol Graham, Vice President of Ambulatory Services.*fn3 On July 19, 2005, Ms. Webb received a complaint from Sandra Steinert, the Project Coordinator for Ambulatory Care Services, that Plaintiff's blouse was too low cut.*fn4

Thereafter, Plaintiff received a voicemail from Tammy Webb regarding the alleged visible cleavage.*fn5 Plaintiff called Ms. Webb back because she wanted to go to Ms. Webb's office to discuss the matter further.*fn6

During the meeting in Ms. Webb's office, Plaintiff King asked "So you are honestly telling me that you can see down in my blouse with me standing in front of you."*fn7 Ms. Webb stated that she could not see any cleavage while Plaintiff was standing, but could see down her blouse when she was standing over Plaintiff King at King's work station.*fn8 Plaintiff proceeded to tell Ms. Webb, "I don't think my blouse is inappropriate," "This is ridiculous," and that "I was going to do something about it."*fn9 Plaintiff admits, "I proceeded to grab the center of my blouse and show her what cleavage was, without exposing my breast," and stated to Ms. Webb, "This is cleavage."*fn10 Plaintiff King also admits that she "showed a couple of inches of cleavage."*fn11 However, Ms. Webb claims that she exposed her entire breasts.*fn12 Ms. Webb informed Plaintiff King that this was insubordinate behavior.*fn13 Plaintiff King left Ms. Webb's office and went to Ms. Graham's office, but she was not in.*fn14 Plaintiff King told Sandy Taylor, the Director of Ambulatory Services, that she knew she was in trouble because Ms. Webb told her that she was insubordinate when she flashed her breasts at her.*fn15 Ms. King then pulled her blouse down in Ms. Taylor's office and showed her what she did in Ms. Webb's office.*fn16

On July 20, 2005, after speaking with Ms. Webb, Ms. Brantley (an attorney who serves as Employee Relations Manager at ACH),*fn17 Ms. Taylor, and Ms. King, Ms. Graham determined that even if she believed King's precise version of the events, including that she did not call Ms. Webb a "liar" and did not completely expose her breasts, Ms. King's conduct warranted discharge.*fn18 Ms. Graham, who made the final decision to discharge Ms. King, informed Plaintiff King that her employment was terminated for insubordinate behavior, and emphasized that her discharge was not for her attire.*fn19

On October 4, 2005, Plaintiff King filed her Complaint in this matter alleging that her termination was the result of discrimination on the basis of race and color in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e. Plaintiff also seeks compensation for "slander, false humiliation, accusations, and mental anguish."

II. Summary Judgment Standard

Summary judgment is appropriate only when, in reviewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, there is no genuine issue as to any material fact, so that the dispute may be decided solely on legal grounds. Holloway v. Lockhart, 813 F.2d 874 (8th Cir. 1987); Fed. R. Civ. P. 56. The Supreme Court has established guidelines to assist trial courts in determining whether this standard has been met:

The inquiry performed is the threshold inquiry of determining whether there is a need for trial-- whether, in other words, there are genuine factual issues that properly can be resolved only by a finder of fact because they may reasonably be resolved in favor of either party.

Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986).

The Eighth Circuit set out the burdens of the parties in connection with a summary judgment motion in Counts v. M.K. Ferguson Co., 862 F.2d 1338 (8th Cir. 1988):

[T]he burden on the party moving for summary judgment is only to demonstrate, i.e., '[to] point[] out to the District Court,'that the record does not disclose a genuine dispute on a material fact. It is enough for the movant to bring up the fact that the record does not contain such an issue and to identify that part of the record which bears out his assertion. Once this is done, his burden is discharged, and, if the record in fact bears out the claim that no genuine dispute exists on any material fact, it is then the respondent's burden to set forth affirmative evidence, specific facts, showing that there is a genuine dispute on that issue. If the respondent fails to carry that burden, summary judgment should be granted.

Id. at 1339 (quoting City of Mt. Pleasant v. Associated Elec. Coop., 838 F.2d 268, 273-74 (8th Cir. 1988)) (citations ...

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