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Johnson v. Searcy Health Care

May 7, 2007


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Susan Webber Wright United States District Judge


Plaintiff Joann Johnson brings this employment discrimination action against her former employer, Searcy Health Care, LLC ("Searcy"), claiming that Searcy terminated her employment because of her race in violation of Title VII, as amended by the Civil Rights Act of 1991. Before the Court is Searcy's motion for summary judgment (docket entry #34, #35). The time for responding has passed, and Johnson has failed to file a response. After careful consideration, and for the reasons that follow, summary judgment will be entered in favor of Searcy, and this action will be dismissed with prejudice.


Summary judgment is appropriate when "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 judgment as a matter of law. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). As a prerequisite to summary judgment, a moving party must demonstrate "an absence of evidence to support the non-moving party's case." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325 (1986). Once the moving party has properly supported its motion for summary judgment, the non-moving party must "do more than simply show there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). The non-moving party may not rest on mere allegations or denials of his pleading but must "come forward with 'specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'" Id. at 587 (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e)).


The following facts are undisputed and, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from Searcy's statement of material facts.*fn1 Searcy operates a 245-bed nursing home facility that provides long-term healthcare to elderly residents. Johnson, who is black, worked for Searcy as a licensed practicing nurse. Her duties included supervising nurses assistants and caring for residents.

On September 26, 2005, Shane Phipps ("Phipps"), a grandson of one of Searcy's residents, lodged a complaint against Johnson. Phipps told Johnson's supervisor, Donna Golden ("Golden"), that while he was visiting his grandmother, Johnson rudely commanded him to leave the facility and never return.

Pursuant to Searcy's procedures, when a complaint is lodged against a nursing home employee, that employee is suspended pending an investigation. If the investigation reveals that the employee is innocent of misconduct, he or she is reinstated and reimbursed for lost wages.

After meeting with Phipps, Golden informed Johnson that she would be suspended pending an investigation of Phipps's complaint. In her defense, Johnson told Golden that Phipps had been harassing nurses aides. Golden instructed Johnson to call her the next day, September 27, 2005.

Golden interviewed staff members who worked during the shift when Phipps claimed Johnson expelled him from the nursing home. None of the staff members interviewed corroborated Johnson's account that Phipps harassed nurses aides. Golden received no communication from Johnson on September 27, 2005.

On September 28, 2005, Golden instructed her assistant, Ashley Thomley ("Thomley"), to contact Johnson and schedule a meeting. Thomley called Johnson's home and left a voice message instructing Johnson to meet with Golden at 1:00 p.m. the same day. Johnson did not appear for the 1:00 meeting.

On September 29, 2005, Johnson's husband called Thomley and scheduled an appointment for his wife to meet with Golden that afternoon at 3:00 p.m. Later that day, at approximately 3:00 p.m., Thomley informed Golden, who was concluding an in-service meeting, that Johnson had arrived at the nursing home and was requesting her paycheck. Golden instructed Thomley to tell Johnson that she would meet with her "in a few minutes." Docket entry #35, Ex. #4. Minutes later, Thomley reported to Golden that Johnson stated to her that she was mad and "didn't care about no damn meeting." Docket entry #35, Ex. #4, ¶ 23; Ex. #11.

Golden consulted Rudy Furr, Searcy's administrator, and the two determined that Johnson should be terminated for refusing to cooperate with Golden's investigation regarding Phipps's complaint. Docket entry #35, ¶ 26. On October 3, 2005, Golden advised Johnson that she had been terminated as of September 29, 2005 for failure to cooperate with the investigation.

After exhausting administrative remedies, Johnson commenced this lawsuit, claiming that Searcy terminated her ...

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