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Johnson v. Bryson

November 5, 2007

DAWN V. JOHNSON PLAINTIFF
v.
CELESTINA BRYSON, ET AL. DEFENDANTS



MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Pending is Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (docket entry #44). Plaintiff has responded (#52). For the reasons set forth below, the Motion is GRANTED.

I. Undisputed Facts

University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences ("UAMS") hired the Plaintiff, Dawn Johnson, to work as a Patient Services Associate ("PSA") on floors 6B and 4A of the hospital. As a PSA, Plaintiff was responsible for performing basic nurses' aide functions and also performing secretarial or telemetry monitoring. The Plaintiff's regular hours were Monday through Friday from 10:30 p.m. to 6:30 a.m. Plaintiff is an African-American female.

From December, 2004, until July, 2005, Defendant Conners, a white female, was Plaintiff's immediate supervisor. During that time, Defendant Conners received complaints from staff about Plaintiff's refusal to complete work assigned to her. As a result, Defendant Conners gave Johnson several disciplinary notices.

In July, 2005, UAMS hired Defendant Bryson, a black female, to manage operations on floors 6B and 4A. Generally, Johnson had been assigned to work on 6B. However, when Defendant Bryson became supervisor, because of staff shortages at night, Plaintiff was often re-directed to work on 4A. Defendant Bryson often received complaints from the nursing staff when the Plaintiff was assigned to work on 4A.

Plaintiff received four disciplinary notices from Bryson leading to her termination. The first, dated September 23, 2005, reprimanded Plaintiff for repeatedly calling in sick. The second, dated January 11, 2006, addressed Plaintiff's behavior and advised Plaintiff of the importance of completing her assigned tasks. The third, on April 2, 2006, disciplined Plaintiff for her continued refusal to complete tasks that were her responsibility and for excessive absences. The final disciplinary notice dated April 21, 2006, reprimanded Plaintiff for continued insubordination. The April 21st notice resulted in Plaintiff's termination.

On June 5, 2006, Plaintiff filed an EEOC charge related to her termination. In the charge, Plaintiff claimed that she was terminated because of her race and sex in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII") and because of her disability in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 ("ADA").

II. Summary Judgment Standard

Summary judgment is appropriate when the evidence, viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, presents no genuine issue of material fact. FED. R.CIV. P. 56; Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 246 (1986). The party opposing summary judgment may not rest upon the allegations set forth in its pleadings, but must produce significant probative evidence demonstrating a genuine issue for trial. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248-49; see also Hartnagel v. Norman, 953 F.2d 394, 395-96 (8th Cir.1992). "[T]he mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material fact." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 247-48 (emphasis omitted). If the opposing party fails to carry that burden or fails to establish the existence of an essential element of its case on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial, summary judgment should be granted. See Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322.

III. Analysis

A. Race Discrimination

Plaintiff claims she was terminated based on her race, African-American. To establish a prima facie case of discrimination under Title VII, Plaintiff must show:

(1) she is a member of a protected class; (2) she met her employer's legitimate expectations; (3) she suffered a materially adverse employment action; and (4) similarly situated employees who were not members of the protected class were treated more favorably. Higgins v. Gonzales, 481 F.3d 578, 584 (8th Cir. 2007). Once a prima facie case is established, a rebuttable presumption of discrimination arises and the burden then shifts to the employer to articulate a legitimate nondiscriminatory business reason for its actions. McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U .S. 792, 802, 93 S.Ct. 1817 (1973). Once such a reason is produced, "the presumption disappears and the [plaintiff] bears the burden of proving that the proffered reason was pretextual and the real reason for the [adverse employment action] was discrimination." Thomas v. First Nat'l Bank, 111 F.3d 64 (8th Cir. 1997).

The Court finds that Plaintiff has established only the first and third elements of a prima facie case of race discrimination. She is a member of a protected class and she was terminated from her employment with UAMS. However, the second and fourth elements are problematic for the Plaintiff. There is no admissible evidence in the record that Plaintiff met her employer's legitimate expectations.*fn1 On the other hand, Defendants have put ample evidence into the record, including affidavits from Plaintiff's former supervisors referencing disciplinary notices and ...


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