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Mckinney v. Bayshore Health Care At Meridian

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

December 13, 2017




         Presently before the Court is Defendant Hackensack Meridian's motion for Summary Judgment dismissal of Plaintiff Gloria McKinney's Complaint. (ECF No. 64). In an earlier order, the Court granted in part and denied in part Defendant's Motion to Dismiss, under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). (ECF No. 28). Plaintiff's remaining claims allege: (1) race discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964; (2) age discrimination under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA); and (3) unlawful retaliation under Title VII and the ADEA. (Id.). For the reasons discussed below, Defendant's motion for summary judgment will be granted.


         Plaintiff Gloria McKinney is a sixty-three year old African American, who has worked for Bayshore Health Care (hereinafter, “Bayshore”) as a Nutritional Services Supervisor (hereinafter, “supervisor”) since October 1999. (Defendant's Statement of Material Facts [SOMF] at ¶¶ 3, 9). Supervisors work in one of two shifts: opening and closing. (Id. at ¶¶ 17-18). Opening shifts begin at 5:30 or 6:30 AM and end at approximately 2:00 PM, while closing shifts begin at 11:30 AM and end at approximately 8:00 PM. (Id. at ¶ 18).

         Beginning in April 2013, Bayshore's Director of Nutritional Services, Laura Perez, and Administrator, William Hamilton, required all supervisors to rotate between working the opening and closing shifts (hereinafter, “Operational Decision”). (Id. at ¶¶ 11-12, 36). However, prior to this decision, Plaintiff only worked the morning shift and complained to Perez about working evening shifts, since the closing supervisors do not do their jobs and she “has to pick up all the slack.” (Id. at ¶¶ 39-40). Apparently, Perez responded, “that's your nature.” That response offended Plaintiff; however, in a subsequent meeting between Plaintiff, Perez, and Hamilton, Perez apologized to Plaintiff for any comment she made that may have offended her. (Id. at ¶¶ 41, 44).

         Nevertheless, Plaintiff later filed a complaint with Human Resources in April 2013 about Perez's “that's your nature” comment and being required to work closing shifts. (Id. at ¶ 45; ECF No. 64-14). Claudia Myers, a Meridian Team Member Relations Specialist, then investigated the issues raised in Plaintiff's complaint. (Id. at ¶ 45). After discussing the issues with Perez and Hamilton, Myers expressed to Plaintiff that Perez's comments were not meant to insult her and noted that Perez had apologized to her. In addition, Myers explained to Plaintiff that, contrary to her assertion, she was not the only “closing supervisor, ” and identified two other individuals who were also required to work closing shifts. (Id. at ¶¶ 53-55). Finally, although Plaintiff apparently took issue with the fact that another employee was not required to assume closing shifts, Myers explained that the other employee was an “Assistant Director, ” not a “Supervisor” and, as such, was not required to work closing shifts. (Id.). Plaintiff does not claim to have been disciplined or adversely affected in any way.

         In July 2015, Plaintiff was summoned to a meeting with Hamilton, Perez, and Beverly Osbourne, the Director of Nursing. (Id. at ¶ 66). Apparently, a patient within Bayshore's Dementia Unit suffered seafood allergies and was inadvertently served clam chowder soup. (Id. at ¶ 62). This was the second time that a patient was served food that he was allergic to, and Plaintiff was the on-duty supervisor for both incidents. (Id. at ¶¶ 63-64). The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the process of ensuring that patients were served food consistent with their dietary restrictions and to prevent future mistakes. (Id. at ¶ 66). However, Plaintiff denied any wrongdoing or error in her supervision of the patient's food tray; and claimed that she felt she was being “picked on” by Hamilton because she was African American. (Id. at ¶ 67). Plaintiff claimed that other non-African American employees made similar food tray mistakes, but were not singled out by management. (Id. at ¶ 68).

         Plaintiff's allegation of discrimination triggered another internal investigation by Myers and Brad Viola, Bayshore Relations Manager. (Id. at ¶ 70). In an interview between Viola and Plaintiff, Plaintiff also claimed that other “white” supervisors were assigned fewer closing shifts than she was. (Id. at ¶ 77). This being said, Viola confirmed that, contrary to Plaintiff's assertion, another Caucasian employee was confronted by Perez after inadvertently serving mushroom soup to a patient with mushroom allergies. (Id. at ¶ 79). Similarly, Viola and Myers compared Plaintiff's work schedule with her fellow supervisors and concluded that her claims that she worked more closing shifts were unsubstantiated. (Id. at ¶ 80).

         Since August 1, 2015, Bayshore has employed five other supervisors, all of whom have worked significantly more closing shifts than Plaintiff. (ECF Nos. 64-23 to 64-29). In addition to working fewer closing shifts than any other supervisor, Plaintiff has also earned the highest annual salary than any other supervisor. (SOMF at ¶¶ 95, 97, 99, 101, and 103).


         Summary judgment is appropriate under Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c) when the moving party demonstrates that there is no genuine issue of material fact and the evidence establishes the moving party's entitlement to judgment as a matter of law. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). A factual dispute is genuine if a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-movant, and it is material if, under the substantive law, it would affect the outcome of the suit. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). In considering a motion for summary judgment, a district court may not make credibility determinations or engage in any weighing of the evidence; instead, the non-moving party's evidence “is to be believed and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor.” Marino v. Indus. Crating Co., 358 F.3d 241, 247 (3d Cir. 2004) (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255).

         Once the moving party has satisfied its initial burden, the party opposing the motion must establish that a genuine issue as to a material fact exists. Jersey Cent. Power & Light Co. v. Lacey Twp., 772 F.2d 1103, 1109 (3d Cir. 1985). The party opposing the motion for summary judgment cannot rest on mere allegations and instead must present actual evidence that creates a genuine issue as to a material fact for trial. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248; Siegel Transfer, Inc. v. Carrier Express, Inc., 54 F.3d 1125, 1130-31 (3d Cir. 1995). “[U]nsupported allegations . . . and pleadings are insufficient to repel summary judgment.” Schoch v. First Fid. Bancorp., 912 F.2d 654, 657 (3d Cir. 1990); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e) (requiring nonmoving party to “set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial”). Moreover, only disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the lawsuit under governing law will preclude the entry of summary judgment. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 247-48. If a court determines, “after drawing all inferences in favor of [the non-moving party], and making all credibility determinations in his favor. . . that no reasonable jury could find for him, summary judgment is appropriate.” Alevras v. Tacopina, 226 F. App'x 222, 227 (3d Cir. 2007).

         Although pro se pleadings are “liberally construed” and “held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers, ” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted), “a pro se plaintiff is not exempt from his burden of providing some affirmative evidence, i.e. not just mere allegations, to establish a prima facie case, and to show that there is a genuine dispute for trial.” Niblack v. Murray, No. 12-6910, ...

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