United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division
SARA M. STRAHAN, Plaintiff,
BOWEN CENTER, et al., Defendants.
OPINION AND ORDER
DEGUILIO Judge United States District Court
an employment case arising out of plaintiff Sara M.
Strahan's former employment as a mental health technician
with Bowen Center, a mental health care provider. Strahan
alleges that Bowen Center interfered with her rights under
the Family and Medical Leave Act and discriminated against
her on the basis of her race, sex, and age when it terminated
her employment. She filed this suit against Bowen Center and
two of her former supervisors, Kenny Harris and Ginger McKee.
Discovery has now closed and the defendants have moved for
summary judgment, arguing that Strahan cannot establish that
the decision to fire her was based on her membership in any
protected class or that it interfered with her rights under
the FMLA. For the reasons that follow, the Court denies the
motion as to Ms. Strahan's race discrimination claim, but
grants the motion as to the remaining claims.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
summary judgment, the moving party bears the burden of
demonstrating 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
“material” fact is one identified by the
substantive law as affecting the outcome of the suit.
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248
(1986). A “genuine issue” exists with respect to
any material fact when “the evidence is such that a
reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving
party.” Id. Where a factual record taken as a
whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the
non-moving party, there is no genuine issue for trial, and
summary judgment should be granted. Matsushita Elec.
Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587
(1986) (citing Bank of Ariz. v. Cities Servs. Co.,
391 U.S. 253, 289 (1968)). In determining whether a genuine
issue of material fact exists, this Court must construe all
facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and
draw all reasonable and justifiable inferences in that
party's favor. Jackson v. Kotter, 541 F.3d 688,
697 (7th Cir. 2008); King v. Preferred Tech. Grp.,
166 F.3d 887, 890 (7th Cir. 1999). However, the non-moving
party cannot simply rest on the allegations contained in its
pleadings, but must present sufficient evidence to show the
existence of each element of its case on which it will bear
the burden at trial. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477
U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986); Robin v. Espo Eng'g
Corp., 200 F.3d 1081, 1088 (7th Cir. 2000).
recounting the material facts in the case, the Court must
address a plaintiff's burden in responding to a motion
for summary judgment, in light of the bizarre nature of Ms.
Strahan's response brief. For the most part, Ms.
Strahan's response brief copies the defendants'
opening brief verbatim, but with minor alterations to resolve
issues in the opposite direction, and with passing references
to other evidence that Ms. Strahan argues creates disputes of
fact. As one example, the defendants' statement of facts
contains a paragraph discussing multiple instances in which
Ms. Strahan failed to perform her job properly. Ms.
Strahan's response brief includes that entire paragraph
verbatim-including its introduction that “Strahan
repeatedly failed to perform various aspects [of] her regular
job duties appropriately”-but then appends the
following sentence to the end: “One [sic]
again see Strahan and Regan's affidavits, Exhibits B and
A, which contradicts [sic] these statements.”
[DE 31 p. 4].
sort of approach does not satisfy a party's burden of
identifying disputed facts in response to a motion for
summary judgment. Under Rule 56(c)(1), “A party
asserting that a fact . . . is genuinely disputed must
support the assertion by . . . citing to particular parts of
materials in the record . . . .” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1).
That requires more than simply attaching exhibits to a brief
and making blanket assertions that the exhibits create
disputes of fact; it is not the Court's duty to comb
through affidavits to find what portions of those affidavits
contradict which of the many facts in a defendant's
brief. Ms. Strahan's affidavit is seven pages long and
includes nearly 200 pages of exhibits, and the Court need not
attempt to determine what in those materials supports Ms.
Strahan's arguments when her brief only cites generally
to the affidavit as a whole. As the Seventh Circuit explained
in Packer v. Trs. Of Ind. Univ. Sch. Of Med.:
It is not the court's role or obligation to read an
entire deposition or affidavit in an effort to locate the
particular testimony a party might be relying on; the court
ought to know what portion of a witness's
testimony the party is invoking so that it can focus its
attention on that testimony and assess whether it is
admissible and actually supports the fact or inference for
which it is cited.
800 F.3d 843, 850 (7th Cir. 2015); see also Diadenko v.
Folino, 741 F.3d 751, 757 (7th Cir. 2013) (“[A]
district court is not required to scour the record looking
for factual disputes or to scour the party's various
submissions to piece together appropriate arguments. A court
need not make the lawyer's case.”). Thus, the Court
resolves the present motion based on the facts that are
properly before it, meaning almost entirely those supplied by
the defendants. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e)(2)
(stating that where a party fails to properly address another
party's assertion of fact, the court may “consider
the fact undisputed for purposes of the motion”).
Strahan worked as a mental health technician at Bowen Center
from May 2009 through June 25, 2014. In that position, Ms.
Strahan assisted the doctors and nursing staff with mentally
ill or special needs patients. While Ms. Strahan had many
supervisors during her five years of employment with Bowen
Center, defendants Kenny Harris and Ginger McKee served as
her primary supervisors at the time of her termination. Mr.
Harris was the Director of Nursing, and Ms. McKee was a staff
nurse who supervised Ms. Strahan's shift and who directly
supervised Ms. Strahan.
Ms. Strahan's employment with Bowen Center, she received
discipline on a number of occasions for being offensive
toward co-workers. In 2010, Mr. Harris had to counsel her
after staff members submitted complaints regarding her
offensive interactions with them. In 2011, she received a
verbal warning after supervisors received a complaint from a
Philippian co-worker about a racially insensitive comment Ms.
Strahan made pertaining to the co-worker's food. In 2012,
Ms. Strahan refused to comply with instructions from her
then-supervisor. She was reprimanded and suspended for one
shift for cursing at her supervisor and leaving work early.
Ms. Strahan received reprimands on other occasions for
failing to perform aspects of her job duties correctly. For
example, in 2011, Ms. Strahan was reprimanded for not
properly identifying each patient by ID band before taking
the patient's vitals. And in 2013, she failed to
confiscate a pocket knife from a patient when admitting him.
Additionally, Ms. Strahan was reprimanded for improperly
auditing patient charts and documenting patient names for
Ms. Strahan violated Bowen Center's attendance policy
multiple times during her employment. In January 2014, Ms.
Strahan received a final written warning after she called in
sick after her shift had already begun. Ms. Strahan knew at
that time that any subsequent attendance violation would
result in her termination. Finally, in June 2014, Ms. Strahan
reported that she would be five minutes late, but she arrived
to work thirty-five minutes late. That same shift, she also
left early without approval from her supervisor. Therefore,
citing “ongoing issues with respect to communication
and attendance, ” Bowen Center terminated Ms.
Strahan's employment on June 25, 2014. [DE ...