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Smith v. IU Health

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

June 6, 2017

DASHON SMITH, Plaintiff,
IU HEALTH, Defendant.


          Hon. Jane Magnus-Stinson, Chief Judge

         Pro se Plaintiff Dashon Smith worked for many years as a laboratory technician with Defendant IU Health, until her employment was terminated in November 2014. This case arises from that termination, which Ms. Smith alleges occurred in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-3(a) (“Title VII”). IU Health has moved for summary judgment on Ms. Smith's claims, arguing that she has failed to allege any race-based motive for her termination. For the reasons that follow, the Court grants IU Health's Motion.


         Legal Standard

         A motion for summary judgment asks the Court to find that a trial is unnecessary because there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and, instead, the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). As the current version of Rule 56 makes clear, whether a party asserts that a fact is undisputed or genuinely disputed, the party must support the asserted fact by citing to particular parts of the record, including depositions, documents, or affidavits. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(A). A party can also support a fact by showing that the materials cited do not establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute or that the adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(B). Affidavits or declarations must be made on personal knowledge, set out facts that would be admissible in evidence, and show that the affiant is competent to testify on matters stated. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(4). Failure to properly support a fact in opposition to a movant's factual assertion can result in the movant's fact being considered undisputed, and potentially in the grant of summary judgment. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e).

         In deciding a motion for summary judgment, the Court need only consider disputed facts that are material to the decision. A disputed fact is material if it might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law. Hampton v. Ford Motor Co., 561 F.3d 709, 713 (7th Cir. 2009). In other words, while there may be facts that are in dispute, summary judgment is appropriate if those facts are not outcome determinative. Harper v. Vigilant Ins. Co., 433 F.3d 521, 525 (7th Cir. 2005). Fact disputes that are irrelevant to the legal question will not be considered. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).

         On summary judgment, a party must show the Court what evidence it has that would convince a trier of fact to accept its version of the events. Johnson v. Cambridge Indus., 325 F.3d 892, 901 (7th Cir. 2003). The moving party is entitled to summary judgment if no reasonable fact-finder could return a verdict for the non-moving party. Nelson v. Miller, 570 F.3d 868, 875 (7th Cir. 2009). The Court views the record in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and draws all reasonable inferences in that party's favor. Darst v. Interstate Brands Corp., 512 F.3d 903, 907 (7th Cir. 2008). It cannot weigh evidence or make credibility determinations on summary judgment because those tasks are left to the fact-finder. O'Leary v. Accretive Health, Inc., 657 F.3d 625, 630 (7th Cir. 2011). The Court need only consider the cited materials, Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(3), and the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has “repeatedly assured the district courts that they are not required to scour every inch of the record for evidence that is potentially relevant to the summary judgment motion before them, ” Johnson, 325 F.3d at 898. Any doubt as to the existence of a genuine issue for trial is resolved against the moving party. Ponsetti v. GE Pension Plan, 614 F.3d 684, 691 (7th Cir. 2010).



         The following statement of facts was evaluated pursuant to the standards set forth above, that is, they are either undisputed or presented in the light most favorable to Ms. Smith.

         Ms. Smith is an African-American woman. [Filing No. 23-2 at 30.] Ms. Smith began working for IU Health as a laboratory assistant in May 2001. [Filing No. 23-1 at 5.] She was promoted to senior laboratory assistant and then to clinical laboratory technician in 2011 in IU Health's pathology laboratory. [Filing No. 23-1 at 5.] Ms. Smith worked the night shift, and she reported to Coordinator for Specimen Processing Lichelle Boyd-Peppler, who worked the day shift. [Filing No. 23-1 at 6.] Margaret Gilbert was the Team Lead for the night shift clinical laboratory technicians. [Filing No. 23-1 at 6.]

         Around July 2013, Ms. Boyd-Peppler complained to Ms. Smith regarding an issue that Ms. Boyd-Peppler was having with another employee, Tracy Frost. [Filing No. 23-1 at 11.] During that conversation, Ms. Boyd-Peppler stated that she wanted to “slap” Ms. Frost. [Filing No. 23-1 at 11.] Another employee, Jayme Jones, overheard that comment. [Filing No. 23-1 at 11.] Shortly thereafter, Ms. Jones spoke to Jim McGown, Director of Laboratory Outreach of the pathology laboratory, about Ms. Boyd-Peppler's comment. [Filing No. 23-1 at 14.] Mr. McGown then approached Ms. Smith to discuss the comment. [Filing No. 23-1 at 14.] Ms. Smith informed Mr. McGown that she heard Ms. Boyd-Peppler make the comment, and that while Ms. Smith was not offended by it, she understood that Ms. Jones might have been bothered.[1] Ms. Smith does not recall whether anyone discussed any issues regarding race during that meeting. [Filing No. 23-1 at 15.]

         Ms. Smith does not know whether Mr. McGown told Ms. Boyd-Peppler about either their meeting or about what Ms. Smith said, but she testified that after the meeting with Mr. McGown, Ms. Boyd-Peppler became “cold” toward her. [Filing No. 23-1 at 15.] Ms. Smith testified that Ms. Boyd-Peppler would no longer engage in casual conversation with her on the few occasions that their work schedules overlapped. [Filing No. 23-1 at 11.] Ms. Smith also testified that Ms. Boyd-Peppler behaved unprofessionally by bringing personal issues into work, [Filing No. 23-1 at 11], and by demonstrating favoritism toward certain employees, [Filing No. 23-1 at 13].

         On October 1, 2014, Ms. Smith and Ms. Gilbert became involved in a dispute regarding which person should have signed for a courier delivery. [Filing No. 23-1 at 20-21.] During that dispute, Ms. Smith testified that Ms. Gilbert “ran behind [Ms. Smith's] chair” into her personal space, and as a result, Ms. Smith called security. [Filing No. 23-1 at 21.] Before security arrived, Ms. Gilbert called Ms. Boyd-Peppler at home, and on speakerphone, they all discussed the proper procedures for accepting deliveries. [Filing No. 23-1 at 21.] After security arrived, Ms. Gilbert again called Ms. Boyd-Peppler and handed the phone to Greg Hilliard, the night supervisor for medical technologists. [Filing No. 23-1 at 21-22.] Mr. Hilliard informed Ms. Smith that Ms. Boyd-Peppler told him to send Ms. Smith home, and Ms. Smith went home. [Filing No. 23-1 at 21.] Ms. Boyd-Peppler later issued a written warning to Ms. Smith, stating that she should “communicate professionally and effectively, ” which Ms. Smith refused to sign. ...

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