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Wiggins v. Franciscan Physician Management Corp.

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division

April 3, 2018




         Plaintiff Katie Wiggins filed this action alleging that she was discriminated and retaliated against by Franciscan Physician Management Corp., for which she worked as an ultrasound technician. Discovery closed and Franciscan moved for summary judgment. Ms. Wiggins, who is represented by counsel, sought and received an extension of time to respond to the motion, but never filed a response by that new deadline. Thus, evaluating the motion on the evidence before it, the Court concludes that Franciscan is entitled to summary judgment.


         Upon the filing of a motion for summary judgment, the non-moving 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). As some courts have put it, summary judgment is the “put up or shut up” moment in a lawsuit, when a plaintiff must “show what evidence [s]he has that would convince a trier of fact” to find in her favor on any disputed elements. Olendzki v. Rossi, 765 F.3d 742, 749 (7th Cir. 2014). When a party fails to submit evidence in response to a motion for summary judgment, the Court can consider the facts set forth by the moving party to be undisputed. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)(2). Accordingly, the Court deems the facts offered by Franciscan to be undisputed. Those facts are set forth in detail in Franciscan's filings, but the Court offers a brief summary of the relevant facts below.

         Katie Wiggins (formerly Conerly), an African American woman, was hired by Franciscan as an ultrasound technician, and started in March 2015. Ms. Wiggins received a week of orientation, after which she began training with two experienced ultrasound technicians. Ms. Wiggins spent half days with each of those technicians. She began by observing the technicians, and then began performing ultrasounds herself under their supervision. This continued for about two months. After the first month, Ms. Wiggins met with a human resources representative for a 30-day post-hire meeting. She said that she was “extremely satisfied” with her employment so far, that she felt welcomed by other employees, and that her training was “going good.” After about two months of working with the two technicians, Ms. Wiggins began performing ultrasounds herself, under the supervision of a doctor. The doctor provided verbal instructions and also reviewed Ms. Wiggins' scans before they were submitted. That doctor concluded in early June that Ms. Wiggins was ready to begin performing ultrasounds on her own.

         Once Ms. Wiggins began performing ultrasounds on her own, however, multiple patients made complaints about her work. At least one of the doctors she worked with did as well. Accordingly, her supervisor and other medical staff met and decided to have another technician observe and review Ms. Wiggins' work. Before that review occurred, Ms. Wiggins wrote a letter to her supervisor on June 22, 2015, in which she claimed to have been discriminated against and subjected to a hostile work environment. In the letter, Ms. Wiggins stated that she had not received adequate training, and that one of the doctors, Dr. Ramirez, had been disrespectful to her and had criticized her work. Franciscan's human resources manager conducted an investigation into Ms. Wiggins' concerns. The investigation found that Ms. Wiggins had received proper training, and that while Dr. Ramirez had been rude on one occasion, that situation had already been addressed and Dr. Ramirez had apologized. The investigation also found no indication of racial discrimination or harassment.

         In July 2015, Ms. Wiggins' work was observed by another technician, as had been previously decided. The review revealed a number of errors in Ms. Wiggins' scans, and Franciscan determined that the patient complaints and physician concerns were substantiated. Ms. Wiggins was then placed on a performance improvement plan, which she successfully completed in late August or early September. At that time, Ms. Wiggins was moved from Franciscan's Woman's Clinic facility, where she completed her training, to its Premier facility, where she had been hired to work. At that facility, Ms. Wiggins no longer had regular contact with Dr. Ramirez, who worked in another building, and she did not encounter any more of the issues that she had raised in her June 22 letter. However, she submitted a letter of resignation on November 11, stating that she had “been treated in an unfavorable manner, ” which took a toll on her health. No. one at Franciscan had asked or encouraged her to resign.

         Ms. Wiggins later filed this action after receiving a right-to-sue letter. She asserted claims for racial discrimination under Title VII (Count 1) and § 1981 (Count 2); claims for a hostile work environment under Title VII (Count 3) and § 1983 (Count 4); and a retaliation claim (Count 5). After the close of discovery, Franciscan moved for summary judgment on December 8, 2017. Ms. Wiggins, by counsel, sought an extension of time to respond to the motion. The Court granted that request, giving Ms. Wiggins until February 5, 2018 to respond. However, that date passed without any filing by Ms. Wiggins. Franciscan then filed a reply brief, citing Ms. Wiggins' failure to respond. Ms. Wiggins has not submitted any further filings. Accordingly, the motion for summary judgment is now ripe.


         Summary judgment is proper when the movant shows 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). Ms. Wiggins' failure to respond to the motion does not inevitably mean that it will be granted. Rather, the Court may “grant summary judgment if the motion and supporting materials-including the facts considered undisputed- show that the movant is entitled to it.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)(3).


         Ms. Wiggins has asserted claims for racial discrimination, for a hostile work environment, and for retaliation. Franciscan moved for summary judgment on all claims, and the Court considers them in turn.

         A. Counts 1 and 2, Racial Discrimination

         In Counts 1 and 2, Ms. Wiggins alleges that she was discriminated against because of her race when she was denied training and when she was constructively discharged. Ms. Wiggins asserts these claims under both Title VII and § 1981, which are analyzed the same for these purposes. Williams v. Waste Mgmt. of Ill., 361 F.3d 1021, 1028 (7th Cir. 2004). A racial discrimination claim requires a plaintiff to show that she suffered an adverse employment action and that it was motivated by her race. Boss v. Castro, 816 F.3d 910, 916 (7th Cir. 2016). Franciscan argues that Ms. Wiggins cannot make either ...

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