United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Fort Wayne Division
OPINION AND ORDER
THERESA L. SPRINGMANN CHIEF JUDGE
matter comes before the Court on Defendant New Horizons Home
Healthcare Limited Liability Company's Motion for Summary
Judgment [ECF No. 19] filed on May 31, 2018. Plaintiff Mary
Hamilton responded [ECF No. 21] on July 2, 2018, and the
Defendant replied [ECF No. 23] on July 18, 2018. The
Defendant has moved for summary judgment on the federal
claims involved in this case but did not move on the
Plaintiff's claim for violations of Indiana common law.
In the event that the Court grants summary judgment as to the
federal claims, the Defendant requests that the Court remand
the remaining state law claim to state court.
Plaintiff was formerly employed by the Defendant as a client
coordinator, beginning in August 2014. The Plaintiff's
close friend, Chelsey Sorah, was also employed by the
Defendant as a human resources coordinator. In April 2015,
Sorah began a period of leave due to complications with a
pregnancy. In late June, the Defendant asserts that it
discovered that, despite having not returned to work, Sorah
had worked a number of shifts as a caregiver that had been
assigned to the Plaintiff. Sorah's name did not appear on
the Defendant's caregiver schedule, nor was she paid by
the Defendant for these shifts. Rather, the Defendant paid
the Plaintiff for the shifts, and the Plaintiff paid Sorah in
cash. The Defendant claims that it had no prior knowledge of
this arrangement between Sorah and the Plaintiff and that,
upon discovering it, reported the incidents to the State of
Indiana, which concluded that Sorah had committed Medicaid
fraud. The Plaintiff, however, asserts that the Defendant was
fully aware and even approved of the arrangement. The
Defendant subsequently terminated Sorah and reprimanded the
Plaintiff for her role in the work arrangement.
her termination, Sorah filed a claim for unemployment
benefits with the Indiana Department of Workforce Development
(“IDWD”) as well as charges of discrimination
against the Defendant with the Equal Opportunity Employment
Commission (“EEOC”), alleging violation of the
Pregnancy Discrimination Act (“PDA”), the Family
Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”), and the Americans
with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). Sorah filed her
EEOC complaint on August 27, 2015. The Defendant contested
Sorah's claim for unemployment benefits.
IDWD held a hearing regarding Sorah's claim for
unemployment benefits on September 30, 2015. After hearing
testimony regarding the work arrangement at issue, the
administrative law judge (“ALJ”) presiding over
the hearing asked to speak with the Plaintiff. The ALJ asked
the Plaintiff only whether her work arrangement with Sorah
had been approved by management. The Plaintiff answered
affirmatively, contradicting the Defendant's assertion
that it had no knowledge of the arrangement prior to the end
of June. The ALJ did not ask the Plaintiff any further
questions, and the Plaintiff did not offer any further
testimony. The ALJ did not inquire of anybody regarding the
claims of discrimination Sorah filed with the EEOC, and there
is no indication of record that prior to the IDWD hearing the
Plaintiff was even aware that Sorah had filed EEOC claims.
following the IDWD hearing, Jerome Metz, the Defendant's
owner, as well as two other members of the Defendant's
management discussed the Plaintiff's testimony and
determined that the Plaintiff had falsified her testimony for
the purpose of helping her friend obtain unemployment
benefits. The Plaintiff was presented with a write up, but
she refused to sign it, maintaining that her testimony was
truthful. Later that day, on October 1, 2015, the Defendant
terminated the Plaintiff.
Plaintiff filed her Complaint against the Defendant on
November 28, 2016 [ECF No. 1], alleging retaliation in
violation of Title VII, the ADA, and Indiana Common Law. She
asserts that she was terminated for telling the truth at the
IDWD regarding the work arrangement between her and Sorah.
judgment is proper where the evidence of record shows that
there is no genuine issue of material fact and that the
moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.
Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23
(1986). The moving party bears the initial burden of
informing the Court of the basis for its motion and
identifying those portions of the record it believes
demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.
Id. at 323. The burden then shifts to the non-movant
to “go beyond the pleadings” to cite evidence of
a genuine factual dispute that precludes summary judgment.
Id. at 324. “[A] court has one task and one
task only: to decide, based on the evidence of record,
whether there is any material dispute of fact that requires a
trial.” Waldridge v. Am. Heochst Corp., 24
F.3d 918, 920 (7th Cir. 1994). If the non- movant does not
come forward with evidence that would reasonably permit the
finder of fact to find in its favor on a material issue, then
the Court must enter summary judgment against it.
VII prohibits an employer from “discriminat[ing]
against any individual . . . because he has opposed any
practice made an unlawful employment practice by [Title VII]
. . . or because he has made a charge, testified, assisted,
or participated in any manner in an investigation,
proceeding, or hearing under [Title VII].” 42 U.S.C.
§ 2000e-3 (a). It is also unlawful under the ADA to
“coerce, intimidate, or interfere with any individual .
. . on account of his or her having aided or encouraged any
other individual in the exercise or enjoyment of, any right
granted or protected by [the ADA].” 42 U.S.C. §
Plaintiff may prove retaliation using either the direct or
indirect method of proof. Argyropoulos v. City of
Alton, 539 F.3d 724, 732 (7th Cir. 2008). “To
survive a summary judgment motion using the direct method,
‘the plaintiff must present direct evidence of (1) a
statutorily protected activity; (2) an adverse employment
action taken by the employer; and (3) a causal connection
between the two.'” Lloyd v. Mayor, City of
Peru, No. 3:15-cv-624, 2018 WL 2445566, at *3 (N.D. Ind.
May 29, 2018) (quoting Davis v. Con-Way Transp. Cent.
Express, Inc., 368 F.3d 776, 786 (7th Cir. 2003)). To
establish a prima facie case of retaliation under the
indirect method, the Plaintiff must show that she (1) engaged
in statutorily protected activity; (2) suffered a materially
adverse action; (3) met her employer's legitimate
expectations, i.e., was performing her job satisfactorily;
and (4) was treated less favorably than some similarly
situated employee who did not engage in statutorily protected
activity. Argyropoulos, 539 F.3d at 733.
“[F]ailure to establish any one element of the prima
facie case is fatal to an employee's retaliation
claim.” Atanus v. Perry, 520 F.3d 662, 677
(7th Cir. 2008) (quoting Hudson v. Chi. Transit
Auth., 375 F.3d 552, 560 (7th Cir. 2004)). But if the
employee establishes a prima facie case, the burden shifts to
the employer to offer a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason
for the adverse employment action. Id. The burden
then shifts back to the employee to demonstrate that the
employer's reason is pretextual. Id.
case, the Plaintiff chooses to argue her claims under the
direct method of proof because the Defendant “did not
even attempt to mask the retaliatory animus that motivated
its decision to terminate [her] employment . . . .”
(Pl. Resp. Br. 5, ECF No. 21.) The Defendant disputes that
the Plaintiff can meet her burden to show two of the three
elements of her claim: that she engaged in a ...