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Jackson v. St Pauls Retirement Community

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

December 18, 2018

LAQUISHA JACKSON Plaintiff,
v.
ST. PAUL'S RETIREMENT COMMUNITY, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          Robert L. Miller, Jr. Judge

         On May 4, 2017 LaQuisha Jackson's employment as a Dining Room Manager at St. Paul's Retirement Community was terminated. Ms. Jackson, pro se, now sues St. Paul's Retirement Community and, in a separate action (3:17-CV-931), Unidine Corporation, for violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended (42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5), for alleged employment discrimination because of Ms. Jackson's race and sex. Ms. Jackson also alleges that she suffered a hostile work environment and that St. Paul's Retirement Community wrongfully terminated her. St. Paul's Retirement Community moves for summary judgment with respect to all claims. For the reasons stated below, the court grants St. Paul's Retirement Community's motion for summary judgment.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Ms. Jackson began her employment with Trinity Health Corporation, operator of St. Paul's Retirement Community sometime between 2002 and 2003. She worked in various capacities, including as a dining room server. In March 2016 Ms. Jackson left St. Paul's for a position with Unidine Corporation as dining room manager. Unidine is a provider of dining related services and provided such services at St. Paul's Retirement Community. When Ms. Jackson left St. Paul's for Unidine, her employment status with St. Paul's was moved to “contingent.” While Ms. Jackson worked on the premises of St. Paul's, Unidine was responsible for her supervision and salary, her bosses were all Unidine employees, and Unidine had sole control over her hiring, discipline, and termination.

         On April 15, 2017 Ms. Jackson was subjected to a sexual innuendo made by St. Paul's employee Samuel “Keith” Johnson. She reported the comment to her supervisor two days later. Since the situation involved both a Unidine employee (Ms. Jackson) and a St. Paul's employee (Keith Johnson), the two organizations conducted a joint investigation. Ms. Jackson and Mr. Johnson were both sent home during the investigation. Unidine and St. Paul's interviewed Ms. Jackson, Mr. Johnson, and other witnesses. Residents who had interacted with both Ms. Jackson and Mr. Johnson were also interviewed.

         The joint investigation revealed that as Ms. Jackson bent down to pick up a piece of paper that she had thrown at Mr. Johnson, Mr. Johnson asked if Ms. Jackson could “help him while [she] was down there”. Ms. Jackson reportedly responded to Mr. Johnson's comment by stating “that is how I got eight kids.”[1]According to Ms. Jackson, this was the first time that Keith Johnson had made any sexually inappropriate comment towards her. Unidine and St. Paul's decided that both Ms. Jackson and Mr. Johnson bore responsibility for the situation and both were counseled about their inappropriate interaction and told to return to work.

         Ms. Jackson refused to return despite repeated attempts by Unidine to bring her back. Ms. Jackson claimed that she didn't feel safe at work. Two weeks later, while she was still refusing to come to work, Unidine replaced Ms. Jackson and terminated her employment. Ms. Jackson filed separate charges of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in May 2017. In October 2017 the EEOC dismissed Ms. Jackson's charges of discrimination. Ms. Jackson then sued St. Paul's Retirement Community (and Unidine Corporation in a concurrent action) alleging violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended (42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5). These allegations include claims of sex and race discrimination a hostile work environment, and retaliation.

         Discovery disputes arose soon after Ms. Jackson filed suit. Ms. Jackson didn't initially turn over any requested documents or give responsive answers to written interrogatories. St. Paul's tried repeatedly to remedy the deficiencies in Ms. Jackson's discovery but often struggled to receive timely responses from Ms. Jackson. Ms. Jackson has also refused to sit for a deposition and has refused St. Paul's requests to sit in on a deposition scheduled with Unidine Corporation. Ms. Jackson has said that she is willing to sit for a deposition during a time that works for her schedule. The court views all alleged facts and reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to Ms. Jackson and will address each of her claims in turn.

         II. Standard of Review

         Summary judgment is appropriate when “the pleadings, discovery materials, disclosures, and affidavits demonstrate no genuine issue of material fact.” Protective Life Ins. Co. v. Hansen, 632 F.3d 388, 391-392 (7th Cir. 2011). When no genuine issue of material fact exists, “the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Dunkin v. Appriss, Inc., 266 F.Supp.3d 1103, 1106 (N.D. Ind. July 18, 2017). The movant has the burden of demonstrating to the court the basis for its motion that there exists no genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). In demonstrating this burden, the evidence must be viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986). When the movant has met its burden, the opposing party can't rely solely on the allegations in their pleadings but must “point to evidence that can be put in admissible form at trial, and that, if believed by the fact-finder, could support judgment in his favor.” Marr v. Bank of America, N.A., 662 F.3d 963, 966 (7th Cir. 2011); see also Steen v. Myers, 486 F.3d 1017, 1022 (7th Cir. 2007) (quoting Hammel v. Eau Galle Cheese Factory, 407 F.3d 852, 859 (7th Cir. 2005) (summary judgment is “the put up or shut up moment in a lawsuit, when a party must show what evidence it has that would convince a trier of fact to accept its version of the events.”)). The non-moving party can't rely on conclusory allegations. Smith v. Shawnee Library System, 60 F.3d 317, 320 (7th Cir. 1995). Failure to prove an essential element of the alleged activity will render other facts immaterial. Celotex v. Catrett, 477 U.S. at 323; Filippo v. Lee Publications, Inc., 485 F.Supp.2d 969, 972 (N.D. Ind. 2007) (the non-moving party “must do more than raise some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts; he must come forward with specific facts showing a genuine issue for trial.”).

         III. Discussion

         Ms. Jackson argues that St. Paul's Retirement Community violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended (42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5). She alleges she experienced sex and race discrimination while employed at St. Paul's, that she was subject to a hostile work environment, and that her termination was retaliatory. St. Paul's argues that it wasn't Ms. Jackson's employer at the time of alleged discrimination, that no evidence of alleged discrimination exists, and that Ms. Jackson hasn't provided adequate evidence to support her alleged damages. St. Paul's also argues that, due to Ms. Jackson's discovery non-compliance, the court should dismiss the case for failure to prosecute under Fed.R.Civ.P. 41(b) or 37(d).

         A. Employer-Employee Relationship

         To succeed on a sex or race discrimination claim against St. Paul's retirement community, Ms. Jackson must first establish, among other things, that St. Paul's was her employer at the time of the alleged harassment. Love v. JP Cullen & Sons, Inc., 779 F.3d 697, 701 (7th Cir. 2015) (“[i]n order to bring a Title VII claim against [defendant], [plaintiff] must prove the existence of an employer-employee relationship.”). One cannot hold an entity other than their employer liable for a Title VII claim. Love v. JP Cullen & Sons, Inc., 779 F.3d at 701. The record shows that Unidine Corporation was Ms. Jackson's actual employer at the time of the ...


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