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Owens v. Porter Hospital, LLC

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Hammond Division

March 29, 2019

RICK OWENS, Plaintiff,
v.
PORTER HOSPITAL, LLC, d/b/a PORTER REGIONAL HOSPITAL, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER I.BACKGROUND [1]

          JAMES T. MOODY JUDGE

         For over two decades, plaintiff Rick Owens worked for defendant, Porter Hospital, LLC, d/b/a/ Porter Regional Hospital (“Porter Regional”) as a security officer. (DE # 40-4, Def. Ans. to Interrog. at 8.) In 2013, he became a security supervisor, reporting to Jim McClanahan, the Security Director, with Jim O'Dea serving as plaintiff's supervisory peer. (DE # 43-2, Pl. Dep. 16.) While McClanahan was Director, McClanahan would issue discipline, but O'Dea and plaintiff would write schedules, oversee officers during their shifts, and handle write-ups and verbal counseling of security personnel. (DE # 43-4, O'Dea Aff. at 2.)

         In the fall of 2014, Christian Goss, Director of Engineering, began supervising plaintiff and the security department. (DE # 40-4 at 8.) Goss retained the title of Director of Engineering, but the security department reported up through him after that point. (DE # 43-3, Goss Dep. 33-35.) Mark Huffman, who worked under Goss as Operations Manager, assisted Goss in overseeing the security department. (Goss Dep. 32-33.)

         Plaintiff asserts that, as of January 2015, most supervisory power and authority, such as the ability to decide who to write-up for tardiness or absence, had been stripped away from both plaintiff and O'Dea. (Pl. Dep. 83-84.) Plaintiff claims that employee records were removed from his office (Pl. Dep. 82:18-24), and while he still handled scheduling for a while longer (Pl. Dep. 84:10-24), by the end of January, Huffman had taken over that duty as well. (Pl. Dep. 85:1.)

         Beginning in 2007, plaintiff also operated a private tree-cutting business. (Pl. Dep. 20.) On March 17, 2015, plaintiff injured his foot while doing work for his business. (Pl. Dep. 43.) He took extended medical leave under the Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”), 29 U.S.C. § 2601 et seq., beginning the first week of April 2015, and returned to work on or about June 13, 2015. (Pl. Dep. 48.)

         A few weeks before his return, plaintiff was informed that he would be working the “midnight” shift, instead of the “float” shift he had worked previously (which consisted of half-evening and half-“midnight” shifts), and other security personnel would be working “float” instead. (Pl. Dep. 55-56.) When he told Huffman the midnight shift would prevent him from working at his private business and asked why his shift had changed, Huffman shrugged his shoulders. (Pl. Dep. 57.) Plaintiff returned to work and performed the midnight shift, but this arrangement only lasted a handful of days. (Pl. Dep. 57-59.)

         Defendant asserts that on June 18, 2015, it instituted a corporate restructuring, which defendant also describes as a reduction in force (“RIF”). (DE # 40-4, Def. Ans. to Interrog. at 8-10.) Goss testified that he was previously instructed by his superiors to choose the equivalent of at least five full time employees (“FTEs”) for elimination in the RIF. (Goss Dep. 54, 59.) Goss utilized a rating system for the security personnel, scoring them on various attributes. (Goss Dep. 61-119.) Goss scored plaintiff, just as he had scored all of the other security employees. (Goss Dep. 82.) However, Goss testified that ultimately he chose to terminate the two supervisors, regardless of score. (Goss Dep. 104:21-25; 106:14-15; 108:10-13, 19-24.) In total, 10 security employees were eliminated in the RIF, including plaintiff and O'Dea, while 16 were retained. (Goss Dep. 75.) Plaintiff was 57 years old at the time of his termination. (Pl. Dep. 5:3.)

         Goss testified that “previous to” the RIF, the company knew that it was “definitely” going to need additional staffing in the security department in the near future. (Goss Dep. 142.) Goss further testified that the company was planning to open a freestanding emergency room in Valparaiso. (Goss Dep. 142.) According to Goss, at the time of the RIF, he did not know whether Porter Regional security employees would be utilized for the Valparaiso emergency room. (Goss Dep. 142.) He also attested that at the time of the RIF, no consideration was being given to contracting with an outside security firm, though there was an awareness of the option. (Goss Dep. 143-44.)

         In mid-September 2015, approximately three months after the RIF, defendant contracted with G4S, an outside security firm, for security services. (DE # 43-5 at 1.) G4S employees worked at Porter Regional, as well as the Valparaiso emergency room. (Goss Dep. 159.) Defendant's contract with G4S contemplated 112 hours (or 2.8 FTEs) of coverage at Porter Regional Hospital, and 168 hours (or 4.2 FTEs) of coverage at the Valpairaso emergency room, per week. (DE # 43-5 at 6; Goss Dep. 161-62.)

         Following his termination, plaintiff filed the present lawsuit. (DE # 1.) In his complaint, plaintiff asserted claims of discrimination under the Americans With Disabilities Act (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq., and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”), 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq. (Id.) Plaintiff also alleged retaliation in violation of the ADA and FMLA. (Id.)

         Defendant has moved for summary judgment on all claims. (DE # 38.) Plaintiff has responded, defending all of his claims except his ADA discrimination claim, which he has explicitly abandoned. (DE # 43 at 2.) The motion is ripe for ruling. For the reasons set forth below, the motion for summary judgment is granted, in part, and denied, in part.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c) requires the entry of summary judgment, after adequate time for discovery, against a party “who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). “[S]ummary judgment is appropriate - in fact, is mandated - where there are no disputed issues of material fact and the movant must prevail as a matter of law. In other words, the record must reveal that no reasonable jury could find for the non-moving party.” Dempsey v. Atchison, Topeka, & Santa Fe Ry. Co., 16 F.3d 832, 836 (7th Cir. 1994) (citations and quotation marks omitted).

         The court's role in deciding a summary judgment motion is not to evaluate the truth of the matter, but instead to determine whether there is a genuine issue of triable fact. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc.,477 U.S. 242, 249-50 (1986); Doe v. R.R. Donnelley & Sons Co.,42 F.3d 439, 443 (7th Cir. 1994). In viewing the facts presented on a motion for summary judgment, the court must construe all facts in a light most favorable to the non-moving party and draw all legitimate inferences ...


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