United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division
ORDER ON MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
R. SWEENEY II, JUDGE
Coleman, an African American, sued Justus at Woodland Terrace
LLC d/b/a Woodland Terrace of Carmel, alleging that it fired
her because of her race in violation of the Civil Rights Act
of 1964 (“Title VII”), 42 U.S.C. §
2000e-2(a) et seq., and 42 U.S.C. § 1981.
Woodland Terrace moved for summary judgment. (ECF No. 66.)
Because no reasonable jury could find that Coleman was
discharged because of her race, summary judgment should be
Coleman began working as a Charge Nurse for Woodland Terrace
in February 2017. (Coleman Dep. 9, Ex. D, ECF No. 67-3.) Her
major responsibilities included coordination and supervision
of total nursing activities in her work area and her duties
included making regular rounds of her assigned work area to
ascertain the conditions of all residents, supervision of the
resident care, and overseeing medicine aides and resident
assistants (Certified Nursing Assistant (“CNA”)).
(Coleman Dep., Ex. D. ECF No. 67-3.) The resident assistants
reported to Coleman. (Id.)
Woodland Terrace Company Associate Handbook identified
company policies, including an associate's duty to
conduct herself in a professional manner that is in the
residents' best interest. (Coleman Dep. Ex. C, ECF No.
67-3.) The handbook identified reasons for disciplinary
action, including unsatisfactory job performance and
unauthorized leaving of work or work areas prior to the end
of a scheduled shift. (Id., ECF No. 67-3 at 86.) In
February and March 2017, Coleman signed for and acknowledged
receipt of the Charge Nurse job description and the company
associate handbook. (Coleman Dep., Ex D, ECF No. 67-3.)
Coleman agreed that the residents on the Memory Care Unit,
who suffer from dementia and other memory issues, needed
assistance caring for themselves and that their safety
required their regular observation. (Coleman Dep. 13, ECF No.
67-3.) She also agreed that the safety of the Memory Care
Unit residents was of primary concern to all nurses and staff
at Woodland Terrace. (Id.)
18 to July 19, 2017, Coleman was assigned to work the night
shift (7:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m.) in the Assisted Living area on
the second floor at Woodland Terrace. (Coleman Dep. 12, 18,
ECF No. 63-3.) Woodland Terrace has security cameras; the
cameras show some of Coleman's actions and those of other
staff during that shift. (Coleman Dep. ECF No.
camera footage showed that the overnight concierge entered
the Memory Care Unit at 1:49 a.m., walked by the nurse's
station, and encountered a female resident walking around by
herself unattended. (Stites Dep. 133-34, ECF No. 67-1.) The
concierge looked around the nurse's station, the dining
room, the model unity, and the hallway and could not find a
nursing staff member (Id. at 134-35.) The concierge
walked by the model unit three times but could not locate a
staff member. (Id. at 136.) Having been unable to
locate a nursing staff member, the concierge went up to the
second floor to get Coleman, the other nurse on site at the
time, and found her in the Life Enrichment Center
(essentially a break room with microwave, refrigerator, sofa,
T.V., etc.). (Stites Dep. 136-37, ECF No. 67-1.) The
concierge later reported to Executive Director Cole Stites
that the other CNA staff were also in the Life Enrichment
Center cutting the hair of Hawa Mengoua, a nursing staff
member on duty. (Stites Dep. 137, ECF No. 67-1.) Coleman
accompanied the concierge to the Memory Care Unit to assist
the resident. (Stites Dep. 137-38, ECF No. 67-1.) After
assisting the resident, Coleman left the Memory Care Unit
unattended and with the unit keys. (Stites Dep. 138, ECF No.
67-1.) At one point that evening, Coleman had retrieved the
keys from Ashley Martin, who was assigned to the Memory Care
Unit that night. (Stites Dep. 132-33, ECF No. 67-1; Coleman
Dep. 39, ECF No. 67-3.) Coleman had located Martin in the
model unit in the Memory Care Unit watching T.V. (Coleman
Dep. 39, ECF No. 67-3.) According to Executive Director
Stites, this transfer of keys signaled that Martin was not
working and was “off duty.” (Stites Dep. 132-34,
ECF No. 67-1.)
a.m., Coleman entered the In-Motion Studio where she
performed stretching. (Coleman Dep. 34-35, ECF No. 67-3.) At
4:23 a.m., Coleman, accompanied by CNA Flay Johnson, exited
the studio. (Coleman Dep. 35, ECF No. 67-3.) Coleman was
supervising Johnson at that time. (Id.) Coleman
admitted that the In-Motion Studio was not her duty station.
(Id.) At 4:25 a.m., Johnson and Coleman entered the
Life Enrichment Center, which was a break room equipped with
a microwave, refrigerator, table, T.V., and sofa. (Coleman
Dep. 35, ECF No. 67-3.) Coleman exited the Life Enrichment
Center at 4:53 a.m. (Coleman Dep. 36, ECF No. 67-3.)
was scheduled to work the night shift again on July 19 to 20,
2017. When she reported to work, she, along with all the
nursing staff from the night shift the night before, were
called into a meeting with Executive Director Stites and
Health Services Director Diane Kohan. (Coleman Dep. 20, ECF
No. 67-3.) Sites told the staff that he wanted to know about
what had happened on the Memory Care Unit the night before,
and he said that he knew it had been left unattended.
(Coleman Dep. 20-22, ECF No. 67-3; Def.'s Answer to
Pl.'s Interrog. No. 6, ECF No. 67-4.) The staff said that
the Memory Care Unit had not been left unattended and that
someone had been on the unit. (Coleman Dep. 22, ECF No.
67-3.) All five employees were fired. (Def.'s Answer to
Pl.'s Interrog. No. 6, ECF No. 67-4.) No. one told
Coleman that she was being fired because of her race.
(Coleman Dep. 24-25, ECF No. 67-3.)
Terrace explains that it terminated Coleman's employment
for abandonment of residents and her job duties while she was
in the Life Enrichment Center and working out for long
periods of time. (Stites Dep. 71-74, 79, ECF No. 67-1.) When
Stites and Kohan were reviewing the videos of the night shift
and deciding what action to take, the issue of race was never
discussed. (Stites Dep. 152, ECF No. 67-1.) In deciding to
discharge the nursing staff, Stites and Kohan considered the
nurses' job duties and abandonment of their assigned
areas. (Stites Dep. 152-53, ECF No. 67-1.)
Summary Judgment Standard
judgment is appropriate when “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
dispute as to a material fact is genuine when the
“evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a
verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). At the
summary judgment stage, a court views the facts and draws all
reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party.
Id. at 255.
VII prohibits employers from discriminating against employees
on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national
origin. 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a). In deciding whether the
evidence would permit a reasonable factfinder to conclude
that the plaintiff's race caused the discharge courts
consider the evidence “as a whole.” Ortiz v.
Werner Enters., Inc.,834 F.3d 760, 765 (7th Cir. 2016).
The burden-shifting framework of McDonnell Douglas Corp.
v. Green, 411 U.S. 792 (1973) remains a useful tool for
presenting and assessing the evidence in discrimination
cases. Joh ...