United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division
ORDER ON MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
R. SWEENEY II, JUDGE
Martin, an African American, sued Justus at Woodland Terrace
LLC d/b/a Woodland Terrace of Carmel (“Woodland
Terrace”), 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 moves
for summary judgment. (ECF No. 62.) Because no reasonable
jury could find that Martin was discharged because of her
race, summary judgment should be granted.
Martin was hired as a Licensed Practical Nurse
(“LPN”) for Woodland Terrace in February 2017.
(Martin Dep. 13, ECF No. 63-3.) She had an orientation period
for about one month and began working there in April that
year. (Id.) She worked a full-time schedule and was
assigned to the night shift, which was 7:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m.
(Id. at 13-14) Martin was required to work three
days per week, and sometimes worked more than that minimum
requirement. (Martin Dep. 14, ECF No. 63-3.) Her job
description stated that she was responsible for supervising
the nursing activities in her designated area during her
assigned tour of duty. Resident assistants (Certified Nursing
Assistant (“CNA”)) in that area reported to her.
(Martin Dep., Ex C, ECF No. 63-3 at 69.) Martin's major
responsibilities included health services team leadership and
resident care such as making regular rounds of her assigned
work area, supervising the care of residents in her area,
caring for residents, and delegating responsibility to
resident assistants. (Id.) While employed with
Woodland Terrace, Martin was also working at other assistive
living communities. (Martin Dep. 10-12, 14, ECF No. 63-3.)
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. (Martin Dep. Ex. C, ECF No.
63-3.) 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. 63-3 at 86.) In
late February and early March 2017, Martin signed for and
acknowledged receipt of the LNA job description and the
company associate handbook. (Martin Dep., Ex D, ECF No.
63-3.) Martin agreed that the residents on the Memory Care
Unit, who suffer from dementia and other memory issues,
needed assistance caring for themselves. (Martin Dep. 19, ECF
No. 63-3 (stating that “[t]hey're high
18 to July 19, 2017, Martin was working the night shift at
Woodland Terrace. (Martin Dep. 18, ECF No. 63-3.) She was
assigned to the Memory Care Unit. (Id.) Woodland
Terrace has security cameras; the cameras show some of
Martin's actions that evening. (Martin Dep. 53-54, 58-59,
ECF No. 63-3.) At 1:08 a.m., Martin entered the model
unit (a sample unit that prospective residents could view).
At 5:08 a.m., she exited the model unit. (Id.)
Martin testified that she “probably” went
“in and out, in and out” of the model unit during
that four hours (Martin Dep. 54, ECF No. 63-3); however,
Martin's appearance on the video at 5:08 a.m. was the
first visual of her since the beginning of that four-hour
period. (Stites Dep. 146, ECF No. 63-1.) Woodland
Terrace's Health Services Director Diane Kohan testified
that staff was not authorized to be in the model unit. (Kohan
Dep. 58, ECF No. 72-1.)
security 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. 63-1.) The concierge looked around the nurse's
station, the dining room, the model unit, 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
still 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 Cynthia 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. 63-1.) The concierge later reported to
Woodland Terrace Executive Director Cole Stites that the
other CNA staff were also in the Life Enrichment Center
cutting Hawa Mengoua's hair. (Stites Dep. 137, ECF No.
63-1.) Coleman went with the concierge to the Memory Care
Unit to assist the resident. (Stites Dep. 137-38, ECF No.
63-1.) After assisting the resident, Coleman left the Memory
Care Unit unattended and with the unit keys. (Stites Dep.
138, ECF No. 63-1.) Video from the Memory Care Unit showed
that no one appeared on the unit from 2:34 a.m. until 2:57
a.m. (Stites Dep. 139, ECF No. 63-1.)
a.m., an orientee (staff in training) went onto the Memory
Care Unit to respond to a call light and assist a resident.
(Stites Dep. 145, ECF No. 63-1.) All nurses carry pagers that
would have been activated by the call light; the other nurses
were either not carrying their pagers or not responding to
them. (Stites Dep. 146, ECF No. 63-1.) At 5:07 a.m., the
orientee again answered a call light on the Memory Care Unit
for the same resident needing assistance. (Stites Dep. 146,
ECF No. 63-1.) Executive Director Stites testified that it
was not appropriate to leave the orientee in charge of the
Memory Care Unit without a regular employee there to provide
supervision. (Stites Dep. 8, 145, ECF No. 63-1.) Martin did
not respond to either call light. (See Stites Dep.
146, ECF No. 63-1.)
a.m., Martin walked up and down the hallway for less than two
minutes and then returned to the model unit. (Stites Dep.
146-47, ECF No. 63-1.) Director Stites's review of the
video did not show anything significant happening on the
Memory Care Unit between 5:10 a.m. and 6:10 a.m. (Stites Dep.
147, ECF No. 63-1.) Based on his review of the video,
Director Stites concluded that no one was on the Memory Care
Unit during that time period. (Id.) At 6:10 a.m.,
nurse Cynthia Coleman went into the model unit to get Martin.
(Stites Dep. 147, ECF No. 63-1.) At 6:12 a.m., Martin left
the model unit. (Id.) Director Kohan testified that
the camera showed no activity on the Memory Care Unit
“for a very extended period of time.” (Kohan Dep.
58, ECF No. 72-1.) At her deposition, Martin recalled that at
one point that evening, Coleman had retrieved the keys from
her in order to assist a resident. (Martin Dep. 54, ECF No.
63-3; see also Stites Dep. 132-33, ECF No. 63-1.)
According to Director Stites, this transfer of keys signaled
that Martin was not working and was “off duty.”
(Stites Dep. 132-34, ECF No. 63-1.)
was scheduled to work the night shift again on July 19 to 20,
2017. When she reported to work, she was directed to the
conference room. After all the staff from the night shift the
night before-Martin, Coleman, Johnson, Hawa Mengoua, and an
aid named Brittany-were gathered, Executive Director Stites
and Health Services Director Kohan entered the conference
room. Sites asked the staff if there was anything to report
from the night before. (Def.'s Answer to Pl.'s
Interrog. No. 6, ECF No. 63-4.) Martin said that she had been
on the Memory Care Unit the entire night. (Id.) She
had no explanation as to why the concierge could not locate
her on the unit and had to go to the second floor to find a
staff member to assist a resident. (Id.) Coleman had
no explanation for why she would have to go assist a resident
on the Memory Care Unit if Martin was on the unit.
(Id.) No one gave Stites and Kohan any explanation
about what had happened the night shift before. Stites
announced that all five employees were fired. (Id.)
Terrace explains that it terminated Martin's employment
for abandonment of residents and her job duties on the Memory
Care Unit. (Stites Dep. 71-74, ECF No. 63-1.) 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. 63-1.) 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. 63-1.)
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.