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Wodi v. Cardinal Health Pharmacy Services, LLC

United States District Court, Fifth Circuit

January 17, 2014

MARTIN WODI, Plaintiff,


DANIEL P. JORDAN, III, District Judge.

This employment-discrimination case is before the Court on Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment [32]. Plaintiff responded in opposition. The Court finds that Defendant's motion should be granted because Plaintiff cannot demonstrate that the decision to terminate his employment was pretextual.

I. Facts and Procedural History

Martin Wodi is a black Nigerian-American pharmacist who began working for Defendant Cardinal Health Pharmacy Services, LLC (Cardinal Health) in November 2010 at the Rush Foundation Hospital in Meridian, Mississippi. Wodi's supervisor was Becky Womack, the Interim Pharmacy Director. In July 2011, Wodi failed to fill critical, time-sensitive prescriptions on three occasions resulting in counseling from Womack and additional training for Wodi. The next month, Wodi again failed to dispense a time-sensitive prescription, leading Cardinal Health to issue a final warning, which Wodi signed. Def.'s Mot. Summ. J. [32] Ex. B, Womack Decl. Att. C. After issuing this warning, Cardinal Health discovered another pre-warning incident during which Wodi failed to follow a doctor's orders and gave a patient the wrong medication. Id. at ¶ 6. Because the incident occurred before the first final warning, a second final warning was issued. Id.

After receiving two final warnings, Wodi made two more errors, the first appears to have been less serious and resulted in a verbal warning. But in the second incident, Wodi failed to correctly fill a critical prescription "put[ting] the patients's health and wellbeing at risk." Id. at ¶ 7. Cardinal Health therefore terminated Wodi's employment on October 5, 2011. Wodi does not deny any of these incidents.

Wodi filed a Charge of Discrimination with the EEOC alleging that his termination was motivated by race and national-origin discrimination. The EEOC issued a right-to-sue letter, and Wodi filed this lawsuit on September 24, 2012. His complaint alleges race and national-origin discrimination in violation of Title VII and 42 U.S.C. § 1981. Cardinal Health seek summary judgment on all claims. The Court has personal and subject-matter jurisdiction.

II. Standard of Review

Summary judgment is warranted under Rule 56(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure when evidence reveals no genuine dispute regarding any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. The rule "mandates the entry of summary judgment, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party who fails to make a sufficient showing 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).

The party moving for summary judgment bears the initial responsibility of informing the district 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 non-moving party must then go beyond the pleadings and designate "specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Id. at 324. Conclusory allegations, speculation, unsubstantiated assertions, and legalistic arguments are not an adequate substitute for specific facts showing a genuine issue for trial. TIG Ins. Co. v. Sedgwick James of Wash., 276 F.3d 754, 759 (5th Cir. 2002); SEC v. Recile, 10 F.3d 1093, 1097 (5th Cir. 1997); Little v. Liquid Air Corp., 37 F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th Cir. 1994) (en banc).

In reviewing the evidence, factual controversies are to be resolved in favor of the nonmovant, "but only when... both parties have submitted evidence of contradictory facts." Little, 37 F.3d at 1075. When such contradictory facts exist, the court may "not make credibility determinations or weigh the evidence." Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods. Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 150 (2000).

III. Analysis

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 makes it "an unlawful employment practice for an employer... to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual's race, color, religion, sex, or national origin." 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(1). Section 1981 race-discrimination claims are analyzed under the same legal framework applicable to Title VII cases. See Turner v. Kan. City S. Ry. Co., 675 F.3d 887, 891 n.2 (5th Cir. 2012) (citing Lawrence v. Univ. of Tex. Med. Branch at Galveston, 163 F.3d 309, 311 (5th Cir. 1999)).

The plaintiff must first establish a prima facie case of discrimination by showing (1) he is a member of a protected class, (2) he was qualified for the position at issue, (3) he was the subject of an adverse employment action, and (4) he was replaced by someone outside the protected class, or in the case of disparate treatment, he was treated less favorably than similarly situated employees under nearly identical circumstances. See Lee v. Kan. City S. Ry., 574 F.3d 253, 259 (5th Cir. 2009); Okoye v. Univ. of Tex. Houston Health Sci. Ctr., 245 F.3d 507, 513 (5th Cir. 2001); see also McDonnell-Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 802 (1973).

If the plaintiff establishes a prima facie case, the burden of production shifts to the employer to offer a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for the adverse employment action. Lee, 574 F.3d at 259. Once that burden is met, the plaintiff must offer evidence to show "either (1) that the defendant's reason is not true, but is instead a pretext for discrimination (pretext alternative); or (2) that the defendant's reason, while true, is only one of the reasons for its conduct, and another motivating factor' is ...

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