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Knox v. PHC-Cleveland, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Delta Division

June 3, 2014

PHC-CLEVELAND, INC. d/b/a Bolivar Medical Center, DEFENDANT

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For Cynthia Knox, Plaintiff: Jim D. Waide, III, LEAD ATTORNEY, Ronnie Lee Woodruff, WAIDE & ASSOCIATES, PA, Tupelo, MS.

For PHC-Cleveland, Inc., doing business as Bolivar Medical Center, Defendant: J. Tucker Mitchell, LEAD ATTORNEY, William Clayton McDonough, MITCHELL DAY PLLC, Ridgeland, MS; Katherine Coe Heard, LEAD ATTORNEY, PRO HAC VICE, WALLER LANSDEN DORTCH & DAVIS, LLP, Nashville, TN; Mark W. Peters, LEAD ATTORNEY, PRO HAC VICE, WALLER, LANSDEN, DORTCH & DAVIS, PLLC - Nashville, Nashville, TN.


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Presently before the Court is Defendant's motion for summary judgment [38]. Upon due consideration, the Court finds that the motion should be granted.

A. Factual and Procedural Background

Plaintiff Cynthia Knox (" Plaintiff" ) brings this suit against her current employer, PHC-Cleveland, Inc. doing business as Bolivar Medical Center (" Defendant" ), alleging race discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and 42 U.S.C. § 1981. The following facts apparently are not in dispute:

Plaintiff is an African-American female who has been employed by Defendant since 2004 in various hourly positions. She was first hired as a nursing administrative assistant. In 2008, Plaintiff began to seek a salaried position with Defendant with the job duties of credentialing and contract compliance which would allow Plaintiff to have her own office. To date, she has not obtained such a position with Defendant. She currently is employed as an administrative assistant and does not have her own office.

Lauren Walker is a Caucasian female who was employed as an executive administrative assistant. In February of 2010, Walker was given an additional title: director of marketing. At that point, Defendant gave Plaintiff some of Walker's executive administrative assistant duties and moved Plaintiff from the nursing administration office to the administrative suite. In mid-2011, Walker resigned from her

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position. Defendant hired Claudia Woods, a Caucasian female, to replace Walker. In late 2011, Woods resigned from the position, and Defendant subsequently eliminated the job positions of executive administrative assistant/marketing director (which was then vacant) and nursing administrative assistant (which was then held by Plaintiff). Defendant moved Plaintiff into an administrative assistant position and created the position of credentialing and contract compliance coordinator to which it transferred Billie Jean Wiley, a Caucasian female.

Plaintiff filed an EEOC charge for race discrimination based on Defendant's alleged failure to promote her to the position of executive administrative assistant and selection of Woods for the position. Plaintiff later asked the EEOC to amend her charge to include Defendant's hiring of Wiley for the credentialing and contract compliance coordinator position and Betty Britt for the marketing position. After receiving her right-to-sue letter, Plaintiff initiated this suit. Plaintiff now concedes that the two jobs at issue in this case are the hiring of Woods as executive administrative assistant in mid-2011 and the hiring of Wiley as credentialing and contract compliance coordinator. Plaintiff challenges Defendant's decisions not to hire her in these positions, contending that she was " clearly better qualified" than the selected candidates for the positions. Plaintiff alleges that she was denied promotions to those positions because of her race in violation of Title VII and Section 1981.

B. Summary Judgment Standard

Summary judgment " should be rendered if the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); Weaver v. CCA Indus., Inc., 529 F.3d 335, 339 (5th Cir. 2008). 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., 477 U.S. at 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548.

The party moving for summary judgment bears the initial responsibility of informing the court of the basis for its motion and identifying those portions of the record it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine dispute of material fact. Id. at 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548. Under Rule 56(a), the burden then shifts to the non-movant to " go beyond the pleadings and by . . . affidavits, or by the 'depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file,' designate 'specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.' " Id. at 324, 106 S.Ct. 2548; Littlefield v. Forney Indep. Sch. Dist., 268 F.3d 275, 282 (5th Cir. 2001); Willis v. Roche Biomedical Labs., Inc., 61 F.3d 313, 315 (5th Cir. 1995).

Where the parties dispute the facts, the Court must view the facts and draw reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 378, 127 S.Ct. 1769, 167 L.Ed.2d 686 (2007) (internal citations omitted). " However, a nonmovant may not overcome the summary judgment standard with conclusional allegations, unsupported assertions, or presentation of only a scintilla of evidence." McClure v. Boles, 490 F.App'x 666, 667 (5th Cir. 2012) (per curiam) (citing Hathaway v. Bazany, 507 F.3d 312, 319 (5th Cir. 2007)).

C. Analysis and Discussion

Defendant argues that summary judgment should be granted on Plaintiff's race

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discrimination claims under Section 1981 and Title VII, specifically because (a) Plaintiff was not subjected to an adverse employment action and (b) Plaintiff cannot satisfy pretext by showing that she was " clearly better qualified" than either candidate who was hired in the positions she sought.[1]

Section 1981, known as the " equal contracts rights" provision, was enacted shortly after the Civil War and provides in pertinent part that " [a]ll persons within the jurisdiction of the United States shall have the same right in every State and Territory to make and enforce contracts ... as is enjoyed by white citizens." 42 U.S.C. ยง 1981(a). Section 1981 defines " make and enforce contracts" as including " the making, performance, modification, and termination of contracts, and the enjoyment of all benefits, ...

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