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Rush-McDonald v. Delta Regional Medical Center

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

February 27, 2017

GLORIA J. RUSH-MCDONALD PLAINTIFF
v.
DELTA REGIONAL MEDICAL CENTER d/b/a Delta Regional Health Clinic DEFENDANT

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Debra M. Brown UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This employment discrimination action brought by Gloria Rush-McDonald is before the Court on the motion for summary judgment of Delta Regional Medical Center. Doc. #46. Because Rush-McDonald has not established a prima facie case of employment discrimination, the motion for summary judgment will be granted.

         I

         Standard of Review

         “Summary judgment is proper only when the record demonstrates that no genuine issue of material fact exists and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Luv N' Care Ltd. v. Groupo Rimar, 844 F.3d 442, 447 (5th Cir. 2016). “A factual issue is genuine if the evidence is sufficient for a reasonable jury to return a verdict for the non-moving party and material if its resolution could affect the outcome of the action.” Burton v. Freescale Semiconductor, Inc., 798 F.3d 222, 226 (5th Cir. 2015) (internal quotation marks omitted). On a motion for summary judgment, a court must “consider the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and draw all reasonable inferences in its favor.” Edwards v. Cont'l Cas. Co., 841 F.3d 360, 363 (5th Cir. 2016).

         In seeking summary judgment “[t]he moving party bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of the record which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.” Nola Spice Designs, L.L.C. v. Haydel Enters., Inc., 783 F.3d 527, 536 (5th Cir. 2015) (internal quotation marks and alterations omitted). If the moving party satisfies this burden, “the non-moving party must go beyond the pleadings and by her own 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. (internal quotation marks omitted). “Where the nonmoving party bears the burden of proof at trial, the moving party satisfies this initial burden by demonstrating an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case.” Celtic Marine Corp. v. James C. Justice Cos., Inc., 760 F.3d 477, 481 (5th Cir. 2014).

         II Factual Background

         A. Rush-McDonald's Education and Work History

         Gloria J. Rush-McDonald is an African American female who graduated from the University of Mississippi in 1978 with a bachelor of science in pharmacy. Doc. #48-1 at 9-10; Doc. #48-11 at 20; Doc. #1 at ¶ 8. Following graduation, Rush-McDonald worked at “a little drugstore” in Meridian, Mississippi, until December 1978. Doc. #48-1 at 10-11. From December 1978 until 1988, she worked as a pharmacist for K&B Drugs. Id.; Doc. #48-2. Approximately two years after leaving K&B, she accepted a position as Midnight Pharmacy Supervisor at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, Mississippi. Doc. #48-2. Rush-McDonald left that position in 2000 and began working at her family's residential construction business. Id. In 2002, she started a pharmacy consulting business, which she continues to operate. Id.

         In 2003, Rush-McDonald received a call from a recruiter regarding an opportunity at King's Daughters Hospital in Greenville, Mississippi. Doc. #48-1 at 12. Rush-McDonald traveled to Greenville for an interview and received an offer during her visit. Id. She accepted the offer and, in 2004, began working as Director of Pharmacy at King's Daughters. Doc. #48-2.

         B. Sale of King's Daughters and Creation of Assistant Director of Pharmacy

         Sometime in 2005, employees at King's Daughters were informed that the hospital had been sold to Delta Regional Medical Center (“DRMC”). Doc. #48-1 at 12. DRMC took over control of the hospital on April 1, 2005. Id.

         At the time of the takeover, Lisa Fratesi, a white woman, [1] served as DRMC's pharmacy director. Doc. #48-3 at 4. Alphie Wells, then DRMC's director of human resources, asked Rush-McDonald to take a “slight increase in pay to stay and work as Lisa Fratesi's assistant.”[2]Doc. #46-9 at 4; Doc. #48-1 at 12-13. Rush-McDonald accepted the offer and continued to work at King's Daughters, which became known as “Delta Regional's West Campus, ” as Assistant Director of Pharmacy. Doc. #48-1 at 12-13, 18; Doc. #48-4. The original DRMC hospital facility, also located in Greenville, became known as the Main Campus. See Doc. #46-4 at 58.

         As Assistant Director of Pharmacy, Rush-McDonald was responsible for “[a]nything and everything for patient care … as far as medications go” at the West Campus.[3] Doc. #48-1 at 24. In addition to her pharmacist duties, Rush-McDonald served on the joint commission which “got the hospital ready to maintain [its] accreditation, ” worked as administrator of DRMC's automated and dispensing computer system, known as Pyxis, [4] and supervised the pharmacy technicians across both campuses. Id. at 25, 33-36; Doc. 48-3 at 25-26. In her supervisory role, she would address issues between the pharmacists and technicians. Doc. #48-1 at 49-50. Normally, this role required her to address issues with the technicians; however, “maybe one percent of the time” she would discuss an issue with the pharmacist. Id. Rush-McDonald “also did a review of anesthesia and emergency room patient[ records] to capture revenue for the pharmacy and the hospital at the main campus.” Id. at 25.

         Although “primarily her roles and duties were at the west campus, ” “[s]he had authority as assistant director over both campuses.” Doc. #48-3 at 25-26. All told, Rush-McDonald spent approximately 85% of her time at the West Campus and 15% at the Main Campus. Id. at 51-52. As Assistant Director, Rush-McDonald received the rating of “commendable” for her work performance at DRMC, the highest of four ratings, which reflects “results above those expected of the position.” Doc. #48-6; Doc. #48-7; Doc. #48-8.

         C. Sean Laird Resignation and Hiring of Heather Lewis

         In November 2013, Sean Laird, a full-time pharmacist at the Main Campus resigned his position to become a “PRN.”[5] Doc. #46-1 at 55-56. Rush-McDonald informed Fratesi that she did not feel DRMC needed to fill Laird's vacant position. Id. at 57-58. However, on November 5, 2013, Fratesi completed an Employment Requisition form for a full-time pharmacist, listing Laird as the “Employee to be Replaced.” Doc. #48-9.

         DRMC posted the pharmacist position on the website of the University of Mississippi's pharmacy school. Doc. #46-6 at 10. “Immediately” after posting the position, Fratesi was contacted by Heather Lewis. Id. Fratesi interviewed Lewis, who is white, [6] on March 4, 2014. Id.; Doc. #46-8 at ¶ 3. The same day, Fratesi completed an Applicant Interview form recommending that Lewis be hired. Doc. #46-8 at Ex. 2. The next day, the Human Resources Department conducted a reference check on Lewis. Id. at ¶ 3.

         On April 25, 2014, Lewis traveled to Greenville to meet with DRMC's Human Resources Department. Doc. #46-7 at 7. During her visit, Fratesi took Lewis around the hospital and Lewis received a written offer. Id. at 7-8. That day, Lewis “told them that [she] would come to work for them.” Id. at 8. Lewis received pre-employment information and, the next day, completed two pre-employment forms. Id. at 15; Doc. #48-18; Doc. #48-19.[7] After Lewis accepted the offer, DRMC's Human Resources Department removed the vacancy announcement from its website. Doc. #46-8 at ¶ 4. However, Lewis, who was still a student, was not eligible to begin work at DRMC until she graduated.[8] Doc. #46-7 at 11.

         Lewis graduated from pharmacy school on May 14, 2014. Doc. #46-7 at 4. On May 21, 2014, DRMC sent Lewis a “letter … confirm[ing] our verbal offer and your acceptance of employment … as a Full Time Pharmacist.” Doc. #48-21.

         D. Performance Improvement Plan

         On May 15, 2014, Insight Health Partners, pursuant to a February 2014 contract with DRMC, presented to DRMC a Performance Improvement Plan offering recommendations for operations at the campuses. Doc. #46-5 at ¶¶ 3-4; Doc. #48-14. Of relevance here, the Performance Improvement Plan included the following suggestion:

West Campus - Staff a full-time pharmacist and Pharmacy tech at the West Campus during the weekday hours. If the West Campus does not close within the next couple of months, I suggested that these positions be eliminated. It would be acceptable to keep one pharmacist, if utilized as a clinical pharmacist for ICU, Telemetry, & ED.

Doc. #48-14.

         At the time Insight made its suggestion, the West Campus employed one full-time pharmacist-Rush-McDonald; and one pharmacy technician-Rose ...


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