United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Aberdeen Division
SHARION AYCOCK UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter arises from Plaintiff's claims under the ADEA for
age discrimination. Defendant Pontotoc Health Services, Inc.
filed its Motion for Summary Judgment . Plaintiff
responded  and Defendant replied .
and Procedural Background
Health Services, Inc. (“PHS”) employed Walls for
approximately eight years as an Administrative Assistant.
Originally hired by Fred Hood, the administrator of PHS's
hospital and nursing home, Walls' responsibilities
included scheduling emergency room staff, making
appointments, and answering phone calls, among other
administrative tasks. Though Hood insinuated that he was
happy with Walls as an employee, he also testified that Walls
had allowed personal issues to distract her from her job, and
he consistently gave her low evaluation scores. The overall
scores ranked at “met requirements, ” but Walls
received the second lowest possible ranking regarding quality
of work, specifically.
April 2014, Walls received a disciplinary action because she
prematurely informed a nurse practitioner who worked in the
emergency room that her position was going to be eliminated.
Walls had learned this confidential information in her role
as assistant to Hood, and she was not permitted to share it.
However, she told the employee because she “felt
compassion for her, ” as a single mother. In any event,
this was considered a serious breach of confidentiality, and
Hood noted that it was inappropriate and unacceptable. Walls
was informed that further breaches would result in
termination. She acknowledged that this was a poor lapse of
judgment, and successfully completed her “commitment to
change, ” a write-up and mandatory compliance plan
issued when employees must change an unacceptable behavior.
that year, Hood retired from his position and was replaced by
Leslia Carter. Carter quickly noticed deficiencies in
Walls' performance. Carter addressed these issues during
a meeting, wherein she allegedly called Walls a
“troublemaker and a liar.” Carter's issues
with Walls included her general attitude at work, her
inability to prepare legible copies for an important meeting,
accidentally sharing confidential information with an
unintended recipient via email, failing to maintain personnel
files, spreading rumors and instigating conflicts, scheduling
meetings too close together, and a general failure to perform
necessary administrative clerical duties. According to
Carter, Walls was unable to answer questions regarding where
important documents were, and did not have information
regarding funding for which she was responsible. Carter also
complained that Walls frequently informed her of her opinions
of others and rumors regarding various directors and
employees. Carter found her behavior unprofessional and noted
her inability to take responsibility for her actions. These
behaviors made Carter lose confidence in Walls, so she
reviewed Walls' personnel file. Carter saw Walls'
recent poor performance reviews, and allegedly decided to
terminate her based on her findings.
argues that Carter has mischaracterized her mistakes,
explaining that she did not have most of these
responsibilities under her previous supervisor, and was
therefore unaware. She posits that she was a great employee,
as indicated by her overall decent evaluations, and her
coworker's opinions. Regarding specific problems, she
provides specific explanations for why she should not be
blamed for the incidents.
event, after her termination, Walls applied for employment
with other entities, some of whom were connected to PHS, and
some were not. Believing that these entities were retaliating
against her by failing to hire her, Walls' complaint
originally alleged retaliation and failure to hire, as well
as age discrimination. However, Walls has abandoned her
retaliation and failure to hire claim. Furthermore, upon
Plaintiff's unopposed Motion to Dismiss, the Court has
dismissed North Mississippi Health Services, Inc. from the
action. Therefore, before the Court is the remaining ADEA
claim against PHS on Defendants' Motion for Summary
Rule of Civil Procedure 56 governs summary judgment. Summary
judgment is warranted when the evidence reveals no genuine
dispute regarding any material fact, and the moving party is
entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a).
The Rule “mandates the entry of summary judgment, after
adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party
who fails to make a showing sufficient 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, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986).
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.” Id. at 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548. The
nonmoving party must then “go beyond the
pleadings” and “designate ‘specific facts
showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.' ”
Id. at 324, 106 S.Ct. 2548 (citation omitted). In
reviewing the evidence, factual controversies are to be
resolved in favor of the non-movant, “but only when ...
both parties have submitted evidence of contradictory
facts.” Little v. Liquid Air Corp., 37 F.3d
1069, 1075 (5th Cir. 1994) (en banc). 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, 120
S.Ct. 2097, 147 L.Ed.2d 105 (2000). 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, 37 F.3d at 1075.
the ADEA, an employer may be liable for “discharg[ing]
any individual . . . because of such an individual's
age.” 29 U.S.C. § 623(a)(1). To prove
discriminatory termination under the ADEA, the plaintiff must
show that but for the alleged discrimination, she would not
have been terminated. Gross v. FBL Financial Servs.,
Inc., 557 U.S. 167, 176, 129 S.Ct. 2343, 174 L.Ed.2d 119
(2009). When, as here, a plaintiff seeks to establish her
claim with circumstantial evidence only, the Court assesses
the sufficiency of the evidence using the McDonnell
Douglas burden-shifting framework. Miller v.
Raytheon Co., 716 F.3d 138, 144 (5th Cir. 2013)
the McDonnell Douglas contours, the Plaintiff must
first establish a prima facie case of age discrimination,
“at which point, the burden shifts to the employer to
articulate a legitimate non-discriminatory reason for the
employment decision.” Berquist v. Washington Mutual
Bank, 500 F.3d 344, 349 (5th Cir. 2007). If the employer
meets its burden of production, the Plaintiff must introduce
evidence from which a jury could infer that the
employer's proffered reasons are not true-but are instead
a pretext for discrimination-or that even if the
employer's reasons are true, the Plaintiff was terminated
“because of” her age. Miller, 716 F.3d
at 144 (citing Gross, 557 U.S. at 180, 129 S.Ct.
2343). To demonstrate pretext under the ADEA, Plaintiff must
offer evidence to rebut each of the ...