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James v. CLC of Pascagoula, LLC

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

August 30, 2017

TARJILYN JAMES PLAINTIFF
v.
CLC OF PASCAGOULA, LLC d/b/a PLAZA COMMUNITY LIVING CENTER DEFENDANT

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          SHARION AYCOCK, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Tarjilyn James filed her case in this Court in March of 2016, and followed up with an Amended Complaint [29] on September 13, 2016. In her Amended Complaint, James alleges that her former employer, Plaza Community Living Center, fired her because she is black and in retaliation for her reports of illegal activities of other employees. James seeks relief under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and under Mississippi's public policy exception to the employment-at-will doctrine established in McArn v. Allied Bruce-Terminix, 626 So.2d 603 (Miss. 1993). In addition, the Plaintiff asserts several state law claims for gross negligence, negligent and intentional infliction of emotional distress, outrage, and negligent supervision and retention.

         Now before the Court is Plaza's Motion for Summary Judgment [34] on all of the Plaintiff's claims. The Plaintiff filed a Response [37], and the Defendant filed a Reply [38, 40] making this issue ripe for review.

         Factual and Procedural Background

         The following facts are taken largely from the Plaintiff's version of events. Factual controversies are resolved in favor of the Plaintiff when both parties submitted evidence of contradictory facts. Little v. Liquid Air Corp., 37 F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th Cir. 1994) (en banc).

         Plaintiff James, a Licensed Practical Nurse, began working for Defendant Plaza, a nursing home, on a part-time basis in November of 2010. Plaintiff James is an African American female.

         About a year later, the Plaintiff took a full time position as Plaza's Medical Records Nurse. By all accounts, the Plaintiff maintained a clean disciplinary record.

         In July of 2015, the Plaintiff complained to Plaza administrators that Kelly Adamson, the Assistant Director of Nursing[1] and a white female, had backdated certain medical records and forged a doctor's signature. Nursing Home Administrator Chrisotfides investigated the Plaintiff's allegation against Adamson and determined it to be unfounded.[2] Adamson was not disciplined. According to the Plaintiff, her relationship with Adamson deteriorated significantly after this report.

         In September of 2015, the Plaintiff observed Rachel Gibson, a white female and also an LPN, working out of uniform, handing out medication, and verbally abusing a resident. Gibson was not under the Plaintiff's direct supervision and it is disputed whether the Plaintiff had any supervisory authority over Gibson although, clearly, the Plaintiff was under a duty to report policy violations and criminal acts generally. The Plaintiff reported Gibson's actions to the administrative office and Adamson was informed. Later that day, Gibson confronted the Plaintiff about her report and thereafter, the Plaintiff attempted to gather witness statements from other employees that observed Gibson's behavior and started to “write up” or file a disciplinary report against Gibson. Soon thereafter, Adamson intervened and instructed the Plaintiff to stop her investigation into Gibson. Adamson informed the Plaintiff that she did not have the authority to write Gibson up. The Plaintiff disagreed, and continued to gather statements and complete the disciplinary forms.

         Administrator Christofides was not available that day so Adamson contacted regional director James Williams. Per Williams' instructions, the Plaintiff was sent home for the day and ultimately suspended from work for one week.

         On September 30, 2015, Christofides returned to work and the Plaintiff's suspension was over. Christofides and Director of Nursing Gregg issued a final written warning to the Plaintiff, which she signed. The final written warning stated that the Plaintiff was suspended for failing to follow the chain of command and for conducting her own investigation. The final written warning also informed the Plaintiff that she was not to conduct disciplinary investigations. The Plaintiff commented in writing on the final warning that she did not agree with the suspension, that at the time of the incident she as a department head, had the authority to write up other employees, that she did follow the chain of command because she reported directly to Christofides, and that the chain of command was changed and that she was not informed of the new chain of command. Around this same time, the administration did give an organizational chart to the Plaintiff outlining the chain of command at Plaza. The Plaintiff contends that this was a new document that changed the chain of command. Gibson was not written up or disciplined relative to the Plaintiff's allegations against her.

         After returning to work post-suspension, the Plaintiff believed that her already strained relationship with Adamson worsened and that Adamson was now making overt attempts to have her terminated. The Plaintiff suspected that Adamson even offered her job to another employee, Melissa Hampton, a white female.

         On October 13, 2015, the Plaintiff filed a three-page grievance form with Christofides. The Plaintiff's grievance details her concerns related to Adamson's retaliatory desire to have her terminated. The grievance form also contains information about an incident where another employee, Melissa Hampton, was allegedly talking loudly, cussing, and making threatening remarks about Director Gregg.

         According to Hampton, the Plaintiff came to her and asked her to write a statement about her interactions with Adamson. The Plaintiff believed that a statement from Hampton would help to substantiate her own concerns about Adamson. Hampton refused to provide the Plaintiff with a statement. According to Hampton, the Plaintiff was angry about her refusal to provide a ...


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