United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Aberdeen Division
SHARION AYCOCK, UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE
matter arises on Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment
. Defendant moves the Court to summarily adjudicate
Plaintiff's claims for discrimination and retaliation as
a matter of law. Plaintiff responded , and Defendant
and Procedural History
Hodges began working as a nurse at The Carrington Nursing
Center in 2010. In April 2012, Hodges took maternity leave
for the birth of her first child. After exhausting her FMLA
leave, Hodges obtained special permission from the
Administrator, Debbie White, to take more time off work in
order to care for her child, who had been hospitalized. She
returned to work about two weeks later than planned, when
management informed her that she would be converted into
part-time status if she did not return.
to Defendant, Hodges proved a good employee under Debbie
White. In the fall of 2013, Hodges was promoted to the
position of Director of Nursing (DON). Hodges received a
raise even though there was a compensation freeze in place in
2014. However, eventually, White was promoted and Nikki
Williams replaced White as the new Administrator. At that
time, White offered Hodges a DON position at another
facility, which would have resulted in an increase in pay,
but Hodges turned down the offer. Instead, Hodges remained at
her position working under Williams.
2014, Hodges became pregnant with her second child. Hodges
was worried that she was leaving her coworkers in a bind when
she went on maternity leave, because she was behind on many
things. However, Williams reassured her that as long as
things were in order, everything would be fine. Health
complications caused Hodges to go on leave earlier than
planned, and she was unable to complete neglected projects.
On April 1, 2015, almost one month after Hodges had taken
leave, Kathy Peacock, a nursing consultant for The
Carrington's management company, conducted a mock survey
of the facility in a routine visit. In Hodges' office,
Peacock found several bags of medications that Hodges had
neglected to destroy. She also found more medications behind
the file folders in the drawers of Hodges desk, including
Restoril and Xanax. Both medications are discontinued
controlled substances issued to The Carrington for
administration to residents. Regulations required the
medications be stored in a double-lock cabinet with
restricted access until they were destroyed. After Peacock
completed a short investigation, she reported the incident to
Williams, and the two terminated Hodges immediately.
filing her charge with the EEOC on May 4, Hodges filed the
instant lawsuit alleging that she was terminated in violation
of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) and in retaliation
for disclosing her pregnancy to her superiors. Furthermore,
Hodges alleges that she was terminated in retaliation for
taking leave under FMLA.
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.
alleges that Defendant discriminated against her in violation
of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) and in retaliation
for disclosing her pregnancy to her superiors, in violation
of both Title VII and the FMLA. Furthermore, Hodges alleges
that she was terminated in retaliation for taking leave under
FMLA A. Plaintiff's Discrimination Claim Title
VII makes it unlawful for an employer “to fail or
refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise
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). In
incorporating the PDA, Title VII defines the term
“because of sex” as including, “because of
or on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical
conditions.” 42 U.S.C. § 2000e(k). The PDA further
provides that “women affected by pregnancy, childbirth,
or related medical conditions shall be treated the same for
all employment-related purposes, including receipt of
benefits under fringe benefit programs, as other persons not
so affected but similar in their ability or inability to
work.” Id; see also Laxton v. Gap
Inc., 333 F.3d 572, 578 (5th Cir. 2003).
brought under the PDA is analyzed like any other Title VII
discrimination claim. Urbano v. Continental Airlines,
Inc., 138 F.3d 204, 206 (5th Cir. 1998). Plaintiff's
case is built on circumstantial evidence because she has
presented no direct evidence of discrimination, which means
that the Court will analyze her claim under the McDonnell
Douglas framework. See Wallace v. Methodist Hosp.
Sys., 271 F.3d 212 (5th Cir. 2001); McDonnell
Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 802, 93 S.Ct.
1817, 36 L.Ed.2d 668 (1973). Under this framework, the
Plaintiff must first create a presumption of discrimination
by making out a prima facie case of discrimination.
See Wallace, 271 F.3d at 219. The Plaintiff must
show that (1) she was a member of the protected class, (2)
she was qualified for the position she lost, (3) she suffered
an adverse employment action, and (4) that she was replaced
with a similarly qualified person who was not a member of the
protected class or that similarly situated employees were
treated more favorably. See Laxton, 333 F.3d at 579
n.1; Grimes v. Wal-Mart Stores Texas, LLC, 505 F.
App'x 376, 379 (5th Cir. 2013); McLaughlin v. W &
T Offshore, Inc., 78 F. App'x 334, 338 (5th Cir.
burden then shifts to the employer to produce a legitimate,
nondiscriminatory reason for her termination. See
Wallace, 271 F.3d at 219. This causes the presumption of
discrimination to dissipate. See id. The plaintiff
then bears the ultimate burden of persuading the trier of
fact by a preponderance of the evidence that ...