United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Greenville Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
M. BROWN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
employment discrimination action is before the Court on
Lighthouse Point's, LLC, motion for summary judgment,
Doc. #30, and its motion for partial summary judgment, Doc.
Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure,
“[s]ummary 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).
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).
Wong's Initial Employment with Lighthouse Casino
Wong is an Asian American woman who was born in October of
1954. Doc. #35-1 at 5, 22. She attended both Mississippi
State University and Delta State University but did not earn
a degree from either. Doc. #35-1 at 8.
early 1980s, after moving to Greenville, Mississippi, with
her husband, Wong, her husband, and her husband's parents
became owners of a Chinese restaurant in Greenville.
Id. at 9-10. In addition to the restaurant, Wong ran
Riverland Print Works, a t-shirt screen printing business;
and Posh Designs, a catering company. Id. at 10-12.
In 2007, Wong closed the restaurant and the t-shirt business.
January 2008, Wong began working as an assistant manager at
Doe's Eat Place in Greenville. Id. at 12; Doc.
#35-15 at 3. Approximately three months later, in April of
2008, Wong was hired by Lighthouse Casino to work as a guest
relations manager. Doc. #35-1 at 12-13. As a guest relations
manager, Wong, who still worked at Doe's,  served as a
liaison between guests and Tess Ingram, a white
woman and the casino's general manager at
the time Wong was hired. Id. at 13-14.
point, Lighthouse Casino merged with Jubilee Casino and
became Tropicana Casino, also referred to as “the
Trop.” Id. at 16, 20. Sometime after this
merger, Wong was placed under the supervision of an unnamed
male marketing director. Id. at 16-17. In September
of 2011, Cheryl Goode, an African American woman,
became Tropicana's marketing director. Id. at
18. Goode “constantly tr[ied] to find something wrong
with everything that [Wong] did.” Id. at 19.
Wong heard from “people” that Goode “did
not like white people” and Wong could tell that Goode
did not like her because even though she is Asian, she is
“considered white.” Id. at 24.
Monday in January 2012, Wong was called into the office of
Roslyn Hinton, Tropicana's human resources director.
Id. at 18, 20. Hinton and Goode, who was also
present, informed Wong that she was being terminated,
effective immediately, for failure to follow casino procedure
in running a drawing the previous Friday. Id. at
20-21. Wong's employment ended that day. Id. At
the time Wong was terminated, Chris Strobbe, a white man,
Tropicana's general manager. Id. at 29.
her termination, Wong suffered from increased stress which
she attributes to numerous factors. Doc. #35-1 at 85-86.
Approximately three months after her termination, Wong
suffered a heart attack caused by high cholesterol.
Id. at 87.
Wong's Rehire, and Subsequent Hire of Aleisha
November of 2012, Strobbe told a friend of Wong's to tell
Wong to call him. Doc. #35-1 at 29. During their first
conversation, Strobbe told Wong that he believed she would be
“good for the position to be director” of The
Greenville Inn and Suites, the hotel attached to Tropicana.
Id. at 31; Doc. #31-2 at 26. Wong, who was then 58
years old, accepted Strobbe's offer to work as Director
of Hotel VIP Services. See Doc. #35-1 at 38; Doc.
#35-2. As director, Wong was responsible for the operations
of the hotel, including (1) training, hiring, and firing
hotel staff; (2) working with maintenance to fix problems on
the property; (3) doing budgets and payroll; and (4)
“drumming up business.” Doc. #35-1 at 38, 43.
September 16, 2013, Wong, together with Hinton, hired Aleisha
Baker, an African American woman born in 1977, to work as a
front desk clerk. Doc. #35-3 at 4-5; Doc. #35-1 at 51.
Following Baker's hire, Wong oversaw Baker's training
on the hotel's reservation system and “how to
answer the phone correctly.” Doc. #35-1 at 51.
April 2015 Evaluation and Training of Baker
April 9, 2015, Roscoe Green, an African American
who was then working as Tropicana's general manager,
completed a “Management Performance Evaluation”
of Wong. Doc. #35-5. Wong received scores of “Exceeds
Expectations” or “Meets Expectations” in
every measured category. Id. Overall, Wong's
scores placed her in the “Exceeds Expectations”
around April 2015, Wong decided that she needed a supervisor
for when the hotel was busy. Doc. #35-1 at 52, 56. She
started to “groom” Baker to be her assistant.
Id. Specifically, Wong showed Baker office
procedures, purchasing, and how to train new employees.
Id. at 52- 53.
Hotel Director Position
September 8, 2015, Wong sent Hinton an e-mail stating that
she had received approval from Green to create a hotel
supervisor position to provide supervision when she was away
from the hotel. Doc. #35-7. Two days later, on September 10,
2015, Tropicana issued a vacancy announcement for the
position of Hotel Supervisor. Doc. #35-16. The duties of the
Hotel Supervisor position were described as:
Directly supervises all hotel Front Desk and Housekeeping
staff and ensures proper completion of all duties. Directs
and coordinates the activities of the front desk,
reservations, guest services, and housekeeping areas. Prepare
monthly reports and budget for the department.
Id. According to Green, vacancy announcements are
posted on “some type of website” which is
accessible to employees “as well as anyone applying
from the outside.” Doc. #35-4 at 17.
told Baker that she should apply for the new position. Doc.
#35-3 at 12. Baker submitted her application on September 11,
2015. See Doc. #35-8. Wong never applied for the
Hotel Supervisor position. Doc. #31-2 at 16.
about the time Green approved the creation of the hotel
supervision position, he began to contemplate eliminating
Wong's position. Doc. #31-2 at 9-10. According to Green,
he made this decision to produce “cost savings”
and discussed it with Lighthouse's corporate office, with
whom he had been discussing
“reorganization/restructuring” since July or
August. Id. at 10; Doc. #31-3 at 6.
approximately 4:00 p.m. on September 23, 2015, Wong was
informed that she needed to see Green. Doc. #31-2 at 9; Doc.
#35-1 at 65. After Wong entered Green's office, Green
informed her that her position was being terminated. Doc.
#35-1 at 67. Green said that Wong was doing “an
excellent job;” it was “just corporate
terminating … the position.” Id.
Spencer, a white woman and then human resources secretary,
was terminated the same day. Doc. #35-1 at 66; Doc. #35-4 at
10. During his deposition, Green testified that he could not
“remember exactly” why Spencer was terminated but
he “believe[s]” that it was also for cost savings
purposes. Doc. #35-4 at 11. Hinton testified that Spencer was
let go as part of the same corporate reorganization which
eliminated Wong's position. Doc. #35-6 at 5.
Reassignment of Wong's Duties and ...