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Annetta Peacock v. Altercare of Canal Winchester

October 26, 2011

ANNETTA PEACOCK, PLAINTIFF,
v.
ALTERCARE OF CANAL WINCHESTER POST-ACUTE REHABILITATION CENTER, INC. DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Algenon L. Marbley

Magistrate Judge Norah McCann King

OPINION AND ORDER

I. INTRODUCTION

This matter is before the Court on Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment. Having now heard oral argument on the motion, and for the reasons set forth herein, the Defendant's Motion is GRANTED.

II. BACKGROUND

Defendant Altercare of Canal Winchester Post-Acute Rehabilitation Center, Inc. ("Defendant" or "Altercare") employed Plaintiff Annetta Peacock ("Plaintiff" or "Ms. Peacock") from May 2009 until April 19, 2010 as a State Tested Nurse Aide ("STNA"). Plaintiff, who is African-American, claims that she was discriminated against on the basis of her race following an incident that occurred on April 8, 2010 involving the Plaintiff and a male resident.

The details of the incident are disputed, but essentially the male resident became upset at Plaintiff because he was made to wait for an extended and unreasonable period of time before he was assisted with using the bathroom, despite his call light being turned on to indicate he needed assistance. Plaintiff had a verbal exchange with the male resident, and afterward she brought the incident to the attention of her supervisors. Defendant conducted an "investigation" and solicited statements from several employees who witnessed the incident and Plaintiff's interactions with the male resident. Following this incident, Plaintiff received a three-day suspension. Defendant gave Plaintiff notice of her termination on April 19, 2010, citing her involvement in the April 8, 2010 incident as reported by the employees' statements. None of the other STNAs present during the incident were disciplined or terminated.

Plaintiff further alleges that Defendant regularly racially discriminated against its African-American employees. In particular, she claims that Defendant hired Caucasian replacements for as many as seventeen terminated African-American employees and that Defendant subjected her and other African-American employees to a hostile work environment.

Plaintiff filed suit against Defendant in this Court on August 11, 2010, bringing the following claims: (1) racial discrimination in violation of the Ohio Civil Rights Act, Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 4112.02(A); (2) unspecified claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e; (3) intentional infliction of emotional distress under Ohio common law; and (4-5) wrongful termination in violation of Ohio public policy. Plaintiff requested compensatory damages in excess of $25,000, punitive damages, and attorneys fees and costs.

On February 23, 2011, this Court granted Defendant's Motion to Dismiss, and dismissed claims three (intentional infliction of emotional distress), four ("Wrongful Termination in Violation of Public Policy"), and five ("Public Policy Tort") of Plaintiff's Complaint for failure to state a claim pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)6. On May 13, 2011, Defendant filed this motion for summary judgment on Plaintiff's two remaining causes of action for wrongful termination on the basis of racial discrimination under both federal and state statutes. The matter is now fully briefed and ripe for decision.

III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Summary judgment is proper if "there is no genuine issue as to any material fact [such that] the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). But "summary judgment will not lie if the . . . evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). In considering a motion for summary judgment, a court must construe the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). The movant therefore has the burden of establishing that there is no genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986); Barnhart v. Pickrel, Schaeffer & Ebeling Co., 12 F.3d 1382, 1388-89 (6th Cir. 1993).

The central inquiry is "whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 251-52. But the non-moving party "may not rest merely on allegations or denials in its own pleading." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e)(2). See also Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324; Searcy v. City of Dayton, 38 F.3d 282, 286 (6th Cir. 1994). The non-moving party must present "significant probative evidence" to show that there is more than "some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Moore v. Philip Morris Co., 8 F.3d 335, 339-40 (6th Cir. 1993). Finally, when a party submits an affidavit under Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e), it must set forth facts that would be admissible at trial to survive summary judgment. Jones v. Butler Metro. Housing Authority, 40 F.App'x. 131, 2002 WL 1455329 at *3 (6th Cir. Jul. 2, 2002) (unpublished).

Cases involving state of mind determinations are not necessarily inappropriate for summary judgment. Burns v. Sofa Express, Case No. C2-00-01342, 2002 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 23247 at *5 (S.D. Ohio 2002) (citing Street v. J.C. Bradford & Co., 886 F.2d 1472, 1476 (6th Cir. 1989)). Moreover, "in responding to a summary judgment motion, the nonmoving party cannot rely on the hope that the trier of fact will disbelieve the movant's denial of a disputed fact, but must present affirmative evidence in order to defeat a properly supported motion for summary judgment." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 257. Finally, the Sixth Circuit has held that "[a] court may not consider unsworn statements when ruling on a motion for summary judgment." Dole v. Elliott Travel & Tours, Inc., 942 F.2d 962, 968-69 (6th Cir. 1991); see also Little v. BP Exploration & Oil Co., 2 ...


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