Court of Appeals of Ohio, Second District, Montgomery
MICHELLE SHAW, et al. Plaintiffs-Appellants
ACCESS OHIO Defendant-Appellee
Appeal from Common Pleas Court Trial Court Case No.
M. DUWEL, Atty. Reg. No. 0029583, 130 West Second Street,
Suite 2101, Dayton, Ohio 45402 Attorney for
PRISCILLA HAPNER Atty. Reg. No. 0066275, P.O. Box 91106,
Columbus, Ohio 43209 Attorney for Defendant-Appellee
1} Plaintiff-appellant Elaine Barrow and her mother,
plaintiff-appellant Michelle Shaw, filed a joint complaint
raising state law claims of race discrimination. Shaw appeals
the Civ.R. 12(B)(6) dismissal of her claims. Barrow appeals
the summary judgment rendered against her. For the reasons
set forth below, we affirm.
Facts and Procedural History
2} Access Ohio d/b/a Access Residential (hereinafter
"Access") is an Ohio company headquartered in
Columbus. It operates community mental health centers for
mental health and substance abuse treatment for individuals
who qualify for Medicaid. Access operates a residential
alcohol and drug rehabilitation program located on Wayne
Avenue in Dayton. The facility is licensed by the Ohio
Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services
(hereinafter "the State").
3} In September 2015, Regional Program Director
Chauncey Wallace recruited and hired Shaw to work at Access
as a human resources manager. As part of her duties at
Access, Shaw was responsible for processing personnel forms
and files, a function that included checking references and
obtaining criminal background checks for all new employees.
Shaw's daughter, Barrow, was hired approximately two
weeks later as a Chemical Dependency Counselor
4} On Wednesday, December 30, 2015, Access was
audited by the State. As part of the audit, the State
inspectors asked to meet with randomly-selected clients who
were currently residing at the facility. At the conclusion of
the audit, Access was directed to investigate resident claims
that Shaw had been helping clients sign up for food stamps
and that Barrow had been improperly purchasing the food
stamps from the clients for a reduced price.  Access was also
directed to investigate Shaw's notation in an
employee's personnel file indicating that Shaw had
verified the employee's prior employment. According to
the record, the State had closed the facility identified as
the employee's reference prior to the date Shaw indicated
she had verified the employee's prior employment. The
investigators further informed Access that some of the
clients interviewed during the audit claimed Shaw was not
addressing their grievances, that she had been observed
throwing their written grievance forms into the trash, and
that she would later retaliate against any client that filed
a grievance. Access was directed to submit a written report
and correction plan for all the issues raised during the
audit by the following Monday.
5} As part of their investigation, Operations
Manager Missy Honeycutt and Operations Team Member Patty
Parsley met with each client residing in the facility.
Numerous residents claimed to have heard about the food stamp
allegation involving Barrow and a client named Roy who was no
longer residing at the facility. Only one resident, known as
Herbert, stated that he had witnessed Barrow hand cash to a
resident; he assumed it was related to food stamps.
6} Also, during their investigation, Honeycutt and
Parsley were unable to locate any documentation related to
client grievances that had been given by residents to Shaw.
They concluded the lack of documentation corroborated the
clients' claims that Shaw threw their grievances in the
trash. They further found discrepancies in Barrow's
employment application, for which Shaw was responsible.
Specifically, Barrow's application form affirmatively
denied being related to any other employee of Access, despite
her relationship to Shaw. Further, Barrow's form
indicated that she had a valid driver's license, despite
the fact that her license was suspended. Barrow's
application also listed criminal convictions which
disqualified her for employment at Access. Finally, the
completed reference check form performed by Shaw did not
match the dates of employment listed on Barrow's job
application. Shaw had not informed anyone of the problems
with Barrow's application.
7} Honeycutt and Parsley met privately with Shaw.
When the issue of Barrow buying food stamps was raised, Shaw
informed Honeycutt and Parsley that, a few weeks prior, she
had received a grievance from a client regarding the claim
that Barrow was buying food stamps from clients. Shaw further
stated that she had given the grievance to Wallace to
investigate. Wallace was then called into the meeting. He
confirmed that he had been notified of the grievance, but he
denied that Shaw had asked him to investigate it. Shaw then
stated that she must have given the grievance to Brenda
Wolfe, who was Barrow's immediate supervisor. When
questioned, Wolfe noted that she had heard the allegation
from a client and had reported it to Wallace. She denied
being asked to investigate the complaint. Although Shaw
claimed she did not investigate the grievance because of her
relationship to Barrow, she admitted that she had spoken to
Barrow about the claims and that Barrow had denied the
allegations. Shaw also initially denied receiving any
grievances from clients, but later indicated that she had
investigated a few grievances. However, she was unable to
produce any documentation regarding these grievances. Shaw
admitted helping clients enroll in the food stamp program.
Shaw's employment was terminated.
8} Honeycutt and Parsley also met with Barrow to
inform her of their investigation and their decision to
terminate her employment. Barrow denied the allegations
regarding the food stamps and indicated that she did not
believe the matter had been properly investigated.
9} On August 12, 2016, Barrow and Shaw filed a
complaint seeking damages under R.C. 4112.99 based upon the
claim that their termination was racially motivated in
violation of R.C. 4112.02. Access filed a Civ.R. 12(B)(6)
motion to dismiss Shaw's complaint. Access argued that
Shaw's statement in the complaint that she was terminated
"solely on the basis that she was Plaintiff Barrow's
mother" negated any claim of racial discrimination. Shaw
thereafter filed a response in which she stated the
Michelle Shaw is alleging that due to her race
African-American and the fact that she was Plaintiff Elaine
Barrow (also an African American) mother [sic], she was
treated disparatively [sic] by Defendant and terminated. The
phrase in question, "solely on the basis she was Elaine
Barrow's mother" was intended to assert that there
was no legitimate business reason for the termination. To the
extent that the Court believes this language is confusing,
Plaintiff requests leave to file an Amended Complaint to
state that her termination was based on her race and that no
legitimate business reason existed for her termination.
Dkt. No. 11.
10} The trial court found that Shaw's complaint
set forth a non-discriminatory reason for her termination,
i.e., her familial relationship to Barrow, and, thus, it did
not articulate a viable cause of action for race
discrimination. The trial court further found that Shaw had
failed to identify how she would cure the defect in the
complaint. The trial court granted the motion to dismiss and
denied the request to amend.
11} Discovery was conducted, following which Access
filed a motion for summary judgment against Barrow. The trial
court granted the motion. Barrow and Shaw appeal.