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McBryde v. A Renewed Mind

United States District Court, N.D. Ohio, Western Division

August 29, 2019

Sylvanus B. McBryde, et al., Plaintiffs,
A Renewed Mind, Defendant.


          Jeffrey J. Helmick United States District Judge


         Plaintiffs Sylvanus B. McBryde and Samantha S. Nance sued Defendant A Renewed Mind (“ARM”), alleging Defendant discriminated against them on the basis of their race and retaliated against them for filing charges of discrimination with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission (“OCRC”) and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”). McBryde also alleges ARM discriminated against him on the basis of his sex. ARM has filed motions for summary judgment as to McBryde and Nance's claims. (Doc. No. 15 and Doc. No. 16). McBryde and Nance filed briefs in opposition to these motions, and ARM filed briefs in reply. While these motions were pending, Nance and ARM stipulated to the dismissal of her claims with prejudice. (Doc. No. 42). For the reasons stated below, Defendant's motion for summary judgment on McBryde's claims is granted.


         McBryde began working as a qualified mental health specialist and chemical dependency counselor with ARM in October 2009. McBryde helped to develop and expand an ARM mental health and substance abuse treatment program known as Guided Paths. He eventually held the titles of Program Manager and later Program Director for Guided Paths.

         School and youth-based services were a large component of the Guided Paths program, though the program also served adults with substance abuse issues. Guided Paths received some state funding, as well as funding from grants. McBryde worked as an independent contractor until June 2014, when he became an ARM employee. This change in employment status did not change McBryde's job duties or responsibilities.

         Nance began working for ARM as a case manager in April 2010. She also helped to develop the Guided Paths program, ultimately becoming a Program Manager in November 2013. Nance worked directly with at-risk youth at several schools with whom ARM contracted in connection with Guided Paths.

         McBryde consistently received high marks on his annual employee performance evaluations. McBryde received strong reviews for expanding Guided Paths, exceeding productivity goals, and forming relationships with community partners. Matthew Rizzo, who supervised McBryde and later became the CEO of ARM, repeatedly called McBryde “an asset” to the agency. (Doc. No. 21-4 at 3; Doc. No. 21-6 at 3).

         In July 2014, the board of directors for ARM placed the agency's then-CEO, Jonathan James, on administrative leave. Rizzo became the interim CEO; the board of directors selected him as the permanent CEO in October 2014. In August 2014, following discussions with other executive officers at ARM, including Wendy Shaheen, Jennifer Riha, and Rolanda Key, Rizzo announced changes to the Guided Paths program. The parties disagree as to the scope of these changes - alternately referring to these changes as a “realignment”, (Doc. No. 15-1 at 9), or a “dismantling”, (Doc. No. 19 at 148) - but agree that by the fall of 2014, Guided Paths was no longer a stand-alone program within ARM.

         ARM describes the changes as being driven by efficiency concerns and a need to ensure compliance with the Ohio Administrative Code. (Doc. No. 15-1 at 9). The OAC requires supervisors of certain clinical services to maintain a specific level of licensure in order to supervisor other treatment providers. McBryde had not obtained these licenses so five other ARM employees reviewed and approved mental health and clinical services performed by Guided Paths staff members.

         McBryde and Nance both strenuously objected to the restructuring. Nance believed the changes were “unfair.” (Doc. No. 17 at 142). Nance had “poured [her] everything into Guided Paths, and to have it torn apart like this [was] heart-wrenching.” (Doc. No. 17 at 142). McBryde thought he was having the program “stripped from [him]” and that the changes “undermine[d]” Guided Paths. (Doc. No. 19 at 153).

         Shortly after the changes to Guided Paths were announced, McBryde received the first disciplinary action in his five years at ARM. Riha and Shaheen issued McBryde a notice of corrective action on August 24, 2014, for ignoring ARM procedures on hiring new employees and inappropriate communications with present and former ARM staff members. (Doc. No. 19-14).

         The changes went into effect in September 2014. The portion of Guided Paths which served students at the Polly Fox Academy, a charter school for girls in grades 7 through 12 who were pregnant or raising a young child, was moved into the School-Based Services division of ARM. Adult addiction and other drug counseling services were moved to the Alcohol and Other Drug (“AOD”) division, and mental health services were moved into ARM's Mental Health Division.

         At this point, McBryde's title changed from Program Director of Guided Paths to Program Director of Adult AOD, though his pay and benefits did not change. McBryde began reporting to Christina Rodriguez, who was the Clinical Director of the AOD division.

         On September 12, 2014, McBryde filed an internal grievance concerning his August 25 notice of corrective action and the decision to restructure Guided Paths. He sought to escalate his grievance to the second step of the grievance process on October 2, 2014, (Doc. No. 19-21), the same day as McBryde filed a charge of discrimination with the OCRC. (Doc. No. 18-13). Rizzo acknowledged receipt of McBryde's letter escalating his grievance on October 6, 2014, and indicated he would contact a member of the board of directors to set up a meeting pursuant to ARM policy. (Doc. No. 21-30).

         McBryde received a second notice of corrective action on October 7, 2014. (Doc. No. 21-37). This second notice charged McBryde with a number of policy violations, including attendance, professionalism, an ethics violation, insubordination, and poor quality of work. (Doc. No. 21-37 at 1). ARM also contends it had received complaints about McBryde from two separate referral sources. As a result, McBryde was suspended for three and one-half days.

         Shortly after McBryde was suspended, Lisa Rioux, ARM's Director of Administrative Services, reported McBryde reacted poorly when Rioux approached him to discuss questions concerning another employee. Rioux believed, based upon McBryde's tone, body language, and body positioning, that McBryde was attempting to intimidate her. (Doc. No. 20-28 at 4). A similar incident took place following McBryde's return from his suspension, though this incident instead involved Rodriquez, McBryde's supervisor. (Doc. No. 20-28 at 1-3).

         Riha investigated these incidents. Riha spoke with both Rioux and Rodriquez, as well as several witnesses. (Doc. No. 20 at 182-186). Riha also notified McBryde she was investigating these allegations and attempted to schedule a meeting with him. Riha eventually notified McBryde by text message that he was not to come to work until the investigation was pending. During the investigation, however, ARM determined it would eliminate McBryde's position and declined to reassign McBryde to another position due to his “unacceptable work performance.” (Doc. No. 20-9). McBryde's employment with ARM ended on October 27, 2014.


         Summary judgment is appropriate if the movant demonstrates there is no genuine dispute of material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). All evidence must be viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmovant, White v. Baxter Healthcare Corp., 533 F.3d 381, 390 (6th Cir. 2008), and all reasonable inferences are drawn in the nonmovant's favor. Rose v. State Farm Fire & Cas. Co., 766 F.3d 532, 535 (6th Cir. 2014). A factual dispute is genuine if a reasonable jury could resolve the dispute and return a verdict in the nonmovant's favor. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A disputed fact is material only if its resolution might affect the outcome of the case under the governing substantive law. Rogers v. O'Donnell, 737 F.3d 1026, 1030 (6th Cir. 2013).


         McBryde asserts claims for sex discrimination, race discrimination, and retaliation under both federal and state law.[1] Defendant moves for summary judgment on each of these claims. McBryde asserts there is a genuine dispute of material fact as to his race discrimination and retaliation claims, though he does not oppose Defendant's motion as to his sex discrimination claims. (See Doc. No. 30 at 69). Defendant is entitled to summary judgment because McBryde fails to offer evidence Defendant treated him differently because of his sex, and accordingly his claim is dismissed See, e.g., Laney v. Ohio Dep't of Youth Servs., 719 F.Supp.2d 868, 881 (S.D. Ohio 2010), aff'd, 448 Fed.Appx. 553 (6th Cir. 2011).

         A. Race Discrimination

         McBryde may establish a prima facie case of race discrimination by showing “(1) he is a member of a protected class; (2) he was subjected to an adverse employment action; (3) he was qualified for the position; and (4) he was replaced by someone outside the protected class or was treated differently than similarly-situated [individuals outside of the protected class] . . . .” Amos v. McNairy Cnty., 622 Fed.Appx. 529, 533-34 (6th Cir. 2015) (quoting Deleon v. Kalamazoo Cnty. Rd. Comm'n, 739 F.3d 914, 918 (6th Cir.2014) cert. denied, --- U.S. ---, 135 S.Ct. 783 (2015)). Defendant contends McBryde cannot establish either the second or the fourth element of the prima facie case.

         1. Adverse ...

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