Seay v. Noland Health Care Services, Incorporated
MEMORANDUM OPINION. Signed by Judge Inge P Johnson on 6/13/12. (ASL)
2012 Jun-13 PM 03:46
U.S. DISTRICT COURT
N.D. OF ALABAMA
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
SHAUNTESE C. SEAY,
NOLAND HEALTH SERVICES,
CASE NO. 2:11-CV-0376-S
Pending before the court are a motion for summary judgment by defendant
Noland Health Services (doc. 11), a memorandum (doc. 12), and evidentiary
submissions (doc. 13) in support thereof. Though the plaintiff has failed to respond,
defendant also filed a reply brief (doc. 14).1 Having considered the motion and all
other pleadings filed to date, the court finds as follows:
Plaintiff Shauntese C. Seay is an African-American female and a registered
nurse (“RN”) (Compl. ¶ 11). She became a Licensed Practical Nurse (“LPN”) in 1994
In accordance with the Summary Judgment Scheduling Order appended as Exhibit A to
the Scheduling Order (doc. 10) entered by this court on May 16, 2011, plaintiff had been given
fourteen days from the date of receipt of defendant’s summary judgment motion to respond.
Defendant’s motion having been filed on May 7, 2012, plaintiff’s response was due Monday,
May 21, 2012, at the expiration of the fourteen-day period specified in the Order.
(Ex. B, doc. 13 (Seay Depo.) at 51:13–52:3), received her Associates Degree in
Nursing (“ADN”) from Lawson State Community College in May 2008 (see id. at
45:7–17), and passed her RN board exams in September 2008 (see id. at 26:1–3).
Defendant Noland Health Services is an Alabama corporation operating full-service
senior living facilities and long-term acute care hospitals across the state of Alabama
(Compl. ¶ 7; Def. Br. (doc. 12) at 1). Plaintiff applied to defendant twice in 2009 for
employment as an RN for positions for which she alleges she was qualified, but she
was denied employment (Compl. ¶ 11; Def. Br. (doc. 12) at 4–6). Plaintiff alleges that
within the relevant time frame, defendant hired ten white nurses whom plaintiff was
as qualified as, and no African-American nurses (Compl. ¶ 12). Plaintiff alleges race
discrimination based on defendant’s refusal to hire her in violation of Tittle VII and
42 U.S.C. §§ 1981 & 1981(a) (Compl. ¶ 14, 22).
Standard of Review
A moving party is entitled to summary judgment if there is no genuine issue of
material fact, leaving final judgment to be decided as a matter of law. See Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 56; Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475
U.S. 574, 587, 1355–56 (1986). The facts, and any reasonable inferences therefrom,
are to be viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, with any doubt
resolved in the non-movant’s favor. See Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144,
158 (1970). All “reasonable doubts” about the facts and all justifiable inferences are
resolved in favor of the non-movant. Fitzpatrick v. City of Atlanta, 2 F.3d 1112, 1115
(11th Cir. 1993). However, all “doubts” need not be so resolved. Barnes v. Southwest
Forest Industries, Inc., 814 F.2d 607, 609 (11th Cir. 1987). Once met by the moving
party, however, the burden shifts to the non-moving party to come forward with
evidence to establish each element essential to that party’s case sufficient to sustain
a jury verdict. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986); Earley v.
Champion Int’l Corp., 907 F.2d 1077, 1080 (11th Cir. 1990).
A party opposing a properly submitted motion for summary judgment may not
rest upon mere allegations or denials of his pleadings, but must set forth specific facts
showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Eberhardt v. Waters, 901 F.2d 1578,
1580 (11th Cir. 1990). In addition, the non-moving party’s evidence on rebuttal must
be significantly probative and not based on mere assertion or be merely colorable. See
Rule 56(e); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249–50 (1986).
Speculation does not create a genuine issue of fact. Cordoba v. Dillard’s, Inc., 419
F.3d 1169, 1181 (11th Cir. 2005). “‘The mere existence of some factual dispute will
not defeat summary judgment unless that factual dispute is material to an issue
affecting the outcome of the case . . . . A genuine issue of material fact does not exist
unless there is sufficient evidence favoring the nonmoving party for a reasonable jury
to return a verdict in its favor.’” Chapman v. AI Transport, 229 F.3d 1012, 1023 (11th
Cir. 2000) (quoting Haves v. City of Miami, 52 F.3d 918, 921 (11th Cir. 1995)). A
factual dispute regarding a non-material issue will not preclude the defendant from
succeeding on a motion for summary judgment. Brown v. American Honda Motor
Co., 939 F.2d 946, 953 (11th Cir. 1991).
Although the plaintiff has failed to file a response to the defendants’ motion for
summary judgment, no procedural tool for a default summary judgment exists under
Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 56(e). The court must still find that summary judgment is
appropriate from the pleadings and the evidence. However, “the language of Rule
56(c) mandates the entry of summary judgment . . . 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, 322–23 (1986). With these standards in mind, the court
considers each of the plaintiff’s claims.
To establish a prima facie case of failure to hire due to racial discrimination,
plaintiff must show (i) that she belongs to a racial minority; (ii) that she applied and
was qualified for a job for which the employer was seeking applicants; (iii) that,
despite her qualifications, she was rejected; and (iv) that, after this rejection, the
position remained open and the employer continued to seek applicants from persons
of complainant’s qualifications. See McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S.
792, 802 (1973). To establish a prima facie case for failure to promote, plaintiff must
show that “(1) she is a member of a protected class; (2) she was qualified and applied
for the promotion; (3) she was rejected despite her qualifications; and (4) other
equally or less qualified employees who were not members of the protected class
were promoted.” Wilson v. B/E Aerospace, Inc., 376 F.3d 1079, 1089 (11th Cir. 2004).
Because plaintiff met the minimal educational and licensure requirement once
she obtained her ADN degree and RN license, defendant has assumed for purposes
of the pending motion, and the court accepts, that plaintiff can establish a prima facie
case. See Vessels v. Atlanta Indep. Sch. Sys., 408 F.3d 763, 768–769 (11th Cir. 2005)
(“[A] Title VII plaintiff need only show that he or she satisfied an employer’s
objective qualifications” to demonstrate that she was “qualified” for the position to
establish a prima facie case.). Thus, to rebut an employer’s asserted legitimate
non-discriminatory reason for failing to hire or promote, “plaintiff must show not
merely that the defendant’s employment decisions were mistaken but that they were
in fact motivated by race.” Springer v. Convergys Customer Mgmt. Group Inc., 509
F.3d 1344, 1349 (11th Cir. 2007) (internal citation and quotation omitted). Plaintiff
therefore needs to show that the superiority of her qualifications are “of such weight
and significance that no reasonable person, in the exercise of impartial judgment,
could have chosen the candidate selected over the plaintiff for the job in question.”
Cooper v. Southern Co., 390 F.3d 695, 732 (11th Cir. 2004); see also Ash v. Tyson
Foods, Inc., 546 U.S. 454 (2006) (per curiam) (approving of language from Cooper).
Plaintiff is not only mistaken in her assertion that defendant failed to hire other
African-Americans as nurses, but also unable to rebut defendant’s legitimate nondiscriminatory justifications for failing to hire her. Further, and by her own
admission, plaintiff is objectively less qualified than every single other individual
applicant who was hired in her stead, and regardless cannot prove that defendant was
even aware of her race when it made its hiring decisions.
According to the objective evidence, every single RN hired instead of plaintiff
was facially more qualified that plaintiff was for the positions. As laid out
comprehensively in Defendant’s Brief (see doc. 12 at 7–13, 16–18), each and every
selected RN had not only years (in some cases, multiple decades) of experience as an
RN, but also at least two years of critical care experience as an RN, whereas plaintiff
had only two to four months total experience working as an RN.2 Each selected
applicant also held at least one additional qualification that plaintiff did not (see id.
The vast majority of plaintiff’s nursing experience was as an LPN. See Seay depo. (doc.
12, Ex. B) at 64:19–23).
at 19–21), and many had previous work experience with defendant’s decisionmakers
(see id. at 21–22). These employees––including one who is an African-American
male3 ––had an “inside track” unrelated to race because of their past relationships with
the hiring decisionmakers. “It is not at all improper for an employer or a business
contemplating a long-term association to prefer doing business with someone with
whom they are familiar.” Brown v. American Honda Motor Co., 939 F.2d 946, 951
(11th Cir. 1991). Regardless of the existence of any personal relationship, plaintiff
also admitted that each and every selected RN was more qualified than she was. See
Def. Br. (doc 12) at 22–23.
In light of these admissions, plaintiff cannot meet the standard of showing that
she was clearly more qualified than any comparator; indeed, after reviewing each
selected RN’s qualifications, plaintiff herself could not identify any nurse in whose
place she should have been hired. See Seay depo. (Ex. B, doc. 13) at 189:20–190:4.
Moreover, plaintiff can demonstrate neither that defendant’s hiring decisions were
motivated by race––one of the RNs hired over plaintiff was, in fact, black––nor that
defendant was even aware of her race at the time it made its hiring decisions. Plaintiff
concedes she did not provide her race on her applications (Ex. B, doc. 13 (Seay
Defendant hired Cedric Johnson on January 26, 2009, as a PRN day-shift RN. See Shaw
Decl. (Ex. A, doc. 12) at ¶ 47. Johnson is black. See id. at ¶ 48.
Depo.) at 123:23–124:16). Thus, the only way that defendant could have known
plaintiff’s race as an applicant was if it was assumed that she was black because the
nurse who referred her for employment was black (see id. at 126:9–127:23). There
is no evidence demonstrable from the pleadings to date that defendant had any
awareness, either objective or subjective, of plaintiff’s race at the time its hiring
decisions were made.
Having considered the foregoing and finding that plaintiff has failed to
establish a genuine issue of material fact sufficient to allow this case to proceed to
trial on either count, the court ORDERS that the defendant’s motion for summary
judgment (doc. 11) be GRANTED. The court shall so rule by separate order.
DONE and ORDERED this 13th day of June 2012.
INGE PRYTZ JOHNSON
U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE
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