Peeler v. Select Specialty Hospital
ORDER granting 42 Motion for Summary Judgment; adopting Report and Recommendations re 53 Report and Recommendations. Signed by Judge John Thomas Fowlkes, Jr on November 21, 2022. (Fowlkes, J.)
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IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF TENNESSEE
SHERETA L. PEELER,
SELECT SPECIALITY HOSPITAL,
Case No. 2:20-cv-02923-JTF-cgc
ORDER ADOPTING THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE’S
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION AND DISMISSING CASE
Before the Court is the Magistrate Judge’s Report and Recommendation on Defendant’s
Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings (“R & R”), submitted September 8, 2022. (ECF No. 53.)
Plaintiff Shereta Peeler filed a pro se complaint alleging Title VII discrimination on the basis of
pregnancy on December 18, 2020. (ECF No. 1.) Defendant Select Specialty Hospital (“Select”)
filed a Motion for Summary Judgment on April 15, 2022. (ECF No. 42.) Peeler filed a Response
on April 19, 2022. (ECF No. 43.) Select filed a Reply on May 2, 2022. (ECF No. 46.) The R & R
recommends granting summary judgment due to there being no issue of genuine material fact
regarding the legitimacy of Select’s offered, non-discriminatory reason for terminating Peeler.
Peeler filed objections to the R & R on September 16, 2022. (ECF No. 54.) For the following
reasons, the R & R is ADOPTED, and Select’s Motion for Summary Judgment GRANTED.
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STANDARD OF REVIEW
Congress passed 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) “to relieve some of the burden on the federal courts
by permitting the assignment of certain district court duties to magistrates.” United States v. Curtis,
237 F.3d 598, 602 (6th Cir. 2001). Pursuant to the provision, magistrate judges may hear and
determine any pretrial matter pending before the Court, except various dispositive motions. See
28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A). Upon hearing a pending matter, “the magistrate judge must enter a
recommended disposition, including, if appropriate, proposed findings of fact.” Fed. R. Civ. P.
72(b)(1); see also Baker v. Peterson, 67 F. App’x. 308, 310 (6th Cir. 2003). Any party who
disagrees with a magistrate judge’s proposed findings and recommendation may file written
objections to the report and recommendation. Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(b)(2). A failure to file specific
objections to a Magistrate Judge’s report does not meet the requirement of filing an objection at
all. Howard v. Secretary of Health and Human Services, 932 F.2d 505, 509 (6th Cir. 1991);
McCready v. Kamminga, 113 Fed. App’x. 47, 49 (6th Cir. 2004). However, “[w]hen no timely
objection is filed, the court need only satisfy itself that there is no clear error on the face of the
record in order to accept the recommendation.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(b) advisory committee notes.
The district court is not required to review, and indeed “should adopt[,] the findings and rulings of
the Magistrate Judge to which no specific objection is filed.” Brown v. Bd. of Educ. of Shelby Cty.
Sch., 47 F. Supp. 3d 665, 674 (W.D. Tenn. 2014) (citing Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 149 (1985)).
The standard of review that is applied by a district court when considering a magistrate
judge’s proposed findings and recommendations depends on the nature of the matter(s) considered
by the magistrate judge. See Baker v. Peterson, 67 Fed. App’x 308, 310 (6th Cir. 2003) (citations
omitted) (“A district court normally applies a ‘clearly erroneous or contrary to law’ standard of
review for non-dispositive preliminary measures. A district court must review dispositive motions
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under the de novo standard.”). Where timely, specific objections are filed, the parts objected to are
reviewed under a de novo standard. Rugiero v. United States, 330 F. Supp. 2d 900, 904 (E.D. Mich.
2004). Upon a review of the evidence, the district court may accept, reject, or modify the proposed
findings or recommendations of the magistrate judge. Brown v. Board of Educ., 47 F. Supp. 3d
665, 674 (W.D. Tenn. 2014); see also 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). The court “may also receive further
evidence or recommit the matter to the [m]agistrate [j]udge with instructions.” Moses v. Gardner,
No. 2:14-cv-2706-SHL-dkv, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 29701, at *3 (W.D. Tenn. Mar. 11, 2015).
Again, a district judge should adopt the findings and rulings of the magistrate judge to which no
specific objection under Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(b) is filed. Brown, 47 F. Supp. 3d at 674. An objection
to a magistrate judge’s report and recommendation that does nothing more than state a
disagreement with the magistrate judge’s suggested resolution, or simply summarizes what has
been presented before, is not an objection, as required to preserve the right to appeal a subsequent
order of the district court adopting the report. J.A. v. Smith County School District, 364 F. Supp.
3d 803, 811–12 (M.D. Tenn. 2019).
FINDINGS OF FACT
The R & R’s Proposed Findings of Fact are an accurate representation of the facts taken in
the light most favorable to the plaintiff and are hereby ADOPTED and are summarized in relevant
part below. 1 Peeler’s objections to the R & R restate these facts rather than dispute them, while
emphasizing her interpretation of them.
The Magistrate Judge’s recitation of the facts was largely based on Select’s Statement of Undisputed Material Facts,
as Peeler never properly objected to those facts despite being given multiple opportunities to do so. (ECF No. 42, 3.)
Thus, the Magistrate Judge properly concluded that Select’s Statement of Undisputed Material Facts should be deemed
undisputed for purposes of the motion.
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Peeler began working for Select in February 2019 as a certified nursing assistant (“CNA”).
(ECF No. 53, 4.) Beginning in April 2019, Peeler began being regularly absent from work. (Id.)
Select’s attendance policy was point based, with an unscheduled absence being worth three points.
(Id.) Once an employee’s record passed twenty points, termination became an option under the
policy. (Id.) By July 19, 2019, Peeler’s record had accrued eighteen points. (Id.)
On August 12, 2019, Peeler received a doctor’s note recommending light work restrictions
due to an injury sustained while improperly moving a patient. (ECF No. 53, 5.) On September 10,
2019, Peeler received a temporary reassignment that complied with her work restrictions, to last
for ninety days unless medical necessity required further. (Id.) Peeler further reduced her workload
on October 4, 2019, when she requested to be put on PRN status, which would require her to work
three twelve-hour shifts per month. (Id.; ECF No. 54, 3.) Peeler accrued two more absences on
November 19 and December 1, 2019, bringing her record to twenty-four points. (ECF No. 53, 5.)
However, Select chose not to terminate Peeler at this time and instead merely provided her with a
written warning, which they had done numerous times in the past. (Id.)
On January 16, 2020, Peeler told Select that she was pregnant and provided another
doctor’s note that recommended light work restrictions due to the pregnancy. (Id.) Select reviewed
the restrictions but ultimately determined that there were no open positions that would
accommodate all of the doctor’s recommended restrictions. (Id.) In Peeler’s objections, she states
that she spoke with Jennifer Bosley, an HR manager, who told her that “she would not honor my
doctor note and stated [she] need to return back to work full duty.” (ECF No. 54, 3.) Peeler was
not terminated at this point. (ECF No. 53, 6.) However, on February 3, 2020, Peeler received a
letter from Select stating that she had not scheduled the minimum number of shifts to remain in
the PRN pool, and that her continued employment required her to either “log in to schedule shifts
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or notify Jennifer Harris, CNO.” (Id.) If she did not do so, the letter otherwise served as a “formal
notice of separation of employment with Select . . . as of February 3, 2020 due to failure to meet
PRN requirements.” (Id.) In her objections, Peeler states that she “was unable to login into [her]
workday account to even pick up shifts.” (ECF No. 54, 3.) She does not dispute that she did not
schedule any more shifts and did not contact Jennifer Harris. As Peeler did not schedule shifts nor
contact Harris, Select terminated her “because she did not meet Select’s expectations of its
employees regarding attendance, safe patient handling, and communication of her desire to remain
employed when given a clear deadline to do so.” (ECF No. 53, 6.)
CONCLUSIONS OF LAW
As stated above, a district judge should adopt the findings and rulings of the magistrate
judge to which no specific objection under Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(b) is filed. Brown, 47 F. Supp. 3d at
674. Peeler did not file any specific objections to the R & R, instead submitting a four-page
statement that recounts the facts as stated above. Peeler’s main claim through her recitation of the
facts is that she was only fired once she told Select that she was pregnant, despite her absences
being a known issue before then. Further, she states that Select refused to accommodate her
pregnancy-related work restrictions despite accommodating her injury-related work restrictions,
which were largely identical. These arguments will be addressed below where relevant.
The Magistrate Judge first found that Peeler had presented no direct evidence of
discrimination and consequently analyzed her claims at the summary judgment stage under the test
established in McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792 (1973). (ECF No. 53, 9.) The
Magistrate Judge found it was undisputed that Peeler was pregnant and subjected to an adverse
employment action, but that a genuine issue of material fact existed regarding whether Peeler was
qualified for her job, as “the Court may only consider whether the employee was meeting the
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employer’s legitimate expectations prior to becoming pregnant.” (Id. at 10.) The Magistrate Judge
determined that it was possible a fact finder could reach two possible conclusions: either Select
considered her qualified despite her attendance issues before her pregnancy, or they considered her
unqualified but still employed her for unknown reasons. (Id.) Neither Peeler nor Select objected to
these possible conclusions. The Court finds no clear error with this determination and ADOPTS
the Magistrate Judge’s recommendation that a genuine issue of material fact existed on this issue
of Plaintiff’s qualification for the job.
The Magistrate Judge then determined that Select had stated a legitimate, nondiscriminatory
reason for terminating Peeler: she had not signed up for the minimum number of shifts required to
remain in the PRN pool. This fact is undisputed. Peeler’s objections did state that she could not log
in to schedule shifts at this time. However, the letter warning her of the impending termination
also provided a contact, Jennifer Harris, with whom she could schedule shifts. (ECF No. 54, 3; ECF
No. 54-1, 1.) At no point does Peeler dispute that she did not sign up for shifts during this time or
that she did not contact Jennifer Harris to schedule additional shifts. Accordingly, the Court finds
no clear error and ADOPTS the Magistrate Judge’s recommendation that Select provided a
legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for Peeler’s termination.
Finally, the Magistrate Judge examined whether Peeler could demonstrate that Select’s
reason for termination was merely pretext for discrimination. The Magistrate Judge determined that
Peeler had not shown this reason was pretext. The record shows that Peeler admitted she received
the letter telling her of the requirement to either sign up for shifts or call Harris. Peeler claimed that
she did not follow its requirements “because she chose not to return to a position that required
duties beyond those that her doctor deemed permissible.” (ECF No. 53, 13-14.) Peeler’s objections
could be construed as arguing Select’s reason was pretextual, because Select allowed her to work
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with certain restrictions when she was injured, but not when she was pregnant. (ECF No. 54, 4)
(“They denied my doctor’s note but honored Concentra light duty work restriction when I got
injured on the job”). However, Select stated that they did not have positions that could
accommodate or satisfy all of the doctor’s recommended restrictions with respect to Peeler’s
pregnancy, unlike when she was injured. Peeler did not dispute this. (ECF No. 42-3, 3-4.)
Accordingly, the Court finds no clear error and ADOPTS the Magistrate Judge’s recommendation
that there is no genuine dispute of material fact as to whether Select’s reason for terminating Peeler
Accordingly, the Court adopts the Magistrate Judge’s report and recommendation that
Select’s Motion for Summary Judgment be GRANTED.
IT IS SO ORDERED this 21st day of November, 2022.
s/John T. Fowlkes, Jr.
JOHN T. FOWLKES, JR.
United States District Judge
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