United States District Court, M.D. Georgia, Macon Division
For QUANTA SIMS, Plaintiff: NATALIE R ROWLAND, ATLANTA, GA.
For QUALITY TRANS INC, Defendant: JOHN T MCGOLDRICK, JR, LEAD ATTORNEY, MARTIN SNOW, MACON, GA; STUART WALKER, MARTIN SNOW LLP, MACON, GA.
ORDER ON DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
C. ASHLEY ROYAL, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Plaintiff Quanta Sims brings this employment discrimination action contending her former employer, Defendant Quality Trans, Inc., discharged her based on her race and gender in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq. (" Title VII" ). Before the Court is Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment [Doc. 19]. After fully considering the matter, the Court finds genuine issues of material fact exist as to whether Defendant terminated Plaintiff in violation of Title VII, and therefore Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment [Doc. 19] is DENIED.
Under Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, summary judgment must be granted " if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law."  A genuine issue of material fact only exists when " there is sufficient evidence favoring the nonmoving party for a jury to return a verdict for that party."  Thus, summary judgment must be granted if there is insufficient evidence for a reasonable jury to return a verdict for the nonmoving party or, in other words, if reasonable minds could not differ as to the verdict. When ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the court must view the facts in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion.
The moving party " always bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact" and that entitle it to a judgment as a matter of law. If the moving party discharges this burden, the burden then shifts to the nonmoving party to go beyond the pleadings and present specific
evidence showing that there is a genuine issue of material fact. This evidence must consist of more than mere conclusory allegations or legal conclusions.
Plaintiff, an African-American female, began working for Defendant on March 27, 2011, as a driver to transport clients to and from non-emergency medical appointments throughout the area of southwest Georgia. Defendant operates a fleet of vans and contracts with regional transportation brokers that, in turn, contract with state and local governments charged with providing government-funded transportation services for low-income individuals. From 2009 to 2012, Defendant operated vans throughout the southwest region of Georgia under a contract with Southwest Georgia Regional Development Center, the regional transportation broker responsible for selecting companies to serve the non-emergency transportation needs of patients in the southwest region (" the broker" ). Mary Richards, Defendant's general manager, hired Plaintiff and was Plaintiff's direct supervisor during Plaintiff's employment with Defendant.
When Plaintiff began her employment, Defendant provided her with an employee manual that outlined Defendant's policies and procedures, including the procedure an employee should follow when involved in an accident or incident involving a client. The manual requires all drivers to report incidents as they occur. " Employees that are involved in an accident or incident should follow the following procedures: Call your Supervisor and/or Manager. Stay on scene until manager or supervisor arrives or until you are instructed otherwise by management. Fill out an accident/incident report."  The employee manual defines an " incident" as including, but not limited to, " [m]isbehavior of a client, indecent exposure, fo[u]l language, causing harm to or disrupting other clients, unfastening seat belts."  Plaintiff also understood an incident occurred when a passenger fell out of a wheelchair during transport.
Many of Defendant's clients are wheelchair-bound, and Defendant's vans are equipped to carry wheelchairs. Immediately upon being hired, Plaintiff received training from another employee, Teresa Adams, in how to properly secure wheelchairs to the floor of the vans and in how to properly secure clients in their wheelchairs while in transit to medical appointments.
Soon after Plaintiff began driving for Defendant, a passenger in Plaintiff's van reported that his wheelchair was " moving a little."  Plaintiff pulled the van over to check the wheelchair straps. Because Plaintiff had just started her employment, Plaintiff called her co-worker and the employee who trained her, Ms. Adams, to verify the wheelchair straps were secure. Once she verified the passenger and his wheelchair were secure in the van, Plaintiff continued to her destination. The passenger had not fallen from the wheelchair and was not otherwise injured. Defendant claims this was Plaintiff's " first incident."
Plaintiff, however, maintains this event was not an " incident" at all. She did not speak to her supervisor about the event. Defendant neither required her to stay on the scene nor required her to fill out an incident report form. Defendant took no corrective action against Plaintiff. Indeed, Defendant neither informed Plaintiff that she failed to follow proper safety procedures nor advised her that if she ...