United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Augusta Division
RAMONICA M. LUKE, Plaintiff,
UNIVERSITY HEALTH SERVICES, INC., Defendant.
Randal Hall. Judge
the Court are Plaintiff and Defendant's cross motions for
summary judgment. (Docs. 54, 64.) The Clerk of Court gave
Plaintiff and Defendant notice of the respective motions for
summary judgment and informed the Parties of the summary
judgment rules, the right to file affidavits or other
materials in opposition, and the consequences of default.
(Docs. 55, 65.) Thus, the notice requirements of Griffith
v. Wainwright, 772 F.2d 822, 825 (11th Cir. 1985) (per
curiam), are satisfied. The time for filing materials in
opposition has expired, and the motions are ripe for
Ramonica Luke, African American, began working for University
Hospital in May of 2006 as a Patient Care Assistant.
(Pl.'s Dep., Doc. 39, at 28:9-10, 34:15-22.) After six
months, Plaintiff was moved to the laboratory where she
worked as a Phlebotomist Processor until her termination in
January of 2017. (Id. at 28:7-10; 34:15-25.) As a
Phlebotomist, Plaintiff's responsibilities included
drawing blood, processing in the lab, inputting patient
demographics, answering phone calls, and filing paperwork.
(Id. at 37:5-14.) Plaintiff worked the night shift
from 6:00 p.m. until 6:30 a.m. (Id. at 37:16-38:13.)
s EEOC case and current case state she was discriminated
against when terminated. (EEOC Charge of Discrimination, Doc.
39, Ex. 13,  at 203.) Plaintiff was recommended for
termination for her alleged attendance issues and falsifying
records. (Recommendation for Termination for PI., Doc. 56-6.)
The ultimate termination was approved for attendance issues
alone. (Jan. 25, 2017 Letter from Ms. Mason, Doc. 59-3.) The
Court focuses on facts relating to the recommendation and
23, 2008, Vicki Forde, a Laboratory Manager who is Caucasian,
verbally counseled Plaintiff concerning her tardiness and
absences. (See Aug. 26, 2008 Written Warning, Doc.
39, Ex. 7, at 185; Def.'s St. of Mat. Facts., Doc. 64-2,
¶ 11.) Having "clocked in late sixteen times and .
. . called in once since [May 23, 2008], " Ms. Forde
issued Plaintiff a written warning for violation of the
attendance policy on August 26, 2008. (Aug. 26, 2008 Written
Warning, at 185-86.)
29, 2011, Ms. Forde issued Plaintiff another written warning
for violating the attendance policy, which stated, "The
next occurrence of any violation of policy . . . will result
in a final written warning up to termination if deemed
necessary." (June 29, 2011 Written Warning, Doc. 39, Ex.
1, at 161-62.) Ms. Forde documented six call-ins from
Plaintiff within the twelvemonth period preceding the June
29, 2011 warning: "7/3/10 -Saturday, 9/24/11 - Friday,
10/23/11 - Saturday, 1/30/11 - Sunday, 3/26/11 - Saturday,
5/20/11 - Friday (scheduled to be here at 9am and did not
call until 9am)." (Id. at 161.) On the warning,
Plaintiff rebutted that the reason for her May 20, 2011
violation was a child care issue that she "didn't
have any control over." (Id. at 162.)
Regardless, Plaintiff does not dispute that she called into
work that day. At the time, Plaintiff made no challenge to
the correctness of any other listed day. In this case,
however, Plaintiff states that Ms. Forde incorrectly noted
that she called in on September 24, 2011, and October 23,
2011. (Pl.'s Resp. to Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J., Doc.
68, at 8.) Plaintiff states that these dates are months after
the written warning and she worked both days. (Id.)
Ms. Forde responds that writing 2011 instead of 2010 may have
been a typographical error. (See Forde's Dep.,
Doc. 56, at 23:18-20.) Furthermore, the day of the week
listed after each date aligns with that day in 2010, not
January 8, 2014, Ms. Forde issued Plaintiff another written
warning for "repeated incidents of not clocking in or
out when arriving or leaving work . . . [and] repeated
problems with tardies and arriving to work in a timely
manner." (Jan. 8, 2014 Written Warning, Doc. 39, Ex. 8,
at 187.) The January 8, 2014 warning stated, "If two
additional tardies occur, you will receive a final written
warning. Failure to clock in or out again will incur a final
written warning." (Id.)
January 8, 2014, to August 28, 2014, Plaintiff incurred at
least forty tardies. (See Pl.'s Time Detail from
2008 to 2017, Doc. 39, Ex. 19, at 282-87.) On August 28,
2014, Ms. Forde issued Plaintiff a final written warning for
Plaintiff's "four call-ins and numerous
tardies." (Aug. 28, 2014 Final Written Warning, Doc. 39,
Ex. 9, at 189.) The warning stated, "The next occurrence
of not meeting hospital policy could result in
termination." (Id. at 190.) In rebuttal,
Plaintiff offered an excuse that on July 9, 2014, she
"had no one to get [her] son off the bus" and she
already worked her forty hours for the week. (Id.)
March 12, 2015, Ms. Forde issued Plaintiff a second final
written warning. (Mar. 12, 2015 Final Written Warning, Doc.
39, Ex. 11, at 194-95.) Between the August 28, 2014 final
written warning and the second final written warning,
Plaintiff was tardy at least thirty times. (See
Pl.'s Time Detail from 2008 to 2017, at 287-91.) In the
March 12, 2015 final written warning, Ms. Forde stated,
"This has been a habitual and serious problem and
improvement has not been seen, therefore the next occurrence
of a tardy will result in immediate termination." (Mar.
12, 2015 Final Written Warning, at 194.)
September 9, 2016, Ms. Forde issued to Plaintiff the third
final written warning, which, again, stated that "the
next occurrence of a tardy will result in immediate
termination." (Sept. 9, 2016 Final Written Warning, Doc
39, Ex. 12, at 196-97.) Within the twelve months preceding
the September 9, 2016 warning, Plaintiff was tardy over
thirty-five times. (See Pl.'s Time Detail from
2008 to 2017, at 294-302.)
December 31, 2016, Plaintiff was late for work. At 6:11 p.m.,
Plaintiff's coworker, Amita Simmons, emailed Ms. Forde
complaining that she had to stay late because Plaintiff had
not arrived for her 6:00 p.m. shift. (See Dec. 31,
2016 Email from Ms. Simmons, Doc. 39, Ex. 21, at 308.) Ms.
Forde reviewed Plaintiff's badge history and security
footage; both showed she arrived at the lab at 6:12 p.m. on
December 31, 2016. (See Pl.'s Badge History
Report, Doc. 39, Ex. 20, at 307; Forde's Decl., Doc.
64-4, ¶ 10.)
also failed to clock in on December 31, 2016. When an
employee fails to clock in, she must request a time card
adjustment by filling out the "Time Card Adjustment
Sheet, " which includes a place for the employee's
name, date, and problem resulting in the needed adjustment.
(See Time Card Adjustment Sheet, Doc. 39, Ex. 18, at
246.) The Time Card Adjustment sheet is filled out in
chronological order. (Forde's Decl., ¶ 6.)
Time Card Adjustment Sheet at issue contains two entries.
Line one: "Amita Simmons, 12/31/16, Forgot to clock in
at 4:00 a.m." (Time Card Adjustment Sheet, at 246.) Line
two: "R Luke, 12/1/16, forgot to clock in @ 6 pm."
(Id.) Ms. Forde knew Plaintiff was late on December
31, 2016, given Ms. Simmons's email, the security
footage, and Plaintiff's badge history.
reviewing the time records for employees for the week of late
on December 31, 2016. (Forde's Decl., ! 5.) Ms. Forde
believed that the date written by Plaintiff on the Time Card
Adjustment Sheet was a misprint and Plaintiff actually meant
to sign it for December 31, 2016, rather than December 1,
2016. (Id. ¶¶ 8, 9.) Consequently, Ms.
Forde believed Plaintiff falsified her time record by
requesting a clock-in adjustment for December 31, 2016, of
6:00 p.m. when she did not arrive until 6:12 p.m.
(Id. ¶ 11.)
Forde recommended plaintiff for termination because Plaintiff
was tardy on December 31, 2016, after her third final written
warning, and Ms. Forde believed Plaintiff falsified her
attendance record. (Id.; Recommendation for
Termination for PI.) Christa Pardue, the Laboratory Director
who is Caucasian, received notice of the termination from Ms.
Forde. Then, the Recommendation for Termination was sent to
Vita Mason, an Employee Relations Specialist in the Human
Resources ("HR") Department who is African
American. (Jan. 9-11, 2017 Email Exchange, Doc. 56-7;
Westbrook's Decl., Doc. 64-5, ¶ 5.)
receipt of the termination, Ms. Mason reviewed
Plaintiff's employment file. (Mason's Dep., Doc. 58,
11:15-19.) Ms. Mason examined the claims made by Ms. Forde
and found that she could not definitively prove nor disprove
that Plaintiff had falsified her time records. (Mason's
Dep., at 19:2-20:5 ("[I]t wasn't proven but it
wasn't disproven either.").) Regardless, Ms. Mason
found that Plaintiff was tardy on December 31, 2016, in
violation of her September 6, 2016 warning, which provided
that the next violation would result in immediate
termination. (See Jan. 25, 2017 Letter from Ms. Mason.)
Plaintiff does not challenge that she was tardy on December
31, 2016; only that she did not falsify her records.
Plaintiff was also tardy on January 7, 2016, while Ms. Mason
was investigating her recommended termination. (See
Pl.'s Time Detail from 2008 to 2017, at 303.)
Mason submitted the Recommendation for Termination based on
attendance issues to Chris Westbrook, the Vice President of
HR at University Hospital who is Caucasian, for his final
approval. (Westbrook's Decl., ¶ 1; Jan. 9-11, 2017
Email Exchange, Doc. 56-7; see also Mason's
Dep., at 11:19-25.) Mr. Westbrook approved the termination.
(Jan. 9-11, 2017 Email Exchange.) On January 11, 2017,
Plaintiff received a phone call from Ms. Mason, Ms. Forde,
and Ms. Pardue explaining that she was terminated. (Pl.'s
Am. Br. Supp. Mot. for Summ. J., Doc. 54-2, at 2.)
Plaintiff's EEOC Charge
February 24, 2017, Plaintiff submitted an Intake
Questionnaire to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity
Commission ("EEOC") . (EEOC Intake Questionnaire,
Doc. 39, Ex. 15, at 224- 31.) In the Intake Questionnaire,
Plaintiff states that Ms. Forde and Ms. Pardue discriminated
against her by terminating her because of her race.
(Id. at 225.) On May 11, 2017, Plaintiff filed a
Charge of Discrimination with the EEOC alleging the
I began employment with the above-named employer on or about
May 7, 2006, and I was last employed as a Lab Processor. On
or about January 11, 2017, I was discharged. I am aware of
similarly-situated Caucasian co-workers who were not
discharged for committing similar violations.
The reason given for my discharge was attendance violations.
I believe that I was discriminated against due to my race,
African-American, in violation of Title VII of the Civil
Rights Act of 1964, as amended.
(EEOC Charge of Discrimination, at 203.) Plaintiff states
that on July 24, 2017, the EEOC issued her a Notice of Right
to Sue. (Compl., Doc. 1, at 6.) On October 9, 2018, Plaintiff
moved for summary judgment. On October 30, 2018, Defendant
moved for the same. For the following reasons, the Court
finds no issues of material fact and summary judgment for
SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD
judgment is appropriate only if "there is no genuine
dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to
judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). Facts
are "material" if they could "affect the
outcome of the suit under the governing [substantive] law,
" Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S.
242, 248 (1986), and a dispute is genuine "if the
non[-]moving party has produced evidence such that a
reasonable factfinder could return a verdict in its
favor." Waddell v. Valley Forge Dental Assocs.,
Inc., 276 F.3d 1275, 1279 (11th Cir. 2001). The Court
must view facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving
party, Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio
Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986), and must "draw all
justifiable inferences in [the non-moving party's]
favor." United States v. Four Parcels of Real
Prop., 941 F.2d 1428, 1437 ...