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Jackson v. Strong Memorial Hospital

October 12, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Michael A. Telesca United States District Judge



Plaintiff Carolyn Jackson ("Jackson") brings this action pro se claiming that the defendant Strong Memorial Hospital*fn1 ("Strong") unlawfully discriminated against her on the basis of her age, disability, gender, religion, and race. Specifically, plaintiff, who is African-American, and who at the time of the alleged discrimination was 49 years old, alleges that she was terminated from her position as Lead Medical Records Clerk as a result of discrimination by the defendant. Strong denies the plaintiff's allegations, and moves for summary judgment against Jackson on grounds that she has failed to state a prima facie case of discrimination, or, in the alternative, that even if she has stated a prima facie case of discrimination, she has failed to rebut the legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for firing her that has been proffered by the defendant. Plaintiff moves for an extension of time to respond to the defendant's motion. For the reasons set forth below, I grant defendant's motion for summary judgment, and deny plaintiff's motion for an extension of time to respond.


The following facts have not been controverted by the plaintiff, and accordingly, are deemed admitted for purposes of this motion.*fn2 Plaintiff Carolyn Jackson was employed by defendant Strong as a Lead Medical Records Clerk in the hospital's Pediatric Gastroenterology/Nutrition Department from December 24, 2006 to November 5, 2007. As Lead Medical Records Clerk, plaintiff was responsible for processing medical record requests, including pulling and re-filing medical records, and organizing such records. Plaintiff was also responsible for preparing new-patient charts, filing documents within patient records, requesting records from off-site storage facilities, processing incoming and outgoing faxes and mail, and delivering some notes directly to physicians.

From December 2006 to September 2007, plaintiff was supervised by Michelle O'Brien. In September 2007, O'Brien was replaced by Debra Gaboriault ("Gaboriault"). Upon taking over as plaintiff's supervisor, Gaboriault determined that plaintiff's job performance was deficient, and she began to document instances of plaintiff's failure to complete her work, and complaints made regarding Jackson's job performance. Gaboriault claims that she attempted to counsel plaintiff about her work performance, but that when she did, Jackson became hostile, and refused to implement Gaboriault's suggestions.

In October, 2007, Gaboriault prepared a Performance Action Plan for Jackson, which was intended to identify and help correct deficiencies in plaintiff's work performance. Despite showing some improvement, however, Jackson continued to perform poorly in several areas, and claimed that her daily job duties could not be performed by a single person in a single day. According to the defendants, Jackson's performance continued to deteriorate, and several complaints were lodged with Gaboriault regarding plaintiff's inability to perform her job functions. On November 5, 2007, Gaboriault and her supervisor, Patricia Bartle, decided to terminate Jackson's employment because of her poor work performance. Thereafter, plaintiff filed a charge of racial and age discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). Upon the EEOC's finding of a lack of probable cause to believe that a violation had taken place, plaintiff filed the instant action alleging racial, age, disability and religious discrimination against her.


I. Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment

Rule 56(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that summary judgment "should be rendered if the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." When considering a motion for summary judgment, all genuinely disputed facts must be resolved in favor of the party against whom summary judgment is sought. Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380 (2007). If, after considering the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, the court finds that no rational jury could find in favor of that party, a grant of summary judgment is appropriate. Scott, 550 U.S. at 380 (citing Matsushita Elec. Industrial Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-587 (1986).

II. Plaintiff has Failed to State a Claim of Discrimination Based on Race or Age

Plaintiff alleges that she was discriminated against on the basis of her race and/or age. Claims of employment discrimination are analyzed under the well-recognized burden shifting framework set forth in McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792 (1973) and later refined in Texas Dep't of Community Affairs v. Burdine, 450 U.S. 248 (1981) and St. Mary's Honor Center v. Hicks, 509 U.S. 502 (1993). The plaintiff bears the burden proving a prima facie case of discrimination. If the plaintiff succeeds in stating a prima facie case, the burden of production shifts to the defendant to state a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for the employment action. Should the employer meet that burden, the burden of production then shifts back to the plaintiff to show that the reasons proffered by the employer were not the true reasons for the adverse employment action, but were a pretext for discrimination, and that discrimination was the real reason. See Texas Dep't of Community Affairs v. Burdine, 450 U.S. 248, 252-53 (1981); St. Mary's Honor Center v. Hicks, 509 U.S. 502-06 (1993).

A. Race Discrimination

To establish a prima facie case of employment discrimination under Title VII, a plaintiff must show (1) that she belonged to a protected class; (2) that she was qualified for the position she held; (3) that she suffered an adverse employment action; and (4) that the adverse employment action occurred under circumstances giving rise to an inference of ...

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