United States District Court, D. Maryland
P. Gesner Chief United States Magistrate Judge
Emanuella Nkem Nnadozie (“Nnadozie, ” or
“plaintiff”) brings this employment
discrimination action against defendants Manorcare Health
Services, LLC, HCR Manor Care Services, Manorcare-Woodbridge
Valley MD, LLC, Manorcare Health Services-Woodbridge Valley,
and Heartland Employment Services (“HES” or
“defendant”), alleging violations of Title VII of
the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”), 42
U.S.C. §§ 2000e, et seq., and 42 U.S.C.
§ 1981, based on a series of events which resulted in
her termination from her position as a registered
nurse. Currently pending before the court are:
(1) Plaintiff's Motion for Reconsideration and Relief
from the District Court's Determination Granting
Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment
(“Plaintiff's Motion”) (ECF No. 67); (2)
Defendant's Opposition to Plaintiff's Motion for
Reconsideration (“Defendant's Opposition”)
(ECF No. 69); and (3) Plaintiff's Reply Brief in Support
of Her Motion for Reconsideration and Relief from the
District Court's Determination Granting Defendant's
Motion for Summary Judgment (“Plaintiff's
Reply”) (ECF No. 70). The issues have been fully
briefed, and no hearing is necessary. Loc. R. 105.6. For the
reasons stated below, Plaintiff's Motion (ECF No. 67) is
ruling on a motion for summary judgment, this court considers
the facts and draws all reasonable inferences in the light
most favorable to the nonmoving party. Scott v.
Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 378 (2007). In this case,
plaintiff is asking this court to reconsider its finding of
summary judgment in favor of defendants (ECF No. 44).
Defendants, however, were the parties who originally moved
for summary judgment. (ECF No. 32). Accordingly, plaintiff is
the nonmoving party, so all facts will be considered and all
reasonable inferences will be drawn in the light most
favorable to plaintiff.
was hired on May 15, 2013, as a Night Shift Registered Nurse
(“RN”) Supervisor by Heartland Employment
Services (“HES” or “defendant”) at
the Woodbridge Facility. (ECF No. 32-1 at 13).
Manorcare-Woodbridge Valley MD, LLC, owned the Woodbridge
Facility and leased employees from HES, including plaintiff.
(ECF No. 32-1 at 50). Plaintiff previously worked as a R.N.
Supervisor at Future Care Health Care Corporation and as an
Assistant Director of Nursing at Genesis Health Care
Corporation (“Genesis”). (ECF No. 32-1 at 13).
Plaintiff, a black female, was born in Sierra Leone and lived
in Nigeria and France before moving to the United States in
1996 at age 19. Id.
Woodbridge Facility, plaintiff was directly supervised by the
Administrative Director of Nursing Services
(“DON”). (ECF No. 69 at 10). Prior to October of
2013, this role belonged to Alisa Davis, a black female.
Id. In October 2013, however, Davis left, and the
role was filled by Michelle Jambora, a Filipino female, who
acted as the interim DON. Id. On October 1, 2013,
Jambora called the Woodbridge Facility three times during the
night shift. (ECF No. 69 at 11). Plaintiff alleges that, at
first, no one responded when she answered the phone. (ECF No.
39 at 2). On the third time, she alleged that Jambora
“screamed at [plaintiff] and threatened her job . . .
accused [plaintiff] of not doing her job . . . questioned
whether [plaintiff] could be a supervisor at all and accused
her of inability [sic] manage her employees.”
Id. Plaintiff further stated that the call
“left [plaintiff] in tears, feeling like she had
incurred a physical attack.” Id. That day,
plaintiff wrote a letter to Elizabeth Kaczor, the Vice
President of Human Resources (“HR”), and
expressed her concerns with the way Jambora spoke to her.
(ECF No. 69 at 11).
the subsequent few weeks, plaintiff alleged that Jambora
reassigned her from being a House Supervisor to a Floor Nurse
seven to ten times, which she described as “essentially
a demotion, ” and gave her additional duties. (ECF No.
39 at 3-4). Plaintiff further alleged that no other nurse was
assigned additional or floor work duties. Id.
Plaintiff then spoke with HR Representative Karen Boxen and
Jambora about the October 1, 2013 phone call and
plaintiff's floor work assignments. (ECF No. 39 at
5). Plaintiff also spoke with Staci Froelich, the
Administrator of the Woodbridge Facility, on October 23,
2013, regarding Jambora's conduct. (ECF No. 39 at 5).
Plaintiff alleges that, during this meeting, she asserted her
belief that Jambora would treat her more fairly if she were
not black. Id.
was injured at work on October 30, 2013 and was out on
medical leave until December 30, 2013. (ECF No. 69 at 12).
Plaintiff alleges that, upon her return on December 30, 2013,
she was told by Jambora that “she could choose between
her old position but working additional time, or working as a
floor nurse.” (ECF No. 39 at 5). Plaintiff did not
accept either, however, as she was still recovering from her
injury, and returned to work on limited duty. (ECF No. 37-1
at 6). Plaintiff was primarily responsible for reviewing lab
results and notifying patients and family members of abnormal
results. (ECF No. 69 at 12). On December 30, plaintiff also
met with Regional HR Director John Kolesar and Froelich to
discuss her concerns that “Jambora was discriminating
against her and continuing to harass her, and that nothing
had been done about it.” (ECF No. 39 at 5).
January 13, 2014, plaintiff documented in resident J.B.'s
progress notes that she had informed the responsible party
(“RP”) of J.B. (her daughter, C.B.) that J.B. had
abnormal lab results. (ECF No. 69 at 12). Earlier that day,
however, the morning staff was informed that C.B. had passed
away over the weekend. Id. Another RN Supervisor,
Cordilia Agbam, noticed this discrepancy and “became
concerned that resident J.B.'s lab result had not been
provided to the correct person.” Id. Agbam
reported this issue to Jambora. Id. On January 15,
2014, plaintiff was called into a meeting and asked about the
progress note. (ECF No. 39 at 12). Plaintiff stated that she
called and spoke with someone who claimed to be J.B.'s
RP. Id. Plaintiff was then suspended without pay
pending an investigation of the incident. Id.
the investigation, Agbam reviewed plaintiff's other
January 13, 2014 notes and discovered that plaintiff
documented that she informed resident E.W. of his lab results
and called his RP, although no one answered. (ECF No. 69 at
13). E.W. informed Agbam, however, that he had never received
his lab results or spoken with plaintiff, and defendant noted
that E.W. was his own RP. Id. Agbam again reported
this issue. Id. Defendant also discovered during the
investigation that, while plaintiff was on suspension,
plaintiff called C.B.'s number to conduct her own
investigation into the identity of the person who answered
the phone. (ECF No. 69 at 14 (citing ECF No. 32-4 at 114)).
result of defendant's investigation, defendant
subsequently decided to terminate plaintiff's employment
and informed plaintiff of such during a meeting on February
19, 2014. (ECF No. 69 at 15). Defendant relied on its work
rule A-28, an “all-encompassing” rule that
required employees to “[c]onduct yourself in other
major instances of conduct not specifically listed.”
Id. Specifically, defendant stated that, regarding
resident J.B., plaintiff “failed to properly review the
progress notes” and “failed to take appropriate
steps to confirm the identity of the person answering the
phone.” (ECF No. 69 at 14). As to resident E.W.,
defendant “weighed the evidence and found E.W. more
believable than [plaintiff.]” Id. Finally,
defendant found that it was “unprofessional and
insensitive” for plaintiff to call C.B.'s phone
number “for her personal purposes” during her
suspension. (ECF No. 69 at 15). Subsequent to her
termination, plaintiff's position was filled with a white
female. (ECF No. 67-1 at 8).
alleges that this investigation was
“disingenuous” and began merely two weeks after
her December 30, 2013 complaint that Jambora was
discriminating against her and harassing her. (ECF No. 67-1
at 7). Plaintiff further alleges that, during December of
2013, managers at the Woodbridge Facility, including
Administrator Froelich, learned that she was engaged in
litigation against her previous employer,
Genesis. Id. On April 14, 2014 plaintiff
initiated charges against defendant with the Equal Employment
Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) and the Maryland
Commission on Civil Rights (“MCCR”) alleging that
she was discriminated against on the basis of her race and
national origin and retaliated against after protesting such
activity. (ECF No. 32-1 at 9-10). Plaintiff filed the instant
case before this court on February 10, 2015. (ECF No. 1).
Amended Complaint, plaintiff asserts three counts: (1)
“unlawful suspension and termination of plaintiff
Nnadozie, on account of race and national origin
discrimination and retaliation, in violation of Title VII, 42
U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., and 42 U.S.C. §
1981”; (2) “retaliatory alteration of
Nnadozie's working conditions, in violation of 42 U.S.C.
§ 2000e and 42 U.S.C. § 1981”; and (3)
“hostile work environment, inflicted upon plaintiff
Nnadozie, on account of her race and national origin, and in
retaliation for protected activity, in violation of 42 U.S.C.
§ 2000e et seq., and 42 U.S.C. §
1981.” (ECF No. 8 at 8). Specifically, in her first
count, plaintiff alleges she was suspended without pay and
ultimately terminated based on her race and national origin
as well as her litigation against her prior employer,
Genesis, and her internal discrimination complaints.
Id. In her second count, plaintiff also alleges that
defendant altered her working conditions by assigning her
substantial additional duties in retaliation for her
litigation against Genesis and her internal complaints. (ECF
No. 8 at 9). Finally, in her third count, plaintiff alleges
that defendant created and subjected plaintiff to a hostile
work environment by allowing hostile conduct, including
“altering her job duties, shouting at her, badgering
her about her breaks, etc., ” based on her race,
national origin, litigation against Genesis, and internal
discrimination complaints. (ECF No. 8 at 10).
defendants filed a motion for summary judgment as to all of
plaintiff's claims in the Amended Complaint. (ECF No.
32). Plaintiff opposed this motion and argued that genuine
disputes of material fact precluded summary judgment on all
claims. (ECF No. 39). On November 28, 2016, the court granted
defendants' motion. (ECF No. 44). Preliminarily, the
court found that only HES was plaintiff's employer, and
granted summary judgment as to all remaining
defendants. (ECF No. 44 at 1). The court went on to
find that plaintiff did not present any direct evidence of
racial discrimination, and thus analyzed whether plaintiff
made out a prima facie case of racial discrimination under
the McDonnell burden-shifting framework.
Id. (citing McDonnell Douglas Corp. v.
Green, 411 U.S. 792 (1973)). The court held that
plaintiff failed to “establish that her job performance
was satisfactory and that similarly situated employees
outside of her class received more favorable treatment than
did she.” (ECF No. 44 at 2). Alternatively, the court
noted, “the reasons articulated by defendant for the
termination of her employment constituted ‘legitimate,
non-discriminatory reason[s]' and plaintiff has not shown
that the proffered reason is pretextual.” Id.
n.2. Accordingly, the court granted summary judgment to
timely appealed the court's November 28, 2016 decision
(ECF No. 46), but the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals
dismissed her appeal as interlocutory (ECF No. 49 at 5). The
Court stated that, while plaintiff's complaint
“clearly alleged discrimination, retaliation, and
harassment claims, ” and defendants moved for summary
judgment on all three claims, the district court
“failed to resolve the retaliation and harassment
claims.” (ECF No. 49 at 4-5). Currently pending is
Plaintiff's Motion for Reconsideration and Relief from
the District Court's Determination Granting
Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment
(“Plaintiff's Motion”) in which plaintiff
argues that the court wrongly granted summary judgment to
defendant. (ECF No. 67 at 10). Defendant opposes this motion
and ask the court to uphold the finding of summary judgment
in favor of defendant on plaintiff's race discrimination
claim and grant summary judgment on her remaining claims.
(ECF No. 69 at 9).
RACIAL DISCRIMINATION CLAIM
November 28, 2016 order, this court held that plaintiff
failed to present any direct evidence of racial discrimination,
and plaintiff thus needed to establish a prima facie case of
discrimination. (ECF No. 44 at 1). See Tibbs v. Baltimore
City Police Dep't, Civil No. RDB-11-1335, 2012 WL
3655564 at *3 (D. Md. Aug. 23, 2012) (“Where the record
contains no direct evidence of discrimination or retaliation,
plaintiff's claims must be analyzed under the
burden-shifting scheme established in McDonnell Douglas
Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 93 S.Ct. 1817, 36 L.Ed.2d
668 (1973).”) Specifically, “[a]n employee
establishes a prima facie case of disparate treatment on the
basis of race . . . discrimination under Title VII and 42
U.S.C. § 1981 by showing that (1) she is a member of a
protected class; (2) her job performance was satisfactory;
(3) she was subjected to an adverse employment action; and
(4) similarly situated employees outside of her class
received more favorable treatment.” Id. at *4.
The court here found that plaintiff failed to establish the
second and fourth elements of this test and granted
defendants' motion for summary judgment. (ECF No. 44 at
argues that the district court “erred in dismissing
[plaintiff's] Title VII and 42 U.S.C. § 1981 race
discrimination claims. It ignored all [plaintiff's]
evidence to the contrary in finding that [plaintiff] failed
to show she was performing satisfactorily, and failed even to
acknowledge that she was replaced by someone white.”
(ECF No. 67-1 at 23). As to the second prong, plaintiff
argues that the court failed to consider her proof that
defendant's basis for alleging unsatisfactory behavior
was pretextual. Id. Plaintiff further challenges
“the entirety of [defendant's] evidence of
unsatisfactory performance” and alleges that the court
failed to view the evidence in the light most favorable to
her. (ECF No. 67-1 at 24). As to the fourth prong, plaintiff
argues that she met this element by demonstrating that her
position was filled by a “similarly qualified white
candidate, ” and that the court erred “by not
even addressing the obvious white replacement
response, defendant argues that the court properly found that
plaintiff could not establish the second or fourth prongs.
(ECF No. 69 at 22). Specifically, defendant argues that
plaintiff was not performing satisfactorily at the time of
her termination because “it had evidence, after an
investigation, that she falsely documented providing lab
results to a deceased family member of resident J.B. and to
an alert and oriented patient, resident E.W., . . . shared
confidential patient information with someone not authorized
to receive it . . . [and] admitted to using PHI [personal
health information], that is, the deceased family
member's phone number, for her own purposes, and
contacting that number while on suspension.” (ECF No.
69 at 23-24). Furthermore, defendant argues that
plaintiff's alleged evidence of pretext “is
insufficient to overcome [defendant's] legitimate
non-discriminatory reasons to terminate her
employment.” (ECF No. 69 at 25). As to the fourth
prong, defendant argues that plaintiff “cannot show
that similarly situated employees outside her protected class
were treated more favorably.” (ECF No. 69 at 23).
Defendant further argues that, while plaintiff was replaced
with a white individual, this replacement was only in the
position for two months before being replaced by a black
woman and then a black male. Id.
parties also dispute the proper standard of review for this
motion. Plaintiff argues that the proper standard of review
for “reconsideration requests when there is no final
judgment as to all issues” is Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 54(b). (ECF No. 70 at 6 (citing Bradford v.
HSBC Mortg. Corp., 838 F.Supp.2d 424, 427 (E.D. Va.
2012)). Defendant argues that, because “[t]he Federal
Rules of Civil Procedure do not expressly recognize motions
for ‘reconsideration, '” the court should
rely on Rules 59(e) and 60(b), which “authorize a
district court to alter, amend, or vacate a prior
judgment.” (ECF No. 69 at 17 (citing Works v.
Astrue, 2012 WL 380116 at *2 (D. Md. Feb. 3, 2012)).
Defendant further argues that motions under each Rule are
disfavored and should only be granted in exceptional
circumstances, and that plaintiff does not meet these
standards. (ECF No. 69 at 18-19).
because the court's November 28, 2016 order did not
resolve all three claims brought by plaintiff, the correct
standard for review is Rule 54(b). Am. Home Assurance Co.
v. KBE Building Corp., Civil No. CCB-13-1941, 2015 WL
1209940 at *1 (D. Md. March 16, 2015) (“A motion to
reconsider an interlocutory order arises under Federal Rule
of Civil Procedure 54(b).”) While Rules 59(e), which
allows a court to alter or amend a final judgment upon a
motion filed within 28 days after the entry of the judgment,
and 60(b), which allows a court to grant relief from a final
judgment, “do not govern reconsideration of an
interlocutory order, the Fourth Circuit has suggested that at
least parts of those rules may guide a court's
analysis.” Cohens v. Md. Dep't. of Human
Res., 933 F.Supp.2d 735, 742 (D. Md. 2013).
Specifically, courts will consider whether “(1) there
has been an intervening change in controlling law; (2) there
is additional evidence that was not previously available; or
(3) the prior decision was based on clear error or would work
manifest injustice.” Am. Home Assurance Co.,
2015 WL 1209940 at *1 (citing Nana-Akua Takyiwaa Shalom
v. Payless Shoesource Worldwide, Inc., 921 F.Supp.2d
470, 480 (D. Md. 2013)). Plaintiff need not, however, show
“extraordinary circumstances, ” as is required by
Rules 59(e) and 60(b). Id. (citing Netscape
Commc'ns Corp. v. ValueClick, Inc., 704 F.Supp.2d
544, 546 (E.D. Va. 2010)).
does not allege that there has been an intervening change in
controlling law or that there is additional evidence that was
not previously available. Accordingly, her “motion
rises and falls on proof of ‘clear error' or
‘manifest injustice' . . . [her] ‘motion may
not be used to relitigate old matters, or to raise arguments
or present evidence that could have been raised prior to the
entry of judgment.” Am. Home Assurance Co.,
2015 WL 1209940 at *2 (quoting Tepeyac v. Montgomery
Cty., 5 F.Supp.3d 745, 770 (D. Md. 2014)). Plaintiff
argued in her Opposition to Defendants' Motion for
Summary Judgment (“Opposition”) (ECF No. 39) that
she established all four elements of a prima facie case of
racial discrimination. (ECF No. 39 at 34). Specifically, she
argued that she met the second prong because her performance
was satisfactory prior to January 13, 2014, the date in
question, and that a reasonable jury could find that
defendant's reasons for her termination were pretextual.
(ECF No. 39 at 35). She also argued that she met the fourth
prong because she was replaced by a white American woman with
the same qualifications as her. Id. While now she
argues that the prior decision was based on clear error, she
“merely rehearses arguments that [she] previously
asserted and this court previously rejected. Retreading old
ground cannot justify reconsideration.” Am. Home
Assurance Co., 2015 WL 1209940 at *2. Plaintiff has not
established that the prior decision granting summary judgment
for defendant on plaintiff's racial discrimination claim
is based on “clear error or would work manifest
injustice.” Id. Accordingly, plaintiff's
Motion is denied as to her racial discrimination claim, and
the court will not disturb its prior decision granting
summary judgment for defendant on Count I of plaintiff's
RETALIATION AND HOSTILE WORK ENVIRONMENT
Standard of Review
order dated November 28, 2016, the court did not address
plaintiff's retaliation claims or hostile work
environment claim. (ECF No. 44). Accordingly, the court must