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White v. Washington Nursing Facility

United States District Court, District of Columbia

August 31, 2016

Farnandon D. White, Plaintiff,
Washington Nursing Facility, Defendant.


          Amit P. Mehta United States District Judge


         Plaintiff Farnandon D. White brought this lawsuit pro se against his former employer Washington Nursing Facility (“WNF”). He generally alleges that, as a black male certified nursing aide (“CNA”), he was treated differently from his mostly black female colleagues, harassed, and ultimately terminated for filing charges of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”). Rightly construing the complaint as brought under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, WNF contends that it is entitled to summary judgment because White was fired for the legitimate reason of falsifying resident care records.[1]See generally Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. [hereinafter Def.'s Mot.], ECF No. 36. White counters that summary judgment is inappropriate because the asserted reason is “contradictory and pretext[ual].” Pl.'s Opp'n to Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. [hereinafter Pl.'s Opp'n], ECF No. 39, at 15.

         Based on its review of the evidence, the court holds that no reasonable jury could find that WNF's stated reason for terminating White was a pretext for unlawful discrimination or retaliation. The court also finds that White has failed to carry his burden with respect to his hostile work environment claim. The court therefore grants WNF's motion with respect to the federal claims. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367(c)(3), the court declines to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over any remaining state law claims. See generally Am. Compl., ECF No. 4 (asserting wrongful termination and workplace harassment).


         A. Factual Background

         At the relevant time period, WNF was “a duly licensed and certified skilled nursing facility in the District of Columbia, ” subject to oversight by the D.C. Department of Health. Def.'s Stmt. of Material Facts [hereinafter Def.s' SMF], ECF No. 36, ¶¶ 1, 12. White started his employment with WNF on June 21, 2010, working the day shift-7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. His job entailed assisting WNF residents with their daily care and activities. White's specific tasks included taking the residents' vital signs; checking their diapers every two hours and, if necessary, changing them; transferring the residents to and from their beds and wheelchairs; and repositioning them on a regularly scheduled basis to prevent bedsores. Def.'s Ex. 3, Deposition of Farnandon D. White [hereinafter White Dep.] 19-20, 30-31, ECF No. 36-1 at 11, 14; Def.'s Ex. 4, Decl. of Nancy Casanas [hereinafter Casanas Decl.] ¶¶ 14-16, ECF No. 36-1 at 30. In addition, White observed the residents and reported any changes in their condition to the nursing staff. White Dep. 28-29, ECF No. 36-1 at 13.

         All nursing aides were required to document the care provided each resident throughout each shift, using a computerized system known as Point of Care (“POC”). Def.'s SMF ¶¶ 10-11. The POC system enabled the production of reports on the specific care of each resident based on the information entered by the aide; it also generated audit reports, showing the actual time the aide entered the information into the system. Id. ¶¶ 21-22. The nursing aide accessed the system by entering his employee code into a computer touch screen on the nursing unit. Once in the system, the aide was provided a list of residents assigned to him on that particular shift and each resident's care needs. Id. ¶¶ 13-16. Each task was identified by an icon on the computer screen, which the aide pressed once the task was completed. The system would then record the task as having been performed. Id. ¶¶ 16-17. “Many of the CNA care tasks, such as turning and repositioning and toileting, [were required to] take place on a regularly scheduled basis throughout each shift.” Casanas Decl. ¶16, ECF No. 26-1 at 30. Thus, the “expectation [was] that entries [were] made into the system at or near the end of the CNA's shift, when all care tasks to be completed on the shift [were] in fact [ ] completed.” Def.'s SMF ¶ 23.

         Between February 2011 and June 2013, White received nine notices of unacceptable conduct, and he received Job Performance Employee Counseling on several occasions. Id. ¶¶ 39-53. Job Performance Employee Counseling consisted of four tiers: Informal Counseling; Formal Counseling; Second Formal Counseling and Final Warning; and immediate discharge. Def.'s Ex. 7, WNF's Requests for Admissions [hereinafter WNF's Req. for Admis.], Ex. 1, ECF No. 36-1 at 55. On April 19, 2013, White received Formal Counseling based on a nurse's report that he had failed to feed a resident by 10:15 a.m., and a resident's complaint that “he had left her exposed in bed while he went to care for others.” Def.'s SMF ¶ 48. On April 24, 2013, White received Second Formal Counseling and a one-day suspension without pay based on a resident's complaint that she had not received assistance more than six hours after the day shift had begun. Id. ¶ 49. White was then warned that he would be discharged if he “continue[d] to display inadequate job performance within the next six (6) months.” Id. ¶ 50. White responded by disagreeing with “these false accusation[s].” WNF's Req. for Admis., Ex. 6, ECF No. 36-1 at 65. On June 27, 2013, White again received Second Formal Counseling based on his failure to complete distributing lunches to the residents in their rooms; he was again warned that he would be discharged in six months if his performance did not improve. Def.'s SMF ¶ 53. White responded: “this is farther harassment by staffing and management. I will submit written responses in a few days.” WNF's Req. for Admis., Ex. 2, ECF 36-1 at 57.

         On September 4, 2013, White, an African American man, filed a charge with the EEOC, alleging discrimination based on his race, color, sex, and national origin between January 1, 2011, and June 28, 2013, “and continuing.” Def.'s Ex. 15, Not. of Charge of Discrimination, ECF 36-1 at 114. WNF Administrator Gail Jernigan received the EEO complaint but “did not view [it] as being meritorious because [White] was a black male and virtually one hundred percent of the work force at WNF at the time was black.” Def.'s Ex. 1, Decl. of Gail Jernigan [hereinafter Jernigan Decl.] ¶ 17, ECF No. 36-1 at 4. Jernigan “passed [the] EEO complaint on to corporate counsel and gave it no further thought.” Id. ¶ 18.

         On October 3, 2013, a POC Audit Report showed that White “[had] documented that he had provided all of the care for all nine of the residents assigned to him during the 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. shift by 9:23 a.m.-less than two and one-half hours after the shift began and more than six hours before it was over.” Casanas Decl. ¶ 22, ECF No. 26-1 at 31. The report further revealed that White had made all of the entries between 8:49 a.m. and 9:23 a.m., even though some of the care services “would had to have been provided . . . throughout the day shift, as indicated by the ‘Scheduled Time' column on the report.” Id. ¶¶ 23-24. On that same day, in consultation with WNF's Directors of Nursing and Human Resources, Jernigan made the decision to terminate White “for blatantly falsifying resident care information in the POC system.” Jernigan Decl. ¶ 11, ECF No. 36-1 at 3; see White Dep. 27, ECF No. 36-1 at 13 (agreeing that he was terminated “for the documentation”). The Facility's Employee Handbook “specifies as grounds for immediate discharge willful false recordkeeping and willful neglect of duty.” Jernigan Decl. ¶ 14, ECF No. 36-1 at 3; Def.'s Ex. 9, Employee Handbook, ECF No. 36-1 at 102 (listing examples of dishonesty that “normally will result in immediate discharge from our employ, ” including “willful falsification of any pay, time, business, expense or employment record”).

         B. Procedural Background

         Following his termination, White filed another charge with the EEOC on October 22, 2013, asserting retaliation. Def.'s Ex. 16, ECF No. 36-1 at 117. He also filed a grievance with Teamsters Local Union 639 on October 6, 2013, claiming that his termination was retaliatory and unjustified. WNF's Req. for Admis., Exs. 13 and 14, ECF No. 36-1 at 79, 81.

         On January 29, 2014, the EEOC issued a Dismissal and Notice of Rights, informing White that it could not conclude from its investigation that any federal statutes were violated. Def.'s Ex. 17, ECF No. 36-1 at 119. White initiated this civil suit by lodging his complaint and a motion to proceed in forma pauperis with the Clerk of Court on April 25, 2014. On September 15, 2014, the court denied WNF's initial motion to dismiss the complaint as untimely. ECF No. ...

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