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Toval v. Children's Hospital

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

October 28, 2014



CARL J. BARBIER, District Judge.

Before the Court is a Motion for Summary Judgment (Rec. Doc. 19) filed by Defendant, Children's Hospital ("Children's"), as well as an Opposition (Rec. Doc. 28) by Plaintiff, Brian Toval ("Plaintiff"), and Children's Reply (Rec. Doc. 34). Having considered the motion, the parties' submissions, the record, and the applicable law, the Court finds, for the reasons expressed below, that the motion should be GRANTED.


This matter arises out of an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") Claim filed by Plaintiff against Children's, his previous employer. Plaintiff, an African American male, began his career at Children's Hospital in 1991 as a medical technologist. In 1999, Plaintiff became a systems analyst in the Information Technology (IT) department, and was promoted to Senior Systems Analyst in 2002, which was the position he held until his resignation in August, 2011. In 2006, Annette Perilloux ("Perilloux"), a Caucasian woman, was promoted to project manager and began serving as Plaintiff's direct supervisor. In June, 2008, Plaintiff presented a number of grievances to his second line supervisor, Tammy Reites ("Reites"), also a Caucasian woman. A meeting was held, in which Perilloux was also present, where Plaintiff aired a number of complaints with his supervisors. Plaintiff has not provided the Court with specifics regarding these complaints.

In August, 2010, Plaintiff informed Perilloux that he wanted to apply for the supervisory position of Program Team Lead. Plaintiff alleges that Perilloux informed him that the position did not yet exist. Yet, on November 9, 2010, Perilloux announced that the Project Team Lead position had been filled by Rhonda Zimmer ("Zimmer"), a Caucasian woman who worked with Plaintiff as a senior analyst. This promotion was granted to Zimmer without any interview or announcements to other analysts regarding openings for the position. On November 11, 2010, two days after Zimmer's promotion, Plaintiff filed a grievance with Doug Mittelstaedt ("Mittelstaedt") in the Human Resources Department of the hospital, claiming that he had been denied promotion to the Project Team Lead position as a result of his race. After conducting an investigation, and consulting with both Perilloux and Reites, Mittelstaedt provided Plaintiff with a detailed memorandum in which he defended the decision to promote Zimmer, rather than Plaintiff, to the Project Team Lead position. Plaintiff responded to Mittelstaedt, stating that he had to conclude that the reason why he was not promoted to the position was because he is a "Black man." (Rec. Doc. 28-1, p. 5).

Plaintiff further alleges that after he filed his grievance with Mittelstaedt, Plaintiff endured "prolonged and intense retaliation" in the form of public humiliation, heavy work loads, and excessive scrutiny of his work by Zimmer. In June, 2011, Plaintiff began seeing several physicians for anxiety and depression. Plaintiff alleges that his doctors advised him to take medical leave and resign from his job at Children's, which he did. Also in June, 2011 prior to his resignation, Plaintiff filed a Charge of Discrimination with the Equal Employment Office, asserting that he was discriminated against by Children's through: (1) a discriminatory failure to promote and (2) a retaliatory failure to promote.[1] In November, 2011 Plaintiff amended this charge to include claims of retaliation based on his complaint of discrimination in November, 2010, and the filing of his EEOC charge.[2] Plaintiff then filed a complaint against Children's in this Court on September 17, 2013, seeking damages for the claims asserted in his EEOC charge and the subsequent amendment. Children's then filed the instant motion, seeking summary judgment in its favor and dismissal of all of Plaintiff's claims.


Summary judgment is appropriate when "the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no material issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986) (citing FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c)); See also Little v. Liquid Air Corp., 37 F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th Cir. 1994). When assessing whether a dispute as to any material fact exists, the Court considers "all of the evidence in the record but refrains from making credibility determinations or weighing the evidence. " Delta & Pine Land Co. v. Nationwide Agribusiness Ins. Co., 530 F.3d 395, 398 (5th Cir. 2008). All reasonable inferences are drawn in favor of the nonmoving party, but a party cannot defeat summary judgment with conclusory allegations or unsubstantiated assertions. Little, 37 F.3d at 1075. A court ultimately must be satisfied that "a reasonable jury could not return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Delta, 530 F.3d at 399.

If the dispositive issue is one on which the moving party will bear the burden of proof at trial, the moving party "must come forward with evidence which would entitle it to a directed verdict if the evidence went uncontroverted at trial.'" Int'l Shortstop, Inc. v. Rally's, Inc., 939 F.2d 1257, 1263-64 (5th Cir. 1991) (citation omitted). The nonmoving party can then defeat the motion by either countering with sufficient evidence of its own, or "showing that the moving party's evidence is so sheer that it may not persuade the reasonable fact-finder to return a verdict in favor of the moving party." Id. at 1265.

If the dispositive issue is one on which the nonmoving party will bear the burden of proof at trial, the moving party may satisfy its burden by merely pointing out that the evidence in the record is insufficient with respect to an essential element of the nonmoving party's claim. See Celotex, 477 U.S. at 325. The burden then shifts to the nonmoving party, who must, by submitting or referring to evidence, set out specific facts showing that a material issue exists. See id. at 324. The nonmovant may not rest upon the pleadings, but must identify specific facts that establish a material issue for trial. See, e.g., id. at 325; Little, 37 F.3d at 1075.


A. Claims Before the Court

The parties first dispute the types of claims properly before the Court. Children's argues that this Court may hear only the two claims contained in the Complaint: (1) discriminatory failure to promote in November 2010; and (2) retaliatory failure to promote in November 2010 (as a result of Plaintiff's complaint to Reites made in 2008).[3] (Rec. Doc. 19-2, p. 6-7). In addition to these claims, Plaintiff also asserts that the Court should hear his claims regarding Children's alleged retaliation for Plaintiff's complaint of discrimination in 2010 and his filing of his EEOC charge in 2011.[4] (Rec. Doc. 28, p. 22). Children's disputes that these particular retaliation claims are properly before the Court, arguing that Plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies regarding these claims, which precludes this Court from considering them. (Rec. Doc. 19-2, p. 6-7). Plaintiff, in response, contends that these retaliation claims are sufficiently related to the original claims included in his EEOC charge, so as to "relate back" to the original charge. As such, Plaintiff asserts that he sufficiently exhausted his administrative remedies regarding these particular claims, making them proper before this Court.

"It is well-settled that courts have no jurisdiction to consider Title VII claims as to which the aggrieved party has not exhausted administrative remedies." Nat'l Ass'n of Gov't Employees v. City Pub. Serv. Bd. of San Antonio, Tex., 40 F.3d 698, 711 (5th Cir. 1994) (citing Tolbert v. U.S., 916 F.2d 245, 247-48 (5th Cir. 1990)). In order to sufficiently exhaust their administrative remedies, aggrieved employees must file an EEOC charge of discrimination with their respective Equal Employment Office, detailing the complaints of the alleged discriminatory behavior they intend to investigate and ultimately litigate. Pacheco v. Mineta, 448 F.3d 783, 788 (5th Cir. 2006). The scope of this exhaustion requirement has been determined in light of two competing policies underlying Title VII. Id. First, the Fifth Circuit has noted that Title VII was intended for the "unlettered or unsophisticated employee, " and a limitation of judicial relief to those claims that comply with "technical niceties" would conflict with this purpose of Title VII. Id .; See Sanchez v. Standard Brands, Inc., 431 F.2d 455, 466 (5th Cir. 1970). However, this policy is to be balanced against a primary purpose of Title VII which is to "trigger the investigatory and conciliatory procedures of the EEOC in [an] attempt to achieve non-judicial resolution of employment discrimination claims." Pacheco, 448 F.3d at 788-89; Sanchez, 431 F.2d at 466. In light of these competing policies, the scope of a civil action encompasses not simply those complaints included in the EEOC charge, but ...

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