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Hatfield v. Bio-Medical Life Applications of Louisiana LLC

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Monroe Division

October 31, 2017





         Before the Court is a Motion for Summary Judgment [Doc. No. 20] filed by Defendant Bio-Medical Applications of Louisiana, LLC. Plaintiff Sheneka H. Hatfield opposes the motion. [Doc. No. 28');">28');">28');">28]. For reasons assigned below, the Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED.


         In October 201');">1');">1');">13');">3, Defendant hired Plaintiff to work as a patient care technician (“PCT”) at its dialysis clinic in Monroe, Louisiana. As a PCT, Plaintiff was responsible for weighing dialysis patients, helping patients to and from their wheelchairs, periodically recording patients&#3');">39; blood pressure and temperature, connecting patients to dialysis machines, removing patients from the machines, monitoring patients for side effects, [1');">1');">1');">1" name= "FN1');">1');">1');">1" id="FN1');">1');">1');">1">1');">1');">1');">1] providing polite and courteous customer service, and sympathizing with patients who are experiencing kidney failure. Patients generally receive dialysis treatment three times each week, resulting in PCTs spending considerable time with patients.

         If a patient moves her arm or if a kink develops in the line, the dialysis machine stops and an alarm sounds. PCTs are responsible for restarting the machine; if the machine is not restarted, a clot can form. If a patient stands during treatment or her needle comes out, the patient can bleed to death.

         Defendant staffs its clinic with one PCT for every four patients, one registered nurse for every eight patients, one secretary, one social worker, and one clinical manager. The clinical manager was Plaintiff&#3');">39;s direct supervisor and worked at the clinic daily. For the majority of Plaintiff&#3');">39;s employment with Defendant, Sierra Norwood (“Norwood”) was her clinical manager. When Norwood went on maternity leave from approximately April of 201');">1');">1');">15 to July of 201');">1');">1');">15, Sherry Scalia (“Scalia”) served as Plaintiff&#3');">39;s clinical manager. The clinical manager reports to the Director of Operations, Dana Temple (“Temple”), who generally visited the clinic once each month.

         In the instant Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that she was “regularly subjected to sexual harassment” from patients while working for Defendant, which created a “sexually charged and hostile work environment.” [Doc. No. 1');">1');">1');">1, 2');">p. 2]. She alleges that, sometime in 201');">1');">1');">14');">4');">4');">4');">4');">4');">4');">4, one patient, Patient B, told her he wanted her to “get naked and take care of [him].” [Doc. No. 28');">28');">28');">28-1');">1');">1');">1, 2');">p. 2]. She continued working and did not report Patient B&#3');">39;s comments. Id.

         Plaintiff alleges that another patient, Patient C, asked to “touch [her] bottom” and claimed that he “would have had [her] sprung, back in [his] young days.” [Doc. No. 28');">28');">28');">28-3');">3, pp. 6-7]. Plaintiff continued working and did not report the incident.

         In March of 201');">1');">1');">15, according to Plaintiff, another patient, Patient A, attempted to grab Plaintiff&#3');">39;s breast, forcing her to evade his reach. Plaintiff reported the alleged incident to Norwood, her clinical manager at the time. Plaintiff claims that she reported the incident again on June 1');">1');">1');">11');">1');">1');">1, 201');">1');">1');">15, to her then-clinical manager, Scalia, and the Director of Operations, Temple. Plaintiff alleges that, despite her complaints, “no meaningful action was taken . . . .” Id.

         On June 4');">4');">4');">4');">4');">4');">4');">4, 201');">1');">1');">15, Scalia witnessed Plaintiff using her cell phone on the treatment floor, which Defendant prohibits because it presents a safety risk. Scalia instructed Plaintiff to store her phone in her locker. In response, Plaintiff slammed her locker shut, prompting Scalia to call Plaintiff into her office. On June 1');">1');">1');">11');">1');">1');">1, 201');">1');">1');">15, Scalia and Temple issued Plaintiff a warning for violating the cell phone policy.

         On June 1');">1');">1');">16, 201');">1');">1');">15, Scalia received a complaint from a female patient that Plaintiff did not reset the patient&#3');">39;s dialysis machine when necessary, had a hateful attitude when asked for assistance, and failed to assist another patient who needed help. Scalia chose not to discipline Plaintiff because, in part, she thought the incident was isolated.

         On June 23');">3, 201');">1');">1');">15, Scalia received a complaint from Patient A concerning Plaintiff. Patient A stated that he had a cramp in his leg, stood up to alleviate the cramp, and asked Plaintiff to take him off the machine. He complained that Plaintiff had a “snappy attitude, ” refused to take him off the machine, and told him to get out of her face and sit down. [Doc. Nos. 20-8, 20-9]. Plaintiff, however, disputes Patient A&#3');">39;s version of events and alleges that Patient A wagged his tongue, licked his lips in a “sexually overt manner[, ]” spoke to her using profane language, and threatened to “have her job.” [Doc. No. 28');">28');">28');">28-1');">1');">1');">1, p. 3');">3]. Plaintiff reported the alleged sexual harassment the same day to the social worker at the clinic, Charmaine Winters (“Winters”). Id. at 4');">4');">4');">4');">4');">4');">4');">4.

         On June 24');">4');">4');">4');">4');">4');">4');">4, 201');">1');">1');">15, Scalia reported Patient A&#3');">39;s complaint to the Director of Operations, Mia Haney (“Haney”), [2" name="FN2" id="FN2">2] and informed Haney that, due to safety concerns, she wanted to suspend Plaintiff until Defendant completed an investigation. Later that day, Haney placed Plaintiff on investigatory suspension. Shortly thereafter, Plaintiff called Defendant&#3');">39;s human resource hotline and reported her version of the June 23');">3, 201');">1');">1');">15 incident. The parties dispute whether Defendant adequately investigated the incident.

         On July 2, 201');">1');">1');">15, Scalia and Temple terminated Plaintiff&#3');">39;s employment. Defendant contends it discharged Plaintiff because of Patient A&#3');">39;s complaint, the June 1');">1');">1');">16, 201');">1');">1');">15 complaint from the female patient, and Plaintiff&#3');">39;s use of a cell phone on the treatment floor.

         Plaintiff initiated the instant proceeding on September 1');">1');">1');">15, 201');">1');">1');">16, alleging that Defendant violated Title VII and state law by subjecting her to a hostile work environment and by suspending and discharging her in retaliation for reporting Patient A&#3');">39;s sexual harassment. [Doc. No. 1');">1');">1');">1].

         Defendant moved for summary judgment on September 1');">1');">1');">14');">4');">4');">4');">4');">4');">4');">4, 201');">1');">1');">17, seeking dismissal of all Plaintiff&#3');">39;s claims. [Doc. No. 20]. Plaintiff responded to Defendant&#3');">39;s motion on October 5, 201');">1');">1');">17 [Doc. No. 28');">28');">28');">28], and Defendant replied on October 1');">1');">1');">19, 201');">1');">1');">17 [Doc. No. 3');">30].


         A. Standard of Review

         Summary judgment is appropriate when the evidence before a court shows “that 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). A fact is “material” if proof of its existence or nonexistence would affect the outcome of the lawsuit under applicable law in the case. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 4');">4');">4');">4');">4');">4');">4');">477 U.S. 24');">4');">4');">4');">4');">4');">4');">42');">4');">4');">4');">4');">4');">4');">4');">477 U.S. 24');">4');">4');">4');">4');">4');">4');">42, 24');">4');">4');">4');">4');">4');">4');">48 (1');">1');">1');">1986). A dispute about a material fact is “genuine” if the evidence is such that a reasonable fact finder could render a verdict for the nonmoving party. Id.

         “[A] party seeking summary judgment always bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of ‘the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, &#3');">39; which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 4');">4');">4');">4');">4');">4');">4');">477 U.S. 3');">31');">1');">1');">17');">4');">4');">4');">4');">4');">4');">4');">477 U.S. 3');">31');">1');">1');">17, 3');">323');">3 (1');">1');">1');">1986) (quoting Anderson, 4');">4');">4');">4');">4');">4');">4');">477 U.S. at 24');">4');">4');">4');">4');">4');">4');">47). “The moving party may meet its burden to demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact by pointing out that the record contains no support for the non-moving party&#3');">39;s claim.” Stahl v. Novartis Pharm. Corp., 28');">28');">28');">283');">3 F.3');">3d 254');">4');">4');">4');">4');">4');">4');">4, 263');">3 (5th Cir. 2002). Thereafter, if the non-movant is unable to identify anything in the record to support its claim, summary judgment is appropriate. Id. “The court need consider only the cited materials, but it may consider other materials in the record.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(3');">3).[3');">3" name="FN3');">3" id= "FN3');">3">3');">3]

         In evaluating a motion for summary judgment, courts “may not make credibility determinations or weigh the evidence” and “must resolve all ambiguities and draw all permissible inferences in favor of the non-moving party.” Total E & P USA Inc. v. Kerr-McGee Oil and Gas Corp., 1');">1');">1');">19 F.3');">3d 4');">4');">4');">4');">4');">4');">4');">424');">4');">4');">4');">4');">4');">4');">4');">71');">1');">1');">19 F.3');">3d 4');">4');">4');">4');">4');">4');">4');">424');">4');">4');">4');">4');">4');">4');">4, 4');">4');">4');">4');">4');">4');">4');">43');">34');">4');">4');">4');">4');">4');">4');">4 (5th Cir. 201');">1');">1');">13');">3) (citations omitted). While courts will “resolve factual controversies in favor of the nonmoving party, ” an actual controversy exists only “when both parties have submitted evidence of contradictory facts.” Little v. Liquid Air. Corp., 3');">37 F.3');">3d 1');">1');">1');">1069');">3');">37 F.3');">3d 1');">1');">1');">1069, 1');">1');">1');">1075 (5th Cir. 1');">1');">1');">1994');">4');">4');">4');">4');">4');">4');">4). To rebut a properly supported motion for summary judgment, the opposing party must show, with “significant probative evidence, ” that a genuine issue of material fact exists. Hamilton v. Segue Software, Inc., 23');">32 F.3');">3d 4');">4');">4');">4');">4');">4');">4');">473');">3');">23');">32 F.3');">3d 4');">4');">4');">4');">4');">4');">4');">473');">3, 4');">4');">4');">4');">4');">4');">4');">477 (5th Cir. 2000) (emphasis added). “‘If the evidence is merely colorable, or is not ...

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