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Miller v. Red River Entertainment of Shreveport LLC

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

February 7, 2018

ROZENA MILLER
v.
RED RIVER ENTERTAINMENT OF SHREVEPORT, LLC

          HORNSBY MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          MEMORANDUM RULING

          ELIZABETH E. FOOTE UNITED STAGES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Pending before the Court is a Motion for Summary Judgment [Record Document 14] submitted by Defendant, Red River Entertainment of Shreveport, LLC, d/b/a Sam's Town Hotel and Casino ("Sam's Town"), which prays for this Court to dismiss all claims brought against it by Plaintiff, Rozena Miller ("Miller"). Also pending are two Motions to Strike [Record Documents 18 & 22]. Upon consideration of the briefs filed by the parties and for the reasons stated below, Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgement is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART. Plaintiff's Motion to Strike [Record Document 18] is also GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART, and Defendant's Motion to Strike [Record Document 22] is DENIED.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff began working as a housekeeper for Harrah's Casino in 1997, and when Sam's Town acquired the property in 2004, she worked for Sam's Town as a custodian, Record Documents 14-3 & 17-6. She continued her employment with Sam's Town until her termination on March 14, 2015. See Record Document 17-4, p. 8. As a custodian for Sam's Town, Plaintiff worked the graveyard shift starting at 11:00 p.m. and ending at 7:00 a.m. on Friday and Saturday, and from 11:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. on Monday through Thursday. Record Documents 14-3 & 17-6.

         In July 2013, Plaintiff sought and was approved to take intermittent FMLA leave. Record Document 14-2, pp. 11-12. She claims that, at first, she was using her leave approximately one day each month, but by the time she was terminated, she was using 4-6 days per month. Record Document 17-1, p. 1.

         In February 2015, Sam's Town began an investigation into its graveyard shift employees as a result of two anonymous written complaints that detailed employee misconduct, Record Documents 14-3 & 17-6. At least nine employees were terminated as a result of this investigation, including Plaintiff. At the time of her termination, Plaintiff was 53 years old. Record Document 17-4, p. 8.

         Based on the foregoing facts, Plaintiff filed this suit against Sam's Town alleging discrimination because of her age and disability, in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 ("ADEA"), 29 U.S, C. § 621 et seq., Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964[1] ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. § 2OOOe et seq., and the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 ("FMLA"), 29 U.S.C. § 2601 et seq. In light of her claims, Defendant filed this Motion for Summary Judgment.

         STANDARD

         Summary judgment under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 is appropriate when the pleadings, answers to interrogatories, admissions, depositions, and affidavits on file indicate that there is no genuine issue of material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law, See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). When the burden at trial will rest on the non-moving party, the moving party need not produce evidence to negate the elements of the non-moving party's case; rather, it need only point out the absence of supporting evidence. See Id. at 322-323.

         If the movant satisfies its initial burden of showing that there is no genuine dispute of material fact with the motion for summary judgment, the nonmovant must demonstrate that there is, in fact, a genuine issue for dispute at trial by going "beyond the pleadings" and designating specific facts for support. Little v. Liquid Air Corp., 37 F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th Cir. 1994). "This burden is not satisfied with 'some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts/" by conclusory or unsubstantiated allegations, or by a mere scintilla of evidence. Id. (quoting Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986)). However, "[t]he evidence of the non-movant is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1985) (internal citations omitted); Reid v. State Farm Mut. Auto Ins. Co., 784 F.2d 577, 578 (5th Cir. 1986) (the court must "review the facts drawing all inferences most favorable to the party opposing the motion"). While not weighing the evidence or evaluating the credibility of witnesses, courts should grant summary judgment where the critical evidence in support of the nonmovant is so weak and tenuous that it could not support a judgment in the nonmovant's favor. Little, 37 F.3d at 1075.

         Additionally, Local Rule 56.1 requires the moving party to file a statement of material facts as to which it contends there is no genuine issue to be tried. Pursuant to Local Rule 56.2, the party opposing the motion for summary judgment must set forth a "short and concise statement of the material facts as to which there exists a genuine issue to be tried." All material facts set forth in the statement required to be served by the moving party "will be deemed admitted, for purposes of the motion, unless controverted as required by this rule." Local Rule 56.2.

         LAW AND ANALYSIS

         Defendant argues that Plaintiff cannot establish a prima facie case for any of her claims.

         1. Age Discrimination

         The ADEA makes it unlawful for an employer "to discharge any individual or otherwise discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual's age." 29 U.S.C. § 623(a)(1). The parties have argued their respective positions under the McDonnell Douglas burden-shifting framework. See Jackson v. Cal-W. Packaging Corp., 602 F.3d 374, 378 (5th Cir. 2010) (citing McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792 (1973)). Under this framework, Plaintiff must first establish a prima facie case of discrimination. Then, the burden shifts to Defendant to produce evidence that Plaintiff was terminated for a nondiscriminatory reason. If this burden is met, Plaintiff must then show the legitimate reason offered by the Defendant was not its true reason, but was pretext for discrimination. Id. at 378 n.12 (citing Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 142-43 (2000)). "It is at this third stage that the plaintiff must demonstrate that age was the 'but-for' cause of the defendant's employment decision, notwithstanding the defendant's putative non-discriminatory reason for the decision." Dubea v. Sch. Bd. of Avoyelles Par., 546 Fed.Appx. 357, 360 (5th Or. 2013) (citing Reed v. Neopost USA, Inc., 701 F.3d 434, 439-40 (5th Cir. 2012)).

         To prove a prima facie case of age discrimination, Plaintiff must show that she was: (1) discharged; (2) qualified for the position; (3) within the protected age group at the time of the discharge; and (4) either replaced by someone younger or outside the protected class, or otherwise discharged because of her age. Phillips v. Leggett & Piatt, Inc., 658 F.3d 452, 455 (5th Cir. 2011) (citing Rachid v. Jack In The Box, Inc., 376 F.3d 305, 309 (5th Cir. 2004)). The only element disputed by Defendant is the last. Defendant argues that Plaintiff does not know whether she was replaced by someone younger and has no evidence that she was otherwise discharged because of her age.

         As to Plaintiff's replacement, Defendant represents that several custodians were hired, but none specifically to replace Plaintiff. Record Document 5, p. 3. Plaintiff claims that her replacement is unknown because Defendant fired and hired multiple employees over the six-month period after her termination. Record Document 17, p. 4. Plaintiff then states that three of the individuals hired "were close to [her] age, and two of them were terminated within 2 hours of hire." Id. Without further explanation, Plaintiff claims she has alleged a prima facie case of age discrimination.

         Plaintiff cites Defendant's discovery responses as her source of information regarding employees hired after her termination. These responses show that between March 2015 and December 2015, Defendant hired five custodians: Mary Taylor, age 54; Michelle Edden, age 61; Angela Cooper, age 46; Naudius Bolden, age 31; and Rosemary Miller, age 51. Record Document 17-3, pp. 3-4. Plaintiff was 53 years old at the time of her termination; thus, two of the five individuals hired were older than Plaintiff at the time she was terminated. While Defendant's discovery responses indicate that Michelle Edden was terminated the same day she was hired, they also indicate that Mary Taylor, the other individual hired in 2015 who was older than Plaintiff, remains an active employee.[2] Id. Furthermore, Defendant cites Plaintiffs deposition testimony wherein she admits that she does not know who replaced her, but "just believe[s] it was someone younger than [her]." Record Document 14-2, p. 24. Additionally, Plaintiff has not stated any facts demonstrating that age was even a factor in the decision to terminate her and therefore cannot show that she was "otherwise discharged because of her age." Defendant cites the following exchange taken from Plaintiff's deposition:

Q: ... Why do you think you were discriminated against because of your age?
A: Because they fired me.
Q: So but why do you think that your age played a role in the decision?
A: Well, at that time, when I said that I really didn't know for wrongful termination. I said my age because I guess I was getting older, I don't know.
Q: Did anyone [at] work ever make any comments to you about your age?
A; No.
Q: Do you know who replaced you?
A: No.
Q; Is - as you sit here today is there anything else that you think lead [sic] you to believe that your age was part ...

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