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Jones v. New Orleans Regional Physician Hospital Organization, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

August 8, 2019


         SECTION A(5)



         Before the Court is a Motion for Summary Judgment (Rec. Doc. 24) filed by Defendant New Orleans Regional Physician Hospital Organization Inc. d/b/a Peoples Health Network (“Peoples Health”). Plaintiff Bill Jones opposes the motion (Rec. Doc. 37). The Motion, set for submission on May 15, 2019, is before the Court on the briefs without oral argument. Having considered the motion and memoranda of counsel, the opposition, the record, and the applicable law, the Court finds that Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (Rec. Doc. 24) is DENIED in part and GRANTED in part.

         I. Background

         Plaintiff Bill Jones worked for Peoples Health from March 2013 until his alleged wrongful termination in 2017. (Rec. Doc. 1 Complaint, ¶ 9). Plaintiff filed the instant suit alleging that his termination related to a meeting with Janice Ortego, Peoples Health Vice President, during which he raised concerns about violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”). (Id. at 14). Plaintiff seeks reinstatement of his position and damages pursuant to Section 15(a)(3) of the FLSA alleging that his termination was motivated by his FLSA claims. (Id. at 18). The Court notes that the Complaint pled a claim of retaliation under the False Claims Act. (Rec. Doc. 1, ¶ 17). Plaintiff's opposition provides that he does not wish to pursue a claim under the False Claims Act and requests this Court to dismiss the claim without prejudice. (Rec. Doc. 37, p. 1). In the motion before the Court, Peoples Health argues that all of Plaintiff's claims should be dismissed pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, summary judgment.

         II. Legal Standard

         Summary judgment is appropriate only if “the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, ” when viewed in the light most favorable to the non-movant, “show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact.” TIG Ins. Co. v. Sedgwick James, 276 F.3d 754, 759 (5th Cir.2002) (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249-50, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986)). A dispute about a material fact is “genuine” if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party. Id. (citing Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505.). The court must draw all justifiable inferences in favor of the non-moving party. Id. (citing Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255, 106 S.Ct. 2505). Once the moving party has initially shown “that there is an absence of evidence to support the non-moving party's cause, ” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986), the non-movant must come forward with “specific facts” showing a genuine factual issue for trial. Id. (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e); Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio, 475 U.S. 574, 587, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986)). Conclusory allegations and denials, speculation, improbable inferences, unsubstantiated assertions, and legalistic argumentation do not adequately substitute for specific facts showing a genuine issue for trial. Id. (citing SEC v. Recile, 10 F.3d 1093, 1097 (5th Cir.1993)).

         III. Discussion

         Pursuant to the FLSA, it is unlawful for an employer to discharge or in any other manner discriminate against an employee “because such employee has filed any complaint or instituted or caused to be instituted any proceeding under or related to this chapter.” 29 U.S.C. § 215(A)(3). In analyzing FLSA cases, the Fifth Circuit adopted the Title VII burden-shifting framework set out in McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 93 S.Ct. 1817, 36 L.Ed.2d 668 (1973). Hagan v. Echostar Satellite, LLC, 529 F.3d 617, 624 (5th Cir. 2008). The framework is applied as follows:

First, a plaintiff must make a prima facie showing of (1) participation in protected activity under the FLSA; (2) an adverse employment action; and (3) a causal link between the activity and the adverse action. If a plaintiff meets this burden, the defendant must then articulate a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for its decision. The burden then shifts to the plaintiff to demonstrate that the proffered reason is a pretext for discrimination.

Id.(quoting Hagan v. Echostar Satellite L.L.C., No. H-05-1365, 2007 WL 543441, at *4 (S.D.Tex. Feb. 16, 2007).

         Peoples Health argues that Plaintiff's suit should be dismissed on summary judgment because: (1) the facts show that he did not engage in a protected activity; (2) Peoples Health did not consider him to have engaged in a protected activity; and (3) Peoples Health did not terminate his employment because of a protected activity. (Rec. Doc. 24-1, p. 1). The Court must determine whether there exists a genuine issue of material fact upon examination of each element of a prima facie case, if there was a non-discriminatory reason for the employer's decision, and if it was a pretext for discrimination.

         A. Prima Facie Case

         i. ...

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