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Bradford v. Parish

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

December 20, 2019

CORA BRADFORD
v.
JACKSON PARISH POLICE JURY, ET AL.

          KAREN L. HAYES MAG Judge

          RULING

          TERRY A. DOUGHTY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Pending before the Court is a Motion for Partial Summary Judgment on Plaintiff's Title VII and State Law Race Discrimination Claims [Doc. No. 51] filed by Defendant Jackson Parish Hospital Service District No. 1 d/b/a Jackson Parish Hospital (“the Hospital”). The Hospital moves for summary judgment dismissing Plaintiff Cora Bradford's (“Bradford”) remaining race discrimination claims under Title VII and state law.

         On October 31, 2019, Bradford filed a Memorandum in Opposition to the Motion for Partial Summary Judgment [Doc. No. 55].

         On November 7, 2019, the Hospital filed a Reply Memorandum in support of its Motion for Partial Summary Judgment [Doc. No. 56].

         For the following reasons, the Hospital's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment is GRANTED, and Bradford's race discrimination claims are DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE.

         I. FACTS

         Bradford, a black female, was first employed by the Hospital on December 1, 2015, as an accountant.

         At the time Bradford was hired, the Hospital's Chief Financial Officer (“CFO”) was Eric Cripps (“Cripps”), a white male. Cripps was originally hired as an accountant in September 2008 and promoted to business team leader in January 2011. He resigned on September 21, 2012, but returned to work at the hospital on February 1, 2013. On May 4, 2015, Cripps was promoted to CFO, with a salary of $90, 000.00. Cripps continued to serve as CFO until December 14, 2015, when he began serving as both the CFO and the Chief Operating Officer (“COO”). Cripps was supervised by then-Chief Executive Officer (“CEO”) Bobby Jordan. Cripps resigned on September 22, 2016.

         On or about October 14, 2016, Bradford, who has an MBA, was promoted to CFO after Cripps' resignation. She was promoted by interim CEO Tim Page [Doc. No. 51-3, Exh. A, Bradford Depo., p. 2] and then supervised by CEO John Morgan.

         As CFO, Bradford was in charge of revenue cycle, accounts payable, payroll, medical records, and financial reporting. She had the duties of ensuring internal controls were adequate, safeguarding facility assets, preparing an annual budget, monitoring banking activities, overseeing the maintenance of inventory and fixed assets, enhancing and developing policies and procedures to improve the operation and effectiveness of the Hospital, presenting financial information to the Board of Directors, and scheduling and coordinating with the external auditor and state agencies.

         The Hospital terminated Bradford on September 26, 2017, for alleged poor job performance. The Hospital has submitted affidavits and evidence to show that Bradford paid bills late, failed to consistently fund the Hospital retirement plan, failed to reconcile bank statements for six (6) months, lacked knowledge regarding $1.6 million in the Hospital's bank account, failed to submit IRS form 941s, and failed to collect significant un-billed amounts owed to the Hospital.

         Bradford does not deny the facts presented by the Hospital, but contends that Cripps left the Hospital in a poor financial condition, that he also failed to pay bills timely, that there were accounting errors under Cripp's leadership, and that the Hospital had an inefficient method of approving invoices (requiring approval of department heads). She cites to the Legislative Auditors findings of error in the amount of $24, 000, on March 29, 2017, which dated back to fiscal year 2016, and which Bradford contends, were based on records compiled while Cripps was CFO. Bradford further contends that she was treated less favorably because Cripps had been given one year to remedy the financial problems, but that she was terminated. Additionally, she alleges that she was treated less favorably than Savannah Maxwell, a white female, in that Maxwell was allowed to transfer to another position.

         On or about October 28, 2017, Bradford filed a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”), alleging that the Hospital discriminated against her on the basis of race and color. [Doc. No. 34, ¶ 25]. The EEOC issued Bradford a Dismissal and Notice of Rights on August 1, 2018. [Doc. No. 34, ¶ 26].

         On October 23, 2018, Bradford filed her original Complaint in this Court against the Hospital and Inquiseek, LLC (“Inquiseek”), a consulting firm hired by the Hospital to evaluate its accounting functions. In her original Complaint, Bradford alleged wrongful termination, disparate treatment, and wage disparity in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 USC § 2000e, et seq. (“Title VII”); 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981 & 1983; the Equal Pay Act of 1963 (“the Equal Pay Act”), 29 U.S.C. §206, an amendment to the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), 29 USC § 201; and the Louisiana Employment Discrimination Law (“LEDL”), La. Rev. Stat. § 23:332. See [Doc. No. 1, ¶¶ 17-19]. Additionally, she asserted state tort claims against Inquiseek based on alleged verbal abuse and threats by its agent, Jeff Harper. She sought lost wages and benefits; liquidated, exemplary, and punitive damages; attorneys' fees, interests, and costs; and an injunction enjoining Defendants from engaging in the alleged discrimination and requiring them to take affirmative actions to redress their discriminatory practices.

         On November 12, 2018, the Jackson Parish Police Jury and the Hospital filed an Answer to the Complaint in which they clarified that they had been improperly named in the Complaint as a single entity (the “Jackson Parish Police Jury d/b/a Jackson Parish Hospital”), effectively substituting themselves as Defendants. [Doc. No. 5]. On November 13, 2018, Inquiseek filed its answer. [Doc. No. 6].

         On January 15, 2019, all three Defendants filed motions to dismiss. The Police Jury moved to dismiss the claims against it because it was neither Bradford's employer, nor took any of the challenged actions. [Doc. No. 11]. Bradford filed a statement of no opposition to this motion. [Doc. Nos. 22 &amp. 23]. The ...


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