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Thompson v. The Webber Hospital Association

United States District Court, District of Maine

September 8, 2014

WILLIAM THOMPSON, Plaintiff,
v.
THE WEBBER HOSPITAL ASSOCIATION, d/b/a SOUTHERN MAINE MEDICAL CENTER, Defendant.

William Thompson Plaintiff Represented by James A. Clifford Clifford & Clifford, LLC Post Road Center

Webber Hospital Association doing business as Southern Maine Medical Center Defendant Represented by Kelsey E. Wilcox Matthew Tarasevich Bernstein Shur Sawyer & Nelson Nicole L. Lorenzatti Mainehealth

ORDER ON DEFENDANT’S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

Jon D. Levy United States District Judge

Plaintiff William Thompson (“Thompson”) brings this suit against The Webber Hospital Association d/b/a Southern Maine Medical Center (“SMMC”), alleging racial discrimination in violation of both federal and state law. His three-count Complaint alleges that he suffered racial discrimination, a hostile work environment, and unlawful disparate treatment in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, and 5 M.R.S.A. § 4572(1)(A). For the reasons set forth below, I GRANT SMMC’s Motion for Summary Judgment.

I. BACKGROUND

Thompson was employed as a full-time respiratory therapist at SMMC in Biddeford, Maine between 2007 and 2011. SMMC is owned and operated by the defendant, The Webber Hospital Association. Thompson was terminated from his position in June 2011 following a series of incidents for which he was counseled or otherwise disciplined by his supervisor. Thompson, an African-American man, contends that he was terminated from employment on the basis of racial discrimination in response to his initiation of a romantic relationship with a fellow hospital employee (hereinafter referred to as “JC”) who is a Caucasian woman. He seeks relief based under both the disparate treatment and hostile work environment frameworks.

II. SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD

A. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56

Summary judgment is appropriate “if the movant 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); Ahmed v. Johnson, 752 F.3d 490, 495 (1st Cir. 2014). “A dispute is genuine if ‘the evidence about the fact is such that a reasonable jury could resolve the point in favor of the non-moving party.’” Johnson v. University of Puerto Rico, 714 F.3d 48, 52 (1st Cir. 2013) (quoting Thompson v. Coca-Cola Co., 522 F.3d 168, 175 (1st Cir. 2008)). “A fact is material if it has the potential of determining the outcome of the litigation.” Id. (quoting Maymi v. P.R. Ports Auth., 515 F.3d 20, 25 (1st Cir. 2008)).

The party moving for summary judgment must demonstrate an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party’s case. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325 (1986). In determining whether this burden is met, the court must view the record in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and give that party the benefit of all reasonable inferences in its favor. Johnson, 714 F.3d at 52. Once the moving party has made a preliminary showing that no genuine issue of material fact exists, the nonmovant must “produce specific facts, in suitable evidentiary form, to establish the presence of a trialworthy issue.” Brooks v. AIG SunAmerica Life Assur. Co., 480 F.3d 579, 586 (1st Cir. 2007) (citing Clifford v. Barnhart, 449 F.3d 276, 280 (1st Cir. 2006)); Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). “As to any essential factual element of its claim on which the nonmovant would bear the burden of proof at trial, its failure to come forward with sufficient evidence to generate a trialworthy issue warrants summary judgment to the moving party.” In re Spigel, 260 F.3d 27, 31 (1st Cir. 2001) (citation and internal punctuation omitted).

B. Local Rule 56

The evidence that the court may consider in deciding whether genuine issues of material fact exist for purposes of summary judgment is circumscribed by the local rules of this district. See Loc. R. 56. The moving party must first file a statement of material facts that it claims are not in dispute. See Loc. R. 56(b). Each fact must be set forth in a numbered paragraph and supported by a specific record citation. See Id . The nonmoving party must then submit a responsive “separate, short, and concise” statement of material facts in which it must “admit, deny or qualify the facts by reference to each numbered paragraph of the moving party’s statement of material facts[.]” Loc. R. 56(c). The nonmovant likewise must support each denial or qualification with an appropriate record citation. See Id . The nonmoving party may also submit its own additional statement of material facts that it contends are not in dispute, each supported by a specific record citation. See Id . The movant then must respond to the nonmoving party’s statement of additional facts, if any, by way of a reply statement of material facts in which it must “admit, deny or qualify such additional facts by reference to the numbered paragraphs” of the nonmovant’s statement. See Loc. R. 56(d). Again, each denial or qualification must be supported by an appropriate record citation. See id.

Local Rule 56 directs that “[f]acts contained in a supporting or opposing statement of material facts, if supported by record citations as required by this rule, shall be deemed admitted unless properly controverted.” Loc. R. 56(f). In addition, “[t]he court may disregard any statement of fact not supported by a specific citation to record material properly considered on summary judgment” and has “no independent duty to search or consider any part of the record not specifically referenced in the parties’ separate statement of fact.” Id.; see also, e.g., Borges, ex rel. S.M.B.W. v. Serrano-Isern, 605 F.3d 1, 5 (1st Cir. 2010); Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)(2) (“If a party fails to properly support an assertion of fact or fails to properly address another party’s assertion of fact as required by Rule 56(c), the court may . . . consider the fact undisputed for purposes of the motion[.]”).

III. ANALYSIS

A. DISPARATE TREATMENT

SMMC challenges Thompson’s ability to make out a prima facie case of disparate treatment discrimination. A prima facie case for discrimination based on disparate treatment presents a four-part test:

(1) the plaintiff must be a member of a protected class; (2) [he] must be qualified for [his] job; (3) [he] must suffer an adverse employment action at the hands of [his] employer; and (4) there must be some evidence of a causal connection between [his] membership in a protected class and the adverse employment action, e.g., in the ...

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