Hall v. Tift Cnty. Hosp. Auth.

Decision Date10 June 2013
Docket NumberCivil Action No. 7:12-CV-12 (HL)
PartiesPAMELA HALL, Plaintiff, v. TIFT COUNTY HOSPITAL AUTHORITY d/b/a TIFT REGIONAL MEDICAL CENTER, ELLEN EATON, in her official capacity as Director of Human Resources and in her individual capacity, and APRIL DUKES, in her official capacity as Director of ER/ICU Nursing Services and in her individual capacity, Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Middle District of Georgia

This case is before the Court on Defendants= Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 21). Plaintiff has filed a response, and Defendants have filed a reply. Upon review of the briefs, depositions, affidavits, and other evidence submitted, Defendants= Motion Motion for Summary Judgment is granted.


Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 requires that summary judgment be granted "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). "The moving party bears 'the initial responsibility of informing the . . . courtof 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, which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.'" Hickson Corp. v. N. Crossarm Co., 357 F.3d 1256, 1259 (11th Cir. 2004) (quoting Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548 (1986) (internal quotations omitted)). Where the moving party makes such a showing, the burden shifts to the non-movant, who must go beyond the pleadings and present affirmative evidence to show that a genuine issue of material fact does exist. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 257, 106 S.Ct. 2505 (1986).

The applicable substantive law identifies which facts are material. Id. at 248. A fact is not material if a dispute over that fact will not affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law. Id. An issue is genuine when the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party. Id. at 249-50.

In resolving a motion for summary judgment, the court must view all evidence and draw all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Patton v. Trial Guar. Ins. Corp., 277 F.3d 1294, 1296 (11th Cir. 2002). But, the court is bound only to draw those inferences which are reasonable. "Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier offact to find for the non-moving party, there is no genuine issue for trial." Allen v. Tyson Foods, Inc., 121 F.3d 642, 646 (11th Cir. 1997) (quoting Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587, 106 S.Ct. 1348 (1986))."If the evidence is merely colorable, or is not significantly probative, summary judgment may be granted." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249-50 (internal citations omitted).


Viewed in the light most favorable to Plaintiff, the Court finds the material facts for purposes of summary judgment to be as follows.1

Defendant Tift County Hospital Authority is a governmental entity created under state statute. It operates the Tift Regional Medical Center ("TRMC"). TRMC provides hospital services for twelve counties in south central Georgia. Plaintiff, a Registered Nurse, became employed at TRMC on February 6, 2006.

During her employment with TRMC, Plaintiff performed the duties of both a charge nurse and a relief nursing supervisor. A charge nurse oversees the unit, takes care of patient flow issues, and assigns staff to certain patients. The charge nurse also has the authority to impose minor discipline, such as speaking with subordinate employees privately. (Deposition of Pamela Hall, pp. 49-50). A relief nursing supervisor handles all of the call-ins, oversees all of the floors,handles staffing, handles patient problems that the charge nurse is unable to address, calls back doctors and operating room teams, and helps with anything that the charge nurse cannot solve. Serving shifts as a charge nurse or relief nursing supervisor resulted in increased pay for Plaintiff.

As an employee, Plaintiff was governed by the TRMC Employee Handbook. The handbook contains a diversity policy of which Plaintiff was aware that states in part as follows:

TRMC will provide for all employees an environment that is conducive to open discussion free of intimidation, harassment, and discrimination. Slurs, jokes, verbal or written, and graphic conduct relating to individuals [sic] differences will not be tolerated. Such conduct will be considered as interfering with an individual's work performance and/or creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment.

(Hall Dep., Ex. 25).

Plaintiff also had access to the TRMC locker room. The locker room is accessible only to TRMC employees. The lockers are used by employees to store private possessions and personal items during their shifts. Each employee locker has either the employee's name or a picture on the front, and is used by a specific employee for the duration of his employment with TRMC. The employees are aware of which locker belongs to which employee.

Plaintiff met Amanda Dix, a staff nurse at TRMC, in 2006. (Declaration of Pamela Hall, ¶ 2). They have worked together since then as nurses at TRMC.(Id.) Plaintiff and Dix were social friends and their families even vacationed together. (Hall Decl., ¶ 4). But in 2009, Plaintiff and Dix's friendship was damaged after Plaintiff accused Dix of having an affair with Plaintiff's husband. (Deposition of Amanda Dix, p. 20). Dix then told Plaintiff that she (Dix) was a lesbian. (Dix Dep., pp. 20-21; Hall Decl., ¶¶ 5-6). Plaintiff told Dix that she could not be a part of Dix's lifestyle. (Dix Dep., p. 26). The affair allegation and Dix's revelation that she was a lesbian harmed their friendship, though they did talk about trying to rekindle their friendship. (Dix Dep., pp. 22-23, 29-30). At all times relevant to this case, Dix identified herself as a lesbian. (Dix Dep., p. 26).

Plaintiff, who is a Baptist, obtained a pamphlet entitled "How Should Christians Respond to 'Gay' Marriage?" In July 2011, Plaintiff placed the pamphlet in Dix's locker at a shift change. (Hall Decl., ¶ 11). Plaintiff attached a small piece of paper to the front of the pamphlet with a paper clip. On the piece of paper Plaintiff wrote that she felt led to give the pamphlet to Dix. Plaintiff placed the pamphlet and note in the very back of Dix's locker. Because Dix had said she was a Christian, Plaintiff felt a duty to tell her that, based on Christian teachings, the practice of homosexuality was a mistake and would harm Dix. (Hall Decl., ¶ 7).

Dix found the pamphlet in her locker, read the attached note and title of the pamphlet, and then threw the pamphlet in the trash. Dix was made angry,disgusted, humiliated, and offended by the cover of the pamphlet. Plaintiff, along with other employees, was in the locker room when Dix found the pamphlet. Plaintiff told Dix that she wanted Dix to read the pamphlet in private. Dix did not open or read the pamphlet or otherwise respond to Plaintiff.

Rose Powell, a nurse manager, was told about the pamphlet incident and that Dix had been offended. Powell contacted Dix via telephone to discuss whether Dix wanted TRMC to speak with Plaintiff about the pamphlet. Dix told Powell that she was okay and would handle it. (Dix Dep., p. 42). Dix thought Plaintiff probably would not say anything else because Plaintiff saw how upset the pamphlet made Dix and how Dix was offended by the pamphlet. (Id.) Dix then said that if anything else happened, she would let Powell know. (Id.)

Plaintiff was concerned that Dix would not read the pamphlet, so she sent Dix an email dated July 28, 2011 through the TRMC email system. The July 28 email reads as follows:

Mandy, Caleb told me you talked with him about the little booklet I left you. I had not told anyone about that I was leaving that up to you. I saw that book in Kentucky when we went to the creation museum. I don't want to hurt your feelings but I felt led to leave that for you and I would not be a true friend if I ignore the responsibility that God has left for his children to share the message and hold each other accountable. Even me. I would hope that someone would hold me accountable for when I'm not in the right walk with God. I actually wish that someone would have sat me down long ago and really opened me [sic] eyes to the way I was living. It was not pleasing to God. What feels good and what makes up [sic] happy is not always the right thing to do. Sodomy is a sin, gay people live insin. It is not about self gratification. I have true joy that can only come from being in God's grace. We will all die. We will stand before the Lord and he will hold us accountable for lack of witnessing and other sins. I won't harp on this issue but I will pray for you still and myself because I love you and I want you to be there with me in heaven. When we are in God's will we will WANT to live right and live for him and do what the Bible says and that is to go and tell! Everything else is not important. I hope I have not made you mad but I will leave you alone. Just know that I'll be on my knees for all my friends. I'm still working on some others. It burdens me to think that many will not be with us for eternity. Brandy has often said that there is a special place in heaven for nurses. There is not. I hope she comes to know the Lord one day. There is only one way to heaven. I love ya girl.

(Hall Dep., Ex. 22).2

Dix did not read the email until several days after Plaintiff sent it because Dix had been off work and did not necessarily check her email every day. (Dix Dep., p. 39). She finally read it on August 12, 2011. Dix initially did not want her supervisors to do anything about the email, but changed her mind after thinking more about the email. (Dix Dep., p. 47). Dix was...

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