Hassen v. Ruston La. Hosp. Co., No. 18-30856

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
Writing for the CourtDON R. WILLETT, Circuit Judge
Citation932 F.3d 353
Parties LaBrittany K. HASSEN, Plaintiff–Appellant, v. RUSTON LOUISIANA HOSPITAL COMPANY, L.L.C., doing business as Northern Louisiana Medical Center, Defendant–Appellee.
Decision Date31 July 2019
Docket NumberNo. 18-30856

932 F.3d 353

LaBrittany K. HASSEN, Plaintiff–Appellant,
v.
RUSTON LOUISIANA HOSPITAL COMPANY, L.L.C., doing business as Northern Louisiana Medical Center, Defendant–Appellee.

No. 18-30856

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit.

FILED July 31, 2019
REVISED August 1, 2019


Dianne Lorraine Hill, Esq., Hill Law Office, Monroe, LA, for Plaintiff-Appellant.

Kurt Stephen Blankenship, Trial Attorney, Robert Irby Baudouin, Esq., Amanda M. Plaiscia, Craig Robert Watson, Blue Williams, L.L.P., Metairie, LA, for Defendant-Appellee.

Before KING, SMITH, and WILLETT, Circuit Judges.

DON R. WILLETT, Circuit Judge:

In this Title VII race-discrimination case, LaBrittany Hassen contends that Ruston Louisiana Hospital denied her a full-time nurse position and later fired her from her part-time position because she’s black. The district court granted summary judgment to the hospital, concluding that Hassen failed to satisfy the McDonnell Douglas burden-shifting framework. We AFFIRM.

I

LaBrittany Hassen worked at a large hospital called the Northern Louisiana Medical Center as a PRN nurse.1 "PRN" stands for "pro re nata"—a Latin phrase, which (roughly translated) means "in the circumstances."2 In other words, PRN nurses are as-needed workers.3 Although

932 F.3d 355

Hassen had applied for a PRN position, she had also applied for a full-time position. But the hospital interviewed and hired her only as a PRN. This was in February 2012.

On the same day, the hospital hired two full-time nurses with less experience than Hassen. One had no nursing experience; and the other had graduated only one year before with merely a temporary license. Hassen, on the other hand, had graduated from nursing school three years before and had her full license. Even so, all three nurses had the same duties.

The reason for these hiring decisions? Hassen says that it’s because she’s black, whereas the two full-time nurses are white.

Two months after starting work, Hassen saw notices for two full-time vacancies. She approached her supervisor about the positions, but her supervisor replied that Hassen wasn’t qualified. So Hassen didn’t apply.

Next, Hassen alleges that the hospital fired her because of her race. What happened was this: In the summer of 2012, Hassen told her supervisor that she had accepted a full-time nursing position elsewhere. In response, the hospital fired her. The hospital prefers the phrase "purging" for removing a PRN from the work pool. Whatever the term, Hassen ascribes her termination to race discrimination. The hospital disputes this.

The hospital says that Hassen’s hours at her new full-time job directly conflicted with the only shifts available to PRN nurses. The hospital also underscores that it told Hassen that she remained "eligible for re-hire" if she applied. And the hospital stresses that Hassen never applied for re-hire.

Hassen timely filed a discrimination complaint with the EEOC. The EEOC found "reasonable cause to believe" that the hospital violated Title VII. Unable to settle with the hospital, the EEOC ended its investigation and issued Hassen a right-to-sue letter. Off to federal court.

But Hassen didn’t fare well there. Applying the McDonnell Douglas framework,4 the district court granted the hospital’s summary-judgment motion, dismissing the suit with prejudice. The court held that Hassen had made a prima facie case that the hospital didn’t hire her for a full-time position, but that she failed to show that the hospital’s stated explanation was mere pretext. The court also held that Hassen failed to make a prima facie case that her firing was improper. But the court held that even if she had, she still failed to show that the hospital’s justification was mere pretext.

II

Standards for assessing summary judgment are well settled. A district court "shall grant summary judgment 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."5 We review a grant of summary judgment de novo, applying the same standard as the district court.6 But we view the evidence and draw all justifiable inferences in favor of the nonmovant.7 Even so, barebones, conclusory, or otherwise-unsupported

932 F.3d 356

assertions won’t cut it;8 the nonmovant "must go beyond the pleadings and come forward with specific facts indicating a genuine issue for trial."9

III

When—as here—a plaintiff proffers circumstantial evidence of discrimination, the plaintiff must satisfy the Supreme Court’s McDonnell Douglas framework.10 It’s a three-part burden-shifting scheme. As we recently explained in Morris , the framework first requires the plaintiff to establish a prima facie case of discrimination.11 To do that, the plaintiff must show:

1. She’s a member of a protected group;

2. She was qualified for the position at issue;

3. The employer fired her or took some adverse employment action; and

4. The employer replaced her with someone outside the protected group or treated her less favorably than other similarly situated employees outside the protected group.12

Then, the burden shifts to the defendant. The defendant must "articulate a legitimate non-discriminatory reason for the adverse employment action."13 If the defendant does, the burden shifts back to the plaintiff, who must offer evidence that the employer’s reason was mere pretext.14

Here, the parties don’t dispute the first two prima facie elements. Hassen is black, a protected class. And she holds a nursing degree. The hospital doesn’t challenge her qualifications. We first decide Hassen’s failure-to-hire claim. Then we consider her termination claim.

A

Hassen’s prima facie case on her failure-to-hire claim is cut-and-dried. First, the hospital didn’t hire her for the full-time position. And her hospital supervisor discouraged her from applying for a promotion. Adverse employment action: check. Second, the hospital concedes that it hired two white nurses for full-time positions despite not hiring Hassen. Less favorable treatment: check. So Hassen carries her prima facie burden.

But the hospital offers legitimate nondiscriminatory explanations—Hassen applied for a PRN position; during the interview Hassen never asked about a full-time position; she accepted a PRN position without inquiring about a full-time position instead; and she never actually applied for a full-time position online after getting the PRN position.

The dissenting opinion is concerned that the hospital has changed its story about its initial hiring decision; proffering different reasons on appeal than it did at the district

932 F.3d 357

court. True, in Caldwell , we held that when an employer switches its story, that casts doubt on those explanations.15 But there, the employer completely switched its justification. At first, the employer claimed that the employee had refused to work.16 But then later, the employer changed its story; saying merely that the employee failed to seek out extra work.17 Or take our 2007 decision in Burrell , which Caldwell cites.18 There, Dr Pepper (the employer) changed its story about why it didn’t promote an employee.19 First, Dr Pepper said only that the employee lacked purchasing experience.20 Second, Dr Pepper said only that the employee lacked bottling experience.21 And third, Dr Pepper said only that the employee lacked "purchasing experience in the bottling industry."22

Respectfully, this case is different. All along, the hospital has given a group of reasons that collectively explain why it didn’t offer Hassen a full-time position.

To reiterate, both at the district court and on appeal, the hospital explained that it offered Hassen a PRN position because she applied for that position; during her interview she didn’t ask about a full-time position; and once offered a PRN position, she accepted without asking about a full-time position. Admittedly, the hospital originally also added to this litany its initial, mistaken belief that Ms. Hassen didn’t even apply for a full-time position. But unlike in Caldwell or Burrell , this was not its sole argument at the district court that it later swapped out for something new on appeal.

Rather, this was a single, mistaken component of an overarching argument that the hospital maintains on appeal: Its hiring decision was merely part of a routine, perfunctory hiring process.

That’s why the hospital highlights that during the same time that Hassen was employed there, the hospital also hired at least six other black candidates for registered-nurse positions. Thus, the hospital has proffered—and maintained—the same legitimate, nondiscriminatory explanations.

So Hassen needed to offer evidence that the hospital’s reasons were mere pretext. But the district court noted that she "produced no evidence that [the hospital] informed White nurses, but not Black nurses of available positions, or that [the hospital] has hired White nurses, but not Black nurses, without an online application." And in her briefs, Hassen merely recites her burden under the McDonnell Douglas framework. She doesn’t present any new evidence or point to any...

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35 practice notes
  • Bitco Gen. Ins. Corp. v. Acadia Ins. Co., CIVIL ACTION NO. 1:18-CV-526
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Court of Eastern District Texas
    • December 16, 2019
    ..., 548 U.S. 521, 529, 126 S.Ct. 2572, 165 L.Ed.2d 697 (2006) (quoting FED. R. CIV. P. 56(e) ); Hassen v. Ruston La. Hosp. Co., L.L.C. , 932 F.3d 353, 356 (5th Cir. 2019) ; Distribuidora Mari Jose, S.A. de C.V. v. Transmaritime, Inc. , 738 F.3d 703, 706 (5th Cir. 2013). The court "should......
  • Equal Emp't Opportunity Comm'n v. Steel Painters LLC, CIVIL ACTION NO. 1:18-CV-303
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Court of Eastern District Texas
    • January 14, 2020
    ..., 548 U.S. 521, 529, 126 S.Ct. 2572, 165 L.Ed.2d 697 (2006) (quoting FED. R. CIV. P. 56(e) ); Hassen v. Ruston La. Hosp. Co., L.L.C. , 932 F.3d 353, 356 (5th Cir. 2019) ; Distribuidora Mari Jose, S.A. de C.V. v. Transmaritime, Inc. , 738 F.3d 703, 706 (5th Cir. 2013). The court "should......
  • Mitchell v. Postmaster Gen., 1:13-CV-00718-MAC-ZJH
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Court of Eastern District Texas
    • October 24, 2022
    ...overlooked evidence that, if true, would prove that [the USPS's] stated reasons are mere pretext.” Hassen v. Ruston La. Hosp. Co., L.L.C., 932 F.3d 353, 357 (5th Cir. 2019). The Fifth Circuit has long held that the “plaintiff must produce substantial evidence of pretext . . .a mere shadow o......
  • Whisenhunt v. Westrock, Tex. L.P., Civil Action 1:20-CV-296
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Court of Eastern District Texas
    • September 16, 2022
    ...F.3d at 316 (quoting James v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 743 F.3d 65, 68 (5th Cir. 2014)); Hassen v. Ruston La. Hosp. Co., L.L.C., 932 F.3d 353, 356 (5th Cir. 2019). The court “should review the record as a whole.” Black v. Pan Am. Labs., LLC, 646 F.3d 254, 273 (5th Cir. 2011) (quoting......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
35 cases
  • Bitco Gen. Ins. Corp. v. Acadia Ins. Co., CIVIL ACTION NO. 1:18-CV-526
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Court of Eastern District Texas
    • December 16, 2019
    ..., 548 U.S. 521, 529, 126 S.Ct. 2572, 165 L.Ed.2d 697 (2006) (quoting FED. R. CIV. P. 56(e) ); Hassen v. Ruston La. Hosp. Co., L.L.C. , 932 F.3d 353, 356 (5th Cir. 2019) ; Distribuidora Mari Jose, S.A. de C.V. v. Transmaritime, Inc. , 738 F.3d 703, 706 (5th Cir. 2013). The court "should......
  • Equal Emp't Opportunity Comm'n v. Steel Painters LLC, CIVIL ACTION NO. 1:18-CV-303
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Court of Eastern District Texas
    • January 14, 2020
    ..., 548 U.S. 521, 529, 126 S.Ct. 2572, 165 L.Ed.2d 697 (2006) (quoting FED. R. CIV. P. 56(e) ); Hassen v. Ruston La. Hosp. Co., L.L.C. , 932 F.3d 353, 356 (5th Cir. 2019) ; Distribuidora Mari Jose, S.A. de C.V. v. Transmaritime, Inc. , 738 F.3d 703, 706 (5th Cir. 2013). The court "should......
  • Mitchell v. Postmaster Gen., 1:13-CV-00718-MAC-ZJH
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Court of Eastern District Texas
    • October 24, 2022
    ...overlooked evidence that, if true, would prove that [the USPS's] stated reasons are mere pretext.” Hassen v. Ruston La. Hosp. Co., L.L.C., 932 F.3d 353, 357 (5th Cir. 2019). The Fifth Circuit has long held that the “plaintiff must produce substantial evidence of pretext . . .a mere shadow o......
  • Whisenhunt v. Westrock, Tex. L.P., Civil Action 1:20-CV-296
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Court of Eastern District Texas
    • September 16, 2022
    ...F.3d at 316 (quoting James v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 743 F.3d 65, 68 (5th Cir. 2014)); Hassen v. Ruston La. Hosp. Co., L.L.C., 932 F.3d 353, 356 (5th Cir. 2019). The court “should review the record as a whole.” Black v. Pan Am. Labs., LLC, 646 F.3d 254, 273 (5th Cir. 2011) (quoting......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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