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WILKINS v. RIVEREDGE HOSPITAL

April 26, 2004.

SIR EZELL WILKINS, Plaintiff
v.
RIVEREDGE HOSPITAL, Defendant



The opinion of the court was delivered by: MILTON SHADUR, Senior District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Sir Ezell Wilkins ("Wilkins") has sued his former employer Riveredge Hospital ("Riveredge") under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (42 U.S.C. § 2000e) for assertedly discriminating against him on account of sex when it terminated his employment and then refused to rehire him after an internal appeal. Riveredge has moved for summary judgment pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. ("Rule") 56, and both parties have complied for the most part with this District Court's LR 56. I.*fn1 Because Wilkins has not created a reasonable factual inference that either or both of Riveredge's decisions (1) to terminate him and then (2) not to rehire him were because of his sex, Riveredge's motion for summary judgment is granted and this action is dismissed.

Rule 56 Standards

  Every Rule 56 movant must establish the absence of a genuine issue of material fact (Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, (477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986)). For that purpose this Court considers the evidentiary record in the light most favorable to the nonmovant and draws all reasonable inferences in his favor (Lesch y. Crown Cork & Seal Co., 282 F.3d 467, 471 (7th Cir. 2002)). But to avoid summary judgment a nonmovant "must produce more than a scintilla of evidence to support his position" that a genuine issue of material fact exists (Pugh v. City of Attica, 259 F.3d 619, 625 (7th Cir. 2001)) and "must set forth specific facts that demonstrate a genuine issue of triable fact" (id.). Ultimately summary judgment is warranted only if a reasonable jury could not return a verdict for the nonmovant (Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)). What follows is a summary of the facts viewed in the light most favorable to nonmovant Wilkins — but within the limitations created by the extent of his compliance (or noncompliance) with the strictures of LR 56.1.

  Facts

  Riveredge is a mental health facility specializing in psychiatric care for adolescents (W. St. ¶ 1; R. St. ¶ 5). Between October 2000 and November 2001 Wilkins worked as a night shift mental health counselor, serving predominantly in one of Riveredge's female adolescent units (W. St. ¶ 1; R. St. 18; W. Resp. ¶ 9), His immediate supervisor was Nurse Manager Elaine Shemroske ("Shemroske") (W. St. ¶ 5). One of Wilkins' regular duties was to conduct patient rounds every fifteen minutes by physically "eyeballing" each patient and making a notation of the patient's location on Psychiatric Nurse Flow Sheets ("Rounds Sheets") (W. St. ¶¶ 10, 19; R. St. ¶¶ 20, 28, 30, 35; W. Resp. ¶ 22).

  On November 7, 2001 a patient named "Dominique" was discharged from Riveredge at 6 p.m. (W. St. ¶ l3). Wilkins was the Riveredge employee who escorted her to the lobby and then (as required) separated her Rounds Sheet from the rest of the pile of such sheets and left it on the nurse's desk (W. St. ¶¶ 15-16, R. St. ¶ 47). But Wilkins did not put Dominique's Rounds Sheet in the "closed file box" — also as required and as he had done when he assisted with discharging previous patients (R. St. ¶¶ 45, 48). At about the same time another employee in the unit lost, her keys, so that all patients were sent to their rooms until the missing keys could be located (W. St. ¶¶ 5, 9).

  When Wilkins returned from discharging Dominique, he picked up the stack of Rounds Sheets and began to conduct rounds (W. St. ¶ 17). Although Wilkins says he was unaware of it, Dominique's Rounds Sheet was somehow in the pile of Rounds Sheets,*fn2 and throughout the course of the evening Wilkins made several notations on Dominique's Rounds Sheet that she was either "in room," "in group" or "sleeping" (W. St. ¶¶ 18, 22; R. St. ¶¶ 53, 55). Two notations on Dominique's Rounds Sheet were also made by Riveredge employee Sherrie Dean ("Dean") after Dominique's discharge (W. St. ¶ 56; R. St. ¶ 99).

  Because Dominique had in fact been discharged several hours earlier, of course Wilkins did not really see her when he made the several notations of having done so on her Rounds Sheet (R. Resp. ¶ 20). Wilkins says he veered from his normal practice of eyeballing each patient that night because (due to the lost keys incident) all of the patients were in their rooms and not at different locations throughout the unit as usual. So rather than locating each individual patient visually and then making a notation on her Rounds Sheet, Wilkins simply verified that all patients were in their rooms and then marked the Rounds Sheets accordingly, but without checking the individual names (W. St. ¶¶ 19-21; R. St. ¶ 50; R. Resp. ¶¶ 19-20). But at the end of his shift Wilkins reviewed the Rounds Sheets and realized that Dominique's had been inadvertently filled in throughout the course of the night — long after she had left the hospital (W. St. ¶ 24).*fn3

  After noticing the problem with Dominique's Rounds Sheet in the morning, Shemroske brought the sheet to her immediate supervisor Pat Thomas ("Thomas," also a female)(W. St. ¶¶ 26, 30; R. St. ¶¶ 6, 57). Shemroske showed Thomas the entries that Wilkins had made on Dominique's Rounds Sheet and recommended that Wilkins be terminated for falsification of patient records (W. St. ¶¶ 31-33, R. St. ¶ 58).

  When Wilkins arrived for work on November 8, 2001 he was immediately called into a meeting with Shemroske, Thomas and HR representative Karen Lindsay ("Lindsay") (W. St. ¶ 40). Thomas showed Wilkins Dominique's Rounds Sheet and asked him if he had made the entries. He freely admitted that he had. Thomas informed him that his conduct was grounds for termination, and Wilkins was promptly terminated for falsification of patient records (W. St. 141; R. St. ¶ 68).

  As permitted by Riveredge's grievance policy, Wilkins appealed his termination (W. St. ¶ 46). In his appeal letter Wilkins explained the unusual circumstances surrounding his conduct (the lost keys issue plus his assertion that he wag unaware that Dominique's Rounds Sheet was in the pile of Rounds Sheets he was completing) and argued that he was terminated for a clerical error that he was never given the opportunity to correct (W. St. ¶¶ 47-48). Although Wilkins asked that his grievance hearing be held before CEO Mark Russell ("Russell"), the hearing was conducted by CFO Jack Barzilai ("Barzilai") and attended by Lindsay (W. St. ¶¶ 52-53; R. St. ¶¶ 82-83; W. Resp. ¶ 79).

  After hearing Wilkins' explanation and arguments, Barzilai was not persuaded that Wilkins' discharge was unwarranted based on the circumstances, and he therefore denied the request for reinstatement (R. St. ¶¶ 86-87). Wilkins's current lawsuit stems from his belief that Riveredge's decisions ...


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