The opinion of the court was delivered by: J. Phil Gilbert District Judge
This matter comes before the Court on defendant Wexford Health Sources, Inc.'s ("Wexford") motion for summary judgment (Doc. 21). Plaintiff Cleveland Rayford, M.D., M.A., has responded to the motion (Doc. 24), and Wexford has replied to that response (Doc. 26).
I. Summary Judgment Standard
Summary judgment is appropriate where "the pleadings, the discovery and disclosed materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c); see Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986); Spath v. Hayes Wheels Int'l-Ind., Inc., 211 F.3d 392, 396 (7th Cir. 2000). The reviewing court must construe the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of that party. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986); Chelios v. Heavener, 520 F.3d 678, 685 (7th Cir. 2008); Spath, 211 F.3d at 396. This standard is applied with special scrutiny in cases, such as employment discrimination cases, that often turn on issues of intent and credibility. Michas v. Health Cost Controls of Ill., Inc., 209 F.3d 687, 692 (7th Cir. 2000).
In responding to a summary judgment motion, the nonmoving party may not simply rest upon the allegations contained in the pleadings but must present specific facts to show that a genuine issue of material fact exists. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e)(2); Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322-26; Johnson v. City of Fort Wayne, 91 F.3d 922, 931 (7th Cir. 1996). A genuine issue of material fact is not demonstrated by the mere existence of "some alleged factual dispute between the parties," Anderson, 477 U.S. at 247, or by "some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts," Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986); Michas, 209 F.3d at 692. Rather, a genuine issue of material fact exists only if "a fair-minded jury could return a verdict for the [nonmoving party] on the evidence presented." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252; accord Michas, 209 F.3d at 692.
Viewing the evidence and drawing all reasonable inferences in Rayford's favor, the Court finds the following relevant facts for the purpose of this motion.
Wexford is a contract medical care provider serving detainees in various correctional facilities, including, at some points in time, those run by the Illinois Department of Corrections ("IDOC"). Rayford, who is African-American, is a medical doctor and holds a master's degree in healthcare management. All parties agree that Rayford began working for Wexford in 2000 as a regional medical director ("RMD"), a management position, and that he had a successful tenure with the company. Rayford was Wexford's first RMD in the state of Illinois and oversaw all the IDOC facilities Wexford contracted to serve, the number of which doubled in the first few years of his employment. In 2003, Wexford hired a second RMD, an African-American woman named Cynthia Alston, to oversee the northern half of the state and charged Rayford with overseeing the southern half. When Alston left her job about a year later, Rayford recommended Arthur Funk, one of the doctors he had trained, take her place as RMD for the northern part of Illinois. Funk is Caucasian. Wexford accepted Rayford's recommendation and hired Funk to replace Alston.
All went fairly smoothly until the summer of 2005 when Wexford was unsuccessful in its bid to renew the health services contract with IDOC. As a result, Wexford was forced to lay off a number of its Illinois employees, including a substantial number of managers. On July 8, 2005, Thomas Lundquist, Wexford's chief medical officer, told Rayford that he would have to lay off either Rayford or Funk and that, since the utilization management department preferred to keep Funk, he was going to let Rayford go. He made it clear to Rayford, however, that Wexford planned to rebid for the IDOC contract in December 2005, and that if it was successful, it would rehire Rayford as an RMD. Wexford offered Rayford a severance package and laid him off.
The parties tell different versions of what transpired in a July 22, 2005, phone call between Rayford and Elaine Gedman, Wexford's vice president of human resources and risk management. Gedman was one of the two Wexford representatives who had bargained unsuccessfully for the IDOC contract. On July 22, Rayford and Gedman's conversation turned from severance matters to Wexford's loss of the contract. According to Rayford, he told Gedman that his state senator had informed him Wexford had lost the contract because it had not bargained "in good faith."*fn1 Rayford opined that Wexford should have sent someone like him to the negotiations, implying he could have done a better job that Gedman and her bargaining partner. Gedman was upset and told Rayford he did not know what he was talking about. In the same conversation, Rayford told Gedman that during his tenure he had not felt comfortable talking to her in her human resources capacity about problems he had had with Diana Malloy, Wexford's vice president of operations, because she and Malloy were friends, and Rayford believed Gedman would not do anything to help him. He then complained to her that Malloy had not treated him fairly or humanely -- in fact, had "treated him like a dog" -- for years.
On the other side, Gedman remembers Rayford telling her it was Wexford, not just Malloy, who had been unfair to him and had "treated him like a dog" for years. She further remembers his expressing dissatisfaction with Wexford's management team and the company as a whole and advancing his opinion that Health Professionals, Ltd. ("HP"), the company who successfully bid for the IDOC contract, was better than Wexford and would provide better inmate care. Rayford denies that he criticized Wexford as a whole or its quality of care in any way. The Court must accept that statement and Rayford's version of the phone conversation as true for the purposes of this motion. Nevertheless, Gedman later reported her false version of the conversation to Lundquist.
In the meantime, HP employed Rayford as the site medical director ("SMD") at Pinckneyville Correctional Center ("Pinckneyville CC"), which involved overseeing only medical services provided at that institution. Rayford worked there until Wexford successfully bid on the IDOC contract in December 2005.
In mid-December 2005, Rayford called Gedman to ask if Wexford would rehire him in his current position, the SMD at Pinckneyville CC, after Wexford took over again. He did not ask about becoming an RMD because he did not want to have contact with Malloy or to deal with the politics that came with the regional position. Gedman states that Rayford said he understood why Wexford would not want him in a management position like the RMD, but again, Rayford denies this statement and the Court must accept Rayford's version of the interaction as true. After consulting with Lundquist, Gedman told Rayford Wexford would not hire him in a management position such as an SMD because he would not work out in Wexford's management scheme. Instead, she offered him a job as a PRN doctor. A PRN doctor works only as needed by the facility and does not earn benefits. Rayford declined the PRN doctor job.
Rayford appealed the decision not to rehire him to Kevin Halloran, Wexford's chief executive officer and president. He received a response from Gedman that he would not be rehired in a management position within Wexford in light of the circumstances surrounding ...