United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
ROSALINE M. TUCKER, Plaintiff,
THC-CHICAGO, INC., d/b/a KINDRED-CHICAGO-CENTRAL HOSPITAL, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Z. Lee United States District Judge
Rosaline Tucker (“Tucker”) has sued Defendant
THC-Chicago, Inc., d/b/a Kindred-Chicago-Central Hospital
(“Kindred”), pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1981,
alleging she was terminated from her position as a registered
nurse because she is African-American. Kindred now moves for
summary judgment. For the reasons that follow, Kindred's
motion  is granted.
Hospital is located on Chicago's Northwest Side and
provides “aggressive, specialized interdisciplinary
care to medically complex patients who require extended
recovery time.” Def.'s LR 56.1(a)(3) Stmt.
¶¶ 2-3, ECF No. 56. Tucker worked at Kindred and
its predecessors from 1994 until her termination in 2012.
Id. ¶ 4. Tucker is from Sierra Leone and
identifies her race as Black. Id. ¶¶ 6-7.
In fall 2010, she suffered a stroke, but she returned to work
in 2011. Id. ¶¶ 29, 31.
parties agree that, prior to the events leading up to her
termination, Tucker provided patient care that was generally
satisfactory and at times excellent. Def.'s Resp.
Pl.'s LR 56.1(b)(3)(C) Stmt. ¶¶ 1, 3, ECF No.
68. Tucker claims that her level of care earned her great
respect at the hospital, both among patients, who called her
“Mama Rose, ” and nurses, who called her
“Rose of Kindred.” Pl.'s LR 56.1(b)(3)(C)
Stmt. ¶¶ 1-2, ECF No. 65.
in May 2012, a series of incidents occurred that caused
Kindred to discipline Tucker for what it perceived to be
care-related misconduct. First, on May 23, 2012, Tucker was
given a written warning for failing, on four different
occasions in a two-month period, to properly complete
documentation related to the administration of narcotic
medications. Def.'s LR 56.1(a)(3) Stmt. ¶ 35. The
written warning listed several different errors that Tucker
committed from April through May 2012, including failing to
record the patient's name, the dosage given, or whether a
dosage was wasted and the reason for waste. Id.;
see id., Ex. C, at 7, ECF No. 56-4. The warning also
noted Tucker's failure to sign the documentation and to
verify by signature that a dosage was wasted. Id.
Tucker acknowledged the written warning with her signature
and wrote, “floor was busy with a rush at all times but
hope to improve.” Id. ¶ 36; see
id., Ex. C, at 8.
part, Tucker denies that she failed to complete the necessary
narcotics documentation on the four different days. Pl.'s
LR 56.1(b)(3)(B) Stmt ¶ 35, ECF No. 64. She maintains
that, on at least one occasion, she threw a sheet in the
trash and intended to fill out a clean sheet in accordance
with what she states is hospital policy, only to have a
co-worker retrieve the sheet from the garbage and give it to
management. Def.'s LR 56.1(a)(3) Stmt. ¶¶
23, 2012, Tucker was also given a final written warning based
on her care of a certain patient (“Patient X”),
who later died. Id. ¶ 42. The warning charged
that Tucker had failed to adequately monitor Patient X's
blood sugar levels and to ensure that a physician-ordered IV
solution was infusing in a prompt manner. Id.
Tucker, however, refused to acknowledge the warning with her
signature. Id. ¶ 44. She maintains that she
checked Patient X's blood sugar at appropriate intervals
given the number of patients she was asked to care for at the
time. Pl.'s LR 56.1(b)(3)(B) Stmt. ¶ 46. As for the
IV solution, Tucker claims that she was merely following the
orders of Patient X's primary care doctor, and thus
should not have been faulted for any delay. Id.
on July 9, 2012, Tucker was discharged after she failed to
sign another narcotics sheet on June 27, 2012. Def.'s LR
56.1(a)(3) Stmt. ¶¶ 54, 57. Although Tucker admits that
she did not sign the narcotics sheet, she claims that she had
an agreement with another nurse, Winona, to sign on her
behalf, Id . ¶ 58, and that a nurse supervisor
had approved this arrangement, Pl.'s LR 56.1(b)(3)(C)
Stmt. ¶ 29.
Carey made the decision to terminate Tucker. Def.'s LR
56.1(a)(3) Stmt. ¶ 54. The decision to terminate her was
based on her numerous narcotics documentation errors and the
deficient care she provided to Patient X. Id.
¶¶ 54- 55; Pl.'s LR 56.1(b)(3)(C) Stmt. ¶
At her termination meeting, Carey also noted that he was
concerned about Kindred losing its narcotics license as a
result of Tucker's many errors. Def.'s LR 56.1(a)(3)
Stmt. ¶ 59.
believes that her termination was not warranted and suggests
that she should only have been suspended. Id. ¶
60; see Pl.'s LR 56.1(b)(3)(B) Stmt ¶¶
54-55. She further asserts that the real reason for her
termination was her race, her national origin, and the
disability she experienced from her stroke. Pl.'s LR
56.1(b)(3)(C) Stmt. ¶ 40.
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.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). To survive summary judgment, the
nonmoving party must “do more than simply show that
there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts,
” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio
Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986), and instead must
“establish some genuine issue for trial such that a
reasonable jury could return a verdict in her favor.”
Gordon v. FedEx Freight, Inc., 674 F.3d 769, 772-73
(7th Cir. 2012). In reviewing a motion for summary judgment,
the Court gives the nonmoving party “the benefit of
conflicts in the evidence and reasonable inferences that
could be drawn from it.” Grochocinski v. Mayer
Brown Rowe & Maw, LLP, 719 F.3d 785, 794 (7th Cir.
2013). The Court must not make credibility determinations or
weigh conflicting evidence. McCann v. Iroquois Mem'l
Hosp., 622 F.3d 745, 752 (7th Cir. 2010).
Kindred filed its motion for summary judgment, the Seventh
Circuit had not yet decided Ortiz v. Werner Enterprises,
Inc., 834 F.3d 760 (7th Cir. 2016). In Ortiz,
the Seventh Circuit elaborated upon the approach that
district courts should take in evaluating discrimination
claims. Eschewing “the rat's nest of surplus
‘tests'” that had developed to evaluate such
claims, id. at 765-66, the court refocused the
inquiry on “simply whether the evidence would permit a
reasonable factfinder to conclude that the plaintiff's
race, ethnicity, sex, religion, or other proscribed factor
caused the discharge or other adverse employment
action.” Id. at 765. Under this inquiry,
“[e]vidence must be considered as a whole, ”
regardless of whether it is “direct” or
“indirect” in nature (and without reference to
those terms). Id. Still, the burden-shifting
framework under McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green,
411 U.S. 792 (1973), remains a valid (but nonexclusive)
method of proving a Title VII claim. Id. at 766; see
David, 846 F.3d at 224. Moreover, while Ortiz
specifically addressed Title VII claims, claims under §
1981 are subject to the same requirements as claims under
Title VII, and thus are also governed by Ortiz's
mode of analysis. Smart v. DHL Express (USA), Inc.,
No. 15-CV-1598, 2017 WL 449178, at *3 (N.D. Ill. Feb. 2,
basis, in evaluating whether Tucker's claims survive
summary judgment, the Court will consider evidence she
presents as a whole. In doing so, the Court will consider
whether she has made out a prima facie case under
the traditional McDonnell Douglas framework.
Ultimately, however, the Court will focus on the more general
inquiry of whether a reasonable jury could find that Kindred
terminated her employment because of her race. See
Pearson v. Ill. Bell Tel. Co., No. 15 C 653, 2016 WL
7374235, at *6 (N.D. Ill.Dec. 20, 2016) (adopting a similar
approach in the wake of Ortiz).
Discrimination Based on Race
initial problem confronting Tucker's § 1981 claim is
her own deposition, during which she repeatedly testified
that she was discriminated against because of her national
origin and disability, rather than race. See
Pourghoraishi v. Flying J, Inc., 449 F.3d 751,
756 (7th Cir. 2006) (observing that a § 1981 claim is
limited to race-based discrimination).
initial exchange, Tucker explained as follows:
Q: When you went to the EEOC . . . you thought Kindred had
discriminated against you?
A (Tucker): Yes.
Q: Because you were black?
A: You know, because of my disability and because of my