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Rogers v. Henry Ford Health System

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

February 13, 2017

MONICA J. ROGERS Plaintiff,
v.
HENRY FORD HEALTH SYSTEM, a Michigan corporation, Defendants.

          AMENDED OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT HENRY FORD HEALTH SYSTEM'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          MARIANNE O. BATTANI United States District Judge.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         This matter is before the Court on Defendant Henry Ford Health System's Motion for Summary Judgment. (Doc. 48). Plaintiff's Complaint advances claims for race discrimination and retaliation under 42 U.S.C. 1981, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act (“ELCRA”) based on Defendant's alleged failure to promote and reassignment of Plaintiff. (Doc. 1). Plaintiff also advances an additional claim under ELCRA for age discrimination. (Doc. 1). Defendant asserts that it is entitled to summary judgment because its decision not to promote Plaintiff was based on legitimate, non-discriminatory factors. (Doc. 48). In response, Plaintiff contends that the evidence supports its position that Defendant impermissibly based its decision on race and age-related factors. For the following reasons, the Court GRANTS Defendant's motion.

         II. STATEMENT OF FACTS

         Plaintiff, Monica Rogers, is an employee of Defendant, Henry Ford Health System (HFHS or Defendant). Rogers is a 63-year old, African-American female. She does not have a Bachelor's Degree or a Master's Degree and has worked for HFHS for 35 years, beginning her employment in October 1981. Between 1983 - 1991, Rogers held a number of positions in Human Resources. In 1991, she became a “Senior Representative, Organizational Development.” The position did not require a college degree. On April 30, 2007, she was given a position in the Organizational Human Resources Development (OHRD) department with a title of “OHRD Consultant.” While this new position required a Bachelor's Degree, Rogers was grandfathered into the position without having a degree.

         The OHRD Department provides various types of training programs and courses for HFHS employees, from new employee orientation, to leadership courses. As an OHRD Consultant, Rogers was responsible for conducting training assessments and implementing specific training and development programs to meet assessed needs.

         At the time Plaintiff became an OHRD Consultant, Laurie Jenson was the Director of the OHRD Department. Rogers initially reported to Jenson, until 2009 when she began reporting to Monica Jackson-Lewis, and then Barbra Bressack in February 2013. Both Jackson-Lewis and Bressack reported to Jensen. Between 2008 - 2012, Rogers received uniformly positive performance evaluations The OHRD Department also consisted of “Senior OHRD Consultants.” A Master's Degree was required for the position of Senior OHRD Consultant. A Senior OHRD Consultant is involved in project management and works with HFHS leaders to bridge the gap between the strategic vision and the organization's current performance and culture. Caucasian and African American employees held Senior OHRD Consultant positions.

         When Rogers began reporting to Jackson-Lewis, Defendant alleges that Plaintiff became so disruptive and insubordinate that in July 2010, Jackson-Lewis referred her to HFHS's Employee Assistance Program (EAP). Between December 2012 and January 2013, Rogers formed an opinion that she should be promoted to a Senior OHRD Consultant. This opinion was grounded in a belief that she was performing functions that a Senior OHRD Consultant would typically perform, including leading “two or more system level projects.” On January 23, 2013, Rogers, Jensen, and Jan Harrington-Davis, Director of Employee and Labor Relations, Workforce Diversity and Compliance, met to discuss Rogers belief that she should be promoted. Harrington-Davis spoke to Rogers and Jensen and reviewed the Senior OHRD Consultant job description. She and Jensen both agreed that Rogers did not qualify for a promotion. Harrington-Davis informed Rogers that the only way she could obtain the promotion would be to obtain a Master's Degree and qualify for the position, or if the department were to revise the job description in terms of job duties and educational requirements.

         On March 25, 2013 Rogers submitted a written complaint to Derick Adams, Vice President, Human Resources for Health Alliance Plan (Health Alliance Plan, (HAP), is a wholly owned subsidiary of HFHS). She claimed she had been subjected to “discrimination/harassment by Laurie Jensen.” She claimed she should be promoted to Senior OHRD Consultant and that there were six “white counterparts” who received promotions without a degree, or after the job descriptions had been modified to reflect their lack of an advanced degree or lack of experience.

         Adams assigned Dan Champney, Deputy General Counsel for HAP, to investigate. Champney's investigation included interviewing Rogers, Jensen, Bressack, Harrington-Davis, and Jackson-Lewis. Champney also reviewed various versions of the job descriptions, Rogers' performance evaluations, Jensen's journal entries, and “other documents.” Champney concluded Rogers had not been subjected to harassment.

         In July 2013, Rogers filed an EEOC charge, claiming race discrimination and retaliation. Following the conclusion of Champney's investigation, a number of employees allegedly reported to Jensen that Rogers had exhibited erratic behavior or made threating statements. These included:

o A co-worker telling Jensen that Rogers had taken a baseball bat and smashed a car window of a woman who Rogers thought was having an affair with her husband. This co-worker expressed fear that Rogers could “go postal” and that “she was crazy.” Adding that he heard Rogers say that she hated “that bitch [Jensen] so much [Rogers] could just fight her in the parking lot.”
o Another co-worker told Jensen that she wanted to stay away from Rogers because she had heard from other employees that Rogers had been engaging in strange behavior. Rogers had also told Bressack that Jensen was a liar and that the truth would come out, and justice would be served. Bressack found this unsettled and reported it to Jensen. Jensen reported these concerns to her supervisor, Kathy Oswald, Senior Vice President and Chief Human Resource Officer for HFHS. Jensen also reported them to Adams, who testified that Jensen was concerned for her personal safety.

         Rogers alleges that all of these statements were either lies or exaggerations, taken out of context, designed to get rid of her. She claims that this was not the first time Jensen had lied and documented her lie, citing an example from January 2009, when Jenson wrote that Rita Fields, a Vice President at the company, stated that Rogers behavior was somewhat bizarre. Rogers states that when Fields was confronted with the document, Fields stated that it was inaccurate as it relates to anything she allegedly said.

         In light of the reports to Adams, he referred Rogers to EAP for a fitness for duty exam. On September 11, 2013, she was placed on a paid suspension and told that concerns were ...


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