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Williams v. Henry Ford Health System

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

July 24, 2018




         I. Introduction

         This is an employment case. Plaintiff Wardell Williams (Williams) is suing his employer Henry Ford Health System (HFHS) claiming reverse sex discrimination, retaliation, and disability discrimination.

         Before the Court is HFHF's motion for summary judgment. For the reasons that follow, the motion will be granted.

         II. Background

         The material facts as gleaned from the record follow.

         HFHS is a non-profit healthcare organization which operates several hospitals and medical centers in Southeastern Michigan, including Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit. Williams is employed by HFHS as a Nurse Assistant at Henry Ford Hospital. He has been employed by HFHS since 2005.

         Throughout his employment with HFHS, Williams has had documented instances regarding his behavior, job performance, and attendance. During the period from August 11, 2008, through February 29, 2016, Williams received eight separate corrective action notices. (Corrective Action Materials, Def. Ex. 4.) Several of these were for attendance. Id., at 2-6, 8. Others were for misconduct, including behaviors that were "argumentative," "disruptive," "rude," "disrespectful," and "confrontational." Id. at 1.

         On May 5, 2015, Williams received a "documented counseling" for attendance and a "written warning" for misconduct on September 21, 2015 (Corrective Action Materials, Def. Ex. 4, at 6-7). Williams filed an appeal under HFHS's Alternative Dispute Resolution Procedure. He received a favorable outcome with respect to the September 21, 2015, written warning. (1/12/16 Hearing Notes, Def. Ex. 5; 1/13/16 Letter, Def. Ex. 6.). The May 5, 2015 attendance warning remained in his file, as did the other warnings and reprimands. (Evans Dep., Def. Ex. 7, at 19.)

         In January 2016, Williams' supervisor, Patricia Kosel-Rozanski (Kozel-Razanski) spoke to Williams regarding his job performance. (Kosel-Rozanski Dep., Def. Ex. 9, at 32-33; 1/29/16 Meeting Notes, Def. Ex. 10.). During the meeting, Kosel-Rozanski asked if Williams had "an issue with women because it seem[ed] that he always had issues with women on the unit." (1/29/16 Meeting Notes, Def. Ex. 10; Kosel-Rozanski Dep., Def. Ex. 9, at 33.) Kosel-Rozanski explained at her deposition that she asked this question because Williams was "hard to manage," was "insubordinate" and was "not listening." (Kosel-Rozanski Dep., Def. Ex. 9, at 33.). In an effort to improve Williams' relationships with co-workers, Kosel-Rozanski suggested a "team-building activity." (Kosel-Rozanski Dep., Def. Ex. 9, at 33, 34; 1/29/16 Meeting Notes, Def. Ex. 10.). Williams "agreed;" the remainder of the conversation was "nice." (1/29/16 Meeting Notes, Def. Ex. 10.).

         In February 2016, Williams filed a complaint with the Human Resource (HR) department claiming that he was being harassed by Kosel-Rozanski. (3/28/16 Investigation Report, Def. Ex. 11, at 1.). Williams also said that he was being targeted, constantly accused of not working and subjected to excessive criticism. Id., at 1. The HR department conducted an investigation of the complaint, including 13 witness interviews and a full "departmental assessment." Id. at 2-5.) Based on the investigation, the HR department concluded that Williams had not been "harassed" by Kosel-Rozanski, but she could use coaching on how to deal with difficult employees. (3/28/16 Investigation Report, Def. Ex. 11, at 3, 6; see also 5/9/16 Letter, Def. Ex. 12; Evans Dep., Def. Ex. 7, at 6, 21.). Christine Evans, the HR investigator also recommended that Williams receive coaching or training on accepting and using constructive feedback, and how to communicate so that when responding to others he adheres to team member standards. (3/28/16 Investigation Report, Def. Ex. 11, at 6-7.)

         Also in February 2016, several co-workers complained that Williams had become "increasingly difficult to work with" and was lacking in "teamwork and compassion." (Co-worker Complaint Materials, Def. Ex. 8 at 1, 3, 10. Co-workers also reported that he was continuing "to bate people and bully them in a passive aggressive manner." Id., at 9. At this time, Williams was working in the "B-3" unit, which is an orthopedics unit, and was reporting to Kosel-Rozanski. (Williams Dep., Def. Ex. 2, at 20.) The orthopedics unit consisted of both male and female employees, including two male employees that Kosel-Rozanski had hired herself. (Kosel-Rozanski Dep., Def. Ex. 9, at 10-14.) When Kosel-Rozanski attempted to counsel Williams regarding the co-worker complaints, he became "loud and very upset." (Co-worker Complaint Materials, Def. Ex. 8, at 7. Williams also engaged in conduct toward Kosel-Rozanski that she considered to be threatening. Id. at 8.

         In May of 2016, Williams requested and was granted a leave of absence due to stress. (6/17/16 Letter, Def. Ex. 13; Williams Dep., Def. Ex. 2, at 75.). While he was on leave of absence, HFHS made arrangements for him to transfer to the MICU unit. (6/17/16 Letter, Def. Ex. 13.). When he returned, Williams said he was "happy to get off B-3." (Williams Dep., Def. Ex. 2, at 75-76.). During his deposition, Williams was asked whether he "wanted to get off of the B-3 unit." Id. at 76. His answer was "Yes. Yes. Yes." Id.

         After Williams transferred to the MICU-5 unit, Williams started to have "psychological problems" because his mother was in an intensive care unit at another hospital. (Williams Dep., Def. Ex. 2, at 76-79.) According to Williams, these problems began a "couple of weeks" after he transferred into the MICU. Id. at 79-80.

         In order to accommodate Williams, HFHS granted him a leave of absence from July 22, 2016, through September 12, 2016. (7/20/16 Letter, Def. Ex. 14; 8/11/16 Medical Certification, Def. Ex. 15; Williams Dep., Def. Ex. 2, at 82-83.). HFHS also gave Williams time off to care for his mother. (7/13/16 Letter, Def. Ex. 16; Williams Dep., Def. Ex. 2, at 82-83.). After his mother passed away, Williams requested to be transferred to another unit, as it was difficult for him to work in a unit that was similar to the unit where his mother had passed away. (10/10/16 Letter, Def. Ex. 17; 11/8/16 Request for Accommodation, Def. Ex. 18; Williams Dep., Def. Ex. 2, at 84-86.). HFHS reassigned Williams to the Neuroscience 6 West unit, where he is currently working and enjoys it. (11/11/16 Email, Def. Ex. 19; Williams Dep., Def. Ex. 2, at 11, 86.).

         Williams admits that HFHS "accommodated" him by moving him into "the new neuroscience floor, instead of intensive care." (Williams Dep., Def. Ex. 2, at 86.) Williams also stated at his deposition that is getting along smoothly with his current supervisor and coworkers on Neuroscience 6 West. Id. at 132. Williams says he "like[s]" being in the neuroscience unit, and is working with the people who "care about" him. Id. He describes his work environment as being filed with "love." Id.

         Despite being happy in his new location, on January 19, 2017, Williams filed a charge with the EEOC alleging that he had requested a "reasonable accommodation" on or about October 10, 2016, and his request "was denied." (1/19/17 EEOC Charge, Def. Ex. 20.) He also said that he had been subjected to "different terms and conditions of employment" based on "disability" and "sex." Id. The EECO eventually issued a right to sue letter. (1/25/17 Notice of Dismissal, Def. Ex. 22.).

         In April 2017, Williams filed this case in state court claiming (1) sex discrimination under Michigan's Elliot Larsen Civil Rights Act, (2) retaliation, and (3) disability discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act. HFHS ...

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