Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Rogers v. Henry Ford Health System

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

July 31, 2018

Monica J. Rogers, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
Henry Ford Health System, Defendant-Appellee.

          Argued: June 14, 2018

          Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan at Detroit. No. 2:15-cv-12312-Marianne O. Battani, District Judge.

         ARGUED:

          Gerald D. Wahl, STERLING ATTORNEYS AT LAW, P.C., Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, for Appellant.

          Terrence J. Miglio, VARNUM LLP, Detroit, Michigan, for Appellee.

          Anne Noel Occhialino, EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY COMMISSION, Washington, D.C., for Amicus Curiae.

         ON BRIEF:

          Gerald D. Wahl, STERLING ATTORNEYS AT LAW, P.C., Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, for Appellant.

          Terrence J. Miglio, Barbara E. Buchanan, VARNUM LLP, Detroit, Michigan, for Appellee.

          Anne Noel Occhialino, EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY COMMISSION, Washington, D.C., for Amicus Curiae.

          Before: MOORE, KETHLEDGE, and STRANCH, Circuit Judges.

          OPINION

          KAREN NELSON MOORE, CIRCUIT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Monica Rogers, an African-American woman in her sixties, has been employed by defendant Henry Ford Health System ("HFHS") for over thirty years. In late 2012, Rogers was working as a consultant in HFHS's Organizational Human Resources Development ("OHRD") Department. After she was denied reclassification as a Senior OHRD Consultant, Rogers made an internal complaint of racial and age discrimination. When the resulting internal investigation found no evidence of discrimination, Rogers filed an EEOC charge.

         A few months after Rogers filed this charge, co-workers began reporting that Rogers's emotional state was erratic and that they feared she might pose a physical threat to herself or others. In response, Rogers was placed on paid leave and sent for a fitness-for-duty exam. After a doctor cleared Rogers for work, she claims that she was offered the choice of either transferring to a position in a subsidiary of HFHS or taking severance. Rogers chose the transfer. She then filed a second EEOC charge alleging retaliation; the EEOC found probable cause to support this complaint.

         Rogers subsequently filed suit against HFHS alleging multiple violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1981; Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq.; and the Michigan Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act, Mich. Comp. Laws § 37.2101 et seq. HFHS moved for summary judgment on all counts, and the district court granted its motion. For the reasons set forth below, we AFFIRM the district court's grant of summary judgment with respect to Rogers's claims of racial discrimination and age discrimination. We REVERSE the district court's grant of summary judgment with respect to Rogers's claims of retaliation, and REMAND for further proceedings.

         I. FACTS AND PROCEDURE

         A. Events Preceding the First EEOC Charge

         Rogers first began working at HFHS in 1981 and has held a variety of positions over the years, most of which have been in human resources. R. 55-7 (Pl. Decl. at ¶ 3) (Page ID #1369);[1]R. 48-3 (Pl. Resume) (Page ID #761). In 2007, Rogers became a consultant in the OHRD Department after a rotation in a different unit of HFHS. R. 48-2 (Pl. Dep. at 54) (Page ID #725); R. 48-6 (Apr. 26, 2007 Announcement) (Page ID #777). "OHRD Consultant" was a new title and this position required a bachelor's degree. R. 48-5 (OHRD Consultant Job Description at 2) (Page ID #774). Although Rogers does not have a college degree, HFHS waived this requirement upon Rogers's return to the OHRD Department because she met the qualifications for the position prior to her rotation and the position's retitling. R. 48-2 (Pl. Dep. at 49, 57) (Page ID #724, 726).

         When she first started as an OHRD Consultant, Rogers reported to Laurie Jensen. Id. at 60 (Page ID #726). In 2009, Monica Jackson-Lewis became Rogers's direct supervisor. R. 55-7 (Pl. Decl. at ¶ 32) (Page ID #1376). Then, in 2013, Rogers began reporting to Barbara Bressack. R. 48-11 (Bressack Dep. at 37, 103-04) (Page ID #810-11). During the time they supervised Rogers, both Jackson-Lewis and Bressack reported to Jensen. R. 48-10 (Jackson-Lewis Dep. at 8) (Page ID #796); R. 48-11 (Bressack Dep. at 8-9) (Page ID #808-09).

         Rogers's tenure at HFHS between 2008 and 2013 was a mixture of positive performance reviews, interpersonal problems, and ultimately a denial of Rogers's request to be reclassified as a Senior OHRD Consultant. Although Rogers received consistently good reviews from both Jensen and Jackson-Lewis throughout this period, in July 2010 Jackson-Lewis issued Rogers an HFHS-Employee Assistance Program ("EAP") Formal/Disciplinary Action Referral. R. 48-13 (EAP Referral) (Page ID #825-26). In the EAP referral, Jackson-Lewis reported that Rogers "appears to focus primarily on what other employees are doing, or not doing, rather than focusing on what is expected of her." Id. (Page ID #825). Furthermore, "[t]here is a persistent trend as reported by other employees, that Monica [Rogers] initiates harmful gossip and tries to incite other employees to engage in similar negativity." Id. When confronted about these issues, Jackson-Lewis stated that Rogers "assume[d] a victim mentality resulting in obvious anger (loud and fist pounding) or withdrawn." Id. Consequently, Jackson-Lewis was "concerned about [Rogers's] emotional and physical well-being and that of the team." Id. On the EAP form, Jackson-Lewis noted that Rogers had already received verbal and written warnings regarding her behavior. Id. (Page ID #826). Rogers denies that she ever received a verbal or written warning before the EAP referral, R. 55-7 (Pl. Decl. at ¶¶ 55-56) (Page ID #1381), although there is a copy of a written warning in Rogers's personnel file dated one day prior to the EAP referral, R. 48-14 (July 19 Note to File) (Page ID #828-29).

         In 2012 two Senior OHRD Consultants left the department and were not replaced, so Rogers helped fulfill their duties. R. 55-7 (Pl. Decl. at ¶ 76) (Page ID #1384); R. 55-15 (Pl. 2012 Eval. at 1, 7) (Page ID #1455, 1461). In December 2012 and January 2013, Rogers began asking the OHRD management for reclassification as a Senior OHRD Consultant-as opposed to simply an OHRD Consultant-because she believed she was performing the duties of the more senior position. R. 48-2 (Pl. Dep. at 125-26) (Page ID #731). Rogers first approached Jan Harrington-Davis-who describes her role as "the HR person for HR," R. 48-4 (Harrington-Davis Dep. at 42) (Page ID #764)-about being reclassified. Rogers asked Harrington-Davis if she had not been reclassified as a Senior OHRD Consultant due to her age, and Harrington-Davis allegedly responded: "[I]t has nothing to do with your age, it's because you're black." R. 55-7 (Pl. Decl. at ¶ 82) (Page ID #1385-86); R. 56-9 (Mar. 2013 Internal Comp.) (Page ID #1589). Rogers asserts that Harrington-Davis agreed, however, that Rogers deserved to be a Senior OHRD Consultant. Id. Harrington-Davis disputes Rogers's recollection of this meeting, and testified that she made the comment about race in response to a story Rogers told her about an instance of discrimination that Rogers had faced years earlier. R. 56-8 (Harrington-Davis Dep. at 55-56) (Page ID #1577); see also R. 48-20 (Internal Investigation Rep. at 5) (Page ID #863).

         Rogers next met with Jensen and told Jensen that she believed she was doing the work of a Senior OHRD Consultant. The parties contest whether Jensen agreed or disagreed with Rogers's self-assessment, but both agree that Jensen suggested that she and Rogers meet with Harrington-Davis about Rogers's request. R. 48-15 (Jensen Journal) (Page ID #831); R. 55-7 (Pl. Decl. at ¶ 83) (Page ID #1386). Prior to this meeting, Harrington-Davis reviewed the job description of a Senior OHRD Consultant. R. 48-4 (Harrington-Davis Dep. at 59) (Page ID #766). The job description lists an M.B.A., M.A., or M.S. as the minimum required education for the position. R. 48-8 (Sr. OHRD Consultant Job Description at 2) (Page ID #791). Based on this, Harrington-Davis told Rogers that she could be reclassified as a Senior OHRD Consultant only if Rogers obtained a master's degree or if the job description were revised to remove this requirement. R. 48-4 (Harrington-Davis Dep. at 71-72) (Page ID #767).

         Subsequently, in March 2013, Rogers submitted a complaint alleging discrimination by Jensen to Derick Adams, the Vice President of Human Resources. R. 56-9 (Mar. 2013 Internal Compl.) (Page ID #1589). In response, Adams asked Dan Champney, an attorney in the general counsel's office of HFHS's subsidiary Health Alliance Plan ("HAP"), to investigate Rogers's claims. R. 48-18 (Adams Dep. at 10-11) (Page ID #841). Champney conducted an internal investigation and concluded "that there is little evidence that Monica Rogers has been discriminated against on the basis of her age or race." R. 48-20 (Internal Investigation Rep. at 7) (Page ID #865). On July 3, 2013, just over a month after Champney finished his internal investigation, Rogers filed an EEOC charge alleging racial discrimination and retaliation. R. 48-21 (July 2013 EEOC Charge) (Page ID #902). The record is silent as to the outcome of this EEOC charge.

         B. Events Preceding the Second EEOC Charge

         In August and September 2013, several of Rogers's co-workers raised concerns about her behavior. Karen Giovannini met with Jensen and told her that she was concerned about Rogers because during a meeting Rogers was "acting very euphoric and very out of sorts[, ] laughing really loud, kind of swaying back and forth." R. 48-24 (Giovannini Dep. at 8) (Page ID #915); R. 55-6 (Jensen Dep. at 178, 180) (Page ID #1333). During this meeting, Rogers was allegedly touching a co-worker with both of her hands. Id. at 10 (Page ID #916). Another of Rogers's co-workers, Lamya Yelda, informed Jensen that she had heard Rogers was engaged in "strange behavior" and that, although Yelda had "always gotten along with [Rogers]", Yelda was keeping to herself to avoid being embroiled in "any workplace dynamics." R. 48-25 (Yelda Dep. at 5, 8, 10) (Page ID #920-22); see also R. 55-6 (Jensen Dep. at 180) (Page ID #1333).

         Subsequently, Patrick Payne, who described himself as a "pretty good work friend[]" of Rogers, R. 55-3 (Payne Dep. at 30) (Page ID #1239), went to Jensen upset that Rogers had named him in her racial discrimination complaint as another African-American employee who had faced discrimination at HFHS. R. 48-22 (Jensen Notes) (Page ID #904). Payne told Jensen "who knows what [Rogers] could do," and referenced an incident in which Rogers had smashed in the car windows of her husband's mistress with a baseball bat.[2] R. 55-3 (Payne Dep. at 52, 64-65) (Page ID #1244, 1247-48); R. 48-22 (Jensen Notes) (Page ID #904). Payne also said that he thought Rogers "is the type to go 'postal' and bring in a gun to work and start shooting" and that it was "well known" that Rogers had stated that "no one messes with her." R. 48-22 (Jensen Notes) (Page ID #904); R. 55-3 (Payne Dep. at 95, 101) (Page ID #1255, 1257). In his deposition, Payne denied that, at the time of this conversation, he was afraid for his personal safety, and disputed Jensen's notes indicating that he was "physically shaking and nervous" when talking to her. Compare R. 55-3 (Payne Dep. at 66, 98) (Page ID #1248, 1256), with R. 48-22 (Jensen Notes) (Page ID #904).

         After Payne raised his concerns with Jensen, she spoke with Bressack to determine if Rogers had made other threats. R. 55-6 (Jensen Dep. at 177-78) (Page ID #1333); R. 48-11 (Bressack Dep. at 120-21) (Page ID #813-14). Bressack told Jensen that she had been unsettled by Rogers's belief that her co-workers were lying and that Rogers had told her "justice would be served." R. 48-11 (Bressack Dep. at 121) (Page ID #814); R. 55-6 (Jensen Dep. at 177) (Page ID #786). And, at some point in time, Jackson-Lewis talked with Jensen about the concerns surrounding Rogers's behavior, and confirmed that Rogers had also told ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.