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Hanzer v. National Mentor Healthcare, LLC

United States District Court, D. Delaware

April 10, 2014



MARY PAT THYNGE, Magistrate Judge.

I. Introduction

This is an employment discrimination case. On July 26, 2011, Miriam Hanzer ("Hanzer") filed suit against National Mentor Healthcare, LLC d/b/a Delaware Mentor ("Mentor") alleging discrimination, hostile work environment and retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. [1] Hanzer later amended her complaint to add allegations Mentor violated the Delaware Whistleblowers' Act, 19 DEL. C. § 1701 et seq. [2] Currently before the court is Mentor's motion for summary judgment.[3]

II. Background

Unless otherwise noted, the following facts are uncontroverted by the parties. Mentor is a provider of residential and day services for adults with developmental disabilities.[4] Hanzer is Panamanian and may be characterized as Hispanic with a skin color of Mestizo.[5] She was employed with Mentor from June 2006 until March 4, 2010.[6] Initially, Hanzer was hired as direct care professional, but was promoted to House Manager of the Millsboro House in September 2006.[7] In her capacity as House Manager, she managed the staff of the house.[8] In November 2007, Hanzer was promoted to Case Manager and reported to Karen McGee ("McGee"), who may be characterized as Caucasian and American.[9] In addition to Hanzer, McGee likewise supervised Nancy Beil ("Beil"), the Assistant Program Manager who also is Caucasian.[10]

In her role as Case Manager, Hanzer created Essential Lifestyle Plans ("ELPs") for clients.[11] In addition, Hanzer reviewed Personal Spending Records ("PSRs") which accounted for spending from client accounts.[12] In November 2009, Hanzer alleges she noticed discrepancies in three PSRs for the Falcon Crest house and alerted McGee.[13] The PSRs were properly adjusted and the person found responsible was terminated.[14] However, Hanzer alleges McGee asked her to replenish the missing funds with her own money, which she refused.[15]

In December 2009, Mentor was placed on probation by the State due to systemic issues.[16] In response, Mentor sought to clarify job duties across the organization.[17] Mentor also hired a Quality Assurance person, Elizabeth Donaway ("Donaway") to audit the ELPs.[18] Donaway met with Hanzer and discussed deficiencies in the ELPs and means to improve content.[19] In January 2010, a complaint was made about Hanzer "overstepping her bounds" with a House Manager.[20] During this time, Hanzer also sent a complaint letter to McGee regarding issues with her interactions with staff contacting her for help and possibly overstepping her bounds.[21] In addition, McGee changed Hanzer's job duties and responsibilities during this time period.[22]

In early March 2010, Hanzer alleges she was berated for purchasing office supplies and was forced to use her own computer for work.[23] After an incident in which Hanzer was visibly upset, Hanzer met with Valery Bailey ("Bailey"), the Executive Director for Mentor, on March 4, 2010.[24] Hanzer and Bailey discussed the issues with office supplies, and the incident at the Millwood House in addition to her driving record.[25] Bailey informed Hanzer her job was being eliminated and she was being laid off since changes were to occur to the position, including its title and the requirement of a college degree.[26]

After Hanzer's separation from Mentor, her position was filled by Lisa Wolfgang, a Caucasian American who possesses a college degree.[27] The second employee hired to the new position, two years after Wolfgang, was a woman named Davis, an African-American who lacked a college degree but had fifteen years of applicable work experience.[28]

III. Discussion

A. Standard on Motion for Summary Judgment

Under Rule 56(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a court is to enter summary judgment only when the record demonstrates there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. In deciding a motion for summary judgment, the court's role is not to weigh the evidence or to decide the truth of the matters asserted, but to determine whether there is a genuine issue of fact for trial.[29] In so doing, the court must view all facts and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-movant, take as true all allegations of the non-movant that conflict with those of the movant, and resolve all doubts against the non-movant.[30]

B. The McDonnell Douglas Standard

Hanzer's discrimination and retaliation claims are analyzed under the burden-shifting framework established by the United States Supreme Court in McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green.[31] The McDonnell Douglas analysis consists of three stages. First, a plaintiff bears the initial burden of establishing a prima facie case of discrimination or retaliation.[32] If a prima facie case is established, the burden the shifts "to the employer to articulate some legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason" for the adverse employment ...

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