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Atkinson v. Vidant Medical Center

United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Eastern Division

November 4, 2019

KIMBERLY YVETTE ATKINSON, Plaintiff,
v.
VIDANT MEDICAL CENTER, Defendant.

          ORDER

          TERRENCE W. BOYLE CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This cause comes before the Court on plaintiffs motion requesting assistance in settlement negotiations [DE 19] and defendant's motions to strike [DE 33] and for summary judgment [DE 21]. For the reasons discussed below, plaintiffs motion [DE 19] is DENIED, defendant's motion for summary judgment [DE 21] is GRANTED, and defendant's motion to strike [DE 33] is DENIED AS MOOT.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff was employed by defendant Vidant Medical Center as a service desk specialist. Service desk specialists provide technological support for all employees across the Vidant Health System; plaintiff was expected to receive and resolve technological issues and assist other service desk employees in doing the same. Plaintiff reported to Terry Collins, the service desk manager. In 2015, the service desk started utilizing metrics to measure performance. The desk also started rating and reviewing customer service call quality. In August 2017, defendant undertook an initiative to familiarize the service desk specialists with the metrics, specifically, to train them on the technology and tools to generate their own metrics. The goal was to give service specialists the ability to understand their contributions and areas for improvement. The parties disagree as to whether plaintiff was openly resistant to this initiative. Compare DE 23, ¶¶ 16, 17, with DE 31, ¶ 17.

         In her 2017 performance review, which occurred in January 2018, plaintiff received "below expectations" ratings from Collins. In Collins's judgment, plaintiff struggled with supporting change, receiving feedback, and employing the most efficient work habits. Collins rated plaintiff "below expectations" in the areas of ownership, attitude, accountability, communication, growth and commitment. Plaintiff disagrees with Collins's assessment. Compare DE 23, ¶ 19, with DE 31, ¶ 20.

         Because of the poor review, plaintiff was put on a performance improvement plan with the goal of correcting the deficiencies. As part of the improvement plan, plaintiff met with Collins and Vickie Williford (a human resources employee) on a monthly basis to discuss her progress. Defendant contends that in these meetings, plaintiff was rude, unprofessional, displayed a lack of trust in Collins, interrupted Collins, and tried to rehash the issues of the performance review and the call quality initiative. DE 23, ¶ 25. Plaintiff does not controvert this factual assertion by defendant. DE 31, ¶ 25.

         At the end of the improvement period, pursuant to the improvement plan procedures, plaintiff received a special performance review to assess her progress under the plan. Again, it was Collins's assessment that plaintiffs performance was "below expectations" in the areas of ownership, attitude, accountability, communication, growth, and commitment. DE 23, ¶ 28. Plaintiff does not controvert this point. DE 31, ¶ 28.

         On July 26, 2018, Collins terminated plaintiffs employment. According to defendant, plaintiffs employment was terminated because of her negative behavior and attitude, her stated lack of trust in Collins as a manager, and her continued resistance to the metrics initiative. DE 23, ¶ 30. While Collins ultimately made the decision to terminate, Williford agreed with the decision. Id. ¶ 31.

         On May 25, 2018, plaintiff, who is African American, filed an EEOC Charge of Discrimination alleging racial discrimination. On June 18, 2018, the EEOC notified plaintiff that it was unable to conclude, based on its investigation, whether statutes were violated. After termination, plaintiff did not file a second EEOC Charge, but did send a letter to the EEOC on October 31, 2018, stating she was fired in retaliation for her complaint.

         Plaintiff filed the complaint in this suit on September 18, 2018. Plaintiff alleges that she suffered adverse employment action because of her race and that defendant retaliated against her because of her EEOC Charge.

         The discovery period ended on May 31, 2019. Plaintiff moves for the Court's assistance in settlement negotiations. Defendant moves for summary judgment and to strike and exclude many of plaintiff s exhibits, unsworn testimony, and affidavits.

         DISCUSSION

         Motion to Strike

         Defendant filed a motion to strike and exclude numerous exhibits, unsworn testimony, and affidavits filed by plaintiff on August 7, 2019. DE 33. On that date, plaintiff filed her response in opposition to defendant's summary judgment motion, her opposing statement of material facts, and an appendix to the opposing statement of facts, which include many documents that are either unsworn, completely irrelevant, or were not properly provided in response to defendant's discovery request. The number of pages and documents at issue in defendant's motion to strike are ...


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