United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Richmond Division
A. Gibney, Jr. United States District Judge
2013 and 2016, ResCare, Inc., and its subsidiary, Braley
& Thompson, Inc. (collectively referred to as
"ResCare") relocated, demoted, or terminated a
number of its employees-including the plaintiffs-in an
ongoing effort to cut costs and remain profitable. The
plaintiffs clearly did not like working conditions at
ResCare, and they blame all their dissatisfaction on either
racial discrimination or unlawful retaliation. The
discrimination and retaliation claims form the basis of this
has moved for summary judgment on all counts of the amended
complaint. The plaintiffs' discrimination claims fail
either because they do not make out a prima facie showing of
actionable race discrimination or because they cannot show
that the defendants' legitimate, non-discriminatory
reasons for the adverse employment actions are mere pretext.
The plaintiffs' retaliation claims likewise fail because
they cannot prove that the defendants took any actions
against them in response to oppositional conduct.
plaintiffs challenge essentially everything at their
workplace as some sort of illegal conduct. They find
hostility in the most mundane activities, such as the
punctuation of emails. The breadth of their gripes
unfortunately requires the Court to delve into the minutiae
of daily life at ResCare.
provides support services such as foster care, mental health
skill building ("MHSB") programs, intensive in-home
treatment ("IIH"), and department of juvenile
justice ("DJJ") programs throughout Virginia.
ResCare employed the plaintiffs in these various programs.
All of the plaintiffs are African American.
2011, ResCare acquired the company that had employed
plaintiffs Shanta Bowman, Erin Wilson, and Donald Cowles.
After the acquisition, the plaintiffs continued to work for
ResCare's MHSB and IIH programs out of their same office
on Southlake Boulevard. Over time, ResCare promoted Wilson
and Bowman. The Southlake Boulevard lease ended in 2014, and
ResCare saved $20, 000 per year by moving the Southlake
employees to the back portion of its Meadowdale Boulevard
office. ResCare's Kids in Focus program already occupied
the front part of that office. ResCare had moved African
American and Caucasian employees into the back portion of the
Meadowdale office following past office closures, and at
least one Caucasian employee worked in the space right before
the plaintiffs arrived. In their depositions, the plaintiffs
described the Meadowdale office as run down, in an unsafe
area, lacking adequate interior and exterior lighting, and
lacking parking space lines.
ResCare's MHSB, IIH, and DJJ program employees at the
Meadowdale Office, regardless of race, entered through the
back entrance. The entrance went through an employee kitchen
area, but was much closer to the employees' work area
than the Kids in Focus entrance.
the move to Meadowdale, ResCare hired Adam Long to work for
the DJJ program. Many of the plaintiffs' complaints focus
on Long, whom they view as a problem employee. Long, a
vison-impaired, Caucasian male, applied to work for ResCare
in 2013 but did not get the job. He filed an EEOC charge. To
resolve the charge, ResCare and Long reached a settlement
agreement to hire him full time at $20 per hour. Long had
issues with his job duties at ResCare, and at times the
plaintiffs helped complete Long's work. Unhappily,
Long's litigious history gave him a sort of tenure with
the company, and even plaintiff Bowman, as Long's
supervisor, remained wary of potential lawsuits by him.
after the move to Meadowdale, ResCare hired Barbara Miles and
Kimberly Timmons to work for its MHSB and IIH programs.
ResCare also brought Teiana Whitehead from Kids in Focus to
help perform administrative duties for the office and support
the DJJ program.
August 2015, ResCare hired painters to paint the Meadowdale
office and had the plaintiffs, as well as the Kids in Focus
employees, move furniture away from the walls. Erin Wilson (then
Erin Timmons) wrote an email to Charles Laslie, her Regional
Manager, about the work. She said that "[o]ur office
does not seem to function or receive equal treatment, as do
the other community-based [ResCare] offices. I find it
extremely difficult to believe that 2 female employees, in
other offices, would have been required to move an entire
office space." (Email chain between Erin Timmons and
Charles Laslie, Dk. No. 33-22.) She continued, "Maybe I
am wrong, but are staff in other offices moving furniture,
cleaning bathrooms, sweeping/vacuuming, clearing cobwebs and
dumping trash?" (Id.) Wilson also complained
about the cleanliness of the office, the interior and
exterior lights, and the "crime-ridden" community.
She closed the email by saying, "today was confirmation
that employment is not equal" at ResCare. (Id.)
Laslie responded that all offices moved their own furniture
(including the Kids in Focus staff), and he apologized that
they did not have more strong employees in the office to
help. He explained that he tried to get more men to help them
and offered future help.
September 3, 2015, Wilson emailed Laslie and Mary Struzinsk-a
member of management above Laslie-complaining that the
ResCare staff at Meadowdale were overworked and stressed.
Wilson also wrote that Bowman had lost her pregnancy.
Struzinsky and Laslie responded separately, asking for a list
of employees and their work assignments so that management
could look into getting more employees.
plaintiffs testified to other forms of alleged discrimination
that took place over the course of their employment. First,
they said that Laslie, their Caucasian manager and a
clinician whose approval they required for certain tasks,
worked out of a separate office and did not come to
Meadowdale as often as needed. They also said that Laslie
mentioned a person's race on two occasions while telling
a story. Further, they testified that Deborah Hendrix in
human resources at times spoke to the plaintiffs in a
derogatory tone and used excessive exclamation points or
question marks in emails. The plaintiffs do not know if
Hendrix treated Caucasian employees this way. Hendrix also
asked Bowman to consent to a drug test when she tried to make
a worker's compensation claim; ResCare policy required
this consent and ResCare had required Long to do the same.
plaintiffs also testified about pay discrepancies. Timmons
said that ResCare delayed reimbursing her mileage due to her
race. Whitehead said that ResCare paid her less than Long
because of her race. Miles and Timmons claimed that ResCare
hired them as part-time employees instead of full-time
employees because of their race and to prevent them from
receiving full-time benefits.
ResCare took accounting at the end of 2015, it determined the
MHSB and IIH programs at Meadowdale had lost almost $100, 000
per year for the second straight year. The plaintiffs earned
higher salaries than other ResCare employees in similar roles
due to their carryover from their prior employer, and ResCare
determined that the Meadowdale office had more staff than
needed for its client base. In 2016, ResCare conducted a
large-scale restructuring of its unprofitable
programs. As a part of this restructuring, Mark
Landis, ResCare's Director of Operations, directed
Struzinsky to close the MHSB program at Meadowdale.
Struzinsky instead attempted to save the Meadowbrook program
by developing a reorganization plan that would cut salaries
and part-time employees rather than close the programs
altogether. On January 25, 2016, Struzinsky sent her proposed
plan to Landis. On February 18, 2016, Struzinsky emailed
Hendrix to say that Landis had approved the plan, which
Struzinsky said would model ResCare's other MHSB program
called Creative Family Solutions. Struzinsky said that Long,
who worked for the DJJ program and not the MHSB program,
would get paid $20 an hour because of his settlement but that
no one else would get that pay moving forward.
March 9, 2016, Bowman complained to Laslie over the phone
about racial inequality felt by her and the plaintiffs. He
did not address her concerns. Bowman also sent an email the
next day complaining about Long. In the email, Bowman asked
how to handle Long not working enough hours. She did not
mention race. In response to the email, another ResCare
employee said that Bowman and Laslie should meet with Long
"ASAP" to discuss his hours.
testified that she spoke to Laslie in person multiple times
about the unequal treatment of ResCare's employees based
on race. She said Laslie denied that race had anything to do
with her complaints, ...