United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
Retirement Life Communities, Inc. (“ACTS”) fired
Vernell Dantzler following an altercation between Dantzler
and a co-worker. Dantzler sued her former employer, ACTS
Retirement Life Communities, alleging that she was fired
because of her age and her religion. ACTS has filed a motion
for summary judgment. Additionally, ACTS has filed a motion
for sanctions, arguing that Dantzler's claims are
frivolous. As the record does not support Dantzler's
legal claims, the Court will grant the motion for summary
judgment. However, the Court will deny the motion for
is a 54-year old woman and a practicing Muslim. (Def.'s
Statement of Undisputed Material Facts in Supp. of Its Mot.
for Summ. J. [Def.'s Undisputed Facts] ¶ 4.)
Dantzler has been a practicing Muslim since 1994. (Def.'s
Mot. for Summ. J. Ex. A [Dantzler Dep.] at 7-8.) Dantzler was
one of several Muslims who worked at ACTS's Spring House
Estates facility, where she worked with dementia patients.
(Def.'s Undisputed Facts ¶¶ 6-7, 11.) She began
working as a certified nurse assistant at ACTS in 1994, and
later became a restorative aide. (Id. ¶ 5.) As
a certified nurse assistant, Dantzler would, among other
duties, bathe, feed, and put patients to bed. (Dantzler Dep.
at 11). As a restorative aide, she was responsible for
helping patients walk and assisting them with feeding.
(Id. at 15.)
and 2014, Maureen Stanton, the Director of Nursing,
supervised Dantzler. (Def.'s Undisputed Facts ¶ 16.)
Maureen Vigna, the Assistant Director of Nursing, also
supervised Dantzler, as well as conducted Dantzler's
annual performance evaluations. (Id. ¶ 17.)
Donna Thompson, the Administrator, was Stanton and
Vigna's boss prior to 2013. (Id. ¶ 18.)
Holly Slade was the Director of Spring House Estates until
her promotion in mid-2013. (Id. ¶ 19.) Thompson
was promoted to Slade's job after Slade was promoted.
(Id. ¶ 20.) Thompson was the Director at the
time that Dantzler was fired. (Id. ¶ 23.) When
ACTS promoted Thompson to Director, Brian Levesque became the
Administrator at Spring House Estates. (Id. ¶
to Dantzler, the troubles began after Levesque's
promotion. (See Dantzler Dep. at 67 (“I never
felt that I was harassed the whole 19 years I was there until
Brian came.”).) During her deposition, Dantzler
reported three incidents involving Levesque that led her to
believe that he was harassing her. First, shortly after
Dantzler's father died, she tried to bring some pastries
from the funeral to work so that the baked goods would not go
to waste. (Id. at 68.) Levesque scolded Dantzler for
pulling up to the building and not clocking in. (Id.
at 70-71.) The second incident occurred when Dantzler was
giving a resident a bath. The resident had a rolling walker
with a seat, and after the bath, Dantzler pushed the
resident, seated, on the rolling chair, to his room.
(Id. at 73-74.) Levesque saw this and told Dantzler
that she could not push the resident to his room.
(Id. at 74-75.) She continued to push the resident.
(Id. at 74-75.) Dantzler was not formally
disciplined for her conduct, but Levesque reiterated that he
did not want Dantzler pushing the resident in the rolling
walker. (Id. at 76.) Additionally, Vigna required
the nurses to sign a paper and acknowledge that residents
should not be pushed in rolling chairs. (Id. at 79.)
The third incident of harassment to which Dantzler testified
was requiring her to clock out if she left the building to
pray. (Id. at 81-84.)
incident that led to Dantzler's firing occurred on June
4, 2014, when co-worker Alicia Hollinger entered the break
room where Dantzler was doing paperwork. (Id. at
113.) Dantzler greeted Hollinger and asked her if she had
money for a birthday club that some of the ACTS employees
participated in. (Id.) Hollinger responded that she
did not have the money. (Id. at 115.) Dantzler next
saw Hollinger in the dining room and said, “Alicia, you
know, what's the problem? You got your money like?”
(Id. at 120.) Hollinger retorted, “Didn't
the fuck I say I don't have my money?”
(Id.) The two continued jawing at each other in the
dining room. (Id. at 120-21.) Dantzler then
proceeded to Vigna's office, and Hollinger followed.
(Id. at 121.) Dantzler reported to Vigna that she
and Hollinger had a heated verbal altercation, and Vigna went
to get Levesque. (Id. at 121-22.) Rather than stay
in Vigna's office as directed, however, the two women
followed Vigna into Levesque's office and continued to
call each other names and curse at each other. (Id.
at 122.) Dantzler told Hollinger to “[m]eet me outside
. . . We can just do whatever we've got to do
outside.” (Id. at 123.) Both Dantzler and
Hollinger were suspended and sent home.
testified that Levesque informed her that human resources had
decided to fire her. (Id. at 124.) Hollinger was
also fired. (Id.) Dantzler testified that her last
day of work at ACTS was June 14, 2014, although an ACTS memo
signed by Levesque and Vigna states that Dantzler and
Hollinger were fired over the telephone on June 5, 2014
(Dantzler Dep. at 23; Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. Ex. D
had a “zero tolerance policy” regarding workplace
violence: “Any employee who engages in any threatening
behavior or acts of violence; who uses any obscene, abusive,
or threatening language or gestures will be subject to
progressive discipline up to and including
termination.” (Id. ¶ 31.)
fired Dantzler and Hollinger for violations of the workplace
violence policy. (Def.'s Undisputed Facts ¶ 71.)
ACTS replaced Dantzler with Hyacinth Wedderburn, a non-Muslim
who is older than Dantzler. (Id. ¶¶
STANDARD OF REVIEW
judgment is appropriate when the admissible evidence fails to
demonstrate a genuine dispute of material fact and the moving
party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc.,
477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986). When the movant does not bear
the burden of persuasion at trial, it may meet its burden on
summary judgment by showing that the nonmoving party's
evidence is insufficient to carry its burden of persuasion.
Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-24
the nonmoving party demonstrates a genuine issue of material
fact if it provides evidence sufficient to allow a reasonable
finder of fact to find in its favor at trial.
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. In reviewing the record,
a court “must view the facts in the light most
favorable to the nonmoving party and draw all inferences in
that party's favor.” Prowel v. Wise Bus. Forms,
Inc., 579 F.3d 285, 286 (3d Cir. 2009). The court may
not, however, make credibility determinations or weigh the
evidence in considering motions for summary judgment. See
Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., 530 U.S.
133, 150 (2000); see also Goodman v. Pa. Tpk.
Comm'n, 293 F.3d 655, 665 (3d Cir. 2002).