United States District Court, D. Rhode Island
J. McConnell, Jr. United States District Judge.
the Court is Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment as
to Plaintiff David Onasile. ECF No. 59. The parties have
filed extensive oppositions and replies. ECF Nos. 72, 77. The
Court heard arguments on the motions. When the Court denied
Defendants' Motions for Summary Judgment as to
co-Plaintiffs Mojisola Afolabi and Eleanor Killi (ECF No.
81), the Court held under advisement the Motion for Summary
Judgment as to Mr. Onasile and now issues its ruling. For the
following reasons, the Court GRANTS the Defendants'
Motion for Summary Judgment as to Plaintiff David Onasile.
ECF No. 59.
Onasile is a Nigerian man who immigrated to the United States
in 1988. Since 2003, he had been a mental health worker at
Rhode Island Hospital. During early times of his employment, Mr.
Onasile received written evaluations that noted "a No.
of interpersonal encoxinters with staff that... required
mediation to foster harmony in his working relationships with
others." ECF No. 60 at 49. The hospital disciplined him
"one or two times." ECF No. 72-2 at 34. His
supervisors again cautioned him about his interactions with
patients and co-workers in later years. See Id. at
54-61. His personal interactions with staff and patients
improved over time.
Onasile asserts that his work conditions began to change in
February 2013. Joan Salhany, a white woman, became Director
of Psychiatric Nursing at Rhode Island Hospital. As Director
of Psychiatric Nursing, Ms. Salhany supervised the clinical
and assistant clinical managers. Within two months of her
appointment, at a staff meeting, Ms. Salhany told the
employees of African descent that it was hospital policy that
they could not speak their native language in either the
patient areas or staff areas. ECF No. 72-6 at 18, 20. Staff
complained to their union representative aboxit this policy
they believed was discriminatory. ECF No. 72-4 at 140-141.
four months later, Mr. Onasile was working with a group of
patients when another hospital employee Aliss
Collins came into the room. The parties'
accounts of what happened next differ. Mr. Onasile claims
that Ms. Collins interrupted him and asked him for the
patient menus. ECF No. 72-3 at 36-37. Mr. Onasile told her
that he was busy and needed to finish what he was doing
before he could retrieve the menus for her. Ms. Collins
abruptly snatched the menus from his hands. Id.
Collins claims that when she picked up the menus from the
table, Mr. Onasile scratched her trying to take them back.
ECF No. 60 at 112. Michelle Domenico, a Registered Nurse on
the Unit, saw the incident between Mr. Onasile and Ms.
Collins. Id. at 185. Ms. Domenico said that she saw
Ms. Collins "approach [Mr. Onasile] and then [Mr.
Onasile] swung his arm toward [Ms.] Collins and then she
jumped back immediately and said, 'don't hit
Onasile met with hospital personnel and his union
representative to discuss the incident. Mr. Onasile at first
denied that he ever scratched or hit Collins. Id. at
183. Because Ms. Salhany saw the scratches on Ms.
Collins' arm and all the witnesses informed her that Mr.
Onasile had scratched Ms. Collins, Ms. Salhany believed that
Mr. Onasile scratched Ms. Collins and was lying about the
incident. Id. The hospital made the decision to fire
Mr. Onasile for scratching Ms. Collins and then claiming that
he had not done it. ECF No. 72-3 at 47.
hospital fired Mr. Onasile for violating, among other things,
the Workplace Violence Policy and the Disruptive Behavior
Policy. See ECF No. 60 at 192-93. The Workplace
Violence Policy states that all employees are prohibited from
"[p]hysically touching another person in an
intimidating, malicious, or sexually harassing manner [,
]" Id. at 193. Likewise, the Disruptive
Behavior Policy precludes employees from engaging in
"inappropriate physical contact with another individual
or contact that is threatening or intimidating[.]"
Id., at 199. Each policy included discipline
"up to and including termination of employment."
Id. at 1951199.
parties then held an arbitration about Mr. Onasile's
termination. Id. at 109-18. The Arbitrator found
that Ms. Collins "was not shown to have any reason
whatsoever to manufacture the story and an injury (however
minor the injury) in connection with Mr. Onasile."
Id. at 115. And "both Ms. Akanji and Ms.
Salhany testified that they saw the scratches on Ms.
Collins's arm." Id. at 115-16. The
Arbitrator concluded that Mr. Onasile's version of the
events that nothing at all happened between him and Ms.
Collins was not credible and noted that Mr. Onasile's
"complete failure to acknowledge even a modicum of
responsibility both during the Hospital's investigation
and continuing through arbitration demonstrated such a bleak
lack of self-awareness and skewing of reality that it is
impossible to label as unreasonable the Hospital's
decision to end his employment." Id. at 118.
The arbitrator upheld Rhode Island Hospital's firing of
Onasile, along with four other former employees of African
descent from this Unit at Rhode Island Hospital, filed this
lawsuit charging discriminatory treatment under Title VII,
the Fair Employment Practices Act, and the Rhode Island Civil
Rights Act. The Defendants moved to dismiss. ECF No. 59. Mr.
Onasile objected (ECF No, 72) and the Defendants replied. ECF
No. 77. The Court heard arguments. The Court denied
Defendants' Motions for Summary Judgment as to Mr.
Onasile's co-workers (ECF No. 81) but held under
advisement the Motion for Summary Judgment as to Mr. Onasile.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
judgment is proper when the pleadings, discovery, and
affidavits, show that "there is no genuine dispute as to
any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a
matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. To determine whether
summary judgment is suitable, the court analyzes the record
in the light most favorable to the nonmovant and draws all
reasonable inferences in that party's favor. See
Cadle Co. v. Hayes, 116 F.3d 957, 959 (1st Cir. 1997).
burden falls first on the movant to assert an absence of
genuine issue of material fact that needs resolution at
trial. See Nat'l Amusements, Inc. v. Town of
Dedham,43 F.3d 731, 735 (1st Cir. 1995) (citing
Celotex Corp. v. Catrett,477 U.S. 317, 324 (1986)).
The burden then shifts to the nonmovant who must oppose the
motion by presenting facts to show a genuine issue of
material fact remains. Id., A factual issue is
genuine if it "may reasonably be resolved in favor of
either party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc.,477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986). A fact is material if it holds the
power to "sway the outcome of the litigation under
applicable law." Nat'l Amusements, 43 F.3d
at 735. The nonmovant must rely on more than "effusive
rhetoric and optimistic surmise" to prove a genuine
issue of material fact. Cadle, 116 F.3d at 960.
Instead, the evidence relied on by the nonmovant "must
have substance in the sense that it ...