Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Saeemodarae v. Mercy Health Services-Iowa Corp.

October 6, 2006

JACKIE SAEEMODARAE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MERCY HEALTH SERVICES-IOWA CORP., D/B/A MERCY MEDICAL CENTER, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Mark W. Bennett Chief Judge, U. S. District Court Northern District OF Iowa

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER REGARDING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

TABLE OF CONTENTS

I. INTRODUCTION . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3

A. Procedural Background . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3

B. Factual Background . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5

1. Facts admitted by operation of local rules . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6

2. Undisputed facts . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8

3. Further undisputed and disputed facts . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12

C. Arguments Of The Parties . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14

1. Mercy's argument . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14

2. Saeemodarae's response . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15

3. Mercy's reply . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17

II. LEGAL ANALYSIS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19

A. Standards For Summary Judgment . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19

B. Title VII's "Religious Organization" Exemption . . . . . . . . . . . . 21

1. The applicable exemption . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21

2. Can Mercy assert the exemption? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24

3. Does the exemption apply to Saeemodarae's claims? . . . . . . 30

a. The religious discrimination claim . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30

b. The retaliation claim . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 32

C. The ICRA's "Bona Fide Religious Institution" Exemption . . . . . . . . . 34

1. The applicable exemption . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 34

2. Should the court exercise supplemental jurisdiction to interpret the exemption? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 35

III. CONCLUSION . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 38

The plaintiff in this action, a practicing Wiccan,*fn1 asserts religious discrimination and retaliation claims under federal and state law arising from the termination of her employment with a medical center that claims to have a Roman Catholic identity. The defendant moved to dismiss on the ground that it is a bona fide religious institution exempt from religious discrimination and retaliation claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-1(a) and IOWA CODE § 216.6(6)(b). The court converted the defendant's motion to dismiss to a motion for summary judgment and gave the parties a limited time to conduct discovery pertaining to the narrow questions of whether or not the defendant is entitled to the "religious organization" exemptions under state and federal law. After such discovery, the defendant refiled its motion to dismiss as a motion for summary judgment. The court must now consider whether the plaintiff has generated genuine issues of material fact on the defendant's qualification for the "religious organization" exemptions from discrimination and retaliation claims under federal and state law.

I. INTRODUCTION

A. Procedural Background

In a Complaint filed November 18, 2005 (docket no. 2), plaintiff Jackie Saeemodarae alleges that she was terminated from her employment as a medical telemetry technologist with Mercy Health Services-Iowa Corp., doing business as Mercy Medical Center (Mercy), because she is a practicing Wiccan. She alleges claims of religious discrimination and retaliation for claiming religious discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, and the Iowa Civil Rights Act (ICRA), IOWA CODE CH. 216.

On February 21, 2006, Mercy filed a pre-answer Motion To Dismiss (docket no. 6) pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, asserting that Saeemodarae fails to state claims upon which relief can be granted, because Mercy is a bona fide religious institution exempt from religious discrimination claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-1(a) and IOWA CODE § 216.6(6)(b). Mercy attached to its motion to dismiss the affidavit of a corporate officer and various corporate documents that Mercy contended demonstrate that it falls within the "religious organization" exemptions of Title VII and the ICRA. Mercy argued that most of these documents are public records, but "d[id] not object to the court treating its motion as a motion for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56," or to the court "allowing Plaintiff's counsel to conduct discovery regarding whether Defendant constitutes a religious institution within the meaning of the Title VII and [ICRA] religious institution exemptions." Defendant's Brief In Support Of Motion To Dismiss (docket no. 6-4), 3 n.2. In her March 15, 2006, response to Mercy's motion to dismiss (docket no. 9), Saeemodarae contended that Mercy had admitted that its exempt status was not ripe for determination before any discovery was conducted. Consequently, Saeemodarae argued that, at a minimum, she was entitled to conduct discovery prior to a determination on the exemption issue.

By order dated March 17, 2006 (docket no. 11), the court, in an abundance of caution, converted Mercy's Rule 12(b)(6) motion into a motion for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The court also established a schedule for discovery on issues pertaining to the applicability of the "religious organization" exemptions and a schedule for the refiling and briefing of Mercy's motion as a motion for summary judgment. More specifically, the court's March 17, 2006, order gave the parties to and including June 14, 2006, to conduct discovery pertaining to the narrow questions of whether or not defendant Mercy is entitled to the exemptions from religious discrimination claims against religious organizations found in 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-1(a) and IOWA CODE § 216.6(6) and, if so, whether such exemptions apply to all of Saeemodarae's claims. The order also directed that, on or after June 28, 2006, but not later than July 12, 2006, defendant Mercy was required to refile its motion to dismiss as a motion for summary judgment "in full compliance with Rule 56 and N.D. IA. L.R. 56.1," and that Saeemodarae was required thereafter to file a response to the motion for summary judgment "in full compliance with Rule 56 and N.D. IA. L.R. 56.1." Finally, the order provided that, upon the request of either party, the court would consider whether or not to set oral arguments on the converted motion for summary judgment.

On July 12, 2006, Mercy filed its Motion For Summary Judgment (docket no. 12), which reasserted the exemption issue. Mercy's motion included an extensive Statement Of Undisputed Facts (docket no. 12-2). On July 14, 2006, Mercy also filed an Answer with affirmative defenses (docket no. 13), asserting, inter alia, Mercy's "religious organization" exemptions. On July 21, 2006, Saeemodarae filed her Resistance To Defendant's Motion For Summary Judgment (docket no. 15), which included a Statement Of Disputed Facts (docket no. 15-3), but no separate response to Mercy's Statement Of Undisputed Facts. On July 31, 2006, Mercy filed a Reply (docket no. 16), in further support of its motion for summary judgment, which, among other things, pointed out Saeemodarae's failure to respond to Mercy's Statement Of Undisputed Facts. On the basis of Saeemodarae's failure to respond, Mercy argues that its factual statements must be deemed admitted pursuant to applicable local rules. Saeemodarae has never responded to that contention. In addition, on July 31, 2006, Mercy filed a separate request for oral arguments on its motion for summary judgment (docket no. 17).

By order dated July 31, 2006 (docket no. 18), the court set oral arguments on Mercy's motion for summary judgment for September 29, 2006.*fn2 At the oral arguments, plaintiff Jackie Saeemodarae was represented by Shelley A. Horak of Horak & Associates in Sioux City, Iowa. Defendant Mercy Health Services was represented by Thomas W. Foley of Nyemaster, Goode, West, Hansell & O'Brien, P.C., in Des Moines, Iowa. The court finds that Mercy's motion for summary judgment is now ripe for disposition.

B. Factual Background

Ordinarily, in a ruling on a motion for summary judgment, this court would not attempt a detailed dissertation of the undisputed and disputed facts in the case. Rather, the court would provide sufficient facts, both undisputed and disputed, to put in context the parties' arguments for and against summary judgment. In this case, however, the question of whether the Title VII "religious organization" exemption applies requires the court to "look at all the facts to decide if the [defendant] is a religious corporation or educational institution," and in making this inquiry, "[i]t is appropriate to consider and weigh the religious and secular characteristics of the institution." Hall v. Baptist Memorial Health Care Corp., 215 F.3d 618, 624 (6th Cir. 2000). It is likely that the same inquiry applies to the question of whether or not the "religious organization" exemption under the ICRA applies. Thus, a more complete statement of the pertinent facts is appropriate in this case. Moreover, the court finds that many of the pertinent facts must be deemed admitted by operation of local rules.

1. Facts Admitted by Operation of Local Rules

As to the latter point, the court notes that, in its March 17, 2006, order (docket no. 11) converting Mercy's original motion to dismiss into a motion for summary judgment, the court expressly directed the parties that their filings in support of or resistance to the converted motion for summary judgment must be "in full compliance with Rule 56 and N.D. IA. L.R. 56.1." Mercy filed with its summary judgment motion a Statement Of Undisputed Facts (docket no. 12-2) as required by N.D. IA. L.R. 56.1(a)(3), but Saeemodarae did not include with her response to the summary judgment motion a response to Mercy's statement of facts as required by N.D. IA. L.R. 56.1(b)(2).

Local rule 56.1(b) provides, in pertinent part, as follows:

b. Resisting Party's Documents. A party resisting a motion for summary judgment must, within 21 days after service of the motion, file contemporaneously all of the following:

2. A response to the [moving party's] statement of material facts in which the resisting party expressly admits, denies, or qualifies each of the moving party's numbered statements of fact, filed as an electronic attachment to the brief under the same docket entry[.]

N.D. IA. L.R. 56.1(b)(2). The rule provides, further, as follows:

A response to an individual statement of material fact that is not expressly admitted must be supported by references to those specific pages, paragraphs, or parts of the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, admissions, exhibits, and affidavits that support the resisting party's refusal to admit the statement, with citations to the appendix containing that part of the record. The failure to respond, with appropriate ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.