United States District Court, D. New Hampshire
Brown Y. Massaquoi
Genesis HealthCare, LLC, et al.
McCafferty, United States District Judge
Brown Massaquoi brings this employment discrimination suit
against his former employers, 20 Maitland Street Operations
LLC d/b/a Harris Hill Center (“Harris Hill”) and
Genesis HealthCare, LLC (“Genesis”) (collectively
“defendants”). Defendants move for summary
judgment on all Massaquoi's claims. Doc. no. 26.
Massaquoi objects. On December 6, 2019, the court heard oral
argument on defendants' motion. After hearing the
parties' arguments, the court ruled on nearly all the
issues presented by the motion from the bench. This order
provides a summary of the court's oral rulings on each of
Massaquoi's claims as well as rulings on the claims that
the court did not rule on at the hearing.
Count I(A): Discrimination on the basis of race, color, and
national origin in violation of Title VII
count I(A),  Massaquoi alleges that defendants
discriminated against him on the basis of his race, color,
and national origin in violation of Title VII, 42 U.S.C.
§ 2000e, et seq. For the reasons stated on the record,
defendants' motion for summary judgment is denied as to
the race discrimination claim and granted as to the claims of
national origin and color discrimination.
Count I(B): Discrimination on the basis of race, color, and
national origin in violation of state law
count I(B) alleges that defendants discriminated against
Massaquoi on the basis of his race, color, and national
origin in violation of New Hampshire Revised Statutes
Annotated § (“RSA”) 354-A:7. As explained at
the hearing, the court's analysis of the state-law
discrimination claims is the same as those under Title VII.
Defendants' motion for summary Judgment is denied with
respect to the state-law claim of race discrimination and
granted with respect to the state-law claims of national
origin and color discrimination.
Count I(C): Retaliation in violation of Title VII
count I(C), Massaquoi alleges that defendants retaliated
against him after he filed a charge of discrimination against
them with the New Hampshire Commission for Human Rights
(“NHCHR”). He alleges two theories of
retaliation: (i) defendants retaliated against him by failing
to reinstate him to his position at Harris Hill; and (ii)
defendants retaliated against him by terminating him from his
subsequent position at Laconia Rehabilitation Center
(“Laconia Center”). As explained at the hearing,
the court grants summary judgment to defendants on the first
theory of retaliation liability. As to Massaquoi's second
theory of liability, the court deferred ruling at the hearing
and now denies summary judgment.
establish a prima facie case of retaliation in violation of
Title VII, a plaintiff must show that: “(i) she
undertook protected conduct, (ii) she suffered an adverse
employment action, and (iii) the two were causally
linked.” Bonilla-Ramirez v. MVM, Inc., 904
F.3d 88, 95 (1st Cir. 2018) (internal quotation marks
omitted). If plaintiff sets out a prima facie case of
retaliation, the burden shifts to the employer “to
articulate a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for the
challenged actions.” Xiaoyan Tang v. Citizens Bank,
N.A., 821 F.3d 206, 219 (1st Cir. 2016) (internal
quotation marks omitted). If the employer meets its burden of
production, the burden shifts back to plaintiff to show
“that the employer's reason for the adverse action
was pretextual.” Id. (internal quotation marks
respect to the prima facie case, defendants challenge only
causation. A plaintiff pursuing a retaliation claim must
prove traditional but-for causation with “proof that
the unlawful retaliation would not have occurred in the
absence of the alleged wrongful action or actions of the
employer.” Univ. of Texas Sw. Med. Ctr. v.
Nassar, 570 U.S. 338, 360 (2013).
sequence of events here suggests causation. Massaquoi engaged
in the protected activity of filing a charge of
discrimination with the NHCHR on August 26, 2015. Doc. no.
27-18. Defendants contend, and Massaquoi does not dispute,
that they learned of the charge in or about October 2015.
Almost a year later, on August 29, 2016, defendants received
a request for information from the NHCHR in the course of its
investigation into Massaquoi's discrimination charge.
Shortly thereafter, on September 6, 2016, Laconia Center-an
entity affiliated with Harris Hill-hired Massaquoi.
Defendants then learned that Massaquoi had been hired at
Laconia Center while gathering documents and other
information to respond to the NHCHR's request for
September 19, 2016, defendants sent a letter to the NHCHR
informing it that Massaquoi had been “mistakenly”
hired at Laconia Center and that, based on the reason for his
prior termination, defendants would be terminating his
employment there. Doc. no. 27-14. The very next day,
Massaquoi was terminated from Laconia Center. See doc. no.
27-19 at 4. Thus, Massaquoi's termination from Laconia
Center occurred very close in time to defendants'
participation in the NHCHR's investigation into
Massaquoi's charge of discrimination. See Soni v.
Wespiser, ____F.Supp.3d____, 2019 WL 3891515, at *5 (D.
Mass. Aug. 19, 2019) (“Temporal proximity can create an
inference of causation.”). Viewing these facts in the
light most favorable to Massaquoi, they provide sufficient
evidence of causation. See Amos v. McNairy Cty., 622
Fed.Appx. 529, 538 (6th Cir. 2015) (finding sufficient
evidence of causation to survive summary judgment when
plaintiff was terminated seventeen days after Equal
Employment Opportunity Commission's onsite investigation
into plaintiff's discrimination charge).
have met their burden of production to articulate a
legitimate non-discriminatory reason for the termination.
Defendants assert that after Massaquoi's prior
termination from Harris Hill, he was deemed ineligible for
rehire by any other affiliated entity. They claim that
Massaquoi was mistakenly hired at Laconia Center due to an
oversight of his ineligibility for rehire. Once they learned
of the mistake, they terminated him. The burden therefore
shifts back to Massaquoi to show pretext.
termination from Laconia Center was based on essentially the
same alleged non-discriminatory reason as his initial
termination from Harris Hill-a substantiated incident of
resident abuse. For that reason, the court relies on the same
evidence of pretext in support of the retaliation claim as it
discussed at the hearing in support of the discrimination
claims. And there is additional evidence of pretext in
support of the retaliation claim. The record demonstrates
that defendants stated two different reasons for
Massaquoi's termination from Laconia Center: his
ineligibility for rehire after his termination from Harris
Hill (doc. no. 27-14); and his apparent falsification of
records (doc. no. 27-19 at 4). See Dominguez-Cruz v.
Suttle Caribe, Inc., 202 F.3d 424, 432 (1st Cir. 2000)
(“[W]hen a company, at different times, gives different
and arguably inconsistent explanations, a jury may infer that
the articulated ...