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Date: 02-15-2023

Case Style:

Nasra Osman v. Youngs Healthcare, Inc.

Case Number: 1:21-cv-639

Judge: Rossie D. Alston, Jr.

Court: United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia (Fairfax County)

Plaintiff's Attorney:

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Defendant's Attorney: James Y. Victory

Description: Fairfax, Virginia employment law lawyer represented Plaintiff who sued Defendant on a Fair Labor Standards Act violation theory.

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Plaintiff, a former employee of Defendants, filed suit alleging that Defendants intentionally and willfully violated the overtime provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act 29 U.S.C. § 201, et seq., (the “FLSA”), and discriminated against
Plaintiff with regard to her compensation based on her race and ethnicity under 42 U.S.C. § 1981.

Plaintiff is a Black woman, who worked for Defendants from on or about sometime in 2016 until on or about December 23, 2019 as a personal care aide (“PCA”). As a PCA, Plaintiff cared for one patient, Emily Dunker, who she had previously provided care for through another healthcare agency. As part of her work duties, Plaintiff provided the patient with companionship, care, and assisted her with daily activities such as providing transportation and feeding the patient. Dkt. 4 ¶ 12. When Plaintiff began working for Defendants, she had a regular pay rate of $11.25 per hour. Dkt. Nos. 4 ¶¶ Defendants later increased Plaintiff's rate to $11.50 per hour in 2018 and $11.75 per hour in 2019. At Plaintiff's previous healthcare company, Plaintiff made $11.50 per hour.

Plaintiff contends that she worked 96 hours per week for Defendants from May 30, 2016 to December 22, 2019. Plaintiff also alleges that she worked 24-hour days for Defendants but was only paid for 12 hours of work, while a similarly situated Korean PCA, Kimberly Im, worked the same 24-hour shifts for the same patient and was paid for 16 hours. Plaintiff also asserts that Im was paid a regular rate of $12 per hour. In 2019, Plaintiff stopped working for Defendants and began looking for a job elsewhere because Defendants were not giving her enough additional hours to work.

Under the McDonnell-Douglas framework, a plaintiff must first establish a prima facie case of racial discrimination. Riley v. Honeywell Tech. Sols., Inc., No. CV BEL-05-2426, 2008 WL 11444189, at *5 (D. Md. Apr. 16, 2008), aff'd, 323 Fed.Appx. 276 (4th Cir. 2009)). Once a plaintiff has established her prima facie case, the burden then shifts to the defendant to present evidence that they acted for a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason. See St. Mary's Honor Ctr. v. Hicks, 509 U.S. 502, 506-507 (1993); Guessous v. Fairview Prop. Invs., LLC, 828 F.3d 208, 216 (4th Cir. 2016). If a defendant makes this showing, a plaintiff must demonstrate that the defendant's articulated reason was pretextual and the true reason was to discriminate. See St. Mary's Honor Ctr., 509 U.S. at 507; Guessous, 828 F.3d at 216.

In order to establish a prima facie case of racial discrimination in wages, Plaintiff must first establish “(1) membership in a protected class; (2) satisfactory job performance; (3) adverse employment action with respect to compensation; and (4) that similarly-situated employees outside the protected class received more favorable treatment.” White v. BFI Waste Servs., LLC, 375 F.3d 288, 295 (4th Cir. 2004) (citing McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 802 (1973); Love-Lane v. Martin, 355 F.3d 766, 786-87 (4th Cir. 2004); Causey v. Balog, 162 F.3d 795, 804 (4th Cir.1998)).

It is undisputed that (1) Plaintiff, a Black woman, is a member of a protected class. The parties do not appear to dispute that Plaintiff can establish her (2) satisfactory job performance as neither party raised the issue in any of their briefing. Defendants dispute that Plaintiff can establish that she suffered an adverse employment action. Dkt. 55 at 8. However, Defendants do not dispute that Plaintiff claims she was (3) paid a lower hourly rate and paid for fewer hours than a similarly situated Korean employee. Dkt. 55 ¶¶ 2-3. Discrimination in compensation, such as what is described, qualifies as an adverse employment action because it adversely “affect[s] ‘the terms, conditions, or benefits' of the plaintiff's employment.” James v. Booz-Allen & Hamilton, Inc., 368 F.3d 371, 375 (4th Cir. 2004); see also White, 375 F.3d at 295. Thus, Plaintiff satisfies the first three elements of her prima facie case.

Remarkably, Defendants assert that Plaintiff still cannot establish a prima facie case because she does not allege that she was treated any less than a similarly situated white employee. At best, this is very strained reading of the statutory framework preventing workplace discrimination when it comes to the payment of wages and is not supported by any relevant case law.

Plaintiff appropriately responds that § 1981 still applies even if the similarly situated employee is nonwhite. While § 1981 provides that “[a]ll persons within the jurisdiction of the United States shall have the same right in every State . . . to make and enforce contracts, to sue, be parties, give evidence, and to the full and equal benefit of all laws and proceedings for the security of persons and property as is enjoyed by white citizens,” 42 U.S.C. § 1981, the phrase “as enjoyed by white citizens” only acts to emphasize “the racial character of the rights being protected.” McDonald v. Santa Fe Trail Transp. Co., 427 U.S. 273, 287 (1976) (citing Georgia v. Rachel, 384 U.S. 780, 791 (1966)) (holding § 1981 prohibits racial discrimination in favor of whites as well as nonwhites). Further, § 1981 does not require the involvement of a white individual for a claim of discrimination to be actionable, but rather only requires that an individual outside of the plaintiff's protected class be treated more favorably. See White, LLC, 375 F.3d 288, 295 (4th Cir. 2004) (citing McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 802 (1973)); see also Kim v. Dial Serv. Int'l, Inc., 159 F.3d 1347 (2d Cir. 1998) (affirming district court ruling in favor of Korean plaintiff alleging § 1981 racial discrimination claim in comparison to a similarly situated Japanese employee).

Plaintiff asserts that Kimberly Im, a Korean woman, who served in the same role as a PCA for the same patient, for the same number of hours, was paid a higher hourly rate than Plaintiff and was paid for more hours than Plaintiff. Dkt. 55 ¶¶ 2-3. As a Korean woman, Im is outside of Plaintiff's protected class as Plaintiff is a Black woman. Plaintiff alleges that Im was paid higher wages due to her race, and Defendants do not argue that Im was not a similarly situated employee. Thus, Plaintiff meets the fourth element and has satisfied her prima facie case.

Because Plaintiff has established her prima facie case, the burden shifts to Defendants to offer a “legitimate, non-discriminatory reason” for the disparity in compensation. Guessous, 828 F.3d at 217. Defendants do not suggest anything to support the proposition that the difference between Plaintiff's pay and Im's pay was due to a legitimate non-discriminatory reason. In fact, Defendants did not put forth any reason at all for the alleged pay disparity. Thus, based on the evidence presented, a reasonable jury could find that Plaintiff was discriminated against due to her race in violation of § 1981, and Defendants are "therefore not entitled to summary judgment on this claim.

Outcome: Plaintiff's motion for partial summary judgment granted.

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