United States District Court, D. Arizona
G. Campbell, Judge
William Maner filed a complaint against Defendant Dignity
Health for discrimination and retaliation in violation of
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §
2000 et seq. Docs. 1, 30. Dignity Health moves for
summary judgment on all claims. Doc. 80. The parties also
jointly move to file documents under seal. Doc. 84. The
motions are fully briefed, and no party requests oral
argument. Docs. 80-83, 86, 87. For the reasons that follow,
the Court will grant both motions.
following facts are undisputed unless otherwise
noted. From 1999 until 2008, Maner worked for Dr.
Robert Garfield at the University of Texas Medical Branch in
Galveston, Texas. Doc. 83-1 at 52-53. In 2008, Garfield moved
his research to Dignity Health in Phoenix, Arizona, and
invited Maner to join his team there. Doc. 83-1 at 53-54.
Maner agreed, and Dignity Health hired Maner as a Bio Med
Design Engineer in its Research Grants Department, where
Garfield remained Maner's supervisor. Doc. 83-1 at 53;
Doc. 81-1 at 52. Garfield also invited researchers Leili Shi
and Dr. Yuan L. Dong to continue working with him in Phoenix.
Doc. 83-1 at 54. Shi and Garfield had been in a romantic
relationship for about 22 years (Doc. 81-2 at 4), and Maner
was aware of their relationship (Doc. 83-1 at 55).
space constraints in Garfield's Phoenix lab, Maner worked
at Dignity Health's facility several miles away with two
other researchers. Doc. 83-1 at 59-60, 64. Maner's job
duties included providing “technical biomedical
engineering support . . . in the design and applications
of” equipment, monitoring research subjects, working
with Garfield on “design and experimental protocols,
” and “[i]nteract[ing] with clinical colleagues,
postdoctoral fellows, students and other faculty.” Doc.
81-1 at 55. Maner agrees his job duties included interactions
with others, but disputes he was required to be “at the
hospital” for those interactions and states that he
“regularly interacted with colleagues remotely.”
Doc. 83 ¶ 4.
July 2008 and July 2009, Garfield rated Maner's
performance at Dignity Health as “outstanding”
and gave him the highest rank in every category. Docs. 83-1
at 76-77, 79; 81-1 at 56-68. Garfield's comments
Overall an outstanding performance. It would be very
difficult to function at our present level without Mr. Maner.
He does an excellent job in assisting in all aspects of our
work . . . . He gets along very well with everyone and
strives to achieve the highest levels of accomplishments.
Doc. 81-1 at 68.
received a salary increase based on Garfield's July 2009
review (id. at 20, 71), and a further increase in
September 2010 after another favorable review (id.
at 73-78, 80). In August 2010, a Texas court put Maner on
probation. Doc. 83-1 at 93-94. Maner learned he would need to
serve his probation in Texas unless he received permission to
work outside the state. Id. at 95-96. Maner asked
Garfield if he could work remotely in Texas. Docs. 83-1 at
92; 81-1 at 82. Garfield agreed, saying: “I will help
you any way I can. We will work this out even if you have to
stay in Galveston for some time.” Docs. 83-1 at 96;
81-1 at 82.
admits he was an at-will employee at Dignity Health and that
Garfield could have terminated him rather than permit remote
work. Doc. 83-1 at 97. But Maner disputes that “working
physically (as opposed to remotely) in Garfield's lab was
a condition of his employment.” Docs. 83 ¶ 25;
83-1 at 96-97. Maner could have sought permission from the
Texas probation department to work in Phoenix and commute to
Texas to report to his probation officer (Doc. 83-1 at 93),
but he did not make the request because it was
“absolutely impractical” financially and
temporally (id. at 92, 95).
began working in Texas in late 2010. Doc. 83-1 at 128-29. In
August 2011, Garfield gave him an unfavorable review, stating
that he “Needs Improvement” in almost every
review category. Doc. 81-1 at 86-90. Garfield's comments
[Maner] has helped occasionally on analysis of data but it is
essential that he be here to fulfill all our needs and it
[is] obvious that this can not be done completely when he is
in Texas. Doc. 81-1 at 86.
Little in the way of support. . . . Little to help our goals
and studies. . . . Little help as interface. . . . Has not
been here to help with staff members. He has on occasion
communicated with others on the phone but he is required to
be here to participate. Id. at 87.
Effectively has not [per]formed as expected because he is
located in Texas and it is not always possible to contact
him. Id. at 88.
concluded: “[i]t is not possible [for Maner] to fulfill
the needs of this position from Texas and under conditions
which we have no control.” Id. at 90. Garfield
recommended that Maner return to Phoenix immediately or be
terminated. Id. at 90.
contested Garfield's review in a letter to Dignity Health
which will be referred to in this order as the “Review
Response.” Doc. 81-1 at 84. Maner listed several
projects he worked on in Texas, asserted that he had frequent
and documented contact with colleagues, and stated that he
was informed on multiple occasions that his work was
successful. Id. As evidence that Garfield was happy
with his work, Maner pointed to an email shortly before the
review in which Garfield wrote that the lab was running out
of funds and needed to develop a strategy to pay Maner. Doc.
83-8 at 4; Doc. 83 ¶¶ 82-85. The Review Response
asserted that limited funding, not Maner's performance,
prompted the “inaccurate” review. Doc. 83-1 at
also wrote a letter to a Dignity Health doctor (the
“Lukas letter”), regarding his arrangement to
work in Texas, his performance, and funding for his position.
Doc. 81-1 at 93. In a letter to Dignity Health Senior Vice
President on October 11, 2011 (“the Vallier
letter”), Maner addressed his work performance and the
availability of funds for his position. Id. at 96.
Health claims to have terminated Maner on October 1, 2011.
Doc. 81-3 at 5, 11. Maner disputes this date, arguing that he
continued to work for Dignity Health through November 2011,
expecting compensation. Docs. 83 ¶ 94-95; 83-1 at
178-79; 83-2 at 28-38. Garfield terminated another male in
his lab - Dr. Dong - in 2010. Doc. 83-1 at 234-37.
Summary Judgment Standard.
seeking summary judgment “bears the initial
responsibility of informing the district court of the basis
for its motion, and identifying those portions of [the
record] which it believes demonstrate the absence of a
genuine issue of material fact.” Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). Summary judgment is
appropriate if the evidence, viewed in the light most
favorable to the nonmoving party, shows “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(a). Summary judgment is also appropriate against a party
who “fails to make a showing sufficient to establish
the existence of an element essential to that party's
case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof
at trial.” Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322. Only
disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit
will preclude summary judgment, and the disputed evidence
must be “such that a reasonable jury could return a
verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).