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Etienne v. ARUP Laboratories

United States District Court, D. Utah

December 10, 2018




         Plaintiff Delphine Etienne brings this lawsuit against ARUP alleging that she was terminated because of her race and national origin. Before the court is Defendant ARUP Laboratories' Motion for Summary Judgment.


         In March of 2015, Etienne, who is black and of Haitian descent, was hired to work at ARUP in its Genomics Lab as a Technologist Trainee. Etienne's work in the Genomics Lab focused on the analysis of blood and tissue samples from fetuses and cancer patients to assess disease states. As a Technologist Trainee, Etienne prepared blood and tissue samples for testing, performed and documented test results, and trained to become a Technologist.

         Etienne alleges that on several occasions in April and May of 2015 a coworker used the word “slave” at work and referred to herself as a “slave master.” Etienne also alleges that this coworker told her that her kind is not welcome here.

         On or about May 5, 2015, Etienne complained to her supervisor at the time, Jennifer Stocks, about this alleged conduct. Stocks investigated the complaint, was informed that the coworker had said to another employee (not Etienne) that she was a “slave to the lab, ” counseled this coworker not to use such terms at work and understood that the coworker apologized to Etienne and that the matter was otherwise resolved.

         Thereafter, Etienne alleges that ARUP denied her training opportunities either because of race and national origin or in retaliation for her complaint. ARUP disputes this assertion and argues that Etienne received training that is comparable to training received by other Technologist Trainees who are white, of American national origin, and who did not complain about discrimination.

         Etienne made additional complaints from July 30, 2015 to December 28, 2015, about alleged coworker mistreatment and perceived unfairness in training. Each time ARUP investigated Etienne's concerns. Etienne alleges that her complaints about discrimination caused ARUP to retaliate by issuing “variances” to her. ARUP issued “Variance Discussion Forms” to employees to document and correct mistakes. ARUP issued two Variance Discussion Forms to Etienne - one on October 21, 2015 and the other on January 11, 2016. Both variances concerned the same test. Moreover, during the time that Etienne was employed ARUP also issued Variance Discussion Forms to ten other employees in its Genomics Lab, including multiple variances to two other employees. None of the other employees complained about discrimination, and most of them were white, and of American national origin.

         After ARUP issued its January 11, 2016 Variance Discussion Form, Etienne made two additional mistakes on the same test in January of 2016. Including Etienne's prior two variances, this was now a total of four mistakes on the same test. Patty Miller, Etienne's supervisor at the time, decided that Etienne should receive a written warning for her continued errors. Miller and Johanna Barraco, ARUP's Director of Human Services, met with Etienne to provide counseling to her about the additional mistakes. In response to the counseling, Etienne stated that she was not responsible for the errors because she had witnessed a coworker try to sabotage her work. Specifically, Etienne said that she saw a coworker, on multiple occasions, mix up Etienne's testing solutions to cause her to make a mistake.

         Miller and Barraco demanded that Etienne name the coworker who had allegedly sabotaged her work. Etienne refused. Miller and Barraco gave Etienne 24 hours to reconsider her decision not to name the person she accused of sabotage. The next day Miller and Barraco asked Etienne again to name the coworker. Miller and Barraco terminated Etienne because she would not name the person who she accused of sabotaging her testing.

         In the days that followed Miller investigated the matter by interviewing employees in the Genomics Lab to see if they had witnessed the type of misconduct that Etienne alleged. The employees all denied observing tampering or sabotage.


         Summary judgment is appropriate “if the movant 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). When considering a motion of summary judgment, the court views “all facts [and evidence] in the light most favorable to the party opposing summary judgment.” S.E.C. v. Smart, 678 F.3d 850, 856 (10th Cir. 2012) (quoting Grynberg v. Total S.A., 538 F.3d 1336, 1346 (10th Cir. 2008)). The movant must prove that no genuine issue of material fact exists for trial. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a); Nahno-Lopez v. Houser, 625 F.3d 1279, 1283 (10th Cir. 2010). Accordingly, to survive summary judgment, “the nonmoving party must come ...

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