An unpublished opinion of the North Carolina Court of Appeals does not constitute controlling legal authority. Citation is disfavored, but may be permitted in accordance with the provisions of Rule 30(e)(3) of the North Carolina Rules of Appellate Proced ure.

NO. COA02-808


Filed: 15 July 2003



v .                         Mecklenburg County
                            No. 01 CVS 5244


    Appeal by plaintiff from order and judgment entered 15 May 2002 by Judge James W. Morgan, Jr., in Mecklenburg County Superior Court. Heard in the Court of Appeals 19 February 2003.

    LESESNE & CONNETTE, by Louis L. Lesesne, Jr., for plaintiff appellant.

    MCGUIREWOODS LLP, by Kimberly Q. Cacheris for defendant appellee.


    Kathryn T. Merrick (“plaintiff”) appeals a judgment and order of summary judgment granted by the trial court in favor of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Hospital Authority, d/b/a Carolinas Healthcare System (“defendant”). For the reasons stated herein, we affirm the trial court's decision.
    An examination of the pleadings, exhibits, and depositions filed in response to defendant's summary judgment motion, considered in the light most favorable to plaintiff, tends to show the following: From 17 July 1989 through 11 May 2000, plaintiffwas employed by defendant as a registered nurse. Prior to December of 1998, plaintiff received four “on-the-job” injuries, which resulted in claims for workers' compensation benefits. On 1 December 1998, while at work, plaintiff ruptured her Achilles tendon. As a result of her injury, plaintiff was unable to return to work until 18 November 1999. Defendant did not dispute plaintiff's workers' compensation claim.
    On 11 May 2000, plaintiff voluntarily resigned her employment with defendant in order to accept a position with a different employer. During the periods prior to plaintiff's resignation, as well as after her resignation, plaintiff and defendant remained in negotiations to settle her workers' compensation claim. Plaintiff was represented by counsel at all times. After her resignation, plaintiff and defendant entered into a settlement of plaintiff's workers' compensation claim. The terms of the settlement are reflected in a document entitled “Agreement for Final Compromise Settlement and Release” (“the settlement”), which was executed by the parties on 30 June 2000 and a “General Release and Waiver of Employment” (“the release”), which was executed by the parties on 11 July 2000. The release provides in pertinent part as follows: “In further consideration, [plaintiff] waives any right to reinstatement of employment with [defendant] and further agrees that [defendant], or any of its related corporations, is not or will not be at any time under any obligation to employ her.” In consideration for signing the settlement and release agreements, plaintiff received the sum of $21,500.00 from defendant.    On 27 June 2000, Dr. Marsha Ford (“Dr. Ford”), an employee with defendant, contacted plaintiff regarding possible part-time employment with defendant in the Poison Control Center. Dr. Ford testified that at the time she contacted plaintiff, she was unaware that plaintiff had signed the release agreement. Defendant was also unaware that Dr. Ford had contacted plaintiff until Dr. Ford initiated the appropriate hiring procedures to employ plaintiff. Dr. Ford was then informed that plaintiff had signed a release and was ineligible for employment. As a result, Dr. Ford informed plaintiff that she was unable to offer her employment in the Poison Control Center.
    On 15 March 2001, plaintiff filed a claim with the North Carolina Commissioner of Labor (“the Commission”) alleging that defendant violated the North Carolina Retaliatory Employment Discrimination Act by refusing to re-employ plaintiff, because she previously filed a workers' compensation claim. Plaintiff received a “right-to-sue” letter from the Commission and filed the present action. Thereafter, the trial court entered summary judgment in favor of defendant. Plaintiff appeals.


    The dispositive issue on appeal is whether plaintiff is within the class of persons protected by the North Carolina Retaliatory Employment Discrimination Act (“REDA”). See N.C. Gen. Stat. § 95- 241 (2001). For the reasons stated herein, we hold that plaintiff is not within the protected class and we affirm the order of the trial court.    Summary judgment is appropriate when the “pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that any party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.” N.C. Gen. Stat. § 1A-1, Rule 56(c) (2001). The party moving for summary judgment must “clearly demonstrate the lack of any triable issue of fact and entitlement to judgment as a matter of law.” Marcus Bros. Textiles, Inc. v. Price Waterhouse, LLP, 350 N.C. 214, 220, 513 S.E.2d 320, 324 (1999). In reviewing a motion for summary judgment, the evidence is viewed in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion. Id.
    Plaintiff argues that the trial court erred in concluding that she was not an “employee” and therefore not within the class of persons protected by REDA. Therefore, plaintiff contends that as a “former employee,” she is protected by REDA. We disagree.
    We first examine the class of persons protected under REDA. REDA states that “no person shall discriminate or take any retaliatory action against an employee because the employee in good faith does or threatens to . . .” file a workers' compensation action. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 95-241(a)(1)(a) (2001). We note that, on its face, REDA does not offer a definition for “employee.” This Court has long held that in determining the meaning of a statute, “undefined words are accorded their plain meaning so long as it is reasonable to do so.” Polaroid Corp. v. Offerman, 349 N.C. 290, 297, 507 S.E.2d 284, 290 (1998), cert. denied, 526 U.S. 1098, 143L. Ed. 2d 671 (1999). A statute must be evaluated as a whole and the court “will not construe an individual section in a manner that renders another provision of the same statute meaningless.” Id. “A construction of a statute that hinders its purpose must be avoided if courts can reasonably do so without doing [harm] to the legislative language.” Williams v. Holsclaw, 128 N.C. App. 205, 212, 495 S.E.2d 166, 170-71 (1998). Moreover, statutes should be interpreted to ensure that the purpose of the legislature is accomplished. Woodson v. Rowland, 329 N.C. 330, 338, 407 S.E.2d 222, 227 (1991).
    We next turn to the plain definition of employee. An “employee” is “a person who works for another in return for financial or other compensation.” The American Heritage Dictionary 450 (2nd ed. 1985). Black's Law Dictionary defines “employee” as “a person in the service of another under any contract of hire, express or implied, oral or written, where the employer has the power or right to control and direct the employee in the material details of how the work is to be performed.” Black's Law Dictionary 525 (6th ed. 1990). Moreover, the Workers' Compensation Act defines “employee” as “every person engaged in an employment under any appointment or contract of hire or apprenticeship, express or implied, oral or written, . . .” N.C. Gen. Stat. § 97- 2(2) (2001).
    In the present case, plaintiff gave the following relevant testimony regarding her employment status with defendant:         Q: And of course you voluntarily resigned, I think it was, around May 10 or 11 of 2000 to go up to Lake Norman?
        A: Yes, sir.
        . . . .
        Q: And had you received a job offer and accepted a job offer from Lake Norman at the time you turned in your resignation on May 11, 2000?
        A: Yes.
        . . . .
        Q: Why did you leave [defendant]?
        A: Because of the hours and the days and the drive back and forth to Charlotte. I loved it there besides that.

    In the instant case, plaintiff's testimony reveals that she resigned on 11 May 2000. Plaintiff also offered testimony that Dr. Ford contacted her on 27 June 2000 to offer her employment with defendant, that she was no longer employed by defendant, and was actually employed by Lake Norman Regional Hospital at the time of the offer from Dr. Ford. Therefore, in applying the plain definition of employee, the record clearly establishes that plaintiff (1) was not under a contract of hire with defendant; (2) that defendant had no power or control to direct plaintiff; and (3) that plaintiff was not providing any services to defendant in exchange for financial compensation on 27 June 2000, when she was contacted by Dr. Ford. Given the facts of this case, we hold that plaintiff did not meet the definition of an “employee” following her voluntary resignation in May 2000.     Thus, plaintiff has failed to establish that she is within the class of persons to which REDA offers a remedy. Therefore, the trial court did not err in granting summary judgment in favor of defendant.
    For the reasons contained herein, we decline to address defendant's cross-assignment of error. The order of the trial court is hereby
    Judges WYNN and LEVINSON concur.
    Report per Rule 30(e).     

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