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March 11, 2004.

EVA G. ROMPOLA, Plaintiff,

The opinion of the court was delivered by: BERLE M. SCHILLER, District Judge


Plaintiff Eva Rompola brings suit against her former employer, Defendant Lehigh Valley Hospital, for retaliatory discharge in violation of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"), 29 U.S.C. § 629.*fn1 Presently before the Court is Defendant's motion for summary judgment. For the reasons set forth below, I grant Defendant's motion.


  Plaintiff, a Hungarian-born registered alien, was approximately fifty-one years old when the events relevant to this case occurred. (Rompola Dep. I at 7, 14-15, 79, 110.) After being employed by Lehigh Valley Health Network and Muhlenberg Hospital Center as a part-time employee for a little over one year, (Id. at 54, 58-59), Plaintiff applied to transfer to a position as an emergency room trauma nurse at the Lehigh Valley Cedar Crest facility. (Id. at 63.) Charlotte Buckenmyer, R.N., Director of Clinical Services at Lehigh Valley Hospital, approved Plaintiffs transfer request and she Page 2 began working in the emergency department in April 2000. (Id. at 72.) Almost immediately upon beginning her position in the emergency room, Plaintiff began having performance problems. (Id.) During her four-week orientation, she requested and was granted extra time to learn how use the computer. (Id.) Ms. Buckenmyer noted that at the end of Plaintiff's orientation she was still unable to handle more than two patient assignments at a time, which deviated from the normal load of four patient assignments. (Buckenmyer Dep. at 24-25.) Although Ms. Buckenmyer thought that Plaintiff did not have the organizational or communications skills needed to handle the normal patient load, she allowed Plaintiff to take another four-week orientation program. (Id. at 26.)

  From August 2000 to November 2001, many of Plaintiff's patients complained about her deficient performance. For example, in August 2000, in an emergency room survey, Plaintiff was criticized for being "incompetent and rude" after a patient had a bad experience when Plaintiff repeatedly attempted to take her blood. (Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J., Ex. G.) This patient stated that Plaintiff "is not suitable for nursing and should be removed from dealing with people." (Id.) In September 2000, a mother of a patient complained about Plaintiffs refusal to administer an enema to her infant daughter, stating that Plaintiff instead told the mother to do it herself. (Id., Ex. I.) Another of Plaintiff's patients wrote a complaint when Plaintiff refused to assist the patient with her bed pan and instead scolded her. (Id., Ex. J).

  Colleagues also expressed concern with Plaintiffs performance during this time. In August 2000, a colleague wrote to Ms. Buckenmyer regarding Plaintiffs capabilities. (Id., Ex. H) After the co-worker had assessed one of Plaintiff's patients who was having active chest pain, he noted that the patient had been under Plaintiffs care for an hour and she had not performed an EKG or an IV nor initiated laboratory tests. (Id.) In December 2000, another co-worker criticized Plaintiff for Page 3 failing to follow a physician's orders. (Id., Ex. K.) On June 15, 2001, the Director of Education in Defendant's Department of Emergency Medicine, Dr. Worrilow, sent Ms. Buckenmyer an e-mail stating that he had significant problems working with Plaintiff. In the email, despite stating that he liked Plaintiff personally, Dr. Worrilow provided several examples of Plaintiff's "gross inefficiencies in performance of simple tasks" and concluded that Plaintiff "does not belong in our [Emergency Department]." (Id., Ex. L.) At this time, Plaintiff admittedly had problems identifying the severity of patients' injuries as demonstrated by a documented triage error that she made on July 18, 2001. (Rompola Dep. I at 153.)

  On October 9, 2001, Plaintiff received the first of two "Final Warnings" that she received while employed by Defendant. This "Final Warning" was the result of complaints from four patients and several nurses and physicians relating to her performance. (Id. at 156-58; Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J., Ex. N.) Subsequently, on October 30, 2001, Plaintiff received a "Confirmation of Counseling" and "Suspension or Final Warning" on her Personnel Report for admitted problems with her attendance. (Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J., Ex. Q.; Rompola Dep. I at 170-71.) In November 2001, Plaintiff again inappropriately triaged two patients (Rompola Dep. I at 171-72; Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J., Ex. P), and on November 25, 2001, another co-worker wrote a memo stating that Plaintiff was "rude and nasty to patients and their family members" as well to the co-worker herself. (Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J., Ex. O.)

  Another two incidents lead to Plaintiffs second "Final Warning." On January 4, 2002, Dr. McCarthy complained to Ms. Buckenmyer that Plaintiff had withheld care from a patient because of "personality issues" with the patient. (Id., Ex. T.) Then, on January 9, 2002, Dr. William J. Bromberg, a trauma fellow, accused Plaintiff of administering the wrong medication to a patient. (Rompola Dep. Page 4 I at 180-215; Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J., Ex. R.) Based on these incidents, Plaintiff received a second "Final Warning" on January 18, 2002, indicating that if she did not improve her performance, she could be terminated. (Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J., Ex. T.)

  At some point during this time, Plaintiff contacted her employee ombudsman because she believed that she was receiving unfair treatment from Ms. Buckenmyer. (Bulishak Dep. at 4-10.) Plaintiff also hired legal counsel who wrote a letter, dated January 18, 2002, to Defendant's attorney claiming that Plaintiff was being victimized by age, gender and national origin discrimination and notifying Defendant that she would be filing a charge with the EEOC. (Id. at 2; Compl. ¶ 18; Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J., Ex. U.) On February 1, 2002, Defendant's attorney responded by denying these allegations. (Pl.'s Resp. at 2.) On or about March 13, 2002, Plaintiff filed an EEOC Charge of Discrimination alleging discrimination on the basis of sex, age and national origin. (Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J., Ex. W.)

  After Plaintiff notified Defendant of her intention to file an EEOC charge, Ms. Buckenmyer granted Plaintiff's voluntary request to change from full-time status to per diem status and to decrease her weekly work hours. This change became effective on February 1, 2002. (Rompola Dep. II at 69-72.) Plaintiff requested per diem status because of the gossip regarding her alleged medication error. (Id. at 72.) Although Plaintiff remained on per diem status from February 2002 until her termination in November 2002, beginning on May 26, 2002, she worked forty hours per week. (Id at 79.)

  After May 26, 2002, Plaintiff was involved in four incidents that Ms. Buckenmyer contends resulted in her termination. (Buckenmyer Dep. at 53-54.) First, on June 21, 2002, a patient and his wife complained about Plaintiffs care, stating the she was "incompetent, confused, scattered and did Page 5 not know what she was doing." (Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J., Ex. X.) Second, on July 16, 2002, a patient who had burned herself complained about Plaintiffs treatment. After the patient told Plaintiff that she had already applied ice to the burn, Plaintiff stated that "[w]e do not use ice anymore, we use heat." (Id., Ex. Z.) In her deposition, Plaintiff clarified that she told the patient, who she described as "mouthy," that "we do not use ice anymore. We use warm, [moist] compress." (Rompola Dep. II at 11.) Third, in August 2002, two registration clerks reported an incident in which Plaintiff reacted to a patient's seizure by laughing and inappropriately stating that the patient was "faking." (Id. at 14-32; Def. Mot. for Summ. J., Ex. 1.) In her deposition, Plaintiff again clarified that she had said that the patient was "not having real seizures." (Rompola Dep. II at 15-16.) Finally, on October 16, 2002, Plaintiff admittedly made a charting error regarding a patient who had suffered a head injury. Plaintiff mistakenly charted the left pupil size in the right pupil slot and the right pupil size in the left pupil slot. She also mistakenly wrote that the left pupil was "brisk," which means reactive to light, instead of "fixed," which means non-reactive to light. (Id. at 32-40.) Despite Ms. Buckenmyer's instruction to correct her error, Plaintiff failed to do so because she "was really busy" and thought that the nurse in charge of the shift would correct it for her. (Id. at 40-41.)

  On October 25, 2002, Plaintiff was suspended pending an investigation of these incidents. (Id. 47-49.) Subsequently, a meeting was held in which Plaintiff was given an opportunity to tell her version of the incidents. (Id. 49-50.) At her deposition, Plaintiff maintained her contention that the patient complaints were not valid. She admitted, however, that if they were legitimate, disciplinary action would have been appropriate. (Id. at 50-51.) On October 31, 2002, after investigation of the incidents, Ms. Buckenmyer concluded that Plaintiff:

  had opportunities to improve her performance and behavior to meet the expectations of a registered nurse in the emergency department of Page 6 Lehigh Valley Hospital. She has been counseled in the past and received written warnings. A review of her file shows numerous, repeated problems and that despite interventions by management to address these issues, deviations from the standard of practice expected of a RN, and behavior issues continue to occur. In addition, the volume of issues and the pattern of repeatedly committing the same kinds of errors and inappropriate behavior demonstrate either a lack of insight into these issues or simply a refusal to accept responsibility and accountability for her actions. For example, regarding the patient and his wife who stated she was confused and scattered, [Rompola's] response to that was, "they were just mad because they had to wait." Based upon Ms. Rompola's record of performance and behavior issues and her continued failure to perform to the expected standards as demonstrated by these most recent issues, Eva Rompola is terminated from her employment at Lehigh Valley Hospital.

 (Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J., Ex. X.) The termination was effective November 1, 2002. On November 15, 2002, Plaintiff filed her second EEOC charge alleging that she was terminated in retaliation for her previously filed EEOC charge. Plaintiff contends that Ms. Buckenmyer failed to investigate or properly investigate the four incidents leading to ...

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