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Jordan v. Wilkes-Barre General Hospital

August 22, 2008

LORI JORDAN, AND MICHAEL JORDAN, PLAINTIFFS
v.
WILKES-BARRE GENERAL HOSPITAL, WYOMING VALLEY HEALTH CARE, INC., NANCY ALONZO, AND ROBERT HOFFMAN, DEFENDANTS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge James M. Munley United States District Court

(Judge Munley)

MEMORANDUM

Before the court is defendants' partial motion to dismiss/strike the plaintiff's amended complaint (Doc. 17). Having been fully briefed, the matter is ripe for disposition.

Background

The instant complaint arises out of the termination of plaintiff Lori Jordan's employment by Defendants Wilkes-Barre General Hospital and Wyoming Valley Health System. At the time she lost her job, plaintiff was 42 years old. (Amended Complaint (hereinafter "Complt.") (Doc. 16) at ¶ 7). Plaintiff worked for defendants for twenty-two years, and was a model employee throughout that period. (Id. at ¶ 27). She had outstanding performance reviews and evaluations and never faced any sort of warning or other disciplinary action. (Id.). During her career, plaintiff held various nursing positions with the defendants, eventually working her way up to the position of Clinical Director of Critical Care Nursing Units and a cardiac surgery unit for the defendant medical organizations. (Id. at ¶ 33). According to her complaint, defendants terminated her from her position in retaliation for "reporting, opposing and participating in the investigation of a hostile work environment, sexual harassment of a co-worker/colleague and age discrimination." (Id. at ¶ 25).

In September and October 2003, Denise Wendolowski-Dragan, a clinical leader at the hospital, was sexually harassed by her supervisor and asked the plaintiff for assistance in confronting that problem. (Id. at ¶ 34). Plaintiff observed that her co-worker's supervisor had become more hostile and verbally abusive towards that co-worker. (Id.). She contacted Defendant Alonzo, the Administrative Director at the hospital, to express her concerns. (Id. at ¶¶ 34-35). Plaintiff told Alonzo of the growing problems her co-worker faced and insisted action be taken, since defendants had "'a zero tolerance policy on harassment.'" (Id. at ¶ 36).

Two weeks after complaining to Alonzo, plaintiff recognized that she had not taken appropriate steps to rectify the situation. (Id. at ¶ 37). Concluding that Alonzo's failure to act "was abetting the accuser," plaintiff decided to report the abuse to a higher level at the hospital. (Id.). Plaintiff contacted Defendant Hoffman, the Vice President of Care Services at the hospital. (Id. at ¶ 38). She informed Hoffman that Alonzo had done nothing to rectify the abusive situation faced by her co-worker. (Id.). Hoffman likewise did nothing to address the situation, despite promises to do so. (Id. at ¶¶ 38-39).

Defendants eventually fired Wendolowski-Dragan. (Id. at ¶ 40). Plaintiff agreed to testify for her former co-worker in a proceeding related to that firing. (Id. at ¶ 41). Plaintiff contends that this reporting of sexual harassment and testimony in a case related to sexual harassment made her continued work with Defendant Alonzo "very uncomfortable." (Id. at ¶ 42). "Scrutiny" of plaintiff's work intensified as a result of her actions in complaining about Defendant's behavior. (Id.). Plaintiff continued to press the issue of sexual harassment at the hospital, urging Defendant Hoffman to set up a new reporting structure. (Id. at ¶ 44).

Approximately two weeks after her last contact with Hoffman about these issues, Hoffman and Alonzo called plaintiff into the human resources office to inform her that her employment had been terminated. (Id. at ¶ 45). This termination came six months after the plaintiff first reported the sexual harassment experienced by Wendlowki-Dragan to her supervisors. (Id. at ¶ 46). Defendants Hoffman and Alonzo participated in the decision to fire plaintiff. (Id. at ¶ 47). Plaintiff alleges that defendants' conduct created a sexually hostile work environment. (Id. at ¶ 50). Plaintiff also alleges that defendants treated her differently from other employees younger than 40 years old. (Id. at ¶ 48). Defendants did not treat younger workers who committed violations of employment policies as harshly as they did plaintiff. (Id.).

Plaintiff filed her initial complaint on February 28, 2007. Defendants filed a partial motion to dismiss plaintiff's complaint (Doc. 5) on July 17, 2007. After the parties filed briefs and the court heard argument on this matter, the plaintiff agreed to file an amended complaint. The court issued an order on January 29, 2008 granting the defendants' motion without prejudice and allowing the plaintiff to file an amended complaint. (Doc. 15). Plaintiff filed this amended complaint on February 18, 2008. (Doc. 16). The amended complaint consists of eight counts. Count I, raised against all of the defendants, alleges that those defendants violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000(e), by creating a hostile work environment and retaliating against the plaintiff for reporting violations of workers' rights. Count II, brought pursuant to the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (PHRA), 42 P.S. § 951, raises the same claims under state law. Count III is a retaliation claim under Title VII against all the defendants. Count IV alleges a tort claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress against all of the defendants. In Count V, plaintiff alleges that defendants terminated her in violation of the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), 29 U.S.C. § 623(a). The sixth count of the complaint alleges retaliation under the ADEA. Count VII seeks punitive damages. Plaintiff's husband, Michael Jordan, joins in her complaint in Count VIII, which seeks damages for loss of consortium.

On March 3, 2005, defendants again filed a partial motion to dismiss plaintiff's complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) and 12(f). (Doc. 5). The parties then briefed the issue, bringing the case to its present posture.

Jurisdiction

As this case is brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 2000e and 29 U.S.C. § 693, we have jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331 ("The district courts shall have original jurisdiction of all civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States."). We have jurisdiction over plaintiff's state law claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367(a) ("In any civil action of which the district courts have original jurisdiction, the district courts shall have supplemental jurisdiction over all other claims that are so related to claims in the ...


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