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Megonnell v. Infotech Solutions

November 18, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Chief Judge Kane


Pending before the Court are cross-motions for summary judgment by Plaintiff Kathryn Megonnell (Doc. No. 35), Defendant Infotech Solutions (Doc. No. 38), and Defendant Pamela Hunter (Doc. No. 41), with briefs in support (Doc. Nos. 36, 39, 43), briefs in opposition (Doc. Nos. 48, 49, 51, 53) and reply briefs (Doc. Nos. 55, 56, 57, 58). The motions have been fully briefed and are ripe for disposition. Since genuine issues of material fact remain, the Court will deny the parties' motions for summary judgment.


Defendant Infotech Solutions, Inc., is a Delaware corporation operating in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania as Avysion IT and Avysion Healthcare Services.*fn1 (Doc. No. 40 ¶ 4.) Avysion provides IT work and healthcare contract staffing. (Doc. No. 50 ¶ 1.) Under a medical staffing contract between Avysion and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Avysion employees were placed with the Commonwealth Department of Public Welfare ("DPW") where they provided services for the Bureau of Fee for Services, Dental Prior Authorization Unit ("PAU"). (Doc. No. 40 ¶ 6; Doc. No. 50 ¶ 4-5.)

Plaintiff Kathryn Megonnell ("Megonnell") is a resident of Dauphin, Pennsylvania. (Doc. No. 40 ¶ 1.) Megonnell was hired by Avysion in January 2006 as a dental hygienist and placed with the DPW. (Doc. No. 50 ¶ 7; Doc. No. 37 ¶ 6.) Avysion pays wages for the placed healthcare resources, withholds their payroll taxes, and pays workers' compensation insurance. (Doc. No. 42 ¶ 6.) Megonnell and three other dental hygienists performed their duties with the PAUat the Cherrywood Building, on the grounds of the former Harrisburg State Hospital in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. (Doc. No. 37 ¶¶ 10-11.)Defendant Pamela Hunter ("Hunter") is a resident of Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania. (Doc. No. 40 ¶ 8.) Hunter is employed by the Commonwealth and is assigned to work for DPW as Supervisor for the Bureau of Program Integrity for the Provider Review Unit. (Id. ¶ 9.) Hunter directed Megonnell's work when she was assigned to the PAU. (Doc. No. 37 ¶ 13; Doc. No. 42 ¶ 12.) As such, Hunter approved Megonnell's leave requests and rated Megonnell's performance. (Doc. No. 50 ¶ 14.)

The crux of this case surrounds the events of June 18, 2007, in which Megonnell dealt with the fallout of her niece K.D.'s involuntary discharge from White Deer Run, a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center located in Allentown, Pennsylvania. (Doc. No. 37 ¶¶ 33(k), 39.)

K.D. is the daughter of Megonnell's sister and was 17 at the time of the alleged incident. (Doc. No. 37 ¶¶ 24-25.) Prior to October 2006, K.D. resided in Delaware, where she was a ward of that state. (Id. ¶ 26.) In October 2006, Janice and Robert Muza, residents of Dillsburg, Pennsylvania, were appointed as K.D.'s guardians. (Id. ¶ 29.) Janice Muza is Megonnell's mother and K.D.'s grandmother. (Id.)

Shortly after K.D. began living at her grandmother's residence in Dillsburg, Megonnell and her husband learned that she was associating with negative influences. (Id. ¶ 31.) As a result, Megonnell sought to provide closer supervision for her niece. (Id. ¶ 32.) From approximately December 2006 to June 2007, K.D. spent the majority of her nights at the Megonnell residence. (Id. ¶ 33(a).) During that same time period, Megonnell provided her niece with a gym membership, hair appointments, payment for a college class and books, clothes, food, hunting gear, and day trips. (Doc. No. 50 ¶¶ 33(b), (d).) Megonnell and her husband included K.D. in family activities, taught K.D. about fitness and nutrition, and gave K.D. moral guidance and direction. (Doc. No. 37 ¶ 33.)

Megonnell and her husband persuaded K.D. to agree to residential admission at White Deer Run. (Id. ¶¶ 33(k), 39.) On or about June 11, 2007, Megonnell and her husband drove K.D. to White Deer Run, where K.D. was admitted and Megonnell was designated as K.D.'s family contact. (Id. ¶¶ 33(l), 39-40.)

Megonnell and her co-workers at PAU had social discussions during the workday and sometimes used such gatherings to discuss their personal lives. (Id. ¶ 34.) Megonnell shared information about K.D.'s issues with her co-workers, including Hunter. (Id. ¶¶ 33 (g)-(h), 35.)

Prior to June 18, 2007, Megonnell submitted an email request to Hunter for a day off to attend a family day at White Deer Run. (Doc. Nos. 37, 50 ¶ 43(a).) Hunter replied by email that Megonnell's request was granted. (Doc. No. 37 ¶ 43(b).)

On the morning of June 18, 2007, Megonnell received a call at work on her cell phone from White Deer Run advising her that K.D. was being involuntarily discharged and that Megonnell would need to make arrangements to transport her from White Deer Run. (Id. ¶ 44.)

After receiving the phone call, Megonnell told Hunter that K.D. "just got kicked out of White Deer Run and I have to go pick her up." (Doc. No. 50 ¶ 47.)*fn2 Megonnell then told Hunter that she "need[ed] to go outside to make a quick phone call." (Id. ¶ 48.) Megonnell walked outside the Cherrywood Building around 9:00 A.M. (Doc. No. 37 ¶ 52.)

At that time, Megonnell began reaching out to various social service agencies to receive counsel from mental health and substance abuse professionals. She placed a phone call to Nora Campenella, a professional in DPW's Office for Mental Health & Substance Abuse Services ("OMHSAS"). (Doc. Nos. 37, 50 ¶ 53.) While walking across campus to OMHSAS, which is also located at the former Harrisburg State Hospital, Megonnell placed a call to York County Children and Youth. (Doc. Nos. 37, 50 ¶¶ 54-55.)

While Megonnell was away, Hunter sent emails to her manager and other DPW managers. (Doc. Nos. 37, 50 ¶ 57.) At 10:25 A.M., Hunter sent the following email:

I just wanted to go on record and have it documented that Kate Megonnell left the building at 8:55 am to make a personal call on her cell phone to her husband, regarding a family crisis they are experiencing, and has not returned yet. One of my staff said Kate called them to say she went over to the building that Behavioral Health is working in. Beechmont I believe, to talk to a friend she has there regarding her family crisis. The friend is a behavioral health nurse. She is then having the friend help her talk with one of the psychiatrist working there to see if they can assist her with the family crisis that she is experiencing. She is still not back at her desk. (Doc. No. 37 ¶ 57(a).) Hunter sent another email at 11:35 A.M.:

[Megonnell] just came in at 11:20 and I called her in immediately. She was incredulous that I was mad!! She said she thought I understood that she had a family emergency. However this morning when she indicated that she had the emergency she said she was going outside to call her husband, nothing was mentioned about her going home, or going to another building to talk with other people in order to seek assistance. . . . (Id. ¶ 57(b).).

After her trip across campus to OMHSAS, Megonnell returned to the Cherrywood Building to retrieve her belongings. (Doc. Nos. 37, 50 ¶ 59.) When Megonnell arrived at the Cherrywood Building, Hunter directed Megonnell to Hunter's office. (Doc. No. 37 ¶ 60.) Hunter admitted that she "did not hide [her] anger" from Megonnell and was yelling at Megonnell. (Id. ¶ 64.) Co-workers who overheard the confrontation heard Hunter tell Megonnell that Megonnell had "too many family problems." (Doc. No. 50 ¶ 65.) Hunter directed Megonnell not to come in the following day. (Id. ¶ 69.) Megonnell protested to Hunter that she only needed to leave for that day to care for K.D. (Doc. No. 37 ¶ 70.)

After her confrontation with Hunter, Megonnell left work at approximately 11:20 A.M. and drove to White Deer Run to pick up her niece. (Doc. No. 50 ¶ 71.) That afternoon, Hunter phoned Tokar to advise him that DPW would "no longer need [Megonnell]" and was no longer in need of the position that Megonnell had occupied. (Doc. No. 37 ¶ 74.) Tokar is Avysion's Operations Manager. (Doc. No. 50 ¶ 12.) Hunter advised Tokar that PAU only needed three Avysion employees working in the unit. (Id. ¶ 75.) Hunter did not advise Tokar that Megonnell had been terminated, but rather that the "position that Ms. Megonnell held was eliminated." (Id. ¶ 76.) Specifically, Tokar has recounted that Hunter said she needed to terminate a contract employee position, and she said it was for Kate Megonnell. She said that [Megonnell] had left the work site that morning for personal business and had also interacted with other DPW people for the personal business, and she said that [Megonnell] was sent home. She needed me to notify [Megonnell] or someone from our office that her position was terminated, and she also asked that we have someone gather up her belongings. (Doc. No. 40 ¶ 28.)

Megonnell did not have any further contact with any of the defendants until that evening, when she was called by Tokar who informed her that her position was terminated. (Doc. No. 40 ¶ 29; Doc. No. 50 ¶ 77.) Megonnell advised Tokar that she had to leave the work site that day because her niece was being discharged from a facility. (Doc. No. 37 ¶ 78.)

Meggonnell has recounted the discussion in her affidavit: Around 5 or 6 PM on June 18, 2007, after I returned to my residence from [White Deer Run], I received a call from Defendant Leonard Tokar of Avysion. Mr. Tokar stated that Ms. Hunter contacted him that day, and he asked me what happened. Before I recounted the day's events, I told Mr. Tokar who [K.D.] was, her history, and the circumstances of her coming to stay with my husband and me.

In providing a context for Mr. Tokar to understand the day's events, I told him about [K.D.'s] mental health diagnosis, her drug addiction history, and her institutionalization in Delaware; I also informed Mr. Tokar that even though my mother was [K.D.'s] guardian, she spent the majority of time in our custody. I further recounted to Mr. Tokar the events that prompted my husband and I to cause [K.D.'s] admission to [White Deer Run] and about the phone call informing me that [K.D.] was involuntarily discharged. I further described to Mr. Tokar that I had explained to Ms. Hunter of my need to respond to [K.D.'s] emergency and that I had confirmed with Ms. Hunter that I would be leaving work to get [K.D.], but that I needed to make some private calls before leaving. Mr. Tokar stated that Ms. Hunter informed him that they no longer needed my services and expressed surprise at this since he had only heard glowing reports about me. Mr. Tokar told me he had no other dental hygiene positions open for me at his time, but would keep me in mind if something opened up. ("Sworn Statement of Kathryn Megonnell," Doc. No. 37, Ex. 2 ¶¶ 100-107) (numbered paragraph breaks omitted). During the phone conversation, Tokar instructed Megonnell that Avysion had no other dental hygienist positions available. (Doc. No. 37 ¶ 79.)

Prior to Tokar's phone call, Plaintiff did not discuss her niece, her niece's treatment and medical conditions, or any family problems with anyone at ...

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