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Behanna v. Monongahela Valley Hospital

October 22, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ambrose, District Judge



Plaintiff Deborah A. Behanna ("Behanna") brings this action alleging a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act ("PHRA"). Defendant has moved for summary judgment on all counts. For the reasons set forth below, I grant Defendant's motion for summary judgment.

I. Legal Standard

In order to succeed on a motion for summary judgment, a moving party must demonstrate that "the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). "The dispute is genuine if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party. A fact is material when it might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law." Scott v. Airtran Airways, Inc., No. 05-1123, 2006 WL 2711654, at *2 (W.D. Pa., 2006); see also, Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). If the party moving for summary judgment will not bear the burden of proof at trial, it may meet its initial burden by showing that the evidence on record would not be sufficient for a reasonable jury to find in the non-movant's favor. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). "Once the party moving for summary judgment has carried the initial burden . . . , the nonmoving party cannot rely upon conclusory allegations in its pleadings or in memoranda and briefs to establish a genuine issue of material fact. Instead, it must "make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of every element essential to its case . . . .'"Pastore v. Bell Tel. Co. of Pa., 24 F.3d 508, 511 (3d Cir. 1994) (quoting Harter v. GAF Corp., 967 F.2d 846, 852 (3d Cir. 1992)). "A nonmoving party must adduce more than a mere scintilla of evidence in its favor, and cannot simply reassert factually unsupported allegations contained in its pleadings." Williams v. Borough of West Chester, Pa, 891 F.2d 458, 459 (3d Cir. 1989). "Thus an opponent may not prevail merely by discrediting the credibility of the movant's evidence; it must produce some affirmative evidence." Big Apple BMW, Inc. v. BMW of N. America, Inc., 974 F.2d 1358, 1363 (3d Cir. 1992), cert. denied, 507 U.S. 912 (1993). Rule 56 requires the granting of a motion for summary judgment after adequate time for discovery against the party who fails "to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Scott, 2006 WL 2711654, at *1 (quoting Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322).

II. Statement of Relevant Facts

Behanna has been a nursing assistant at Defendant Monongahela Valley Hospital (the "Hospital") since March 17, 1975. Her primary job duty is to work with and assist patients in the hospital. [Docket No. 37, at 2.] Behanna does not claim to have been subjected to any type of disability discrimination prior to December 2007. [Docket No. 31-1, at 44.]

Behanna's uncle, a patient at the hospital, fell on November 30, 2007 during occupational therapy. His fall resulted in a fractured hip. Behanna felt that the hospital acted negligently with regard to her uncle's care. [Docket No. 31-1, at 45.] She was upset and spoke with her supervisors about the incident. [Id.]

During the week of December 3, 2007, Behanna was scheduled to work the night shift from 11:00pm to 7:00am. [Id.] Behanna was emotional and tearful at work on the morning of December 5. [Id. at 46.] Co-workers reported that she was crying heavily and was upset. [Id. at 16.] On the evening of December 5, 2007, Behanna called in sick for her shift because of a sinus infection. [Id. at 48.] She was off from work due to this illness for the next three scheduled shifts.

Behanna called the hospital as many as 20 times during the time that she was away from work in order to check on the status of her uncle and to talk to co-workers. [Id. at 46.] She stated that she called frequently because she was not able to speak with the nurse on duty in charge of her uncle's care and to "find out how [her co-workers'] night was going" during their "not-so-busy time." [Id. at 46, 47.] On December 7, 2007, Betty Geis ("Geis"), Behanna's Nurse Manager, spoke with Behanna and asked her not to call hospital staff while they were working. [Docket No. 30, at 2.] Behanna agreed to stop calling. [Id.] Geis also expressed concern regarding Behanna's emotional state. Geis memorialized this conversation in an email to Marge Mooers ("Mooers"), Assistant Vice President of Nursing, and Georgina Koslosky ("Koslosky"), Employee Health Nurse, observing that Behanna was upset and emotional and that she was making frequent phone calls to staff members during the evening hours, but had agreed to discontinue these calls. [Docket No. 31-1, at 16.]

Because she had missed three scheduled shifts, hospital policy required that Behanna obtain a return to work authorization from her treating physician. [Docket No. 30, at 2-3.] Behanna was seen by her primary care physician, Dr. Gosai, on December 11, 2007. [Docket No. 31-1, at 21.] She was diagnosed with sinusitis and high blood pressure. [Id.] While there, Behanna reported observing a note in her medical file stating that an anonymous caller had asked Dr. Gosai to evaluate her for potential emotional problems. [Id.] Behanna believed that Koslosky was responsible for this anonymous call to Dr. Gosai. [Id. at 51.] Behanna obtained a return to work authorization slip that was signed by Dr. Gosai's secretary. [Docket No. 37, at 6.]

On December 12, 2007, Mooers sent an email to Koslosky relaying reports of Behanna's erratic behavior prior to her sick leave as well as reports of frequent phone calls from Behanna to various units within the hospital. [Docket No. 31-1, at 19.] Mooers suggested in this email that the hospital require that Behanna be evaluated before allowing her to care for patients as a result of this behavior. [Docket No. 31-1, at 19.]

Also on December 12, 2007, Behanna and Union President Mike Jurcevich delivered her return to work authorization to Koslosky. [Id. at 51.] However, since the document had not been signed by her treating physician, Koslosky did not accept this authorization. [Docket No. 30, at 3.] She told Behanna that she must present written authorization signed by her treating physician or physician's assistant in order to return to work. [Id.] Koslosky also encouraged Behanna to see her doctor. [Docket No. 31-1, at 70.] Behanna does not dispute the Hospital's policy requiring any return to work authorization to be signed by a physician or a physician's assistant. [Id. at 48.]

Behanna conceded that she was upset during this meeting with Koslosky because of the note that she had reported seeing in her medical file at her physician's office. [Docket No. 31-1, at 51.] The meeting became contentious and Behanna left to get her husband. [Id.] David Clark, Vice President of Human Resources ("Clark"), Geis, and Behanna's husband joined Behanna, Koslosky, and Jurcevich in the meeting. At this time, both Koslosky and Clark expressed concern about Behanna's ability to perform her job duties. [Docket No. 30, at 3.] Behanna was told that before she could return to work she had to obtain a release from her doctor and it was suggested that she be examined by the Hospital's ...

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