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Kathryn M. Quinn v. Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital

July 22, 2011

KATHRYN M. QUINN,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
MERCY FITZGERALD HOSPITAL, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: DuBOIS, J.

MEMORANDUM

I. INTRODUCTION

In this case, plaintiff Kathryn Quinn alleges that her former employer, Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital ("Mercy"), terminated her because her chronic back problems forced her to take leave from her job as a certified nursing assistant ("CNA"). Quinn asserts claims arising under the Family and Medical Leave Act ("FMLA"), 29 U.S.C. § 2601 et seq., the Americans With Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq., and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act ("PHRA"), 43 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 951 et seq. Presently before the Court is Mercy's Motion for Summary Judgment. For the reasons that follow, the Court grants the motion as to Quinn's claims arising under the ADA and PHRA and denies it as to her claim arising under the FMLA.

II. BACKGROUND*fn1

Mercy hired Quinn in September 2001 to work as a CNA. (Def.'s and Pl.'s Statements of Uncontested Material Facts (hereinafter "SUF") ¶ 1.) About a year earlier, she had undergone back surgery for disc herniations suffered in a previous job. (Id. ¶ 2.) Mercy knew about the surgery when it hired Quinn. (Id. ¶ 3.)

Even after the surgery, Quinn continued to have back problems. Her physician, Dr. Matthew O'Donnell, testified as follows:

My understanding was that her condition at times was not severe enough to interfere with working and normal activities of daily life, and then there would be times where her back pain would be so severe that she wasn't able to bend at the waist let alone pick up something more than five pounds. That's kind of standard for chronic back pain. (O'Donnell Dep. at 85.) In March 2007, Quinn requested leave under the FMLA because of her back problems. That request was granted. (SUF ¶¶ 15-16.)

In April 2008, Quinn missed four days of work because of lower back pain and conjunctivitis. (Id. ¶ 30.) During that time, she visited Dr. O'Donnell for treatment. (Quinn Dep. at 201-03.) Someone in Dr. O'Donnell's office gave Quinn a doctor's note dated April 23, 2008 that states that Quinn was suffering from "chronic LBP [lower back pain] with flare." (Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J., Ex. G.) Before returning to work on April 25, 2008, Quinn added the words "w/ [with] conjunctivitis eye" underneath the "chronic LBP with flare" notation. (Id., Ex. H; SUF ¶ 40.) She added the note about conjunctivitis with permission from Dr. O'Donnell's office staff. (Pl.'s Resp. to Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J., Ex. 2.)*fn2 Quinn gave the altered note to Christine Chalmers, her supervisor. (SUF ¶ 44.)

On June 6, 2008, Quinn attended a meeting with Chalmers and human relations director Vincent Arch. (SUF ¶ 50.) At the meeting, Arch informed Quinn that she was being terminated. (Quinn Dep. at 245.) While Chalmers was still in the room, Arch told Quinn that the termination was based on her alteration of the doctor's note. (Id. at 239.) At some point during the meeting, Chalmers left. At that point, according to Quinn, Arch informed her that her termination "really wasn't [because of] the doctor's note. It was FMLA. He said, you're -- you're not going to hold this over our head." (Id. at 451.) According to Quinn, Arch also said she "was a liability to the hospital because of her disability and taking time off under the FMLA." (Pl.'s Interrog. Resps. ¶ 4.)

Quinn was officially terminated by letter from Arch dated June 16, 2008. (Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J., Ex. J.) In November 2008, she was hired by another hospital. (SUF ¶ 58.)

In the instant action, Quinn alleges a variety of claims arising under the FMLA, ADA and PHRA stemming from her employment with and termination by Mercy. Mercy has moved for summary judgment. Its motion is fully briefed and ripe for review.

III. LEGAL STANDARD

In considering a motion for summary judgment, "the court is required to examine the evidence of record in the light most favorable to the party opposing summary judgment, and resolve all reasonable inferences in that party's favor." Wishkin v. Potter, 476 F.3d 180, 184 (3d Cir. 2007). The party opposing the motion, however, cannot "rely merely upon bare assertions, conclusory allegations or suspicions" to support its claim. Fireman's Ins. Co. v. DuFresne, 676 F.2d 965, 969 (3d Cir. 1982). After examining the evidence of record, a court should grant summary judgment if the moving party "shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a); accord Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986).

A factual dispute is material when it "might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law," and genuine when "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). "Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party, there is no 'genuine issue for ...


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