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Eileen Mcguire v. Palmerton Hospital and Lois Richards

June 20, 2012


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


Plaintiff Eileen McGuire brought this breach of contract and wrongful termination action in the Monroe County Court of Common Pleas*fn1 to recover damages sustained during and following her employment with Palmerton Hospital. She sues Palmerton Hospital and her immediate supervisor, Lois Richards. Palmerton Hospital and Richards removed the case to this Court based on federal question jurisdiction. Presently before the Court is Plaintiff's motion to remand. For the reasons that follow, the Court grants Plaintiff's motion.


McGuire was hired by Palmerton Hospital as a Computerized Tomography ("CT") Technologist on October 13, 2008, and she reported directly to Richards, the Director of Radiology.

(Compl. ¶¶ 13, 15.) She was fifty-five years old when hired and was the oldest CT Technologist at Palmerton Hospital. (Id. ¶¶ 16, 17.) Although hospital policy requires all CT Technologists to perform on-call services, McGuire conditioned her acceptance of employment on having no on-call assignments. (Id. ¶ 12.)

McGuire asserts that while at Palmerton Hospital, she was ordered to perform multiple illegal and unethical healthcare practices that violated the Occupational Safety and Health Act ("OSHA"), Nuclear Regulatory Commission regulations, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection regulations, American Registry of Radiological Technology regulations and code of ethics, Pennsylvania Professional Nursing Law, Pennsylvania Health and Safety Code, and other statutory, regulatory, ethical, and public policy requirements. (Id. ¶ 19.) Defendants also committed acts that violated the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA") and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act ("PHRA"). (Id. ¶ 20.) McGuire refused to engage in the unlawful conduct required or encouraged by Palmerton Hospital and Richards. (Id. ¶¶ 21-29.)

McGuire was regularly harassed by Richards in front of other technologists throughout her employment, as well as by other employees and CT Technologists with the consent and encouragement of Richards. (Id. ¶¶ 31-32.) McGuire reported the harassment to Defendants, but no action was taken. (Id. ¶¶ 33-34.) Additionally, Richards and Sylvia Goral, Director of Human Resources, ordered McGuire to work an on-call schedule despite the agreement that she would not be required to do so. (Id. ¶ 36.) Richards and Goral told McGuire that if she did not report for her on-call assignments, she would be terminated for job abandonment, and consequently, McGuire worked the assigned on-call shifts. (Id. ¶¶ 37, 39.) Throughout McGuire's employment, Richards disciplined her for unknown and meritless violations. (Id. ¶ 41.) On July 19, 2011, Richards and another employee brought McGuire into a meeting and falsely accused her of refusing to perform a scan, canceling a CT order, and sending a patient to another facility. (Id. ¶¶ 45, 46.) At that meeting, Defendants terminated McGuire. (Id. ¶ 48.)

McGuire alleges that Defendants terminated her in retaliation for conduct she participated in that was required by law and for her refusal to perform acts prohibited by law. (Id. ¶ 50.) She claims that Defendants' actions violated public policy. (Id. ¶ 51.) McGuire also alleges that Defendants terminated her because she was significantly older than the other CT Technologists and that she was treated differently from younger CT Technologists and replaced by a younger CT Technologist. (Id. ¶ 53.)

McGuire sued Defendants in state court on March 7, 2010, bringing two causes of action against Defendants: (1) breach of contract, based on the parties' binding oral employment agreement that explicitly excluded on-call services; and (2) wrongful termination, based on McGuire's harassment and termination after she participated in conduct required by law, refused to perform acts prohibited by law, and engaged in conduct that she was privileged by law to perform. (Id. ¶¶ 57-70.) On April 5, 2012, Defendants filed a Notice of Removal pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1446 based upon federal question jurisdiction. On April 12, 2012, Defendants filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, and on May 7, 2012, Plaintiff filed a motion to remand.


Under 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a), defendants in state court may remove "any civil action . . . of which the district courts of the United States have original jurisdiction . . . to the district court of the United States for the district and division embracing the place where such action is pending." District courts have jurisdiction over civil actions arising under the laws of the United States. 28 U.S.C. § 1331. When the basis of removal is federal question jurisdiction under Section 1331, the propriety of removal rests on whether the plaintiff's complaint presents a federal question. Caterpillar, Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 392 (1987).

The removing defendant bears the burden of establishing jurisdiction. Pullman Co. v. Jenkins, 305 U.S. 534, 540 (1939); Boyer v. Snap-On Tools Corp., 913 F.2d 108, 111 (3d Cir. 1990). "Because lack of jurisdiction would make any decree in the case void and continuation of the litigation in federal court futile, the removal statute should be strictly construed and all doubts should be resolved in favor of remand." Abels v. State Farm Fire & Cas. Co., 770 F.2d 26, 29 (3d Cir. 1985); see also Brown v. Francis, 75 F.3d 860, 864-65 (3d Cir. 1996).


Plaintiff contends that this Court has no federal question jurisdiction because her Complaint alleges only state law claims, namely breach of contract and wrongful termination. (Pl.'s Mot. to Remand [Pl.'s Mot.] at 3.) She argues that any references to federal statutes and regulations are merely examples of Defendants' improper behavior. (Id.) Defendants counter that Plaintiff's claims arise under the ADEA and raise additional federal issues that require the ...

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