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Edith E. Thompson v. Upmc Presbyterian Shadyside

August 8, 2012


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


Presently before the Court for disposition is the MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT, with brief in support, filed by Defendant, UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside (Document Nos. 29 and 32, respectively), the brief in opposition filed by Plaintiff (Document No. 38), and the REPLY BRIEF filed by Defendant (Document No. 42).


After a careful consideration of Defendant's motion, the filings in support and opposition thereto, the memoranda of the parties, the relevant case law, and the record as a whole, the Court finds that there are genuine issues of material fact which remain surrounding the issue of whether Plaintiff's race was a motivating factor and/or that Plaintiff's age was a determinative factor in the decision by UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside ("Presby/Shadyside") to terminate Plaintiff's employment. Accordingly, the Motion for Summary Judgment will be denied.

Procedural Background

Plaintiff, Edith E. Thompson ("Plaintiff"), initiated this lawsuit on November 5, 2010, by filing a four-count Complaint against her former employer, Presby/Shadyside. Plaintiff alleges that her employment was unlawfully terminated because of her gender, race and age. The Court has been advised that Plaintiff has withdrawn her gender claim. See Def's Brief at 3, n.2. Therefore, the Court addresses only the remaining claims of alleged unlawful termination in violation of Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(1), the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"), 29 U.S.C. §§623(a)(1), et. seq. and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act ("PHRA"), §951, et. seq.

Defendant has filed the instant motion for summary judgment in which it contends that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law because Plaintiff is unable to establish a prima facie case on her Title VII and ADEA claims. In the alternative, Defendant argues that Plaintiff's employment was terminated for legitimate, nondiscriminatory reasons, namely "because in her role as a supervisor, she instructed subordinates to retroactively backfill and sign-off on log entries on Contrast Warmer Logsheets and Emergency Drug Check Sheets, thereby falsifying these documents, compromising patient care, and threatening the hospital's accreditation." Def's Br. at 2. Defendant further argues that there is no evidence that the reason for her termination is a pretext for unlawful discrimination because "the stated reason for termination -- complete loss of trust in a supervisor who directed subordinates to falsify logs -- is, in fact, the true reason Thompson's employment with the hospital came to an end." Def's Br. at 3.

Factual Background

As the law requires, all disputed facts and inferences are to be resolved most favorable to Plaintiff, the non-moving party Presby/Shadyside is the flagship hospital of the UMPC health system and serves as the centralized hub for a wide array of advanced tertiary and community care services which operates on two campuses located approximately two miles apart -- known respectively as the "Oakland Campus" or "Presby Western Psych" ("Presby") and the "Shadyside Campus" ("Shadyside").

An independent, not-for-profit organization, the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations ("Joint Commission") accredits and certifies more than 19,000 health care organizations and programs in the United States, and that accreditation and certification is recognized nationwide as a symbol of quality that reflects an organization's commitment to meeting certain performance standards. If falsified information or documentation is discovered during an audit, it can jeopardize Joint Commission accreditation. In 2009, falsified documentation or information may have resulted in preliminary denial of accreditation, which would subject Presby/ Shadyside to monitoring for a one-year probationary period during which time the hospital would be required to take corrective action. If the falsification is determined to be serious enough, it can result in final denial of Joint Commission accreditation, which would jeopardize all existing Presby/Shadyside contracts that require a Joint Commission accreditation.

Presby/Shadyside obtains its Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services certification by and through the Joint Commission's accreditation. To maintain the Joint Commission's accreditation, Presby/Shadyside must undergo on-site inspections by a Joint Commission survey team at least every three years. The Joint Commission does not announce or schedule specific inspection dates.

Plaintiff is an African American woman, who was 60 years old at the time her employment was terminated. Plaintiff worked at UPMC Presby from 2000-2001, then at Magee Women's Hospital from 2006-2007, after which she returned to Presby in 2007 and worked there as a computed tomography or "CT" scanning supervisor until 2008. In 2008, Plaintiff transferred and began working as a CT scanning supervisor at Shadyside where she remained until her termination in April 2009.

While working as a CT scanning supervisor, Plaintiff reported to Lydia Kleinschnitz, director of imaging/radiology ("Kleinschnitz"), who in turn reported to Charles Davis, program administrator of imaging ("Davis"). Plaintiff supervised approximately fifteen (15) CT Technologists (or "Techs") at Shadyside, including Allison Stitt ("Stitt") and Cassandra Falkenstein ("Falkenstein"), and she had responsibility for ensuring Joint Commission compliance in her area and for ensuring that her subordinates complied with standards established by the Joint Commission.

Staff in the Shadyside CT department performed CT scans on patients, some of which are conducted with the aid of a contrast agent, which is an intravenously administered dye solution that makes structures and organs easier to see. While undergoing CT scans, some patients experience discomfort when the contrast agent is injected.

Some rooms in the Shadyside CT department contain an emergency drug box, which houses the drugs that are used to counteract contrast reactions and complications. The drug box is locked with a plastic tie and is tagged with a serial number and an expiration date of the medications in the box. The CT department staff is responsible for checking the emergency drug box and related emergency equipment each day to ensure that the department is prepared to administer the necessary treatment in the event a patient were to have a contrast reaction.

The department keeps an Emergency Drug Check Sheet that is to be updated every day by a staff member who checks the emergency drug box and related emergency equipment. The staff member who completes the log must check the drug box to verify that it is locked and that the expiration date for the medications in the drug box has not passed, and then record the tag serial number and expiration date on the log. Additionally, the staff member completing the log must also check to ensure that the other emergency equipment is in the room and ready for use.

On March 25, 2009, in anticipation of a Joint Commission audit, Davis and Kleinschnitz performed a mock Joint Commission audit of the Shadyside scanning area. During this mock inspection, they discovered that there were missing entries on the March 2009 Emergency Drug Box and Contrast Warmer logs. Davis and Kleinschnitz emphasized to Plaintiff and the other staff members in the department that the checks must be done and the logs must be filled out on a daily basis from there on out.

Shortly after Davis and Kleinschnitz left the CT department, Plaintiff instructed CT Techs, Stitt and Falkenstein, to backfill log entries for days that had been missed in March on the Contrast Warmer Logsheets.

Four days later, on March 29, 2009, Kleinschnitz again inspected the radiology areas in Shadyside, and observed that the previously discovered blank log entries had been filled in with information and reflected initials of staff members. When asked, Plaintiff told Kleinschnitz that she had directed her staff to retroactively complete the blank log entries. Kleinschnitz advised Plaintiff that this was a problem and that Kleinschnitz needed to discuss the situation with representatives of the Accreditation and Regulatory Compliance and Human Resources departments.

Kleinschnitz then notified Linda Conroy, Director of Accreditation and Regulatory Compliance; Kathy Grills, Human Resources Manager; and Charles Davis, her direct supervisor, that information had been backfilled on the logs in the Shadyside CT department and that Plaintiff had directed her staff to backfill the logs. Thereafter, Plaintiff, Stitt, and Falkenstein were each requested to provide written statements of what had occurred and each confirmed that Plaintiff had instructed Stitt and Falkenstein to backfill the logs. Kathy Grills explained the situation to Louis Goodman, Vice-President of Human Resources, and provided him with the employee statements.

Plaintiff's employment was terminated on April 14, 2009. She alleges that two younger white females, Michelle Petit and Lois Miller, were hired to replace her. Plaintiff also contends that backfilling logs, such as the Contrast Warmer Logsheets and Emergency ...

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