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Mansoor Khan v. West Penn Allegheny Health System

August 31, 2012

MANSOOR KHAN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
WEST PENN ALLEGHENY HEALTH SYSTEM, INC., AND ALLEGHENY GENERAL HOSPITAL, DEFENDANTS.



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

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER OF COURT

Presently pending before the Court for disposition is the MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (Doc. No. 31) filed by Defendants West Penn Allegheny Health System, Inc., and Allegheny General Hospital (collectively "AGH"). Attached to the motion are a number of exhibits. Defendants have also filed a brief in support of their motion, Doc. No. 32, and a concise statement of material facts, Doc. No. 33. Plaintiff opposes the motion for summary judgment, and has filed a responsive statement to Defendants' concise statement of material facts, Doc. No. 37, with addendum, Doc. No. 38, as well as a brief in support of his opposition to the motion, Doc. No. 39. Defendants filed a reply brief at Doc. No. 40. The motion has been fully briefed and the motion is now ripe for disposition. For the reasons that follow, the motion will be denied.

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

The claim at the heart of this lawsuit stems from the allegedly unlawful termination of Plaintiff from the medical psychiatric residency program during his third year at AGH. Plaintiff originally initiated this action by filing a complaint in which he raised claims of retaliation and disparate treatment in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. §2000e-5 ("Title VII"), and a claim of discrimination under the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, 43 P.S. §951, et seq. ("PHRA"). Doc. No. 1. On August 30, 2011, Plaintiff amended his complaint, once again raising retaliation and disparate impact claims under Title VII, a discrimination claim under the PHRA, and a pendent state law claim for breach of contract. Doc. No. 13. Defendants answered the amended complaint and, following the completion of discovery, have moved for summary judgment. The Court notes that Plaintiff has since stipulated to the withdrawal of all claims alleged in the amended complaint with the sole exception of the Title VII retaliation claim. See Doc. Nos. 27 & 35. Accordingly, the Court will consider Defendants' motion for summary judgment on that single remaining basis.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Summary judgment is appropriate if, drawing all inferences in favor of the nonmoving party, "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue of material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56 (c). Summary judgment may be granted against a party who fails to adduce facts sufficient to establish the existence of any element essential to that party's case, and for which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322, (1986).

More specifically, the moving party bears the initial burden of identifying evidence which demonstrates the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Once that burden has been met, the nonmoving party must set forth "specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial" or the factual record will be taken as presented by the moving party and judgment will be entered as a matter of law. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Corp. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587, (1986) (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e) (emphasis in original)). An issue is genuine only "if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, (1986).

BACKGROUND

The following facts are taken from the Court's independent review of the parties' motions, the filings in support and opposition thereto, and the record as a whole. As the law requires, all disputed facts and inferences are to be resolved in favor of the nonmoving party. Plaintiff is a Muslim of Pakistani origin who, at the time of the events described in the amended complaint, was a third-year resident in the Psychiatric Residency Program at AGH, which is a four year course of study. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 3, 14-15. In addition to treating patients under the supervision of attending physicians, residents take classes, participate in journal clubs and perform other activities to advance their education in the field of psychiatry. Swanson Dep. 6 (Jan. 27, 2012). At all times relevant, Gary Swanson, M.D., was the program director for the adult residency training program at AGH. Id. at 5:6 -- 9. Dr. Swanson is also the member of the Residency Education Committee ("education committee") that meets on a periodic basis to discuss and review the progress of residents. Id. at 7:2 -- 8:5.

A. Plaintiff's termination from the residency program and reinstatement

Prior to the termination of Plaintiff's residency that underpins this case, Plaintiff's participation in the residency program had been previously terminated by a decision of the education committee during his third year. While a detailed analysis of the circumstances that led to that decision is not necessary at this juncture, a brief description is appropriate in order to provide a degree of context to the subsequent actions of the parties. The education committee had discussed concerns regarding Plaintiff's professionalism during his first and second years of residency. While those issues arose prior to the third year, as Dr. Swanson explained, "There were concerns, but he was doing well enough to pass." Swanson Dep. at 9:9 -- 10. During his second year, Plaintiff received a verbal reprimand from Dr. Swanson for a verbal altercation which Plaintiff had with Dr. Padjama Chilikapati, the chief resident. Id. at 11:4 -- 23. Relatively early in Plaintiff's third year, the education committee revisited its concerns regarding his professionalism (based in part on complaints from patients), and his score on the PRITE examination (a practice test that is taken every year by the residents in preparation for taking the Board examinations at the conclusion of the residency program)*fn1 . Id. at 12:13 -- 17; 16:3 -- 11; 17:18 -- 21. Early into his third year, on September 3, 2008, the education committee issued a deficiency letter to Plaintiff in an effort to help him remediate deficiencies. Id. at 17:18 -- 21. After Plaintiff responded to the deficiency letter, the education committee met again, and issued a second deficiency letter, this one dated October 10, 1008. Id. 17:18 -- 18:14. This second deficiency letter informed Plaintiff that the concerns had not been successfully remediated. Id. Additional concerns arose, including Plaintiff's proficiency with his cognitive behavioral therapy ("CBT") requirement. Id. at 13:18 -- 14:19. After a third meeting regarding Plaintiff's lack of progress, the education committee decided to terminate his residency. Id. at 18: 9 -- 14. The ultimate decision to terminate was based upon the committee's concerns regarding Plaintiff's professionalism. Id. at 15:17 -- 20. Plaintiff was notified of his termination by letter of March 9, 2009. Doc. No. 31 at exhibit A, Khan Dep. 31 (Dec. 15, 2011).

Plaintiff appealed his residency termination pursuant to the provisions of the AGH Graduate Medical Education ("GME") Academic Improvement Policy. See id. at Dep. Ex. 4. Following a review of the decision, the GME Review Team overturned the termination decision and reinstated Plaintiff into the residency program, but required him to repeat his third year of residency. Id. As part of the reinstatement, the Review Team required Dr. Swanson to prepare a detailed and specific remediation plan for Plaintiff to follow. Id. On June 30, 2009, Plaintiff signed the "Agreement of Appointment" regarding his reinstatement and the remediation plan prepared by Dr. Swanson. Id. at Dep. Exs. 5 & 6.

B. Plaintiff is reinstated to begin his third year residency again

The remediation plan included the appointment of a faculty mentor, Dr. Anthony Mannarino, to assume a support role for Plaintiff as he again undertook his third year of residency. Pl. Depo. Tr. pp. 42 -- 43; Mannarino Depo. Tr. 36 -- 37 (Dec. 21, 2011). At the time, Dr. Mannrino was a vice president at AGH, and was selected, in part, because he had not previously supervised Plaintiff. Mannarino Dep. Tr. pp. 13, 35 -- 36. At their first meeting, Dr. Mannarino advised Plaintiff that Dr. Mannarino was not his supervisor, but was there to provide support and be a mentor and advocate. Id at pp. 43 -- 44. Thereafter, Dr. Mannarino regularly met with Plaintiff to discuss issues, which Dr. Mannarino would thereafter discuss with Dr. Swanson and ...


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