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Shaista Gul Chughtai v. Jeanes Hospital and Temple University Health System

September 26, 2012


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


Plaintiff, Shaista Gul Chugtai, has brought this action against her former employer, Jeanes Hospital ("Jeanes"), a member of the Temple University Health System, Inc., asserting claims for race and national origin discrimination in employment pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq.; 42 U.S.C. § 1981; and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, 43 Pa. Stat. § 951, et seq. (the "PHRA"). Before the Court is Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment. For the reasons that follow, Defendants' Motion is granted.


Plaintiff, who is originally from Pakistan, moved to the United States in 2007.*fn2 (Chugtai Dep. at 13.) Later that year, she began working at Just Children day care, where she worked for two years. (Id. at 15.) In January 2008, while she was working at Just Children, she enrolled in a program at the Sanford Brown Institute to become a medical assistant. (Id. at 16-17.) Plaintiff worked at Jeanes twice. The first time, Plaintiff was completing an externship requirement as part of her medical assistant program. (Id. at 18.) The second time, a few months after she earned her certificate as a medical assistant, her former supervisor from Jeanes asked her to return to fill a temporary position. (Id. at 86-88.) Plaintiff's claims arise from her experiences during both her externship and her later position with Jeanes.

A. The Externship

In January 2009, Sanford Brown arranged for Plaintiff to become an extern at Jeanes. (Id. at 19.) During her externship, which lasted approximately six weeks, Plaintiff worked in two departments at Jeanes, Pre-Admissions Testing and Business Health. (Id. at 20-21, 24.) Elaine Proudman was her supervisor in both departments. (Id. at 21-22.)

Plaintiff's responsibilities in the Business Health Department involved: scheduling appointments; escorting patients into their appointment rooms; taking health histories and blood pressures; scheduling x-rays, MRIs, and CT scans; getting patients their bandages and medications; and performing other tests ordered by the doctors. (Id. at 22-23.) In the Pre-Admission Testing Department, Plaintiff was also responsible for drawing blood and performing EKGs. (Id. at 25-26.) Plaintiff worked in Pre-Admission Testing for approximately two weeks of her externship. (Id. at 24-25.) While she was there, she had trouble with two other medical assistants, Natasha Beauchmin and Gina Rockmore. (Id. at 23, 26.) She also had problems with Dr. Susan Packer, who worked in both Pre-Admission Testing and Business Health. (Id. at 26; Packer Dep. at 10-11.)

Plaintiff claims that Beauchmin and Rockmore bullied her about her national origin and religion (Islam)*fn3 and were mean to her. (Chugtai Dep. at 27-28.) Specifically, Plaintiff reports that, while she was assigned to Pre-Admission Testing during her externship, Beauchmin: (1) made comments about people from other countries coming to take our jobs and people from other countries not knowing how to speak English (id. at 28-29, 36); (2) made fun of Plaintiff's accent and repeatedly referred to her as a "headache" (id. at 42-44); and (3) remarked to other people (Proudman and two receptionists), that Plaintiff is stupid, and told Proudman that Plaintiff did not know how to speak to patients. (Id. at 28.) Rockmore once asked Plaintiff why she was wearing a long sleeved shirt under her scrubs, and Plaintiff responded by telling Rockmore that she is a Muslim and likes to cover herself. (Id. at 38.) In addition, both Beauchmin and Rockmore interrupted Plaintiff's appointments with patients to ask the patients whether Plaintiff was doing her job properly (id. at 54), and failed to properly train her. (Id. at 53-54).

Plaintiff never complained to Jeanes's Human Resources Department or to her supervisor regarding the way she was treated while she was working in Pre-Admission Testing during her externship. (Id. at 72-73, 245.) However, Proudman noticed Beauchmin's and Rockford's treatment of Plaintiff and asked Plaintiff about it. (Id. at 32-33.) Proudman spoke to Beauchmin and Rockford about their treatment of Plaintiff and told them that their attitudes were not acceptable. (Id. at 67-68.)

Plaintiff also maintains that Dr. Packer, a physician employed in both the Business Health and Pre-Admission Testing Departments, treated her hostilely during her externship in the following manner: (1) by asking her to repeat things that she said; (2) demonstrating work Plaintiff was to perform in the reception area rather than in a treatment room; and (3) observing Plaintiff while she scheduled MRIs and CT Scans for patients. (Id. at 44- 46.) Plaintiff also recalls that, on one or two occasions, Dr. Packer walked by when Beauchmin and Rockford complained about Plaintiff's English and laughed with them instead of disciplining them. (Id. at 47.)

After her two weeks in Pre-Admission Testing, Plaintiff spent the rest of her externship in Jeanes's Business Health Department. (Id. at 72.) She considers the rest of her experience at Jeanes to have been positive. (Id. at 77.) After Plaintiff's externship ended, she completed her program at Sanford Brown and received a medical assistant certificate. (Id. at 82-83.) Plaintiff filled out a job application at Jeanes and returned to her prior job at Just Children day care. (Id. at 78, 80-81.)

B. The Temporary Job

In May 2009, Proudman contacted Plaintiff and asked if she would work temporarily at Jeanes to help out in the Business Health Department while she (Proudman) took a leave from her job because her husband was sick. (Id. at 86-88.) Proudman told Plaintiff during that call that she thought the temporary job at Jeanes would last for one month, or until her (Proudman's) husband was better, and that she would try to get Plaintiff a permanent position at Jeanes. (Id. at 86-88.) Plaintiff took a one-month leave from her job at Just Children to take the temporary job at Jeanes. (Id. at 86-88.) Jeanes's written Offer of Employment to Plaintiff states that she was offered a temporary full time, "1 month duration," position as a Medical Assistant in Business Health on May 15, 2009. (Id. Ex. P4.)

Plaintiff started working at Jeanes on May 25, 2009. (Id. at 89.) The day before she started, she attended an orientation at Jeanes's Human Resources Department where she was given her identification and Employee Handbook. (Id. at 98-99.) The Employee Handbook contains Jeanes's Equal Opportunity Policies, but Plaintiff did not read them and, therefore, was not aware of Jeanes's policies for filing complaints when she felt that she was being treated unfairly. (Id. at 99-100.)

Plaintiff's temporary job at Jeanes was full time, eight hours per day, forty hours per week in the Business Health Department. (Id. at 102.) Her responsibilities generally included helping out the other medical assistant, Ruth; she also conducted respirator fit testing during one week. (Id. at 90-91.) She also took patients to appointment rooms, filed, made appointments, scheduled MRIs, x-rays and other tests, administered tuberculosis tests, and provided patients with crutches. (Id. at 91-92.)

Plaintiff sometimes encountered Dr. Packer while she was working in Business Health during the summer of 2009. (Id. at 93-95.) Dr. Packer again gave Plaintiff instruction in front of other people and listened to her schedule MRIs over the phone. (Id. at 93-94, 105.) Dr. Packer also commented on Plaintiff's religion twice. Once, Dr. Packer asked Plaintiff why she was wearing long sleeves and Plaintiff informed her that it was because she is Muslim. (Id. at 104-05.) On the second occasion, at the end of Plaintiff's stay in Business Health, Plaintiff became offended when Dr. Packer asked her why she had ordered a chicken pizza instead of pepperoni for a pizza party. (Id. at 94-95.) When Plaintiff told Dr. Packer that she did not eat pepperoni, Dr. Packer said, with an attitude that Plaintiff believed indicated that she was being made fun of, "oh, you are Musli[m], that's why you [didn't] order the pepperoni." (Id. at 94-95.)

Proudman's husband died and she returned to work one month after she began her leave. (Id. at 110.) Plaintiff's position in Business Health did not end when Proundman returned, however, but lasted until September 2009. (Id. at 108.) Plaintiff believes that she retained her job in Business Health after Proudman's return because she had been made a permanent employee. Plaintiff bases her belief on a conversation she had with Proudman after her return. Plaintiff asked Proudman whether she needed to go back to her job at Just Children because Proudman returned to Jeanes, and Proudman told her "no, we like you, so we are giving you the job here so you will work with us so you can resign on the job." (Id. at 110.) Plaintiff resigned her job with Just Children in July 2009. (Id. at 110-11, 114.) Although Plaintiff believed, at this point, that she would be staying in Business Health as a permanent employee, she did not go to Human Resources to fill out any new paperwork and never received any health or dental benefits from Jeanes. (Id. at 112-15.)

Defendants have a different explanation for Plaintiff's retention in Business Health after Proudman's return. Proudman believes that Plaintiff was allowed to stay in Business Health for two months after her return to help her (Proudman) get re-acclimated to the job after her husband's death. (Proudman Dep. at 38-39.) In September 2009, Proudman received a call from Mary Weymer, who worked in Jeanes's Human Resources Department, who told Proudman that Plaintiff's temporary job in Business Health was ending. (Id. at 39.) Proudman then told Plaintiff that the Friday of that week would be her last day at Jeanes. (Id. at 40.)

Maureen Kelly became the part-time office manager in Pre-AdmissionTesting in July 2009. (Kelly Dep. at 11.) In September 2009, she learned that Rockmore would be going out on temporary medical leave. (Id. at 17, 19.) Kelly's boss told her that there was a medical assistant in Business Health who was going to be laid off because her job was ending and suggested hiring her for the two weeks that Rockmore would be out. (Id. at 17-18.) Weymer then asked Proudman if she thought that Plaintiff would want to help fill in temporarily in Pre-Admission Testing, and Proudman sent Plaintiff to Human Resources to talk to Weymer about the position. (Proudman Dep. at 41.) Weymer told Plaintiff that there was a temporary, short-term, position available in Pre-Admission Testing. (Weymer Dep. at 41.) Plaintiff asked if there was another department she could go to instead, but Jeanes did not have any open medical assistant positions in any other department at that time. (Id. at 42.) Weymer further told Plaintiff that the position in Pre-Admission Testing was temporary, that she would be covering for someone who was out on a leave of absence and would be back some time in October and, at that time, Plaintiff's temporary assignment at Jeanes would end and she would no longer be employed by the hospital. (Id. at 43-44.)

Plaintiff began working in Pre-Admission Testing on September 18 or 19, 2009. (Chugtai Dep. at 124.) Her recollection of her switch to the Pre-Admission Testing Department is different from those of Proudman, Kelly, and Weymer. According to Plaintiff, sometime in mid-September 2009, she was told by Proudman that the Human Resources Department was sending her to Pre-Admission Testing. (Id. at 111.) Human Resources insisted on the transfer, even though Proudman told Human Resources about Plaintiff's prior, negative, experiences in Pre-Admission Testing during her externship. (Id.) Plaintiff then personally went to Human Resources to tell Weymer what had happened to her in Pre-Admission Testing during her externship, but was told that she would be transferred there anyway. (Id. at 117, 121.)

About a week after Plaintiff started working in Pre-Admission Testing, she received a letter from Weymer dated September 28, 2009, that states "[w]e are pleased to confirm our offer for the position of Medical Assistant, on a Temporary Full-Time basis for the Pre-Admission Testing Department effective September 21, 2009." (Id. at 134, Ex. P8.) Plaintiff believed the letter meant that ...

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