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Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Grane Healthcare Co.

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

July 7, 2014



KIM R. GIBSON, District Judge.

I. Introduction

Before the Court is a motion for partial reconsideration (ECF No. 147), wherein the Defendants seek reconsideration of the Court's earlier decision denying their motion for summary judgment and granted partial summary judgment in favor of the Plaintiff. For the reasons that follow, the motion will be denied.

II. Background

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") commenced this action against Grane Healthcare Company ("Grane") and the Ebensburg Care Center, LLC ("ECC"), on September 30, 2010, seeking to redress violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq. , committed in connection with the staffing of the Cambria Care Center ("CCC"). While the Defendants acknowledge that they had subjected prospective employees of the CCC to pre-offer medical examinations and inquiries in violation of Title I of the ADA, they moved for summary judgment on the ground that none of the prospective employees had suffered injuries that could be redressed in this action. (ECF Nos. 92-93). In a motion for partial summary judgment, the EEOC sought an order enjoining the Defendants from subjecting job applicants to pre-employment medical examinations and medical inquires. (ECF Nos. 95-96). In a decision dated March 6, 2014, the Court denied the Defendants' motion for summary judgment and granted the EEOC's motion for partial summary judgment with respect to its claims against Grane. EEOC v. Grane Healthcare Co. , Civil No. 3:10-250, 2014 WL 896820, at *28 (W.D. Pa. Mar. 6, 2014). Grane was permanently enjoined from conducting medical examinations and inquires before extending job offers to its applicants. Id. The EEOC's motion was denied with respect to the ECC, which operates under the fictitious name of the CCC, because that entity's coverage under Title I remains in dispute.

Unlike a private plaintiff, the EEOC "may seek specific relief for a group of aggrieved individuals without first obtaining class certification pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23." General Telephone Co. of the Northwest, Inc. v. EEOC , 446 U.S. 318, 333-34 (1980). Here, the EEOC seeks relief for more than 300 job applicants who underwent medical examinations and responded to medical inquiries in connection with the CCC's hiring process. (ECF No. 95-1 at 1-8). The class includes both successful and unsuccessful job applicants. The instant motion for partial reconsideration concerns only the claims asserted on behalf of those job applicants who were ultimately hired.

III. Legal Standard

The Court's authority to reconsider its earlier ruling is governed by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(b), which provides:

When an action presents more than one claim for relief-whether as a claim, counterclaim, crossclaim, or third-party claim-or when multiple parties are involved, the court may direct entry of a final judgment as to one or more, but fewer than all, claims or parties only if the court expressly determines that there is no just reason for delay. Otherwise, any order or other decision, however designated, that adjudicates fewer than all the claims or the rights and liabilities of fewer than all the parties does not end the action as to any of the claims or parties and may be revised at any time before the entry of a judgment adjudicating all the claims...

Fed. R. Civ. P. 54(b). The plain language of Rule 54(b) provides a federal court with "general discretionary authority to review and revise interlocutory rulings" before the entry of a final judgment. Pellicano v. Blue Cross Blue Shield Association , 540 F.Appx. 95, 97 n.4 (3d Cir. 2013) (unpublished); Wagoner v. Wagoner , 938 F.2d 1120, 1122 n.1 (10th Cir. 1991). Because no final judgment has been entered in this case, the Court "possesses inherent power over interlocutory orders" and remains free to "reconsider them when it is consonant with justice to do so." United States v. Jerry , 487 F.2d 600, 605 (3d Cir. 1973).

IV. Discussion

In their motion for partial reconsideration, the Defendants merely reassert arguments that the Court has already considered and rejected. Furthermore, in a subsequent reply brief to their motion for reconsideration, the Defendants assert that their motion is now moot because the EEOC will not seek any type of compensatory, punitive, or other monetary damages resulting from the pre-offer screening of the successful job applicants. (ECF No. 150-1). Nevertheless, to provide more clarity on its earlier decision, the Court will briefly reiterate why the Defendants are not entitled to summary judgment with respect to the claims brought on behalf of the successful applicants.

The relevant provision of Title I is codified at 42 U.S.C. § 12112(d)(2)(A) and provides that "a covered entity shall not conduct a medical examination or make inquiries of a job applicant as to whether such applicant is an individual with a disability or as to the nature or severity of such disability" before extending an offer of employment. This "prophylactic" provision-which denies employers access to medical information about prospective employees while personnel decisions are being made-"aims to ensure that such information does not infect the employee-selection process." Grane , 2014 WL 896820, at *16. It is axiomatic that an employer cannot discriminate against an applicant "on the basis of disability" without knowing that he or she is "disabled."[1] Geraci v. Moody-Tottrup, International, Inc. , 82 F.3d 578, 581 (3d Cir. 1996).

Congress's primary objective in enacting § 12112(d)(2)(A) was to proscribe investigative techniques that would identify disabled job applicants and exclude them from further consideration for employment. Griffin v. Steeltek , 160 F.3d 591, 594 (10th Cir. 1998). The Defendants contend that Congress intended to protect only those individuals who are excluded from employment opportunities because of unlawfully discovered medical conditions, leaving no redress available to applicants who are hired after undergoing illegal medical examinations or responding to illegal medical inquiries. (ECF No. 148 at 1-3). Contrary to the Defendants' interpretation, a violation of § 12112(d)(2)(A) occurs as soon as "an employer conducts an improper medical examination or asks an improper disability-related question, regardless of the results or response." Green v. Joy Cone Co. , 107 F.Appx. 278, 280 (3d Cir. 2004) (unpublished). Although the protection of successful applicants was not the primary impetus for Congress's enactment of § 12112(d)(2)(A), "it is ultimately the provisions of our laws rather than the principal concerns of our legislators by which we are governed." Oncale v. Sundower Offshore Services, Inc. , 523 ...

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