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Malaspina v. UPMC Community Medicine, Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

September 30, 2014

LYNN MALASPINA, Plaintiff,
v.
UPMC COMMUNITY MEDICINE, INC., Defendant.

MEMORANDUM ORDER OF COURT RE: DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (DOC. NO. 35)

ARTHUR J. SCHWAB, District Judge.

I. Introduction

This case centers on alleged discrimination in employment and retaliation in violation of the Americans with Disability Act ("ADA"). Plaintiff, Lynn Malaspina, has alleged causes of action for discrimination and failure to accommodate her hearing disability in violation of the ADA (Count I); retaliation in violation of the ADA (Count II); and these same claims in violation of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (Count III). Doc. No. 22. Presently before this Court is a Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Defendant, in which Defendant moves this Court to enter judgment in its favor on all counts of the Amended Complaint. Doc. No. 35. Plaintiff opposes this Motion in its entirety. Doc. No. 41. The Motion has been fully briefed and is ripe for disposition. After consideration of the Motion, brief in support thereof, brief in opposition thereto, and the Parties' statements of material facts and exhibits (Doc. Nos. 35-38, 41-45), the Court will deny Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment. The case will proceed to trial, which is scheduled to begin on December 8, 2014. Doc. No. 16.

II. Standard of Review

The Court shall grant summary judgment if, drawing all inferences in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, "the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); see also Melrose, Inc. v. Pittsburgh, 613 F.3d 380, 387 (3d Cir. 2010); Manolovich v. Park, 461 Fed.Appx. 187, 190 (3d Cir. 2012).

A fact is "material" if proof of its existence or non-existence might affect the outcome of the suit under applicable law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, (1986); see also Smith v. Borough of Dunmore, 516 Fed.Appx. 194, 200 (3d Cir. 2013). Disputes must be both (1) material, meaning concerning facts that will affect the outcome of the issue under substantive law, and (2) genuine, meaning there is sufficient evidence supporting the claimed factual dispute "to require a jury or judge to resolve the parties' differing versions of the truth at trial." In re Lemington Home for Aged, 659 F.3d 282, 290 (3d Cir. 2011); see also S.H. ex rel. Durrell v. Lower Merion School Dist., 729 F.3d 248 (3d Cir. 2013).

A party moving for summary judgment has the initial burden of supporting its assertion that fact(s) cannot be genuinely disputed by citing to particular parts of materials in the record - i.e., depositions, documents, affidavits, stipulations, or other materials - or by showing that: (1) the materials cited by the non-moving party do not establish the presence of a genuine dispute, or (2) that the non-moving party cannot produce admissible evidence to support its fact(s). Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1). The moving party may discharge its burden by "pointing out to the district court" the "absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case" when the non-moving party bears the ultimate burden of proof for the claim in question. Conoshenti v. Public Service Elec. & Gas Co, 364 F.3d 135, 140 (3d Cir. 2004) (quoting Singletary v. Pennsylvania Dept. of Corrections, 266 F.3d 186, 192 n. 2 (3d Cir. 2001)).

Conversely, in order to defeat a motion for summary judgment, the non-moving party must support its assertion that fact(s) are genuinely disputed by citing to particular parts of materials in the record, or by showing that: (1) the materials cited by the moving party do not establish the absence of a genuine dispute, or (2) the moving party cannot produce admissible evidence to support its fact(s). Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1). When determining whether there are any genuine issues of material fact, all inferences should be drawn in favor of the non-moving party. Gallup v. Clarion Sintered Metals, Inc., 489 Fed.Appx. 553, 555 (3d Cir. 2012); Berckeley Inv. Group, Ltd. v. Colkitt, 455 F.3d 195, 201 (3d Cir. 2006).

In reviewing a motion for summary judgment, the court does not make credibility determinations, and summary judgment is "inappropriate when a case will turn on credibility determinations." El v. Southeastern Pennsylvania Transp. Authority, 479 F.3d 232 (3d Cir. 2007).

III. Statement of the Facts

The following material facts are undisputed by the Parties:

Plaintiff is a registered nurse, who had worked for Defendant in various positions for over 10 years. Doc. No. 45, ¶¶ 1, 4. Plaintiff has a hearing impairment that substantially affects her hearing. Id. at ¶ 2. Plaintiff used a telephone amplifier in at least one of her positions. Id. at ¶ 7. As early as 2009, Plaintiff received performance reviews that included marginal performance in "Communications." Id. at ¶¶ 8-10. She is a disabled individual as defined in the ADA. Id. at ¶ 2.

In August 2011, Plaintiff began employment as the office Registered Nurse ("RN") at the Burrell Medical Center. Id. at ¶ 11. The Burrell Medical Center is a family practice and consisted of Plaintiff, the office assistant, three medical assistants, and the physician. Id. at ¶ 13. Plaintiff was supervised by Pamela Newell, a Practice Group Manager. Id. at ¶ 12. Communication with patients, pharmacies, and physicians, in person and by telephone, were part of Plaintiff's job duties. Id. at ¶ 14. Plaintiff's hearing impairment limited her ability to hear telephone conversations and in-person conversations when the speaker was not facing her. Id. at ¶ 15. Patients complained to the physician about Plaintiff's hearing. Id. at ¶¶16-17.

In January 2012, Newell promoted Plaintiff to a clinical administrator role because she believed that Plaintiff had good job performance. Id. at ¶ 22. The following month, Plaintiff requested a quieter work area from WorkPartners, a UPMC-affiliated company that handles medical issues relating to employees of UPMC-affiliated entities. Id. at ¶¶ 25, 26. During this same time period, the physician at ...


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