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Wilson v. Advanced Urgent Care, P.C.

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

March 8, 2017

ERIN K. WILSON, Plaintiff,
v.
ADVANCED URGENT CARE, P.C., ADVANCED URGENT CARE OF MONTGOMERYVILLE, LLC., INCARE, LLC., MEHDI NIKPARVAR, M.D. Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Matthew W. Brann United States District Judge

         I. Background

         Plaintiff, Erin K. Wilson (hereinafter “Wilson”), filed a complaint on February 8, 2016, and then a four count amended complaint on February 12, 2016.[1] Named as defendants are her former employers, one individual, Mehdi Nikparvar, M.D.; and three corporate defendants, Advanced Urgent Care, P.C., Advanced Urgent Care of Montgomeryville, LLC., and Incare, LLC. Count I, brought under Title VII alleges sexual harassment/hostile work environment against the three corporate defendants. Count II, also brought under Title VII, alleges retaliatory discharge from employment against the three corporate defendants. Count III is an allegation of a violation of the retaliation provision of the False Claims Act against all defendants. Count IV alleges sexual harassment and retaliation under the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act against the corporate defendants.

         Defendant Advanced Urgent Care, PC (hereinafter “AUC”), is a walk-in medical treatment center with multiple locations in Pennsylvania. Its answer to the amended complaint was due April 13, 2016; but no answer was filed. The Clerk entered default on May 3, 2016. Plaintiff moved for default judgment against it[2], and a hearing was held on January 19, 2017. No counsel has entered an appearance on behalf of AUC and no counsel appeared on its behalf at that hearing.

         Defendant Advanced Urgent Care of Montgomeryville, LLC (hereinafter “AUCOM”), is a wholly-owned subsidiary of AUC. AUCOM was Plaintiff's employer at the time her employment was terminated. Its answer to the amended complaint was due May 24, 2016; no answer was filed. The Clerk entered default on May 3, 2016. Plaintiff moved for default judgment against it[3], and a hearing was also held on January 19, 2017. Unlike AUC, counsel entered an appearance on behalf of AUCOM and provided representation at the hearing. Counsel has not, however, filed an answer on AUCOM's behalf, nor has counsel filed a motion to set aside default (although orally requested upon my prompting at the hearing). Counsel also failed to comply with my Order entered following the hearing which directed a brief on the issue of default judgment be filed by February 16, 2017.

         Defendant Incare, LLC is the predecessor to AUC, and Plaintiff's original employer. Incare has not been served with process.

         The final defendant is Mehdi Nikparvar, MD. According to the complaint, he is the medical director at the State College, Pennsylvania AUC facility. Testimony was elicited at the hearing that indicated that he is the owner or principal of the three corporate defendants. Dr. Nikparvar answered the complaint, pro se, on May 26, 2016. He did not appear at the January 19, 2017 hearing.

         II. Discussion

         a. Facts

         Wilson began to work for Incare, LLC in 2011, and continued at its State College facility after Incare's acquisition by the Advanced Urgent Care defendants. She was terminated on January 8, 2014. All of the events in question that give rise to this litigation took place on that date. The pertinent allegations from the amended complaint which are accepted as true after the hearing and testimony are as follows (and are numbered as they are in that document):

24. On January 8, 2014, Plaintiff was subjected to a series of lewd, vulgar and inappropriate comments of a sexual nature from Nikparvar.
a. Plaintiff and Nikparvar were engaged in a discussion concerning the filling of a prescription for a patient who had been treated at the Practice just a few days earlier.
b. Plaintiff inquired whether it was necessary for the patient to return to the Practice in order for Nikparvar to write the prescription since the patient had been seen in the office just a few days earlier.
c. In response, and in front of Plaintiff's colleagues, Nikparvar asked Plaintiff perhaps ten times in an increasingly louder voice and with an agitated and antagonistic demeanor, “Do you give blow jobs for free?” or words to that effect.
d. Plaintiff was shocked and mortified, but finally responded, “No.” e. Arguing that the patient should return to the Practice so that Nikparvar could derive an additional fee, Nikparvar analogized, “That's right, you charge money for blow-jobs and we don't give anything for free either….” f. Nikparvar's analogy characterized Plaintiff as a prostitute who accepts money in exchange for sexual acts.
32. In fact, later that same day, Plaintiff requested to meet with Nikparvar and Elizabeth Harclerode, Defendant's Office Manager, to register a formal complaint and specifically oppose the Sexual Harassment. At this meeting:
a. Plaintiff opposed Nikparvar's Sexual Harassment noting that she was highly offended by his angry outburst, offensive rhetoric, and repeated references to oral sex.
b. Plaintiff opposed Nikparvar's Sexual Harassment noting that his progressively louder and lude “blow job” comments were uncalled-for, hostile, and intimidating.
c. Plaintiff opposed Nikparvar's Sexual Harassment noting that she was highly offended by his characterization of her as a woman who would accept or has accepted money to perform sexual acts.
33. At this meeting, Nikparvar belittled Plaintiff, chastised her for becoming emotionally upset and offended by his conduct and comments, and dismissed the import of her complaint.
34. Nikparvar admitted to making the “blow job” comments, but attempted to marginalize the gravity of his remarks by explaining that he did so “because that is all your mentality would understand”.
35. Nikparvar response to Plaintiff's formal complaint underscores his misogynistic attitude.
36. Accordingly, Nikparvar threatened Plaintiff that she could leave her employment if she was so highly offended by his comments and behavior.
37. Plaintiff replied that she did not intend to resign but that she expected Nikparvar to refrain from future sexually offensive, harassing, intimidating, and misogynistic conduct.
38. Plaintiff also informed Nikparvar that she believed he was attempting to engage in Medicare fraud by requiring a patient who had been treated at the Practice days earlier to be treated in the office again and billed a second time for an in-office ...

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