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Cimino v. Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

June 27, 2017

LYNN M. CIMINO, Plaintiff,
v.
MAGEE-WOMENS HOSPITAL OF UPMC, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM ORDER

          CATHY BISSOON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Pending before the Court is Defendant Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC (“Defendant” or “UPMC”)'s Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 31). For the reasons that follow, Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment will be GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN PART.

         I. MEMORANDUM

         A. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff, Lynn Cimino (“Plaintiff” or “Cimino”), began working at Magee-Womens Hospital in September 1986 as a Registered Nurse. (Defendant's Concise Statement of Material Facts (Doc. 33)) at ¶1; (Plaintiff's Response to Defendant's Concise Statement of Material Facts (Doc. 37)) at ¶1. Cimino held various nursing-related positions with Magee-Womens Hospital, eventually becoming Unit Director of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (“NICU”), the position she held at the time of her separation. (Doc. 33) at ¶ 2; (Doc. 37) at ¶ 2. The Unit Director was responsible for managing the clinical, financial and administrative operations of the NICU. (Doc. 33) at ¶ 3; (Doc. 37) at ¶ 3. In April 2014, Susann Guess became the Director of Patient Care Services for Neonatal and Cimino's direct supervisor. (Doc. 33) at ¶ 6; (Doc. 37) at ¶ 6.

         In late February 2015, UPMC began a system-wide cost-savings initiative. (Doc. 33) at ¶ 7; (Doc. 37) at ¶ 7. In March, Magee-Womens Hospital notified Directors, including Guess, of the need to find ways to reduce costs in their units. (Doc. 33) at ¶ 8; (Doc. 37) at ¶ 8. Guess was tasked with finding approximately $250, 000 of cost-savings in the NICU's budget. (Doc. 33) at ¶ 9; (Doc. 37) at ¶ 9. Guess worked with Chief Nursing Officer Marybeth McLaughlin to suggest cost-savings solutions. (Doc. 33) at ¶ 10; (Doc. 37) at ¶ 10. In March or April, Guess presented McLaughlin with the option to eliminate Cimino's position. (Plaintiff's Concise Statement of Material Facts (Doc. 36)) at ¶ 45. On April 10, 2015, Plaintiff's position was “listed for the RIF.” (Doc. 36) at ¶ 47; (Defendant's Response to Plaintiff's Concise Statement of Material Facts (Doc. 40)) at ¶ 47. That list was “the start of a . . . finalized list to be submitted.” (Doc. 33) at ¶ 13; (Doc. 37) at ¶ 13. On May 11, an updated list of “possible reductions” was circulated, and that list also included the NICU Unit Director position, along with several others. (Doc. 33) at ¶ 14; (Doc. 37) at ¶ 14.

         On May 12, 2015, Plaintiff applied for FMLA leave to care for her father. (Doc. 36) at ¶ 52; (Doc. 40) at ¶ 52; see also (Doc. 33) at ¶ 16; (Doc. 37) at ¶ 16. Plaintiff submitted her request to UPMC's third-party provider, WorkPartners. (Doc. 33) at ¶ 15; (Doc. 37) at ¶ 15. On May 20, 2015, Plaintiff submitted additional documentation to WorkPartners supporting her FMLA leave request. (Doc. 33) at ¶ 18; (Doc. 37) at ¶ 18. The FMLA paperwork indicated that from June 4, 2015, to June 18, 2015, Plaintiff's father might require care for day-to-day needs like making meals, bathing, getting to the restroom and getting around in general. (Doc. 33) at ¶ 19; (Doc. 37) at ¶ 19. The paperwork also indicated that from June 19, until August 26, 2015, Plaintiff's father might need intermittent care to get to and from doctor follow-up appointments and physical therapy appointments. (Id.) To support these needs, the FMLA paperwork requested that Plaintiff be granted intermittent leave for 1-2 hours per day, 2-3 days per week from June 19, until August 26, 2015. (Doc. 33) at ¶ 20; (Doc. 37) at ¶ 20. On May 29, 2015, WorkPartners approved Plaintiff for intermittent leave for 3 days per week for 2 hours each event, beginning on June 4, 2015. (Doc. 33) at ¶ 21; (Doc. 37) at ¶ 21.

         On July 2, 2015, Plaintiff submitted additional paperwork requesting adjustments to her current FMLA leave due to complications her father experienced from his initial surgery. (Doc. 33) at ¶ 22; (Doc. 37) at ¶ 22. The July 2 FMLA documentation indicated that Plaintiff needed intermittent leave 3 hours per day, 5 days per week from June 23, to July 16, 2015, and then 2 hours per day, 3 days per week from July 17, to September 11, 2015. (Doc. 33) at ¶ 23; (Doc. 37) at ¶ 23. The FMLA paperwork also stated that she would need to attend all day appointments on July 2, July 15 and July 20, 2015, for previously scheduled follow up appointments. (Id.) On July 7, 2015, WorkPartners approved Cimino for intermittent or reduced schedule leave 5 days per week, 3 hours per day from June 4, to July 16, 2015. (Doc. 33) at ¶ 24; (Doc. 37) at ¶ 24. On July 9, 2015, WorkPartners approved Cimino for intermittent or reduced schedule leave 3 days per week, 2 hours per day from July 17, to September 11, 2015. (Doc. 33) at ¶ 25; (Doc. 37) at ¶ 25. The approval paperwork did not reflect Cimino's request for all-day leave to attend her father's appoints on July 2, July 15, and July 20, 2015. See (Doc. 34-2) at 21-24.

         Despite being eligible for FMLA leave, Cimino decided not to take leave while her father was an in-patient and to begin taking leave only after he was discharged from the hospital. (Doc. 33) at ¶ 28; (Doc. 37) at ¶ 28. Furthermore, throughout the course of her intermittent leave entitlement, Cimino took .550 weeks (approximately 2.5 days) of leave out of a possible 12 weeks. (Doc. 33) at ¶ 26; (Doc. 37) at ¶ 26. Specifically, from June 4, until July 22, Cimino took the following FMLA leave:

Date

Hours

June 11, 2015

4 hours

June 12, 2015

1 hour

June 17, 2015

1 hour

June 18, 2015

8 hours

June 24, 2015

1 hour

July 2, 2015

8 hours

July 20, 2015

8 hours

(Doc. 33) at ¶ 30; (Doc. 37) at ¶ 30. Plaintiff also took holiday time and scheduled time off from July 3, to July 21, 2015. (Doc. 33) at ¶ 31; (Doc. 37) at ¶ 31.

         On June 29, 2015, Guess approached Plaintiff and asked her about her father's appointments, referred to her FMLA leave, and instructed her to schedule his doctors' appointments at the beginning and end of the day. (Doc. 36) at ¶ 88; (Doc. 40) at ¶ 88; see also (Doc. 33) at ¶ 32; (Doc. 37) at ¶ 32). According to Plaintiff, “Guess portrayed that there was ‘cause for concern' if Plaintiff was away from work through her body language and comments.” (Doc. 36) at ¶ 90; (Doc. 40) at ¶ 90. Plaintiff informed Guess that she would try to schedule appointments at the beginning or end of her workday, but that it might be difficult because the appointments were with specialists. (Doc. 36) at ¶ 92; (Doc. 40) at ¶ 92; see also (Doc. 33) at ¶ 33; (Doc. 37) at ¶ 33. According to Plaintiff, Guess did not verbally respond. (Doc. 36) at ¶ 93. Instead, “Guess sighed, shrugged her shoulders, and tilted her head when Cimino informed her that she would [be] amend[ing] her leave because she needed more time for her father's care.” (Doc. 36) at ¶ 94. Plaintiff testified that she considered Guess's response a refusal of her request to take more FMLA time. (Doc. 36) at ¶ 95. As noted above, Plaintiff submitted an amended FMLA request on July 2, 2015. (Doc. 33) at ¶ 22; (Doc. 37) at ¶ 22.

         Following her June 29, 2015 conversation with Cimino, Guess documented her interaction with Cimino because she did not “know why [Cimino] was changing her FMLA.” (Doc. 36) at ¶ 102; (Doc. 40) at ¶ 102. The June 29, 2015 note stated:

Discussed taking 8hrs for dad's FMLA for an appointment (FMLA paperwork indicates she is approved for 2hrs 3x a week). Changes have occurred since applying for ...

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