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Pacheco v. Pocono Medical Center

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

August 16, 2017



          A. Richard Caputo United States District Judge

         Presently before me are two motions to dismiss (Docs. 8 & 9) Plaintiff Monique Pacheco's (“Plaintiff” or “Ms. Pacheco”) Complaint (Doc. 1), filed by Defendants Pocono Medical Center (“PMC”) and Vladimir Nikiforouk (“Nikiforouk”) (collectively "Defendants").

         For the reasons that follow, Defendants' motions will be granted.

         I. Factual Background

         The facts, as set forth in Ms. Pacheco's Complaint (Doc. 1), are as follows: Ms. Pacheco was hired by Defendant PMC, a not-for-profit community hospital in East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, as a physician recruiter. (Id. ¶¶ 8, 12). Three years later, in June 2014, Ms. Pacheco applied and was selected for the position of Practice Administrator, whereby she managed PMC's outpatient practices for vascular surgery, endocrinology, internal medicine, and an immediate care center. (Id. ¶ 13). In August 2015, PMC reorganized the Practice Administrator positions. (Id. ¶ 17). Ms. Pacheco and the other Practice Administrators were demoted, and their titles were changed to Practice Managers. (Id. ¶ 18). As part of the reorganization, PMC created three Practice Administrator positions. (Id. ¶ 19). One of the three positions was filled immediately. (Id. ¶ 20). In the fall of 2015, Ms. Pacheco applied for the other two Practice Administrator positions, but was not selected for either one. (Id. ¶ 21).

         In November 2015, Defendant Dr. Vladimir Nikiforouk, chief physician of the obstetrics and gynecology practice, called Ms. Pacheco into his private office at PMC. He told Ms. Pacheco that he had something very important to tell her. (Id. ¶ 22). He proceeded to tell Ms. Pacheco that he was taking a sabbatical to go to Europe for a sex change operation and that he felt liberated telling her. He also told her that when he returned, they could go shopping together. In response, Ms. Pacheco expressed her support for his decision. (Id. ¶ 23). Dr. Nikiforouk then advised Ms. Pacheco that he was just joking, and informed her that he had secretly video-recorded their conversation on his iPad. (Id. ¶ 24). Dr. Nikiforouk informed Ms. Pacheco that he had video-recorded other employees as well, and that he planned to use the recordings for entertainment purposes at the upcoming PMC holiday party. (Id. ¶ 25).

         On the evening of January 15, 2016, while Ms. Pacheco was having dinner with her family, Dr. Nikiforouk sent her a text message asking if he could call her. She agreed. Dr. Nikiforouk then called Ms. Pacheco to complain about a medical assistant that had been hired to support him. Specifically, Dr. Nikiforouk indicated that the assistant was an "idiot" and "fucking stupid." (Id. ¶ 29). Dr. Nikiforouk then proceeded to ask Ms. Pacheco what the capital of Great Britain was, and when she indicated that she could not hear him clearly because of the loud environment, Dr. Nikiforouk stated: "I cannot believe you don't know the answers to these questions either. This is a simple third grade question. London is the capital. What is the capital of Puerto Rico, I bet you know the answer." (Id. ¶ 30). Ms. Pacheco is Puerto Rican. (Id. ¶ 31). She refused to answer Dr. Nikiforouk's questions regarding Great Britain and Puerto Rico. (Id. ¶ 32). Dr. Nikiforouk resumed his disparagement of the medical assistant, stating again that the assistant was "fucking stupid" and an Italian who does not know the capital of Italy. Dr. Nikiforouk told Ms. Pacheco that he had not been included in the hiring process and was going to make the assistant miserable so that she would want to quit, just like he did to "Michelle, the cute one." (Id. ¶ 33).

         Throughout her employment with PMC, Ms. Pacheco lodged multiple complaints regarding what she believed to be inappropriate workplace behavior, (Id. ¶ 34), namely:

a. In or around spring of 2013, Ms. Pacheco reported to Michael Klutch, PMC in-house counsel, that she was uncomfortable with comments expressed by Ms. Lansdowne regarding Plaintiff's breasts.
b. In or about September 2015, Ms. Pacheco reported to Karen Giaquinto, PMC Director of Human Resources, that she was uncomfortable with the flirtatious behavior between Mr. Louis, PMC's Vice President of Physician Practices, and Ms. Landis, PMC s Director of Operations.
c. In or about September 2015, Ms. Pacheco told Ms. Giaquinto that Mr. Louis was hugging and kissing the front-end registration representative, Anais Ruiz.
d. In or about November 2015, Ms. Pacheco told Ms. Giaquinto she had received a complaint from midwife Heather Gosch, who worked in the OB/GYN Group that Ms. Pacheco managed, regarding inappropriate comments made by Dr. Nikiforouk relating to bias/hatred of women, disparaging comments about Americans, and Dr. Nikiforouk's practice of video recording employees without their knowledge.
e. Upon information and belief, other than Ms. Giaquinto replying that she did not have time to discuss the complaint and would look into it later, no further action or follow-up occurred regarding the complaint.
f. In or about October 2015, Ms. Pacheco told John Thompson, the Practice Administrator, that Mr. Louis asked one of Ms. Pacheco's direct reports, Rachel Torres-Fernandez, out on a date.
g. In or about November 2015, Ms. Pacheco reported Dr. Nikiforouk's illegal video recording of their conversation without her permission to Ms. Landis and Mr. Thompson.
h. In or about January 16, 2016, Ms. Pacheco informed Ms. Landis and Mr. Thompson about Dr. Nikiforouk's phone call one day prior in which he referred to the national origin of Plaintiff and a medical assistant, repeatedly used profanity while yelling at Plaintiff, and promised to make the assistant so miserable she would want to quit her employment.
i. In or about April 2016, Ms. Pacheco twice reported her concerns regarding Dr. Nikiforouk to Heidi Signore who became Director of Operations after Ms. Landis resigned. Ms. Signore failed to respond.

         At some point, the Complaint fails to specify when, Mr. Louis, PMC's Vice President of Physician Practices, held a meeting with the Practice Managers to confront them about the complaints some of the managers had made to Human Resources about Mr. Louis' conduct at work. At the meeting, Mr. Louis acted in a bullying and condescending manner. He informed the Managers that he was particularly angry about the complaint that he had flirted with Ms. Landis because he did not want his wife to find out about it. (Id. ¶ 35). Mr. Louis advised Lisa Perry, Director of Business Development, that he knew who made the complaint and that he would take action to ensure that "she is gone." When he was advised by Ms. Perry that retaliatory actions were prohibited, he replied that he was creative at coming up with ways to terminate people. (Id. ¶ 36).

         On the morning of May 9, 2016, Dr. Nikiforouk went to Ms. Pacheco's office and stated in a snide tone, "So I hear people are being laid off at 3:00 PM today." Ms. Pacheco, as well as Ms. Perry, were terminated later that day. (Id. ¶¶ 38, 40).

         Ms. Pacheco was told that her termination was due to budget concerns and that the decision had been in the works for months. (Id. ¶ 41). However, PMC was still hiring new Practice Managers as recently as six weeks prior to Ms. Pacheco's termination. (Id. ¶¶ 42, 43). On June 28, 2016, PMC announced that it had hired a new Practice Manager for the OB/GYN, UroGYN, Perinatology, GYN, Breast Surgery, & Neonatology practices, which is the very same position previously held by Ms. Pacheco when she was terminated on May 9th. (Id. ΒΆΒΆ 38, 44). ...

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