United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
MALACHY E. MANNION UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
before the court is the defendant's motion for summary
judgment with respect to all of the plaintiff's claims
for relief. (Doc. 45). Based on the court's review of the
motion and related materials, the defendant's motion will
be GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN
following are the undisputed facts material to resolving the
defendant's motion for summary judgment. The plaintiff,
Elizabeth Weber, worked at the defendant hospital, Community
Medical Center (“CMC”), as an x-ray technologist
from 1979 to 2005 and as a computerized tomography
(“CT”) scan technician from 2005 until her
discharge on August 26, 2009. (Doc. 1; Doc. 7). As a CT scan
technician, Weber was generally responsible for preparing
patients for CT scans and performing the scans. (Doc. 47).
Weber recognized that part of her job responsibilities was to
show kindness and compassion toward patients at CMC, ensuring
they felt comfortable, safe, and secure. (Id.).
Weber reported directly to Joan Ewins, who in turn reported
to Robert Bonczek. (Id.). In addition to Bonczek,
two other CMC managers, Lois Wolfe and Barbara Bossi
(collectively, the “CMC management”), were
responsible for hiring and firing decisions at the hospital.
September 2006, at forty-eight years old, Weber was diagnosed
with psoriatic arthritis, psoriasis, and ankylosing
spondylitis. (Doc. 1). These conditions caused Weber to
suffer from visible head-to-toe skin lesions, swelling of the
joints and skin, back and joint pain, and muscle stiffness.
(Doc. 52-5). Weber immediately informed Ewins, her direct
supervisor, about her medical conditions. (Id.).
While the skin lesions were noticeable and apparent to many
of Weber's coworkers, the parties dispute whether
Bonczek, Wolfe, and Bossi were aware of Weber's medical
conditions. (Doc. 47; Doc. 52).
January 21, 2009, Weber received an employee performance
evaluation from Ewins. (Doc. 52-1). Weber's evaluation
first scored her performance on eleven distinct professional
traits that CMC seeks in its employees. (Id.). On
two of these traits, Weber's listed score was “Role
Model (Exceeds Expectations), ” and on the remaining
nine traits, her score was “Solid Contributor (Meets
Expectations).” (Id.). On the written portion
of the evaluation, however, Ewins claimed that
“[a]lthough [Weber] has been a very productive
employee, I believe she needs to work on her patient skills
even further . . . [h]er perception of her actions toward
patients may not always be how the patients [are]
interpreting their care . . . I would like [her] to try to
reevaluate her process with patient care and try to make sure
that patients are not feeling rushed.” (Id.).
Weber signed the performance evaluation form, acknowledging
its assessment. (Doc. 47).
early August 2009, the CMC management received in rapid
succession three separate complaints from patients about
Weber. CMC alleges that these three incidents prompted
Weber's eventual discharge from her post, but Weber
disputes this and challenges some of the factual
circumstances surrounding the alleged incidents. (Doc. 52).
On August 4, 2009, the adult daughter of an elderly patient
submitted the first complaint, asserting that the CT scan
technician who had assisted her father pulled a strip of
medical tape off the patient's forehead with enough force
to cause him pain and leave a red mark across his head. (Doc.
47-9). Further investigation into this incident revealed that
both Weber and another CT scan technician, Gretchen Gabriel,
had assisted with this patient's CT scan on the evening
in question. (Doc. 47; Doc. 52). Factual disputes thus remain
regarding whether it was Weber or Gabriel who actually
removed the tape from the patient's forehead. (Doc.
47-11; Doc. 52-5).
later on August 5, 2009, CMC received a second complaint from
a trauma patient who had been in a motorcycle accident,
alleging that an unspecified CT scan technician “was
rough in moving” him, was “rude” and
“mean” to him, and “lacked
compassion.” (Doc. 47-13; Doc. 47-15). CMC's
records indicated that only Weber was scheduled to work in
the CT department on the evening when this particular patient
was seen, but Weber rebuts this with her own testimony,
asserting that another CT scan technician, Stephanie Danchak,
had assisted her with this patient's CT scan. (Doc.
52-5). Weber further testified that the
“combative” patient was initially “flailing
his arms and . . . punching the machine” but ultimately
calmed down and cooperated with the procedure.
(Id.). While Danchak's own testimony largely
corroborates Weber's version of these events, disputes of
material fact nonetheless remain on the question of whether
Weber acted improperly toward this patient. (Doc. 52-19).
next day on August 6, 2009, Weber approached Debbie Powell, a
human resources analyst at CMC, for information on whether
CMC's employee medical insurance would cover the cost of
medications for Weber's ailments. (Doc. 1). Powell's
direct supervisor was Wolfe, who was also one of the
decision-makers in Weber's eventual termination.
August 8, 2009, while CMC was still investigating the first
two patient complaints against Weber, the hospital received a
third complaint from the daughter of a patient who believed
that Weber had coerced her into signing a medical consent
form for her mentally incapacitated father. (Doc. 47; Doc.
52). She explained that she “felt bullied” into
signing the form, especially after Weber purportedly told her
to “[j]ust sign the consent!” (Doc. 47-17). Weber
suggests that she was simply trying to “reduce”
the essential facts surrounding the consent form to the
“simplest terms” because the patient's
daughter did not “seem to understand” much of
what was being said. (Doc. 52-5).
thereafter, Bonczek met with Wolfe and Bossi to review the
three complaints lodged against Weber, and collectively, the
CMC management decided to terminate Weber's employment.
(Doc. 47; Doc. 52). The reasons for their decision were
summarized in a written notice dated August 26, 2009, which
claimed that Weber's “unprofessional, aggressive
behavior” was “detrimental to . . . the health
care system, ” a “safety risk to . . . patients,
” and a “serious violation of [CMC's] Code of
Conduct.” (Doc. 47). Weber's discharge was made
effective on August 29, 2009. (Id.).
maintains that CMC's stated reasons for her termination
were a mere pretext for unlawful discrimination based on her
age and disability. (Doc. 52). On February 11, 2010, Weber
filed timely administrative charges of discrimination with
both the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
(“EEOC”) and the Pennsylvania Human Relations
Commission (“PHRC”). (Doc. 1). On August 15,
2011, the PHRC issued a finding of “no probable
cause” for Weber to pursue remedies against CMC. (Doc.
47). On December 19, 2011, however, the EEOC issued a
“Notice of Right to Sue.” (Doc. 1).
March 1, 2012, Weber filed the instant action against CMC,
bringing both federal and state claims for relief: Count I
for alleged discrimination based on age in violation of the
Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”),
29 U.S.C. §623(a); Count II for alleged
discrimination based on disability in violation of the
Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), 42
U.S.C. §12112(a); Count III for alleged discrimination
based on age in violation of the Pennsylvania Human Relations
Act (“PHRA”), 43 Pa. Cons. Stat.
§955(a); and Count IV for alleged discrimination
based on disability in violation of the PHRA, 43 Pa.
Cons. Stat. §955(a). (Id.). On May 8,
2012, CMC filed its answer, (Doc. 7), to the alleged claims
for relief. The parties then engaged in fact discovery, and
on November 7, 2016, CMC moved for summary judgment as to all
counts in Weber's complaint, arguing that CMC is entitled
to judgment as a matter of law because Weber has failed to
present sufficient evidence from which a jury could
reasonably conclude that her termination resulted from
unlawful discrimination. (Doc. 45; Doc. 46). On December 15,
2016, Weber filed her brief in opposition to CMC's
summary judgment motion. (Doc. 53). On January 13, 2017, CMC
filed a reply brief. (Doc. 56). This matter has been fully
briefed and is now ripe for summary judgment.