United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
DIANE M. LENTINI, Plaintiff
GEISINGER MEDICAL CENTER, SHAMOKIN AREA COMMUNITY HOSPITAL, and GEISINGER HEALTH SYSTEM FOUNDATION, Defendants
before the court is the defendant's motion for summary
judgment. (Doc. 36). Based upon the court's review of the
motion and related materials, the defendant's motion will
judgment is appropriate "if the pleadings, the discovery
[including, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and
admissions on file] and disclosure materials on file, and any
affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any
material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as
a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c): see also
Celotex Corp. v. Catrett. 477 U.S. 317. 322-23 (1986);
Turnery. Schering-Plough Corp.. 901 F.2d 335. 340
(3d Cir. 19901A factual dispute is genuine if a reasonable
jury could find for the non-moving party, and is material if
it will affect the outcome of the trial under governing
substantive law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby. Inc..
477 U.S. 242. 248 (1986): Aetna Cas. & Sur. Co. v.
Ericksen, 903 F.Supp. 836. 838 (M.D. Pa. 1995V At the
summary judgment stage, "the judge's function is not
himself to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the
matter but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for
trial." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249: see also
Marino v. Indus. Crating Co.. 358 F.3d 241.247 (3d Cir.
2004) (a court may not weigh the evidence or make credibility
determinations). Rather, the court must consider all evidence
and inferences drawn there from in the light most favorable
to the non-moving party. Andreoli v. Gates. 482 F.3d
641. 647 (3d Cir. 2007).
prevail on summary judgment, the moving party must
affirmatively identify those portions of the record which
demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.
Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323-24. The moving party can
discharge the burden by showing that "on all the
essential elements of its case on which it bears the burden
of proof at trial, no reasonable jury could find for the
non-moving party." In re Bressman. 327 F.3d
229. 238 (3d Cir. 2003); see also Celotex. 477 U.S.
at 325. If the moving party meets this initial burden, the
non-moving party "must do more than simply show that
there is some metaphysical doubt as to material facts, "
but must show sufficient evidence to support a jury verdict
in its favor. Bovle v. County of Allegheny. 139 F.3d
386. 393 (3d Cir. 1998) (quoting Matsushita Elec. Indus.
Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp.. 475 U.S. 574. 586 (1986)).
However, if the non-moving party "fails to make a
showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element
essential to [the non-movant's] case, and on which [the
non-movant] will bear the burden of proof at trial, "
Rule 56 mandates the entry of summary judgment because such a
failure "necessarily renders all other facts
immaterial." Celotex Corp.. 477 U.S. at 322-23:
Jakimas v. Hoffman-La Roche. Inc., 485 F.3d 770. 777
(3d Cir. 2007).
plaintiff has brought the instant action alleging age
discrimination and retaliation under the Age Discrimination
in Employment Act, ("ADEA"), as well as under the
Pennsylvania Human Relations Act,
("PHRA"). The undisputed facts, as supported by the
record, establish that the plaintiff graduated
from the Pottsville School of Nursing in 1966 and has been a
registered nurse for 50 years. The plaintiff worked at the
Pre-Surgery Clinic at the Shamokin Area Community Hospital,
("SACH"), as a staff nurse until SACH merged with
January 1, 2012, the plaintiff, at age 66, was retained by
G-SACH as an at-will Pre-Surgery Center Registered Nurse,
("PSC RN"), at its Shamokin Campus. In this
capacity, the plaintiffs patients included both high risk and
pediatric patients. The plaintiffs job duties included
performing assessment of patients' surgical and
anesthesia risks in preparation for elective surgery,
recording information in the patients' electronic health
record, maintaining the highest level of patient
confidentiality at all times, and demonstrating electronic
patient information charting, ("EPIC"), computer
skills. According to the Associate Vice President of Surgery
and Anesthesia for the Geisinger Clinic, Kyle Snyder,
appropriate charting by PSC RNs is critical. Patrick
Konitzer, M.D., the anesthesiologist at the Pre-Surgery
Clinic at G-SACH, testified that, if deviations or other
information are not charted appropriately, it can put
patients at risk and subject Geisinger to potential
liability. The plaintiff herself has admitted that clarity in
documentation is key to the anesthesia process and quality
care can be compromised without it. Prior to her retention,
in September 2011, the plaintiff participated in a five-day
orientation session at Geisinger's Danville PSC, which
included training on Geisinger's code of conduct
policies, handbook policies, and other matters. The plaintiff
also shadowed the Danville PSC RNs, received EPIC training,
and engaged in one-on-one meetings with Geisinger's PSC
Clinic Nurse Supervisor, Lori Naugle. The plaintiffs
one-on-one meetings included reviewing Geisinger's human
resources related and clinical policies and procedures, and
discussing the plaintiffs duties as a PSC RN. After her hire,
the plaintiff received a formal orientation that included
job-specific topics like patient safety, HIPAA violations,
and Geisinger's InfoWeb, an internal computing system
containing Geisinger's policies.
her employment with G-SACH, the plaintiff was supervised by
Ms. Naugle, who had the power to suspend and/or terminate
Although she did not recall specifics, Ms. Naugle testified
that, during the first six months of the plaintiff's
employment, there were occasions when she sat with the
plaintiff and they reviewed patient charting together. At
that time, Ms. Naugle testified that she believed that the
plaintiff was qualified to perform her job. The plaintiff
testified that, during this same time, she had no issues with
Ms. Naugle. In fact, in June 2012, Ms. Naugle issued the
plaintiff a 2.97 out of 4.0 overall score at her six-month
performance evaluation, which was accompanied by a raise. The
plaintiff scored better than her colleagues, who were younger
than she was at the time. The plaintiff was 67 years old when
she received this review.
2012, Ms. Naugle testified that she attended a managers
meeting where G-SACH's surgical volumes were presented.
As a result of this meeting, Ms. Naugle realized that the
plaintiff's patient volume reports were reflecting a
higher patient volume than what G-SACH was actually
experiencing. Ms. Naugle testified that, as a result of the
meeting, she asked her supervisor, Kyle Snyder, to confirm
that the actual patient volume reported at the meeting was
accurate. The numbers were confirmed, after which Ms. Naugle
discussed the patient volume documentation issue with the
plaintiff. No discipline was imposed at that time; however,
the plaintiff was coached by Ms. Naugle about correctly
documenting patient volume.
August 2012, the plaintiff was offered additional help by way
of training with shortcuts on the computers. The plaintiff
accepted the offer and Kathy Hill, a Danville PSC RN traveled
to G-SACH for the training sessions from August 28, 2012,
through August 31, 2012. During this time, the plaintiff
received one-on-one training from Ms. Hill in areas such as
EPIC shortcuts, phone pool protocol, the importance of
documentation, Geisinger's anesthesia policies and where
to find them on Geisinger's InfoWeb. The plaintiff
admitted that she found value in the training and received
detailed documentation summarizing the training.
September 2012, Ms. Naugle testified that she followed-up on
the plaintiffs training by reviewing the plaintiffs charts
from September 7, 2012 and September 10, 2012. Afterward, the
plaintiff testified Ms. Naugle had a conversation with her in
which she was informed that she was not doing her job to Ms.
Naugle's expectations. When questioned on specific
instances, the plaintiff admitted in her testimony that she
had not followed policy in documenting medication
instructions and had improperly copied forward information in
a chart which should have been deleted. As a result of her
performance issues, the plaintiff received a verbal warning
under Geisinger's Performance Improvement Plan,
("PIP"). The plan included, among other things,
"[i]mmediate and sustained improvement in the above
areas to encompass the following ... 5. accuracy in
documented data - This may mean double checking numbers for
accuracy this needs to be 100%." After the PIP meeting,
the plaintiff specifically asked Ms. Naugle to review her
charts and email any problems found to the plaintiff's
attention. The plaintiff has admitted that, if someone is on
a PIP, he or she would be subjected to additional scrutiny.
However, no other PSC nurse was placed on a PIP during this
Naugle testified that, if she found a repeated issue, she
would talk to the nurse about it, and then follow up with
charts they have done. If the nurse would continue to have
the same charting errors, it would be a performance issue at
that point. In her PIPs, Ms. Naugle did not reference any
specific infractions that were repeated by the plaintiff
testifying that the PIPs are only to contain a summation of
errors, not every error identified.
Winn, Senior Human Resources Generalist, testified that Ms.
Naugle reached out to her about work performance concerns
regarding the plaintiff involving lack of documentation and
not following protocols of the department. Ms. Winn provides
human resource guidance to managers working through employee
issues, as well as serving as a resource for employees. She
maintains an office at G-SACH. Ms. Naugle was consistent in
her concerns to Ms. Winn that the plaintiff demonstrated work
performance issues in that patient-related work was not
completed appropriately and documentation was not clear or
plaintiff testified that her first interaction with Ms. Winn
was prior to her written PIP when Ms. Winn called the
plaintiff into her office to introduce herself and to express
the concerns that Ms. Naugle was having with respect to the
plaintiff. At that time, the plaintiff testified that, while
Ms. Winn did not expressly do so, she felt Ms. Winn was
suggesting that she resign or retire. Ms. Winn denies ever
making such a suggestion, expressly or otherwise.
Subsequently, in October 2012, Ms. Winn participated in the
plaintiffs written warning meeting with Ms. Naugle and the
plaintiff. According to the plaintiffs written warning PIP,
the plaintiff was counseled, in part, that "attention to
accurate documentation is a key part of [her] position.
Clarity in documentation is key as the anesthesia process is
a working document and if communication is not excellent then
quality care is compromised." The plaintiffs action plan
required immediate and sustained improvement in five areas,
including accuracy in charting. The plaintiff testified that
Ms. Winn asked her at the meeting if there was anything she
or Ms. Naugle could do to help the plaintiff. In response,
the plaintiff requested a bigger office and a privacy curtain
for the patient when she was doing EKGs, but she did not ask
for any additional EPIC or goals training. The plaintiff
testified that she chose to move forward in meeting the
expectations of the position, instead of undergoing some
other type of training. At that point, the plaintiff knew
that Ms. Naugle would be reviewing her charts, as she had
already been doing so, and expressed to Ms. Winn and Ms.
Naugle that she felt that she was being subjected to higher
scrutiny than others.
number of occasions between November 26, 2012 and November
29, 2012, the record reflects that the plaintiff was directed
by Ms. Naugle to either correct or update medical information
in her files. On November 29, 2012, Ms. Naugle emailed a copy
of a suspension-level PIP to her supervisor, Mr. Snyder, and
Ms. Winn. According to Ms. Naugle's verification and
exhibits, she attempted to call the plaintiff on November 29,
2012, and email her on December 3, 2012 to schedule a
meeting. Also on December 3, 2012, the record
demonstrates that Ms. Naugle informed the plaintiff of a
number of issues occurring in her records. The plaintiff
eventually advised Ms. Naugle that she was unable to meet
with her until December 5, 2012.
meantime, on December 4, 2012, the plaintiff emailed Ms. Winn
and alleged, for the first time, age discrimination and
harassment by Ms. Naugle claiming that her records were being
unfairly scrutinized. Also on December 4, 2012, Ms. Naugle
emailed Ms. Winn about the plaintiff, stating "if [the
plaintiff] is planning to resign the end of the next pay
period [it's] fine with me ... I hope the meeting goes
well." On December 5, 2012, the suspension meeting
occurred at which the plaintiff was issued a one-day
suspension. After reviewing her suspension, the plaintiff
testified that she agreed that errors had been made in her
charting. The plaintiff further testified that she
"absolutely" agreed with the improvement that was
required of her. After her suspension on December 5, 2012,
and up until January 14, 2013, a high percentage of the
plaintiffs records were reviewed for accuracy.
plaintiff filed an informal complaint with Ms. Winn alleging
harassment on December 6, 2012. Ms. Winn emailed the
plaintiff on December 7, 2012, and advised her that Brion T.
Lieberman would investigate the plaintiff's complaint as
a neutral party.
December 11, 2012, Ms. Naugle emailed her supervisors
stating, in part, "Erin [Winn] assures me that this is
all going to follow a path to termination without
issue[.]" Ms. Naugle testified that "[a] path to
termination would be if an employee does not choose to
improve, it would go towards termination." A number of
emails from Ms. Naugle to the plaintiff from December 2012
and January 2013 reflect continued performance issue
critiques. In fact, Ms. Naugle admitted that she wanted to
proceed with the plaintiff's termination as of December
13, 2012 because the plaintiffs performance issues at that
time were "not at the level that [she] would have wanted
[the plaintiff] to maintain employment at Geisinger".
plaintiff emailed Mr. Leiberman on December 12, 2012, and
forwarded her formal grievance to him on December 13,
2012. A handwritten notation on the email dated
December 14, 2012 by Mr. Liberman indicates that Mr. Snyder
would set a grievance meeting to address the plaintiff's
performance concerns, while Mr. Lieberman would review and
address the other items in the plaintiffs complaint,
including her discrimination claim. After the plaintiff filed
her formal grievance, Ms. Naugle emailed her colleagues and
supervisor, stating that she had "great concerns about
allowing [the plaintiff] to remain at GSACH
unsupervised." Ms. Naugle indicated that "if [the
plaintiff] was not voicing a harassment complaint, [she]
would be pulling her to Danville for closer supervision or
going over there." Also on December 13, 2012, Ms. Naugle
emailed Ms. Winn and Mr. Snyder inquiring as to when they
could proceed with the plaintiff's termination.
December 14, 2012, Mr. Leiberman met with the plaintiff in
her G-SACH office. Because the plaintiffs complaint was a
hybrid complaint about performance and alleged
discrimination, Mr. Lieberman informed the plaintiff that Mr.
Snyder would evaluate the performance challenges and he would
investigate the age discrimination and harassment
allegations. As part of his investigation, Mr. Leiberman met
with Ms. Naugle and inquired of her scrutiny of the plaintiff
as compared to others and how charts were reviewed and issues
identified. Ms. Naugle indicated that she held the
plaintiff accountable for her performance errors and that she
continued to perform quality checks of 20-30 randomly
selected PSC RN charts for the entire PSC clinic. Mr.
Lieberman did not speak with anyone else about the
plaintiff's performance as he was satisfied with Ms.
Naugle's explanation of what had occurred with the
plaintiff and communicated the same to the plaintiff. Mr.
Lieberman confirmed to the plaintiff that no other employees
were on PIPs at that time. On December 19, 2012, Mr. Snyder
met with the plaintiff to address the plaintiffs concerns
about the validity of the errors identified in the
suspension. According to the plaintiff's testimony, Mr.
Snyder reviewed some of the matters that Ms. Naugle had
listed on the PI P and indicated to the plaintiff that
"these may not seem very important, but if Jayco were to
come in, these would be zings." After reviewing the
plaintiffs suspension document, Mr. Snyder decided to uphold
the suspension. On December 27, 2012, Mr. Snyder issued his
report on the review of the plaintiffs performance grievance.
Of the eighteen numbered challenges by the plaintiff, Mr.
Snyder agreed with Ms. ...