United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
Wanda Arana (“Arana”) brings this action under
the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), 42
U.S.C. §§ 12101 et seq., the Family
Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”), 29 U.S.C.
§§ 2601 et seq., and the Pennsylvania
Human Relations Act (“PHRA”), 43 Pa. Stat.
§§ 951 et seq. She alleges that her former
employer defendant Temple University Health System
(“Temple”) failed to provide her a reasonable
accommodation, discriminated and retaliated against her, and
interfered with her rights under the FMLA. Before the court
is the motion of Temple for summary judgment under Rule 56 of
the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, summary
judgment is appropriate “if the movant shows that there
is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant
is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed R.
Civ. P. 56(a); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett,
477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). A dispute is genuine if the
evidence is such that a reasonable factfinder could return a
verdict for the nonmoving party. See Anderson v. Liberty
Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 254 (1986). Summary judgment
is granted where there is insufficient record evidence for a
reasonable factfinder to find for the nonmovant. See
id. at 252. We view the facts and draw all inferences in
favor of the nonmoving party. See In re Flat Glass
Antitrust Litig., 385 F.3d 350, 357 (3d Cir. 2004).
following facts are not in dispute or are viewed in the light
most favorable to Arana, the nonmoving party. In October
2007, Temple hired Arana as an Access Specialist in
Temple's former Call Center. She was supervised by
Kimberly Lloyd, the Call Center Manager, and Joseph Alfonsi,
Director of the Call Center.
2012, Temple partially eliminated the Call Center. At that
time, Arana was transferred to the newly-created twenty-four
hour Temple Access Call Center as a Call Center Specialist.
Arana's supervisors became Anita Mitchell and Steve
Lauer, who both held the title of Call Center Manager.
Alfonsi remained as Director.
her employment with Temple, Arana worked the night shift from
12:00 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. Between two and four Call Center
Specialists were assigned to that shift on any given night.
As a Call Center Specialist, Arana was required to send and
receive calls within Temple's hospitals. The calls
included paging doctors, checking on patient status, and
fielding general inquiries. Arana was also responsible for
handling “STAT” calls, which are emergency calls
for urgent patient care or for security issues. Her job was
an extremely significant one. The lives of patients could
depend on Arana and others in that position being at their
posts and fulfilling their assigned duties.
would receive approximately 50-100 calls during a shift. Call
Center Specialists must be logged into their computer to
receive calls. Specialists receive a forty-five minute lunch
break and another fifteen minute break each shift, which they
are allowed to combine for an hour-long break.
suffers from migraines which make her sensitive to lights and
computers and cause her to experience throbbing and
dizziness. She also has diabetes and in March 2015 was
diagnosed with diabetic ketoacidosis, a potentially
life-threatening complication which can result in sweating,
vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, shakiness, weakness, headaches,
severe pain, and dry mouth. Sometime in May of 2015, she was
diagnosed with gastroparesis, another complication of
diabetes resulting in delayed stomach emptying and slow
transit of food through the gastrointestinal tract, which can
cause abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting.
her time at Temple, Arana requested and was granted FMLA
leave due to her various medical conditions. Arana received
FMLA leave from February 22, 2010 through March 7, 2010 for a
surgical procedure. Later, Arana obtained intermittent FMLA
leave for the period of August 8, 2012 through February 8,
2013 for her migraines. In 2015, Arana had FMLA leave for the
period of March 20 through April 6, 2015. During this time
she was hospitalized due to stomach issues associated with
her diabetic ketoacidosis and gastroparesis. Arana was
cleared to return to work on April 6, 2015 but thereafter was
granted intermittent FMLA leave for the period of April 7,
2015 through October 7, 2015. The corresponding medical
certification completed by Arana's physician states that
Arana would need to be absent from work during flare-ups in
her condition. Pursuant to this certification, Arana took
FMLA leave on May 16, May 23, June 5, June 9-11, and July 7,
2015. Arana also left work early several times when she did
not feel well.
Lauer, and Alfonsi were all aware of Arana's FMLA leave.
In addition, Arana discussed her medical condition with
Mitchell in March 2015, after she was hospitalized for severe
vomiting. Mitchell kindly assisted Arana with making medical
appointments and arranged for Arana to meet with another
employee to discuss diabetes management. At Arana's
request, Mitchell helped Arana avoid a long wait in the
Temple emergency room on May 3, 2015 by having Arana placed
at the top of the priority list at the emergency room. Arana
also discussed her condition with Alfonsi during her annual
review in June 2015. Alfonsi inquired as to Arana's
diagnosis and symptoms and stated “off the record, I
think you should take some-take a short leave of absence
until you get yourself together-get
taking intermittent leave, Arana would provide notice to her
supervisors several hours before the start of her shift to
enable them to find coverage for her. Prior to notifying her
supervisor that she was not coming to work, Arana would
contact other employees to ask if they could work her shift.
Arana felt pressured to do so because her supervisors
generally would inquire if there was such coverage whenever
she was unable to work. However, Arana knew that she was not
required to do so under Temple policy. Arana further admits
that none of her supervisors ever directed her to look for
coverage and that she did in fact use FMLA leave at times
when she did not know whether there was coverage for her
to Arana, she “felt like it was an inconvenience”
for Temple when she took FMLA leave. In particular, she
states that Lauer implied that Arana was taking advantage of
her FMLA leave. Arana further states that when she attempted
to call out on intermittent FMLA leave on a weekend in April
or May of 2015, she was told by Lauer “there's no
coverage. You have to come in.” Lauer was working from
home at the time due to a terminal illness and died shortly
thereafter. As a result of her conversation with Lauer, Arana
reported to work. She later spoke with an individual in
Temple Human Resources regarding the incident but did not
complete a Temple Health Workplace Complaint Form. Arana was
informed that Human Resources would speak with Alfonsi. Arana
did not identify any other instance in which she requested
but was denied FMLA leave.
parties agree that Arana had a history of poor performance
and disciplinary issues that spanned the entirety of her
employment at Temple. From 2008 through 2015, she received
numerous Correction Action/Discipline Reports
(“CADs”) for failing to follow Temple protocols
when handling calls, for providing incorrect information to
patients, for committing numerous scheduling and registration
errors, and for excessive lateness. She also received CADs
for mishandling STAT calls. On several occasions Arana
responded to STAT calls incorrectly, on a delayed basis, or
not at all.
maintains a Corrective Action Policy, which provides for
progressive discipline with several steps: (1) discussion
with the employee and the creation of a performance
improvement plan; (2) written warning; (3) final written
warning; (4) one-day suspension without pay; and (5)
termination. Under Temple policy, however, certain
infractions are considered “[g]ross neglect of duties
including but not limited to job abandonment, patient
abandonment or unauthorized sleeping on duty” and
warrant immediate discharge.
was first placed on a performance improvement plan in 2008
for failing to utilize Temple's protocol manual when
handling calls. On October 23, 2013 she received a written
warning “for not meeting performance requirements
specifically in the area of handling STAT calls.” On
February 14, 2014, Arana received a written warning for
violating Temple's Attendance and Lateness policy. Arana
was informed that she had accumulated eight incidents of
lateness and that two additional incidents could result in a
final written warning. On March 18, 2014, Arana received a
final written warning regarding her failure to follow proper
protocol, including several errors with STAT calls.
Thereafter on March 11, 2015, Arana received a one-day
suspension for her continued failure to follow proper
protocols. At that time Arana was advised that
“[i]mmediate action is necessary, future occurrence
will result in corrective action, up to and including
21, 2015, Alfonsi received a complaint from a nurse that she
was having trouble getting through to the Call Center. He
thereafter reviewed the Call Center records for that day and
identified an hour and forty minute gap in Arana's log-in
report, wherein Arana was logged out of her computer from
5:18 a.m. until 6:58 a.m. Arana admits that she was absent
for an additional forty minutes and further states she was in
the bathroom vomiting during this time. In his review Alfonsi
identified another unexplained gap of time on July 22, 2015
and “start[ed] to see a pattern that [Arana] wasn't
coming back from her break at an hour and she wasn't
logged into the phone.”
24, 2015, Arana failed to return from a break on time.
Mitchell discovered her in a conference room. According to
Mitchell, Arana was asleep but awoke after Mitchell entered
the room. Arana denies that she was asleep but admits that
she was slumped in a conference room chair, under a blanket
and with the lights off. Mitchell reported the incident to
Alfonsi, who ultimately made the decision to terminate Arana
on July 28, 2015 for job abandonment and unauthorized
sleeping on duty. This conduct constituted gross neglect of
duties under Temple policy and thus was grounds for immediate
termination. Arana's termination notice stated in part:
On 7/21/2015, we investigated an unusual spike in abandoned
calls and an unusual delay in answering the telephone in the
call center. After reviewing the log in/log out report and
the call recording system, we identified that you did not log
in after your lunch break and were missing from your work
station during your scheduled time from 6am to 7am. As a
result of your unauthorized absence from your work station,
only one employee was answering the telephones during the
period of time which created risk for patients at Temple
Hospital and Episcopal Hospital. You did not notify your
supervisor about this missed time.
On 7/24/2015, we noticed that you had not reported back from
your lunch break. When we looked for you, we found you asleep
in the conference room.
TUHS Corrective Action/Discipline Report (July 28, 2015)
(emphasis added). The notice included the dates on which
Arana had received prior discipline in the form of a first
written warning, a final written warning, and a suspension.
It also listed several recent occasions in May and June 2015
when Arana had been coached about job performance.
Arana commenced this action. The complaint includes the
following claims: (1) Count I-Failure to Accommodate under
the ADA; (2) Count II-Discrimination and Disparate Treatment
under the ADA; (3) Count III-Retaliation under the ADA; (4)
Count IV-Failure to Engage in the Interactive Process in Good
Faith under the ADA; (5) Count V-Interference under the FMLA;
(6) Count VI-Discrimination and Retaliation ...