Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Jones v. Children's Hospital of Philadelphia

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

June 26, 2019

RACHEL JONES, Plaintiff,
v.
CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL OF PHILADELPHIA, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM

          DuBois, J.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         In this employment discrimination case, plaintiff Rachel Jones alleges that defendant Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (“CHOP”) failed to accommodate her pregnancy-related needs and ultimately terminated her on the basis of her pregnancy. Plaintiff asserts claims of pregnancy discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000(e) et seq., the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (“PHRA”), 43 Pa. Cons. Stat. §§ 951 et seq., and the Philadelphia Fair Practices Ordinance (“PFPO”), Phila. Code §§ 9-1101 et seq.; retaliation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101 et seq., the PHRA, and the PFPO; and failure to accommodate under the PFPO. Presently before the Court is CHOP's Motion for Summary Judgment. For the reasons that follow, the Motion is granted in part and denied in part.

         II. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff began her employment with CHOP as an orthopedic technician on August 31, 2015. Def. CHOP's Statement Mat. Undisputed Facts (“SUMF”) ¶ 3. An employee's first 90 days at CHOP are a probationary period, meant to ensure that the employee “perform[s] to [CHOP] standards.” Id. ¶ 10. CHOP's policies provide, “If job performance, attendance, and other elements of job requirements satisfactorily meet the Hospital's standards (as evaluated by the employee's supervisor at the end of the introductory period), ” then the employee's probationary period ends. Id. ¶ 11. An employee who is “unsatisfactory” during the probationary period “should be discharged.” Id. ¶ 12. Plaintiff maintains that it was her understanding that “if there were any issues [during this period] they would be brought to [her] attention.” See Pl. Resp. SUMF ¶ 10.

         Joseph Monteleone supervised plaintiff. See SUMF ¶ 15; Pl. Resp. SUMF ¶ 15. Monteleone's direct supervisor was Sonja Joiner Jones. SUMF ¶ 17. Linda Pellegrino, [1] was the division manager for the CHOP orthopedics department and was responsible for, inter alia, onboarding new employees and managing timesheets. See SUMF ¶ 18; Pl. Resp. SUMF ¶ 18; Pl. Add. Mat. Facts (“PAMF”) ¶ 1. Both Monteleone and Pellegrino worked out of CHOP's main campus, located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. SUMF ¶¶ 16, 21. Plaintiff worked primarily at CHOP's office in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania. See Id. ¶ 3. On days plaintiff was scheduled to work in the King of Prussia location, she was the only orthopedic technician at that location. Id. ¶ 7.

         Shortly after beginning her employment, plaintiff learned she was pregnant. PAMF ¶ 17. Plaintiff was terminated during her probationary period on November 6, 2015, after roughly two months of employment at CHOP. See SUMF ¶ 43. Plaintiff asserts that she was terminated on the basis of her pregnancy and because she requested accommodation for her pregnancy-related symptoms. Pl. Mem. Law Opp. Def. Mot. Summ. J. (“Pl. Resp.”) 2. CHOP maintains that plaintiff was terminated because she was absent on four occasions during her probationary period with CHOP and arrived late or departed early from work on roughly 30% of the days she reported to work. See Def. Mem. Law Supp. Def. Mot. Summ. J. (“Def. Mem. Mot.”) 1; SUMF ¶ 28. The circumstances underlying these allegations are outlined below.

         A. Plaintiff's Pregnancy Announcement

         Plaintiff learned she was pregnant on or about September 19, 2015. PAMF ¶ 17. On September 22, 2015, Pellegrino emailed plaintiff about assisting CHOP in moving to a new office. Id. ¶ 18. Shortly thereafter, plaintiff informed Pellegrino that she was pregnant and would not be able to engage in heavy lifting during the move. SUMF ¶ 22. Plaintiff testified that Pellegrino's response was, “Oh, okay, ” and that she did not congratulate plaintiff on her pregnancy. See PAMF ¶ 19; Pl. Resp. Ex. D, Jones Dep. 55:1-3. According to plaintiff, before she told Pellegrino she was pregnant, Pellegrino was “welcoming and friendly and warm and receptive” to her, but afterwards, Pellegrino stopped responding to plaintiff's communications and would not “say hi” to her. See Pl. Resp. SUMF ¶ 47.

         Pellegrino later informed Monteleone that plaintiff was pregnant. See Pl. Resp. SUMF ¶ 25. Plaintiff also told Kristin Waller, who she reported to at CHOP's King of Prussia location, about her pregnancy. PAMF ¶¶ 10, 22.

         B. Plaintiff's Pregnancy-Related Symptoms & Requests for Timely Lunch Breaks

         Plaintiff asserts that throughout much of her pregnancy she “suffered from severe ‘morning sickness,' which caused nausea, stomach pains, and vomiting.” Id. ¶ 23. She maintains that these symptoms were exacerbated when she could not eat lunch. Id.

         Plaintiff states that the lunch break policy at CHOP's King of Prussia location required her to wait to be relieved by a medical assistant before she could take a break. Id. ¶ 25. She maintains that the medical assistants often failed to timely relieve her, causing her not to eat lunch until 3 or 4 p.m. See Id. ¶¶ 25, 27. When plaintiff could not eat lunch at a regular time, she maintains that she would become “dizzy and lightheaded and nauseous.” Id. ¶ 27.

         Plaintiff informed CHOP employees Waller and Samantha Brown, who managed the medical assistants, that her late lunches were making her sick due to her pregnancy and that she needed a timely lunch break. See Id. ¶¶ 27-28. Plaintiff asserts that Waller told her to address the issues directly with her coworkers. Id. ¶ 29. Brown told Waller she would “work with her team to make sure that [plaintiff] had an earlier lunch break.” Id. ¶ 30. Plaintiff contends that nothing was done to resolve this issue by Waller or Brown or anyone else. Id. ¶¶ 29, 31.

         C. Plaintiff's Arrival and Departure Times

         Plaintiff arrived late to work or left early on 13 of the 44 days that she reported to work- almost 30% of her work days. SUMF ¶ 28. Plaintiff's timesheets show that she worked less than 8 hours on 10 of the 44 days she reported to work and more than 8 hours on 19 of those days. Id. ¶ 29; Pl. Resp. SUMF ¶¶ 28-29.

         Plaintiff contends that some of these late arrivals and early departures were for her pregnancy-related symptoms. SUMF ¶ 27. To coworkers, plaintiff often cited traffic and train issues as the reasons for her lateness. Id. ¶ 33.

         Plaintiff never asked to leave early, aside from one occasion in which she asked to leave to go to an ultrasound appointment. Id. ¶ 32; Pl. Resp. SUMF ¶ 32. Monteleone approved this request. SUMF ¶ 36 n.1. Plaintiff testified that no CHOP employee ever expressed any concern with her about her arrival and departure times. PAMF ¶ 55.

         D. Plaintiff's Absences

         Plaintiff was absent on four occasions during her employment at CHOP. SUMF ¶ 26.

         First, plaintiff was absent for “travel plans” on October 9 and 12, 2015. PAMF ¶¶ 3-4. These two absences were preapproved by Pellegrino at the time that plaintiff accepted her job offer, on July 20, 2015. See PAMF ¶ 5.

         Second, plaintiff took two sick days for pregnancy-related reasons. See PAMF ¶ 38. Plaintiff contends that new hires were told during orientation that, despite the importance of attendance during the probationary period, if an employee is sick, they should not come to work because it could compromise patient health. See Id. ¶ 9. Employees who wished to call in sick were instructed to call two hours before their shifts and leave a message for Pellegrino and either Monteleone or the “cast room supervisor.” Id. ¶ 40.

         Plaintiff's first pregnancy-related sick day was October 16, 2015. Id. ¶ 41. Before her shift, plaintiff left Pellegrino a voicemail stating that she would be absent because she had been “vomiting all night due to [her] pregnancy” and continued to vomit. Pl. Resp. SUMF ¶ 34; PAMF ¶ 41. Pellegrino did not respond to this voicemail and testified that she does not remember receiving it. PAMF ¶¶ 42, 44. Plaintiff's phone records reflect that she called. Id. ¶ 43. In addition, plaintiff emailed Joiner Jones that she would miss work due to “vomiting” on October 16, but she did not mention her pregnancy. SUMF ¶ 34.

         Plaintiff's second pregnancy-related sick day was October 29, 2015. PAMF ¶ 43. That day, she left Pellegrino a voicemail stating that she was bleeding and needed to see a doctor to ensure she and the baby were healthy. Id. ¶¶ 43-44. Plaintiff also sent emails to both Pellegrino and Joiner Jones in which she advised them of that problem. Id. ¶ 44. Neither Pellegrino nor Joiner Jones responded to the emails. Id. ¶ 46. Both testified that they did not recall receiving these emails.[2] Id. Plaintiff also informed Waller, who recalled being informed that plaintiff would be absent due to pregnancy-related bleeding. Id. ¶ 48.

         E. Plaintiff's Termination

         After plaintiff's second sick day, Pellegrino recommended a meeting with Monteleone and Joiner Jones to discuss plaintiff's attendance. Id. ¶ 56. Monteleone testified that during this meeting, the group evaluated plaintiff's timesheets and agreed that plaintiff should be terminated based on her absences and her arrival and departure times.[3] See SUMF ¶ 38; PAMF ¶ 56. During the meeting, Monteleone told Pellegrino that plaintiff claimed Pellegrino had preapproved two of her absences. See PAMF ¶¶ 32-34; Pl. Resp. Ex. F, Monteleone Dep. 44:8- 9. Pellegrino told Monteleone that she “didn't know anything about that.” See PAMF ¶ 34. During her deposition, however, Pellegrino testified that she recalled approving those absences. Id. ¶ 63. She also testified that she did not remember telling Monteleone that she had not approved those two absences, though she “guess[ed]” it was accurate if he said so. Id. ¶ 36.

         Joiner Jones testified that she advised Monteleone and Pellegrino to meet with plaintiff before terminating her to “see if she can meet . . . [CHOP's] operational needs.” Id. ¶ 56. She testified that it was CHOP's practice to discuss attendance issues with an employee before terminating them. Id. ¶ 58.

         Monteleone, Pellegrino, and Joiner Jones all testified that plaintiff's pregnancy was not discussed when deciding whether to terminate her. SUMF ¶ 40. Joiner Jones added that she was not aware that plaintiff was pregnant. Id.

         On November 2, 2015, Monteleone sent an email to Joiner Jones stating, “[Pellegrino] and I have decided to let [plaintiff] go, because of her Calling out sick on two different occasions in October. Also, [plaintiff] told me she had let [Pellegrino] know about being off on Oct 9th and 12th. [Pellegrino] said she didn't tell her anything about this before her hire. So this is her fourth incident in the month of October.” PAMF ¶ 60; Pl. Resp. Ex. K. Pellegrino was carbon copied on this email ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.