United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
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.
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.
Monteleone supervised plaintiff. See SUMF ¶ 15;
Pl. Resp. SUMF ¶ 15. Monteleone's direct supervisor
was Sonja Joiner Jones. SUMF ¶ 17. Linda Pellegrino,
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.
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
Plaintiff's Pregnancy Announcement
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.
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,
Plaintiff's Pregnancy-Related Symptoms & Requests for
Timely Lunch Breaks
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.
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.
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.
Plaintiff's Arrival and Departure Times
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.
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.
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 ¶
was absent on four occasions during her employment at CHOP.
SUMF ¶ 26.
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.
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.
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.
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. Id. Plaintiff also informed
Waller, who recalled being informed that plaintiff would be
absent due to pregnancy-related bleeding. Id. ¶
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. 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.
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.
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.
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 ...