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Reid v. Temple University Hospital Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

August 15, 2019

CORONE REID, et al.
v.
TEMPLE UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL INC., et al.

          MEMORANDUM

          BARTLE, J

         Plaintiffs Corone Reid and Donny Odey have sued under 42 U.S.C. § 1981 for racial discrimination in the termination of their employment. Before the court is the motion of defendants Temple University Hospital, Inc. (“TUH”), Erik Dutko, and Barbara Gennello for summary judgment on Reid's claims under Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

         I

         Under 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). 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).

         Summary judgment is granted where there is insufficient record evidence for a reasonable factfinder to find for the nonmovant. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252. “The mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the [nonmoving party]'s position will be insufficient; there must be evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for [that party].” Id. In addition, Rule 56(e)(2) provides “[i]f a party fails to properly support an assertion of fact or fails to properly address another party's assertion of fact as required by Rule 56(c), the court may . . . consider the fact undisputed for the purposes of the motion.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)(2).

         II

         The following facts are undisputed. Reid is a black Jamaican-born woman who came to the United States approximately thirty years ago. She has held a Pennsylvania registered nurse (“RN”) license since 2001. RNs do not have the authority under Pennsylvania law to diagnose medical conditions or to prescribe medication. See 63 Pa. Stat. Ann. § 212(1), 213(a).

         Temple hired Reid in 2008 to work as a pool nurse at its Episcopal Campus (“Episcopal”). In 2010, Reid transferred into a full-time staff nurse position working night shifts on an in-patient behavioral health unit known as the Potter Morris Unit 5 (“PM-5”). Reid reported to the Nurse Manager of PM-5, defendant Erik Dutko (“Dutko”), who was her supervisor from approximately 2013 until Reid's termination in November 2015. Dutko reported to defendant Barbara Gennello (“Gennello”), the Director of Nursing, who in turn reported to the Associate Hospital Director of Nursing.

         Reid received good performance reviews during her tenure at Episcopal. In 2014, she received an above-average performance rating of 2.4 out of 3.0 and in 2015 her performance rating increased to 2.5 out of 3.0. Although Reid received discipline for several minor infractions, including attendance issues, photocopying records inappropriately, and using a cellphone in a patient area, she never asserted that those instances of discipline were racially motivated. In January 2012, Reid received a corrective action/disciplinary report from her former nurse supervisor John Modrzynski, who is Caucasian, regarding an allegedly unprofessional interaction with an African-American security guard. As a result of the incident, Reid received an “initial discussion, ” the lowest level of discipline, for unprofessional conduct. She was ordered to wear her identification badge and to present it to security whenever requested.

         Consistent with Pennsylvania law, TUH maintains policies that govern the administration of medication by Rns. Under TUH policy, RNs are only authorized to administer medication to a patient in accordance with an order issued by a physician. Once a medication is ordered, an RN administers the medication in accordance with that order. Generally, orders must be written and must include the name of the drug, the dosage, the route and frequency of administration, and any other directions required to administer the drug in a safe and effective manner. Such orders are memorialized in the TUH computer system.

         TUH also permits oral orders to be given to RNs directly from physicians under certain emergency circumstances. Specifically, TUH policy provides in relevant part:

It is the policy of Temple University Hospital that a Registered Nurse . . . may only accept verbal orders from a Resident/Fellow or Licensed Independent Practitioner during an emergent or urgent situation based on their scope of practice.
. . . . Face to face verbal orders which are permissible in emergent situations should be repeated back to the physician to ensure accuracy. Verbal telephone orders are only permissible when a patient requires unanticipated care that should not be delayed until a written order can be obtained. It is also the policy of Temple University Hospital that all verbal telephone orders will be documented and read back to the Practitioner for confirmation of order.[1]

         The policy further states that the RN will read back to the physician the patient's name, birth date, room number, drug name, and dose to ensure the accuracy of any oral order before administration. The RN must document such order in TUH's computer order entry system and must indicate that the order was read back to the physician. Thereafter, any oral order must be signed by the physician within 24 hours of the time it is given. These requirements concerning oral orders are obviously significant safeguards for TUH patients.

         Temple also maintains a corrective action/disciplinary policy that provides for progressive employee discipline. It states in relevant part:

         Behavior Warranting Immediate Discharge:

A. Some infractions are serious and may warrant immediate discharge. Examples of these offenses include but are not ...

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