United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
JOE A. KANNIKAL, Plaintiff,
WILLIAM P. BARR, Attorney General, Defendant.
GIBSON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
case arises from the Bureau of Prisons' ("BOP")
alleged discrimination against Plaintiff in violation of
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
("Title VII") while he worked as a physician's
assistant ("PA") at the Federal Correctional
Institution in Loretto, Pennsylvania ("FCI
Loretto"). Pending before the Court is Defendant William
P. Barr's Motion for Summary Judgment. (ECF No. 120.) The
Motion is fully briefed (ECF Nos. 121, 131) and ripe for
disposition. For the reasons that follow, the Court
GRANTS Defendant's Motion.
Jurisdiction and Venue
Court has subject-matter jurisdiction because Plaintiff's
Title VII claims arise under federal law. 28 U.S.C. §
1331. Venue is proper because the case was transferred to the
Western District of Pennsylvania, where a substantial part of
the events giving rise to Plaintiff's claims occurred. 28
U.S.C. § 1391(b)(2), § 1404(a).
following facts are undisputed unless otherwise
Plaintiff's Initial Employment with BOP and the EEOC
first began working as a PA at FCI Loretto in May of 1988.
(ECF No. 127 ¶ 1.) About six months later, BOP granted
Plaintiff a hardship transfer to its Correctional Center in
Miami, Florida so that he could be near his family and study
for his medical boards. (Id. ¶ 2.) In June of
1990, Plaintiff requested a three-month leave of absence to
study for the medical examination for foreign medical
graduates; when BOP denied his request for a leave of
absence, he resigned from the BOP. (Id. ¶ 3.)
In 1992, Plaintiff applied for a vacant PA position at FCI
Loretto. (Id. ¶ 4.) According to Plaintiff,
Jeff Trimbath, the Assistant Health Administrator at FCI
Loretto, prevented him from being hired because of
discriminatory animus. (Id. ¶ 5.) Mr. Trimbath
denied any and all allegations of discriminatory animus.
(Id. ¶ 6.) Plaintiff filed a discrimination
complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
("EEOC") and, in a bench decision issued on May 11,
1995, the EEOC found in favor of Plaintiff and ordered that
Plaintiff be reinstated as a PA, with back pay and benefits.
(Id. ¶¶ 7-8.)
January 20, 1998, Plaintiff was reinstated as a PA at FCI
Loretto. (Id. ¶ 9.) Plaintiff practiced under
the supervision of Clinical Director Dr. Daniel Leonard,
Health Services Administrator William Schnake, and Mr.
Trimbath. (Id. ¶ 10.) Mr. Trimbath supervised
Plaintiff's time and attendance, but did not supervise
Plaintiff's clinical work or performance; Dr. Leonard had
that responsibility. (Id. ¶¶ 54-55.) Mr.
Trimbath had no interaction with Plaintiff involving
discipline with respect to Plaintiff's clinical skills,
evaluations, or revocation of medical privileges.
(Id. ¶ 56.)
began at FCI Loretto on February 3, 1998. (Id.
¶ 11.) Before Plaintiff received his medical privileges,
FCI Loretto had to verify his medical credentials.
(Id. ¶ 19.) Medical privileges allow a PA to
diagnose and treat patients and are granted by the Clinical
Director of the Institution, Dr. Leonard. (Id.
¶ 20.) Plaintiff submitted the paperwork necessary to
review his application for privileges on February 4, 1998
and, in compliance with BOP policy, Dr. Leonard granted
Plaintiff temporary privileges for a 90-day probationary
period on February 20, 1998. (Id. ¶¶
23-24.) The warden of FCI Loretto, James Franco, approved
Plaintiff's temporary medical privileges on March 5,
1998. (Id. ¶ 17.)
Plaintiff's Time Off and Leave
April 6, 1998, approximately two months after he started
working, Plaintiff took extended sick leave until June 1,
1998. (Id. ¶ 28.) On April 6,
1998, Plaintiff called in sick and told Mr. Schnake that he
would be at his home in Miami, Florida until Memorial
(Id. ¶ 29.) On Monday June 8, 1998, Plaintiff
called in sick, stating that he had food poisoning, and did
not return to work until June 9, 1998. (Id. ¶
31.) In addition, on June 10, 1998, Plaintiff requested
extended annual leave from July 12, 1998, through August 1,
1998, to visit his ill mother in India. (Id. ¶
32.) Between February 3, 1998, and June 29, 1998, Plaintiff
had used 80 hours of annual leave and 291 hours of sick
leave. (Id. ¶ 66.)
left for India to visit his ill mother on July 10, 1998, and
returned to work on August 24, 1998. (Id.
¶¶ 75, 93.) Then on September 28, 1998, Plaintiff
again took extended sick leave to his home in Miami and did
not return to work until December 15, 1998. (Id.
¶¶ 95-96.) The following year, Plaintiff took
extended sick leave from March 22, 1999, through May 14,
1999, and leave again from May 17, 1999, through May 21,
1999, to attend a psychiatric conference. (Id.
Plaintiff's Work Performance and Discipline
the 90-day probationary period, Dr. Leonard expressed his
concern about Plaintiff's performance to Mr. Schnake and
Mr. Trimbath, which involved the way he was prescribing
medications, his examinations, and the way he was writing up
his entries. (Id. ¶¶ 45-46.) Dr. Leonard
told Mr. Schnake that he had concerns about the treatment
Plaintiff was rendering and that he wanted to fire Plaintiff
because he felt Plaintiff's care was inappropriate and
not up to FCI Loretto's standards. (Id. ¶
10, 1998, Dr. Leonard issued Plaintiff a three-page
memorandum informing Plaintiff that his performance of
medical duties was unacceptable, and Dr. Leonard provided
specific examples of poor patient care. (Id. ¶
49.) On the same date, Dr. Leonard placed Plaintiff on a
Performance Improvement Plan ("PIP"). (Id.
¶ 50.) During the 30-day PIP period, Dr. Leonard
prepared several memoranda about his concerns with
Plaintiff's unacceptable medical performance.
(Id. ¶ 57.) Dr. Leonard wrote that he did not
believe that Plaintiff was using his "opportunity to
improve period" to his full advantage. (Id.
29, 1998, Mr. Schnake informed Plaintiff that his excessive
use of sick leave was affecting his performance, in that his
absence was not allowing him to train with other staff and to
gain the necessary experience to function as a PA.
(Id. ¶ 65.) On July 6, 1998, Mr. Trimbath
issued Plaintiff a letter stating that his pattern of using
sick leave "was unacceptable." (Id. ¶
73.) Mr. Trimbath noted in the letter that Plaintiff had used
sick leave "in conjunction with [his] weekends"
three times in the past month to visit his family in Miami
and the letter ordered Plaintiff to provide medical
documentation before using sick leave for the next three
months. (Id. ¶74.)
9, 1998, Dr. Leonard and Mr. Trimbath met with Plaintiff to
discuss his progress under the PIP. (Id. ¶ 78.)
At the conclusion of the PIP period, which ended on July 10,
1998, Dr. Leonard refused to reinstate Plaintiff's
medical privileges. (Id. ¶ 82.)
11, 1998, Plaintiff wrote to Warden Franco complaining about
his unacceptable rating and claimed that his supervisors were
retaliating against him and subjecting him to a hostile work
environment. (Id. ¶ 83.) Warden Franco
responded to Plaintiff's letter, stating that he had
reviewed the record and felt that Dr. Leonard's actions
did not constitute harassment or reprisal, and that he had
been given an opportunity to improve his performance.
(Id. ¶ 88.)
Plaintiff returned to work on August 24, 1998 after his sick
leave, he was given non-medical duties because Dr. Leonard
had withdrawn his medical privileges. (Id. ¶
94.) Upon his return to work after taking extended sick leave
from September 28, 1998, to December 15, 1998, Plaintiff
performed non-medical duties until March of 1999, because Dr.
Leonard had not reinstated his medical privileges.
(Id. ¶¶ 95-97.)
September 18, 1998, Warden Franco requested that a Focus
Review Team assess Dr. Leonard's determination to deny
clinical privileges to Plaintiff. (Id. ¶ 98.)
The Focus Review Team concluded that Plaintiff had made
serious errors in five of the ten cases they had reviewed.
(Id. ¶ 105.) Dr. Jae Shim, the Clinical
Director of BOP's facility in Allen wood, Pennsylvania
and member of the Focus Review Team, opined that, based upon
the review of the medical records and his conversation with
Plaintiff, he "agree[d] with Dr. Leonard's decision
to revoke [Plaintiff's] privileges due to medical
incompetence." (Id. ¶ 106.)
December 21, 1998, Mr. Trimbath issued Plaintiff another
leave abuse letter noting that he had "used over 150
hours of sick leave during the past three months" and
had not always provided medical excuses for his absences.
(Id. ¶ 108.) On December 28, 1998, Plaintiff
was interviewed by the Special Investigative Agent at FCI
Loretto for misconduct for failing to follow procedure with
regard to his sick leave. (Id. ¶ 109.)
Plaintiff's Reassignment and Termination
February 2, 1999, Mr. Schnake issued Plaintiff a letter
proposing to terminate his employment. (Id. ¶
111.) The reasons given for Plaintiff's proposed
termination were: (1) the removal of his medical privileges,
(2) failure to improve while on the PIP, (3) failure to
follow instructions concerning his use of sick leave by not
providing medical excuses, and (4) his time spent AWOL
because he failed to provide documentation for some of his
absences. (Id. ¶ 112.)
March 3, 1999, Warden Bobby Shearin, who had replaced Warden
Franco, issued a memo to Plaintiff assigning him full time to
the Inmate Systems Management ("ISM") branch.
(Id. ¶ 113.) During his reassignment,
Plaintiff's title, pay, and grade all remained the same.
(Id. ¶ 114.) Upon his return to work on May 24,
1999 after extended sick leave, he performed non-medical
duties until June 2, 1999. (Id. ¶ 117.)
2, 1999, Warden Shearin issued Plaintiff a Notice of Removal,
informing Plaintiff that he was being removed for: (1) his
loss of medical privileges, (2) his failure to follow
instructions, and (3) his absences without leave.
(Id. ¶ 118.) On that same date, Plaintiff and
BOP officials entered into a Last Chance Settlement Agreement
whereby BOP agreed not to remove Plaintiff for a period of 60
days if Plaintiff improved his performance. (Id.
¶ 120.) The agreement provided that Plaintiff would be
required to participate in specific classes and review
specific materials. (Id. ¶ 121.) Pursuant to
the agreement, Mr. Trimbath was officially removed as
Plaintiff's immediate supervisor and Mr. Schnake became
his supervisor. (Id. ¶ 122.) The agreement also
created a plan wherein Dr. Leonard and Mr. Schnake would
provide Plaintiff with close supervision, including observing
and training Plaintiff while he conducted mock medical
examinations of inmates. (Id. ¶ 123.) Finally,
the agreement provided that if Plaintiff's performance
did not improve within sixty days he would be terminated.
(Id. ¶ 124.)
June 16, 1999, and August 12, 1999, Dr. Leonard and Mr.
Schnake met regularly with Plaintiff to observe mock
examinations and review medical assessments and assignments.
(Id. ¶ 129.) On June 16, 1999, Plaintiff
complained that, during one of his mock interviews, Mr.
Schnake got angry and stated "BS discrimination."
(Id. ¶ 125.) Mr. Schnake admits that he made
the statement, but denies that the statement was made to
harass or discriminate. (Id. ¶ 126.) On July 12,
1999, Plaintiff wrote to Warden Shearin, complaining about a
"hostile, abusive, retaliatory working environment and
the harassment and intimidation at the Health Service
Department." (Id. ¶ 133.) On July 19,
1999, Warden Shearin responded to Plaintiff's letter and
explained, among other things, that he had failed to provide
specific instances of "hostile, abusive, retaliatory
working environment and the harassment and intimidation at
the Health Service Department." (Id. ¶
August 12, 1999, Dr. Leonard concluded that he would
"not give [Plaintiff] privileges under [his] medical
license to care for patients at FCI Loretto," based upon
his observations of Plaintiff during the Last Chance period.
(Id. ¶ 142.) Dr. Leonard found that
Plaintiff's medical misjudgments included, but were not
limited to: failure to ask about symptoms, failure to perform
systematic examinations, failure to accurately describe
disease etiology, failure to properly document his
examinations, failure to properly perform the auscultation of
a patient's aortic valve, failure to properly obtain a
patient's blood pressure, inability to identify risk
factors for certain medical conditions, inability to identify
various causes of certain medical conditions, lack of
knowledge in reading EKGs, and incomplete understanding of
what parameters are contained in laboratory studies that he
ordered. (Id. ¶ 138.)
August 26, 1999, Warden Shearin informed Plaintiff that his
employment would be terminated on September 3, 1999, due to
his failure to demonstrate that he could safely care for the
patients he was treating at FCI Loretto. (Id. ¶
143.) In the termination letter, Warden Shearin highlighted
the various medical errors that Plaintiff had made, and noted
that Dr. Leonard had determined that Plaintiff did not
possess the requisite medical knowledge and was not competent
enough to be granted medical privileges under Dr.
Leonard's license. (Id. ¶ 144.)
Plaintiff's employment was terminated on September 3,
1999. (Id. ...