United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
case arises from the termination of Khalia Jones
(“Plaintiff”) by Thomas Jefferson University
Hospital (“Defendant”). Plaintiff claims that she
was fired because she was pregnant and disabled. Before the
Court is Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No.
65). In analyzing the Motion for Summary Judgment, the Court
is also considering Plaintiff's Response in Opposition to
Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 69),
Defendant's Reply (ECF No. 72), Plaintiff's Reply
(ECF No. 112), and Defendant's Sur-Reply (ECF No. 119).
Upon consideration of the Parties' submissions and for
the reasons set forth below, Defendant's Motion for
Summary Judgment is GRANTED.
Motion for Relief and Leave to Supplement the Record (ECF No.
125) is also before the Court. Plaintiff's Motion for
Relief and Leave to Supplement the Record is hereby
FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
began working at the Defendant's Center City Campus as an
endoscopy technician in October 2007. Am. Compl. ¶ 14,
ECF No. 22; Answer ¶ 14, ECF No. 56. Plaintiff's
responsibilities as an endoscopic technician included, among
other tasks, preparing procedure rooms, assisting physicians
during procedures, and cleaning and sterilizing instruments
used during procedures. Def.'s Mot. Summ. J., Ex. 1, Pl.
Dep. Vol. I 11:20-12:6, ECF No. 65. Endoscopic technicians
are sometimes expected to assist with fluoroscopic procedure
- a type of medical imaging that uses x-rays, thereby
exposing patients and potentially medical personnel to
radiation. During her tenure as an endoscopic technician,
Plaintiff was supervised by Nurse Manager, Barbara Alpini
(“Alpini”). Am. Compl. ¶ 19; Def.'s Mot.
Summ. J., Ex. 2 ¶ 2.
January 22, 2010, doctors informed Plaintiff that she was
approximately six weeks pregnant. Def.'s Mot. Summ. J.,
Ex. 3, JUP 20. In late January 2010, Plaintiff informed
Alpini that she was pregnant and asked to no longer be
assigned to participate in fluoroscopies so that she could
avoid exposure to radiation. Def.'s Mot. Summ. J., Ex. 2
¶ 15, Ex. 3 ¶ 27-28. Alpini did not guarantee that
Plaintiff would not have to assist in some procedures that
involved radiation, based on staffing needs. Def.'s Mot.
Summ. J., Ex. 2 ¶ 15; Pl.'s Resp., Ex. F, 3-4, ECF
No. 69. Plaintiff contends that in the ensuing months she was
forced to perform “daily radiation-intensive endoscopy
procedures, ” despite her request to not perform
procedures involving radiation. Am. Compl. ¶ 61.
Plaintiff further alleges that when assisting with procedures
involving radiation, her supervisors did not provide her with
a larger protective gear to cover her growing abdomen. Am.
Compl. ¶ 53-56. As a result, Plaintiff claims to have
experienced debilitating anxiety, terror, emotional distress,
and depression. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 69, 82. Defendant, on
the other hand, contends that Plaintiff did not assist with
any fluoroscopic procedures after January 1, 2010. Def.'s
Mot. Summ. J., Ex. 2 ¶ 18; Ex. 5 ¶ 3, Ex. 6 ¶
events between Plaintiff informing Defendant of her pregnancy
and her ultimate termination on April 1, 2010 are contested.
Defendant states that on March 24, 2010, Plaintiff was
assigned to the cleaning room where she was responsible for
cleaning equipment used in procedures and documenting the
cleaning and sterilization of the equipment. Def.'s Mot.
Summ. J. 13. According to Defendant, on March 25, 2010, two
endoscopic technicians informed Alpini that the procedure
equipment's cleaning solution had failed testing and that
there was no documentation regarding the efficacy of the
cleaning solution from the previous day, March 24. Def.'s
Mot. Summ. J. 13. Plaintiff blames the lack of documentation
from March 24 on her being reassigned from the cleaning room
to a procedure by the charge nurse on duty, Cathy Walker
(“Walker”). Def.'s Mot. Summ. J., Ex. 1, Pl.
Dep. Vol I, 158:8-22. Plaintiff asserts that she had tested
the cleaning solution, but did not document the testing.
Def.'s Mot. Summ. J. 14. According to Defendant, Walker
told Alpini that Plaintiff was not reassigned on March 24.
Def. Mot. Summ. J. 14. In addition, Defendant asserts that
business records corroborate its account and indicate that
Plaintiff did not participate in any procedures on March 24.
Def.'s Mot. Summ. J. 13. Hospital policy requires that
business records document all personnel working on
procedures. Def. Mot. Summ. J. 13.
the conflicting accounts of Plaintiff's work assignment
on March 24, Alpini held a meeting with both Plaintiff and
Walker on March 30, during which there was a confrontation
between Plaintiff and Alpini. Def.'s Mot. Summ. J. 13.
Plaintiff believed Alpini was giving her a hard time because
of Plaintiff's unwillingness to perform fluoroscopic
procedures. Def.'s Mot. Summ. J. 13. Following the
confrontation, Alpini instructed Plaintiff to speak with
Human Resources, which was located in another building on
Defendant's campus. Def.'s Mot. Summ. J. 13.
Plaintiff claims she went to Human Resources and spoke with
Randy McLaughlin (“McLaughlin”) on March 30.
Pl.'s Resp. 42. Plaintiff further contends that when she
returned from Human Resources near the end of her shift, she
sought the permission of the managing nurse, Marilyn LeBron
(“LeBron”), prior to leaving work about ten
minutes before the scheduled end of her shift. Am. Compl.
¶ 94. According to Defendant, Alpini was told that
Plaintiff never visited McLaughlin in Human Resources on
March 30, and that Plaintiff did not return to work that day.
Def.'s Mot. Summ. J. 15. Alpini therefore concluded that
Plaintiff opted to leave work on March 30 after their
contentious meeting. Def.'s Mot. Summ. J. 15. As a
result, Defendant suspended Plaintiff as an employee the
following day, March 31, 2010, and formally terminated her
employment on April 1, 2010. Def.'s Mot. Summ. J., Ex. 2
25, 2013, Plaintiff commenced this action in the Eastern
District of Pennsylvania. Compl., ECF No. 1. Plaintiff filed
her First Amended Complaint on December 9, 2013 which sets
forth the claims currently pending before the Court. Am.
Compl. Plaintiff makes claims of discrimination and
retaliation under the Americans with Disabilities Act
(“ADA”), the Pregnancy Discrimination Act
(“PDA”), and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act
(“PHRA”). Am. Compl. 24-33. Plaintiff also
initially named Alpini and Dr. Anthony DiMarino, a physician
who oversaw medical care in the Defendant's endoscopy
unit, as Defendants. Am. Compl. 24-33. The Court dismissed
Alpini and DiMarino as Defendants in this case on February 6,
2015. Order, ECF No. 94. On April 18, 2014, Defendant filed
the instant Motion for Summary Judgment. Def.'s Mot.
the resolution of several discovery disputes and supplemental
briefing submitted to the Court by both parties,
Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment is now ripe for
the Court's ruling. For the reasons set forth below,
Defendant's motion is GRANTED as to all
STANDARD OF REVIEW
should grant summary judgment only 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). Factual disputes must be
both material and genuine to defeat summary
judgment. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S.
242, 247 (1986) (emphasis added). Materiality depends on the
applicable substantive law; a fact is material if it may
affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law.
Id. at 247-248. A genuine dispute allows a
reasonable jury to return a verdict for the nonmoving party.
Id. at 248.
considering a motion for summary judgment the court must
construe all evidence in the light most favorable to the
nonmoving party. Santini v. Fuentes, 7953d 410, 416
(3d Cir. 2015). The moving party bears the initial burden of
establishing the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.
Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986).
If the moving party meets that burden, the nonmoving party
must do more than merely rest on the allegations stated in
her pleadings and must identify specific facts showing that
there is a genuine issue for trial. Matsushita Elec.
Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587
(1986); Garges v. People's Light & Theatre
Co., 529 Fed.Appx. 156, 160 (3d Cir. 2013). The court
must be mindful that “[t]he mere existence of a
scintilla of evidence in support of the plaintiff's
position will be insufficient; there must be evidence on
which the jury could reasonably find for the
plaintiff.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252.
Court finds that Defendant met its burden of proving that
there is no genuine issue of material fact. Further,
Plaintiff has failed to identify specific facts showing that
there is a genuine issue for trial.
Court will first explore the events giving rise to
Plaintiff's pregnancy discrimination claims and analyze
the evidence which corroborates Defendant's stated reason
for terminating Plaintiff. The Court will then examine the
evidence regarding Plaintiff's disability discrimination
claim which does not sufficiently establish Plaintiff's
Counts I and III, Plaintiff alleges discrimination and
retaliation in violation of the PDA. Am. Compl. ¶ ¶
104-128. The PDA prohibits discrimination “on the basis
of pregnancy, child birth, or related medical
conditions.” Pregnancy Discrimination Act, Pub. L. No.
95-555, 92 Stat. 2076 (codified as amended at 42 U.S.C.
§ 2000e et seq. (1991)). The PDA contains two
clauses. The first clause amends Title VII of the Civil
Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”), providing that
discrimination on the basis of “pregnancy, childbirth,
or related medical conditions” is a form of unlawful
sex discrimination. The second clause provides that
“women affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or related
medical conditions” have a right to be treated the same
as those “not so affected but similar in their ability
or inability to work.” 42 U.S.C. § 2000e(k).
Courts analyze PDA claims as sex discrimination under Title
VII. Solomen v. Redwood Advisory Co., 183 F.Supp.2d
748, 752 (E.D. Pa. 2002).
II and IV of Plaintiff's Complaint allege pregnancy
discrimination and retaliation in violation of the PHRA. Am.
Compl. ¶¶ 111-117, 129-134. The PHRA prohibits
employers from discriminating based on the sex of an
employee. 43 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 951 et seq.
This includes a prohibition on discrimination based on
pregnancy. Cerra v. East Stroudsburg Area Sch.
Dist., 299 A.2d 277, 279-80 (Pa. 1973). When a plaintiff
alleges violations of the PDA and PHRA, both claims are
subject to the same Title VII analysis. See Kelly v.
Drexel Univ., 94 F.3d 102, 105 (3d Cir. 1996); Smith
v. Pathmark Stores, Inc., No. 97-1561, 1998 WL 309916,
at *3 (E.D. Pa. June 11, 1998) (“Courts have uniformly
interpreted the PHRA consistent with Title VII.”).
Accordingly, Plaintiff's pregnancy discrimination claim
under the PHRA is properly analyzed under the same standard
as her pregnancy discrimination claim under the PDA.