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Adams v. HCF Management

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

January 10, 2020

HCF MANAGEMENT, et al., Defendants.



         Plaintiff Kimberly Adams filed this civil action after she was terminated from her position as Administrator of Bradford Manor, a skilled nursing facility affiliated with the HCF family of companies (collectively, "HCF"). At this juncture, Plaintiffs only remaining claim is a wrongful discharge claim asserted against Defendants HCF Management and her former supervisor, Paul Lieber ("Lieber"). The Court's subject matter jurisdiction is predicated on 28 U.S.C. §1332, as there is complete diversity of citizenship between Plaintiff and the Defendants.

         Pending before the Court is the Defendants' motion for summary judgment. ECF No. 53. For the reasons that follow, the motion will be granted, and summary judgment will be entered in Defendants' favor.

         Background Facts [1]

         HCF operates nursing homes in both Ohio and Pennsylvania. CSMF¶3. Its Pennsylvania facilities include Bradford Manor, Warren Manor, and Sweden Valley Manor. Id. ¶¶ 3, 4. From its corporate offices in Ohio, HCF provides human resource services to its Pennsylvania nursing homes. Id. ¶12.

         Bradford Manor is a 115-bed skilled nursing facility located in Bradford, Pennsylvania. CSMF ¶1. It employs a team of approximately 135 to 140 individuals, including nursing, housekeeping, dietary, maintenance, and administrative staff. Id. ¶6.

         Warren Manor and Sweden Valley Manor are respectively located approximately 45 minutes and 90 minutes away from Bradford Manor. CSMF ¶4. As a result of their relative proximity to one another, these three facilities occasionally refer or transfer residents to and among each other. Id. ¶5.

         As a member of the nursing home industry, Bradford Manor is subject to the minimum staffing requirements of28 Pa. Code §211.12(i). CSMF¶13. This regulation requires facilities like Bradford Manor to average at least 2.7 hours of "general nursing care" for each of its residents during any 24-hour period.[2] Id. ¶¶ 13-14. Due to the difficulty of finding and retaining health care workers (particularly nurse aides), the facilities in HCF's Pennsylvania Region experienced ongoing challenges meeting their minimum staffing-level requirements, particularly on weekends. Id. ¶¶20, 23.

         Plaintiff was hired by HCF in or around April 2014 as an Administrator-in-Training for Warren Manor. CSMF ¶30. She later became the facility's Administrator and then became a "mobile" administrator who assisted other Administrators within HCF's Pennsylvania region. Id.¶¶31-32.

         In or around the summer of 2016, Plaintiff applied for the position of Administrator for Bradford Manor. CSMF ¶34. Lieber, HCF's Regional Manager, interviewed Plaintiff but had reservations about her candidacy because he believed that her skills as an administrator were below average. Id. ¶35. Although HCF's President also expressed reservations about Plaintiffs fitness for the job, Plaintiff was ultimately hired based on the recommendation of Jeremy Monroe, HCF's Vice President of Human Resources. Id. ¶¶36-37. Monroe reasoned that, if the company did not have faith that Plaintiff could succeed as an administrator, they should cut ties with her rather than keeping her in the "mobile" administrator role - a position that HCF had created for Plaintiff. Id. ¶¶33, 38.

         Plaintiff took over as Bradford Manor's Administrator in August 2016 and held the position until her termination in September 2017. CSMF ¶¶7, 39. As Administrator, Plaintiff was the senior-most manager on site at Bradford Manor and was responsible for overseeing the facility's daily operations. Id. ¶8. Lieber was Plaintiffs direct supervisor. Id. ¶¶9-10.

         Maintaining resident census and ensuring adequate staffing were both aspects of Plaintiff s job responsibilities as Administrator of Bradford Manor. CSMF ¶19. To assist in determining whether the facility was meeting its staffing obligations, Bradford Manor's scheduler utilized software known as "OnShift." Id. ¶22. When the projections revealed a potential staff shortage, the scheduler would notify Plaintiff and other management personnel. Id. ¶24.

         To help ensure that Bradford Manor was meeting the required number of general nursing care hours, HCF authorized Plaintiff to direct nursing staff to come in and work a particular weekend, when necessary. CSMF ¶26. As an incentive, Plaintiff could request call-in bonuses for unscheduled staff, although these requests were not always granted. Id. ¶25. Another potential solution was for Bradford Manor to refer residents to HCF's other nearby facilities in order to bring the staffing ratio numbers into compliance; however, this was not always a viable solution because the other facilities also had staffing issues. Id. ¶28.

         Defendants contend that, from the start of her tenure as Bradford Manor's Administrator, Plaintiff demonstrated performance deficiencies. According to Lieber, staff at Bradford Manor contacted him with issues about Plaintiffs work attendance, management style, personality, and knowledge. Lieber Depo. at 28-31; ECF No. 56 at 114-117.

         On December 5, 2016, Lieber placed Plaintiff on a Performance Improvement Plan ("PIP"), with the approval of HCF's human resources department. CSMF ¶¶41-42. In the PIP, Lieber noted numerous problems with Plaintiff s performance, including leadership issues, treating staff in a rude and demeaning way, exceeding the staffing budget, and attendance issues. CSMF ¶43.

         Lieber met with Plaintiff again in January 2017 to discuss the PIP, deliver her annual performance evaluation, and issue another disciplinary action. CSMF¶44. In her performance evaluation - her third to that point in time, Plaintiff received her lowest scores. Id. ΒΆ45. As a result of ...

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