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Everson v. Medlantic Healthcare Group

February 13, 2006

KIMBERLY EVERSON, PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE FOR THE ESTATE OF JAMESEL ROBINSON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MEDLANTIC HEALTHCARE GROUP, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: John M. Facciola United States Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

This case was referred to me for all purposes including trial. Currently pending before me for resolution is Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment, which, for the reasons stated herein, will be granted.

I. BACKGROUND

Jamesel Robinson filed the present lawsuit alleging that defendant, her former employer, (1) unlawfully discriminated against her based on her age in violation of the District of Columbia Human Rights Act ("DCHRA"), D.C. Code § 2-1401 et seq., and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"), 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq., (2) subjected her to a hostile work environment, (3) subjected her to a dangerous working condition, and (4) intentionally inflicted emotional distress. Robinson claims that defendant's actions caused her to suffer from multiple health problems, including high blood pressure, migraine headaches, stress, and a lung disorder, which ultimately led her to stop working. Since initiating the lawsuit, Robinson has passed away, but her daughter, Kimberly Everson, who is also the Personal Representative of her estate, has succeeded her as plaintiff. Defendant has moved for summary judgment on all claims asserted in the Amended Complaint.

II. FACTS

Robinson was employed by defendant's Washington Hospital Center ("defendant" or "the Hospital") from January 1971 through October 1999, when she stop working due to disability. Amended Complaint ("Am. Compl.") ¶ 2. She began her employment as a Junior Nurse's Aide and, after other jobs within the Hospital, became a Financial Counselor in the Admitting Department in 1996. Defendant's Memorandum in Support of Its Motion for Summary Judgment ("Def.'s Mem.") at 3. As a Financial Counselor, Robinson was responsible for verifying patients' demographic and insurance information. Plaintiff's Opposition to Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment ("Pl.'s Opp'n") at 10. Robinson remained a Financial Counselor until her departure in 1999. Am. Compl. ¶ 6.

When Robinson first became a Financial Counselor, her immediate supervisor was Kurt Thorne. Def.'s Mem. at 3. On January 15, 1998, Thorne issued Robinson a written reprimand for a performance error related to the verification of a patient's insurance. Pl.'s Opp'n at 10. Specifically, Thorne had instructed Robinson to work on a particular patient's case, but she failed to work on the case for two to three days and, as a result of the delay, the insurance company denied the patient's claim. Def.'s Mem. at 5. Robinson believed that the reprimand was unjustified on the ground that another Financial Counselor had started the case and she felt that the other Financial Counselor should have been required to complete it. Pl.'s Opp'n at 10. After Thorne had assigned Robinson the case, she had asked him for two or three days to reassign the case to the other employee, but he refused to do so. Def.'s Mem. at 5. Robinson filed a grievance under her union's collective bargaining agreement. Id. at 6. Due to an error in applying the collective bargaining agreement's progressive discipline process, the Hospital agreed to reduce Robinson's discipline from a second step written warning to a first step conference report. Id.

Financial Counselors are part of the Admitting Department. While Robinson was employed as a Financial Counselor, the head of the Admitting Department was Susan Manselle. Am. Compl. ¶ 12. Robinson claims that, in 1998, Manselle came into her office, pointed a finger in her face, accused her of being rude to a doctor's secretary, and then accused her of lying when she denied being rude. Am. Compl. ¶ 12; Pl.'s Opp'n, Exh. 1 at 177-79.

On June 12, 1998, Thorne told Robinson and a co-worker, Ethlyn Muir, that they were too old for the job and that it was for younger people.*fn1 Am. Compl. ¶ 8; Pl.'s Opp'n, Exh. 1 at 161. At the time, Robinson was fifty-seven years of age.

On June 22, 1998, Thorne issued Robinson a written reprimand and a three day suspension for failing to obtain pre-certifications on five patients' accounts within forty-eight hours of the patients' admission, which allegedly resulted in a $150,000 loss to the Hospital. Def.'s Mem. at 6. Robinson believed that her reprimand was unfair on the ground that denials are routine and that, although there were two pages of denials, her five denials were the only ones resulting in discipline. Pl.'s Opp'n at 10. Robinson filed a grievance and, due to another error in applying the progressive discipline process, the Hospital reduced the reprimand to a second step written warning and revoked the suspension. Def.'s Mem. at 7. Robinson was given full back pay for the three days that she was suspended. Id.

Robinson also claimed that Thorne refused to let her attend educational training classes and computer classes while allowing younger employees to attend the same. Am. Compl. ¶ 11. Robinson did not identify any of the younger employees that Thorne allegedly allowed to attend such trainings. Am. Compl. ¶ 11; Def.'s Mem. at 11; Pl.'s Opp'n at 12.

On July 8, 1998, Robinson met with Thorne for her annual employment evaluation. Def.'s Mem. at 7. Thorne allowed his assistant and another Financial Counselor to sit in on the meeting. Am. Compl. ¶ 14; Pl.'s Opp'n, Exh. 1 at 117. Robinson felt that this was an invasion of her privacy. Am. Compl. ¶ 14.

On November 24, 1998, Robinson's new supervisor, Jeff Joyner, issued her a reprimand and a three day suspension for failing to timely complete a patient's insurance verification. Def.'s Mem. at 8. Robinson believed that the reprimand was unjustified on the ground that the reason she could not verify the insurance was because the patient's insurance information had not yet been "linked" by the Pre-Admitters. Am. Compl. ¶ 15. Robinson filed a grievance, her suspension was rescinded, and she was reimbursed for the three days that she was suspended.

Pl.'s Opp'n at 8, Exh. 1 at 347.

In July 1999, Joyner prohibited Robinson from selling pizza coupons for her granddaughter's school during working hours. Am. Compl. ¶ 16; Def.'s Mem. at 10. Robinson claimed that Joyner orally reprimanded her for trying to sell the coupons and that, although Joyner had previously purchased items from both Robinson and other employees, she was the only employee he reprimanded. Am. Compl. ¶ 16; Pl.'s Opp'n at 11. According to the Hospital, Joyner was merely implementing an office-wide policy prohibiting employees from selling items during office work time. Def.'s Mem. at 10.

In September 1999, Manselle raised her voice to Robinson in front of other employees, shouting, "Robbie, we do not hold patients up, you will wear this! you will wear this!".[sic] This shall be ...


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