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Nichols v. Ohiohealth Corp.

United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Eastern Division

August 17, 2017

STEPHANIE NICHOLS, Plaintiff,
v.
OHIOHEALTH CORP., et al., Defendants.

          Magistrate Judge Vascura

          OPINION AND ORDER

          GEORGE C. SMITH, JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court upon the Motion for Summary Judgment of Defendants OhioHealth Corporation, Kay Holland, Kathy Talbott, Nancy Miller, and Charissa Cattrell (collectively “Defendants”) (Doc. 31). Plaintiff opposed Defendants' Motion (Doc. 50) and Defendants replied in support (Doc. 56). This matter is now ripe for review. For the following reasons, Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         This case concerns Plaintiff's attempt to obtain a Senior Radiology Technologist position with OhioHealth Corp. (“Ohio Health”) at the Riverside Breast Health Center. (Doc. 2, Compl. at ¶¶ 6, 12). Although Ohio Health originally offered Plaintiff the job, Plaintiff's offer was rescinded before she ever began working for Ohio Health and this lawsuit followed.

         Plaintiff applied for the Senior Radiology Technologist position on July 26, 2012. (Doc. 3, Am. Compl. at ¶ 11). Plaintiff had worked in similar positions performing mammograms for over thirty years before she applied for the position with Ohio Health. (Doc. 48-1, Pl.'s Application at PAGEID# 742-43). While waiting to hear about her application, Plaintiff contacted a former coworker, Dee Goodwin, who worked for Ohio Health at the time. (Doc. 54-1, Nichols Dep. at 26). Goodwin spoke to her supervisor, Katie Roth, about Plaintiff and Plaintiff forwarded her application directly to Roth. (Id. at 26-27). Roth informed Plaintiff that Goodwin had wonderful things to say about Plaintiff. (Id.). Plaintiff interviewed with Roth shortly after her email conversation. (Id. at 28-30). After her interview, Plaintiff had a short meeting with Liz Tully, an Ohio Health human resources representative. (Id. at 30-31). Following her meeting with Tully, Plaintiff had a telephone interview with the head of mammography. (Id. at 33-34). Shortly after Plaintiff's phone interview, Kathy Talbott, a recruitment consultant, called Plaintiff and offered her the job. (Id. at 34). Talbott informed Plaintiff that the position was contingent on a background check and a health assessment and said that she would be mailing Plaintiff information memorializing the call. (Id. at 34-37). Talbott sent Plaintiff an offer letter dated August 21, 2012, again indicating that the job offer was contingent on the completion of a background check and a health assessment. (Doc. 48-4, Offer Letter). The Offer Letter scheduled Plaintiff for Ohio Health orientation on August 27, 2012. (Id.).

         Prior to completing the Health Assessment, Plaintiff filled out a few different documents about her health history. Under the section asking “Do you have any limitations that would keep you from performing the duties of your job?”, Plaintiff answered, “Cannot stoop or work standing on my knees.” (Doc. 54-3, Health History). Plaintiff's noted limitations were the result of a meniscus tear that had been surgically repaired a year prior to the Health Assessment. (Doc. 54-1, Nichols Dep. at 50). Plaintiff did not mark either the “No” or “Yes, if yes explain” check boxes next to the question. (Doc. 54-3, Health History). Plaintiff stated that she did not check either box because she did not believe the knee issues kept her from performing her job. (Doc. 54-1, Nichols Dep. at 55-56). Plaintiff noted that she has poor balance and that if she needs to go down to the floor that she usually “hang[s] on to something.” (Id.). The next question on the form asked “Are there any accommodations that you need our company to make to perform this job?” (Doc. 54-3, Health History). Plaintiff checked the “No” box. (Id.).

         Plaintiff's in-person health assessment took place at the Riverside Hospital campus with nurse Charissa Cattrell. (Doc. 54-1, Nichols Dep. at 41-42). Cattrell and Plaintiff discussed Plaintiff's noted knee limitations. (Id. at 50). Cattrell told Plaintiff that she did not like the way Plaintiff had worded her limitations and rewrote it to say that Plaintiff could not kneel because of knee pain and that Plaintiff could not stoop without holding onto something. (Id. at 56; Doc. 54-3, Health History). Plaintiff admits that her description of her limitations was “kind of vague” so she tried to explain to Cattrell “the real issue.” (Doc. 54-1, Nichols Dep. at 57). Plaintiff believed “‘Stooping' means kind of a squat to the floor. ‘Standing on my knees' was when I'm in an upright position on my knees. And ‘kneeling' to me means you have-you're squatted with one foot on the ground and one knee on the ground.” (Id. at 60). Plaintiff indicated that stooping did not cause her knee pain at that time but that standing on her knees and kneeling did cause knee pain. (Id. at 60-61). Plaintiff told Cattrell that she could perform all of her duties but that “it's a little bit more painful, ” because of the knee surgery. (Id.). Cattrell informed Plaintiff that she would have to send Plaintiff's information to another department. (Id.).

         After the Health Assessment, Cattrell emailed Nancy Miller, an accommodations specialist, stating “New hire Sr Rad tech at RMH mammo/Nao 0827/2012/indicated on her health hx form that she cannot stoop without holding onto something or kneel because of bilateral knee pain. States she had surgery on her Rt knee 1 year ago for a ‘tear.'” (Doc. 47-9, Cattrell 8/22/12 Email to Miller). Plaintiff next spoke with Miller a day or two after Plaintiff's Health Assessment. (Doc. 54-1, Nichols Dep. at 73). Miller began discussing Plaintiff's limitations and Plaintiff responded “I can do these things.” (Id. at 74). At that point, Miller allegedly called Plaintiff a liar for writing the things down in the Health History and refused to let Plaintiff explain. (Id.). Plaintiff did not request any accommodations during the call but did not get a chance to explain her vague wording. (Id. at 74-77). Plaintiff stated that she did not ask for accommodations during that phone call because she does not need accommodations and that the phone call ended after about ten minutes. (Id.). Miller told Plaintiff that she would have to report the issue to Kay Holland. (Id.). Miller had a different memory of the phone call, stating that Plaintiff “indicated that the restrictions could be accommodated by potentially leaving the door to the mammography suite open or having another person to be available to assist her.” (Doc. 46-2, Miller Dep. at 37). Miller suggested that in “some places it might be possible to install grab bars, which would have been of assistance potentially to her getting up from a kneeling position if needed.” (Id. at 43). Plaintiff responded that she would check into that. (Id.). Miller stated that she did not accuse Plaintiff of lying or backpedaling. (Id. at 45- 46). Miller told Plaintiff that she would discuss the requested accommodations with Plaintiff's new manager. (Id.).

         Miller next spoke to Kay Holland, the manager of Radiology to discuss the accommodations Plaintiff requested. (Id. at 56). Holland stated that to leave the door open would violate radiology and HIPAA protocols and that the staffing system could not allow two people in an exam room at one time. (Id. at 57). Holland also said that grab bars were not possible because of the size and orientation of the room. (Id. at 58).

         Plaintiff and Miller spoke the next day when Miller told Plaintiff to get documents from her doctor stating that she had no limitations and to fax that information to Miller by the end of the day. (Doc. 54-1, Nichols Dep. at 77-80). Although Plaintiff told Miller that it was unlikely that she could get the requested records by the close of business on a Friday, Miller insisted “‘[i]f you do not get me these documents by the end of the day, you cannot attend orientation on Monday.'” (Id. at 78). Plaintiff stated that she and Miller did not discuss accommodations “because we weren't at that point in this process. I was just trying to give her the documents to say that I had no limitations, of which I was quite aware I didn't have limitations.” (Id. at 79). Plaintiff offered to come to Ohio Health and demonstrate that she could perform the job but Miller informed her that it was too late in the day to do that. Again, Miller has a different memory of the call, stating that Plaintiff offered a doctor's release to full duty upon hearing that her suggested accommodations could not be met. (Doc. 46-2, Miller Dep. at 61-64). Miller insists that the door was not closed on further possible accommodations. (Id.). The call ended with Miller waiting on a fax from Plaintiff's doctor. (Doc. 54-1, Nichols Dep. at 80).

         After the second conversation between Miller and Plaintiff, Plaintiff contacted Kimberly Cox to see if Cox could talk to Holland about Plaintiff and put in a good word. (Doc. 54-1, Nichols Dep. at 86-87). Cox was a friend of Plaintiff's in the imaging department at Ohio Health. (Id.). Miller called Plaintiff and said “[h]ow dare you call and try to get someone within the system to vouch for you. I'm your representative and you are to let me do that for you . . . From now on, if you need -- if you need questions or you need communication done within the system, you call me.” (Id. at 88).

         On the Monday when Plaintiff was originally scheduled to have orientation, Plaintiff called Talbott to see if she could attend orientation on Tuesday but Talbott informed Plaintiff that orientation was a two day process and that Plaintiff would have to wait for the next orientation. (Doc. 54-1, Nichols Dep. at 94-95). Plaintiff's doctor, Dr. Barker, faxed a note to Ohio Health, stating: “Patient was last seen 9/7/11. The patient was released without restrictions at that appointment.” (Doc. 54-4, Barker Fax at 2). Barker's fax also included a September 8, 2011 note, stating Plaintiff was cleared for “Return to Work 9/12/11 without restrictions.” (Id. at 3). Dr. Barker also provided a note from Plaintiff's September 7, 2011 appointment which stated, “[Plaintiff] has not required physical therapy at this point in time but certainly she will give us a phone call if she stalls with progress and perceives the need for some reconditioning, which would be nicely accomplished by therapy if necessary.” (Id. at 4). Plaintiff never sought physical therapy for her knee and did not see Dr. Barker or any other care provider for her knee between her release to work and Barker's fax on August 28, 2012. (Doc. 54-1, Nichols Dep. at 82-83).

         On Tuesday, August 28, Plaintiff emailed Roth to inform her that all of the necessary medical documentation was sent to Ohio Health and that she would be ready for the next orientation. (Doc. 48-10, Pl. 8/28/12 E-mail to Roth). On September 4, 2012, Talbott informed Plaintiff that the offer was rescinded and that the position would not be filled. (Doc. 54-1, Nichols Dep. at 97). Plaintiff asked if that was the case even though she had submitted all of the required medical documents and Talbott confirmed that the offer was rescinded. (Id.).

         Plaintiff filed an EEOC charge in November of 2012 and received a right-to-sue letter in October, 2014. (Doc. 48-12, EEOC Charge; Doc. 3-1, Right-to-Sue Letter). Plaintiff filed suit in this case on December 31, 2014. Plaintiff brings the following claims against Defendants: (1) Ohio Health rescinded its offer to Plaintiff “because of her disability and/or perceived disability” in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act as Amended (“ADAAA”) and Ohio Revised Code § 4112.02(A); (2) Ohio Health conducted an unlawful medical examination and/or unlawfully used the results of Plaintiff's medical examination . . .” in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 12112(d) and Ohio Revised Code § 4112.02(A); (3) Ohio Health failed to provide an accommodation for Plaintiff in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 12112(b)(5) and Ohio Rev. Code § 4112.02(A); and (4) Holland, Talbott, Miller, and Cattrell “aided and abetted in discrimination” against Plaintiff in violation of Ohio Revised Code § 4112.02(J). (Doc. 50, Mem. Opp. at 1-2; see also Doc. 3, Am. Compl. at ¶¶ 38-68).

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Defendants moved for summary judgment pursuant to 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). The Court's purpose in considering a summary judgment motion is not “to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter” but to “determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986). A genuine issue for trial exists if the Court finds a jury could return a verdict, based on “sufficient evidence, ” in favor of the nonmoving party; evidence that is “merely colorable” or “not significantly probative, ” however, is not enough to defeat summary judgment. Id. at 249-50.

         The party seeking summary judgment shoulders the initial burden of presenting the court with law and argument in support of its motion as well as identifying the relevant portions of “‘the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, ' which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56). If this initial burden is satisfied, the burden then shifts to the nonmoving party to set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e); see also Cox v. Kentucky Dep't of Transp., 53 F.3d 146, 150 (6th Cir. 1995) (after burden shifts, nonmovant must “produce evidence that results in a conflict of material fact to be resolved by a jury”). In considering the factual allegations and evidence presented in a motion for summary judgment, the Court must “afford all reasonable inferences, and construe the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party.” Id.

         III. DISCUSSION

         Defendants moved for summary judgment on all of Plaintiff's claims providing legal and factual arguments against each. Plaintiff responded to each of Defendants' arguments and the Court will address each in turn. Before turning to the merits of each claim, the Court GRANTS summary judgment in favor ...


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