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Jeffery-Wolfert v. UC Health

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

May 9, 2018

UC HEALTH, Defendant.


          Michael R. Barrett, United States District Court Judge.

         This matter is before the Court on Defendant UC Health's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 20) and the responsive memoranda thereto; and Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to File Second Amended Complaint with Demand for Jury Trial (Doc. 19) and the responsive memoranda thereto. The Court also amends, in part, its previous Opinion and Order granting in part Defendant's Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 15).


         Plaintiff was an Infection Preventionist for UC Health beginning in March 2013. (Doc. 26-1 at ¶ 3). She transferred to UC Health's main campus in April 2014. (Id. at ¶ 4). Plaintiff's job description included the oversight of issues relating to infection outbreak investigations. (Id. at ¶ 6). In May 2015, Plaintiff was tasked with beginning a comprehensive investigation of hospital acquired Stenotropomonas cases. (Id. at ¶ 9). Plaintiff had specific concerns about the bronchoscopy cleaning process. (Id. at ¶ 14). As the investigation went on, Plaintiff grew concerned about steps being taken to protect patients from exposure as new cases of Stenotropomonas continued to trend upward. (Id. at ¶ 34). She voiced her concerns to her director, Dr. Sopirala, both orally and in writing, on September 24, 2015. (Id. at ¶ 40). According to Plaintiff, she was told to continue working and to “please take care of it.” (Id. at ¶ 41). She and Dr. Sopirala also had other disagreements related to the investigation process. (Id. at ¶ 42; Doc. 20-2 at ¶ 6).

         Plaintiff met with an employee assistance counselor, Erika Taylor, to discuss “the ongoing outbreak and need for additional help.” (Doc. 26-2 at ¶ 44-45). According to Plaintiff, Ms. Taylor recommended she contact the hospital safety hotline and arrange a meeting with human resources. (Id. at ¶ 45). Around the same time, Dr. Sopirala removed Plaintiff from her role as investigator of the infection outbreak. (Id. at ¶ 65; Doc. 20-2 at ¶ 6). Plaintiff was apparently removed from several other projects as well. (Doc. 26-1 at ¶ 68).

         Despite this, Plaintiff was still concerned about the way in which the investigation was being handled. (Id. at ¶ 63). As a result, Plaintiff met with the nursing director, Jen Jackson, to discuss her concerns. (Id.). From Plaintiff's perspective, the atmosphere at the hospital had become so unbearable that on November 13, 2015, she submitted her two week notice of resignation. (Id. at ¶ 70).

         Before leaving, Plaintiff attempted to meet with UC Health personnel one more time in order emphasize the seriousness of the infection outbreak. (Id. at ¶ 90). She requested that an ad hoc ethics committee be convened within her two-week notice period. (Id. at ¶ 71-72). That afternoon, Plaintiff was told to turn over her badge and keys and was asked to leave the premises. (Id. at ¶ 74).

         Plaintiff initially brought the following claims: 1) retaliation; 2) hostile work environment; 3) whistle blower violation pursuant to § 4113; 4) intentional infliction of emotional distress (“IIED”); and 5) punitive damages. UC Health moved to dismiss all of Plaintiff's claims. The Court granted in part UC Health's motion, leaving only Plaintiff's IIED claim.


         On February 14, 2017, the undersigned granted in part Defendant's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Amended Complaint (Doc. 15). Although the result does not change, this Court's analysis as it relates to Plaintiff's retaliation claim was partially flawed. Accordingly, the Opinion and Order (Doc. 15) is amended as follows.

         As the undersigned previously explained:

Plaintiff brings claims for retaliation under Title VII, 42 U.S.C. 2000e et seq., 42 U.S.C. § 1981 and the Ohio Civil Rights Act, Ohio Revised Code § 4112.01, et seq. Claims brought under Title VII and Ohio's anti-discrimination statute are evaluated under the same standard. Thompson v. UHHS Richmond Heights Hosp., Inc., 372 Fed.Appx. 620, 623 (6th Cir.2010). To establish a prima facie case of retaliation, Plaintiff must show: (1) she engaged in protected activity, (2) Defendant was aware of the protected activity, (3) Defendant subsequently took an employment action adverse to Plaintiff, and (4) a causal connection exists between the protected activity and the adverse employment actions. Abbott v. Crown Motor Co., 348 F.3d 537, 542 (6th Cir.2003) (citing Strouss v. Michigan Dep't of Corr., 250 F.3d 336, 342 (6th Cir.2001); Nguyen v. City of Cleveland, 229 F.3d 559, 563 (6th Cir.2000)).
Plaintiff alleges the protected activity in which she was engaged was her job. ...

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