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Beckley v. St. Luke's Episcopal-Presbyterian Hospitals

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

May 31, 2018

KAREN BECKLEY, Plaintiff,
v.
ST. LUKE'S EPISCOPAL-PRESBYTERIAN HOSPITALS d/b/a ST. LUKE'S, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          RONNIE L. WHITE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter is before the court on Defendant St. Luke's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 34). This matter is fully briefed and ready for disposition.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Karen Beckley ("Beckley") was hired in March of 1995 as a Surgical Technician in the Labor & Delivery Department of St. Luke's Episcopal-Presbyterian Hospitals d/b/a St. Luke's (herein, "St. Luke's" or "Defendant"). (Defendant's Statement of Uncontroverted Facts ("DSOF"), ECF No. 36, ¶l). A Surgical Technician is a non-licensed, non-degreed support position with the principal job duty of passing instruments in the operating room. (DSOF, ¶2). In 2012, Beckley sought out a full-time position as a Surgical Technician in the Operating Room Department ("ORD"). (DSOF, ¶5). Beckley obtained the position as a Surgical Technician in the ORD and remained in this position until her termination on March 20, 2015. (DSOF, ¶8). Ginny Babcock ("Babcock") promoted Beckley to the ORD, making her a full-time employee, with the full understanding that Beckley was already on FMLA[1] leave and would need to take additional FMLA leave in the future. (DSOF, ¶47). Beckley's departmental change was accompanied by a change in some of her job responsibilities, including required "on-call" shifts. (DSOF, ¶¶9-ll). As a condition of "on call" shifts, Beckley was required to remain accessible while off-duty during the shift. (DSOF, ¶I2). Individuals scheduled for "on-call" shifts, had to be able to report to work within approximately 30 minutes of receiving a call in order to respond to an emergency situation. (DSOF, ¶I4).

         Following Beckley's first FMLA leave in the ORD, Babcock approved another intermittent FMLA leave, running from February 2013 through August 2013. (DSOF, ¶48). Later, Beckley applied for and was granted FMLA leave from April 2014 through April 2015. (DSOF, ¶49). Beckley notified her supervisor on January 6, 2015 of her need to take FMLA leave from December 31, 2014 through January 29, 2015. (DSOF, ¶7l). Beckley's employment was terminated on March 20, 2015. (Id.).

         Beckley was reprimanded on multiple occasions, each time by a different Charge Nurse regarding her failure to respond appropriately to emergency call requests. (DSOF, ¶I6). Each time Beckley was reprimanded, she was counseled on the appropriate on-call procedures and the department's expectations. (DSOF, ¶I7). Beckley was informed further work-related issues would lead to higher levels of discipline, including possible termination. (DSOF, ¶I8). Beckley received a level 1 warning in March of 2014 for failing to respond to Charge Nurse Patty Cowee's emergency call requests during her scheduled on-call service period. (DSOF, ¶I9). Beckley admits that this discipline was unrelated to her taking FMLA. (DSOF, ¶2O). Within 5 months of receiving this warning, Beckley received a Level 2 warning and then a Final Warning for again failing to respond to on-call requests. (DSOF, ¶2l). Beckley acknowledged that the underlying facts concerning her discipline were correct as she failed to comply with the call-in policy. (DSOF, ¶22). Each disciplinary action involved a different Charge Nurse, none of whom had any role in Beckley's termination. (DSOF, ¶23).

         Specifically, on March 13, 2014, Beckley was counseled for inattention to details. (DSOF, ¶24). On another occasion, a student, working under Beckley's supervision, provided a surgeon with a syringe containing an anti-coagulant, instead of saline water. (DSOF, ¶25). Beckley acknowledged that she was ultimately responsible for the mistake, including the mislabeled syringe. (DSOF, ¶26). Babcock did not discipline Beckley for this event even though, in Beckley's estimation, it was a "big deal". (DSOF, ¶¶27-28). During an open patient gall bladder surgery on March 9, 2015, Beckley (1) became accidentally contaminated and failed to follow Hospital sterility policy by walking into the sterile field twice, (2) used poor judgment when counting surgical equipment during surgery, and (3) left the surgical team in the middle of surgery for an extended period. (DSOF, ¶34).

         Beckley was informed of her termination on March 20, 2015. (DSOF, ¶43). The notice included her prior warnings, discipline, and a summary of events in the gall bladder surgery. (DSOF, ¶44). Both of Beckley's supervisors, Susan Miller ("Miller") and Babcock, were responsible for Beckley's termination. (DSOF, ¶45).

         On or around March 20, 2017, Beckley filed an action in St. Louis County, Missouri Circuit Court alleging claims for Interference with FMLA Rights (Count I) and Retaliation in Violation of FMLA (Count II). (ECF No. 4). On April 21, 2017, Defendant removed this action to federal court, asserting federal question jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. §§1331. (ECF No. 1). On July 20, 2017, this Court dismissed Count I of Beckley's Complaint. (ECF No. 19, 20). On March 9, 2018, Defendant filed the instant Motion for Summary Judgment as to Count II of her Complaint. (ECF No. 34).

         DISCUSSION

         I. MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

         A. Standard of Review

         The Court may grant a motion for summary judgment if "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); Celotex Corp. v. Citrate, Ml U.S. 317, 322 (1986); Torgerson v. City of Rochester, 643 F.3d 1031, 1042 (8th Cir. 2011). The substantive law determines which facts are critical and which are irrelevant. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., Ml U.S. 242, 248 (1986). Only disputes over facts that might affect the outcome will properly preclude summary judgment. Id. Summary judgment is not proper if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party. Id.

         A moving party always bears the burden of informing the Court of the basis of its motion. Celotex Corp., Ml U.S. at 323. Once the moving party discharges this burden, the nonmoving party must set forth specific facts demonstrating that there is a dispute as to a genuine issue of material fact, not the "mere existence of some alleged factual dispute." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e); Anderson, Ml ...


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