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ADAMS v. ROCHESTER GEN. HOSP.

August 15, 1997

TIMOTHY ADAMS, Plaintiff,
v.
ROCHESTER GENERAL HOSPITAL, Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: FELDMAN

DECISION AND ORDER

 PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

 Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), the parties have consented to the disposition of this matter, including dispositive motions and trial, by this Court. Pending before the Court is RGH's motion for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. (Docket # 7) For the reasons set forth below, RGH's motion is granted.

 RELEVANT FACTS

 The relevant facts, viewed in the light most favorable to plaintiff, are as follows. Timothy Adams began working for RGH on June 22, 1992 as a Bio-medical Engineering Technician ("BIOTEC"). BIOTEC employees are responsible for inspecting, maintaining, calibrating, and repairing medical equipment used in the hospital. The position requires the employee to demonstrate considerable accuracy and responsibility as job performance errors could effect patient health and safety. Adams' immediate supervisor was Anthony Marchese (Marchese), the manager of RGH's bio-medical engineering department. In the fall of 1992, Marchese prepared Adams' first job performance evaluation. The evaluation reflected that Adams either met the standards imposed by the department or was unable to be evaluated in certain areas because he had not yet been provided training.

 In September or October 1992, Marchese became aware, through discussions in the shop and observing "heated phone conversations," that Adams was having marital difficulties. On December 15, 1992, Adams failed to appear for work. A co-worker and friend of Adams, Jerome Patterson, told Marchese that Adams was having marital problems and was "distraught." Concerned, Marchese spoke with Adams by telephone and told him to take a couple of days off.

 On December 17, 1992 Adams appeared for work. Marchese described Adams as looking "haggard in appearance" and in a "very emotional state." Marchese met with Adams privately to discuss "what was going on." During the ensuing conversation, Adams indicated that he wanted to kill his wife. Marchese asked Adams to accompany him to speak with Brenda Evans, RGH's manager of employee health. Adams and Marchese met with Evans. During this meeting, Adams indicated he was contemplating suicide. Evans suggested that Adams meet with someone in the hospital's mental health facility and both Evans and Marchese escorted Adams to the mental health department. Adams was thereafter admitted to RGH's mental health department. He remained hospitalized until January 4, 1993.

 On January 5, 1993 Adams returned to work with no restrictions. During the subsequent twelve months, Adams never indicated that he was suffering from mental illness, never presented a doctor's note containing any medical diagnosis of mental illness, and never requested RGH accommodate a disability he was experiencing. In November 1993, Marchese prepared a job performance appraisal for Adams. The appraisal indicated Adams was satisfactorily performing his job duties. Adams signed the appraisal without comment on January 7, 1994.

 On January 20, 1994 Adams went to the hospital's emergency department complaining of "depression, nervousness and tension." Adams was not admitted to the hospital and there is no evidence in the record to indicate he ever told anyone at work, including Marchese, about the emergency department visit.

 On January 27, 1994 Adams was verbally reprimanded by Marchese for failing to properly repair a "thermia unit." A week later, on February 3, 1994, Marchese discovered that Adams had failed to properly inspect and repair another "thermia unit." The following day Marchese and Virgil Ansley, the shop foreman, met with Adams. Marchese provided Adams with a written "Record of Warning." The written warning described both the January 27 and February 3 incidents and informed Adams that if he failed to follow "correct [inspection] procedures . . . termination will be considered as this could directly affect patient safety." Adams accepted and signed the "Record of Warning" indicating that the statements made in it were true.

 On April 19, 1994 Marchese was informed by another RGH employee that a syringe pump used for feeding and giving medication to infants was not operating properly after having been recently repaired. Marchese investigated and determined that Adams last repaired the pump. According to Marchese, departmental policy required the pump to be repaired by installing a new clamp. While Adams had ordered a new clamp, he did not wait for the part to arrive and, instead, installed an older obsolete clamp on the pump and then placed the pump back into service. Based on this investigation, Marchese issued a second written "Record of Warning" to Adams. Marchese and Ansley again met with Adams to discuss the second warning. At the conclusion of the meeting, Adams signed the warning and was informed that he was being suspended for one day (April 20, 1994).

 After issuing the second written warning, Marchese met with RGH Vice President Wayne Searles and discussed Adams' job performance problems. According to Marchese, the continued employment of Adams created an unacceptable risk to patient health and safety. On April 21, 1994, when Adams returned to work after his suspension, Marchese and Searles met with Adams and informed him that his employment with RGH was being terminated.

 At the time he began working for RGH, Adams was provided a copy of the hospital's "Employee Guide to Personnel Policy" (Adams deposition at page 53). The Guide provided that an employee's "failure to follow departmental policies and procedures" could result in discharge from employment. (See Exhibit "7" annexed to Docket # 9). During his deposition Adams admitted that he "failed to follow department policies and procedures" with respect to his repair of the thermia units and conceded that "maybe" he had failed to follow department policies and procedures in repairing the syringe pump. (Adams deposition at page 63.) As to any mental disability which would have prevented Adams from competently performing his job, Adams gave the following sworn deposition testimony:

 
Q: Mr. Adams, prior to your termination meeting with Mr. Marchese and Mr. Searles, before that, had you ever told anyone at Rochester General that the mental stress you were suffering from prevented you from doing your job in any way?
 
A: No
 
Q: Had you ever requested that any physician, psychologist, psychiatrist communicate with any of your supervisors at Rochester General prior to your termination and explain to them why you couldn't do your ...

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