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REYES v. NORTH SHORE-LONG ISLAND JEWISH HEALTH SYSTEM

August 15, 2005.

SYLVIA REYES, Plaintiff,
v.
NORTH SHORE-LONG ISLAND JEWISH HEALTH SYSTEM, Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: FREDERIC BLOCK, District Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

In this action under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e to 2000e-17, plaintiff, Sylvia Reyes ("Reyes"), proceeding pro se, claims that she was constructively discharged from her position as a medical resident at North Shore University Hospital because she is Filipino.*fn1 Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, North Shore moves for summary judgment on the grounds (1) that Reyes has failed to make out a prima facie case, and (2) that she has failed to establish that North Shore's non-discriminatory reasons for its actions were pretextual. For the following reasons, the Court grants the motion.

  BACKGROUND*fn2

  I.

  Born in the Phillippines, Reyes immigrated to the United States with her family in 1984 and later became a U.S. citizen. Between 1996 and 1999, she completed a three-year residency in general psychiatry at Bronx-Lebanon Hospital Center ("Bronx-Lebanon"). As that residency was nearing its completion, she applied for a position as a first-year resident in North Shore's child and adolescent psychiatry ("CAP") program. Four doctors from Bronx-Lebanon wrote favorable letters recommending her for the position.

  Reyes was interviewed by Dr. Victor Fornari ("Fornari") and two other doctors; Fornari, who is the director of the CAP program, was aware of Reyes' Filipino heritage when he interviewed her. Fornari offered positions to Reyes and two others: Dr. Gianlucca LaMonaca ("LaMonaca") and Dr. Ameer Dahar ("Dahar"); all three accepted.

  Reyes began work at North Shore on July 1, 1999. On her first day, she arrived two hours late for orientation. Dr. LaMonaca did not attend orientation because he was on vacation in Italy; Dr. Dahar did not attend because he was not scheduled to begin his residency until the following month.

  Doctors at North Shore were assigned to supervise the residents' training. Reyes' supervisors were Dr. Shirley Papilsky ("Papilsky"), Dr. Beverly Goodman ("Goodman"), Dr. Allan Stempler ("Stempler") and Dr. Paulina Loo ("Loo"); other doctors also oversaw her work. Fornari had overall responsibility for the residents' training.

  During the first three months of her residency, Reyes' supervisors voiced concerns about her time-management skills, participation in class and clinical performance. On September 27, 1999, after meeting with her supervisors, Fornari sent Reyes a memorandum listing the concerns:
1. Supervisors reported that you had missed supervision with significant frequency, often without canceling.
2. That despite supervision, a number of supervisors reported that you did not follow the recommendations of the supervision regarding your clinical work.
3. It was reported that while completing an emergency evaluation in the North Shore Emergency Room with an attending, that you left before the evaluation was completed in order to catch your bus home.
4. One supervisor reported that while you were evaluating a case with him, you made a phone call as if you weren't in the process of a consultation.
5. A general concern regarding your clinical style, including poor eye contact and giggling.
6. A serious concern regarding the way you handled the case of an adolescent girl who was contemplating termination of pregnancy.
Fornari Aff., Ex. 2. Based on these concerns, North Shore placed Reyes on academic probation for three months. Fornari's September 27 memorandum set out the terms of the probation:
1. You will meet with me on a weekly basis to review your progress.
2. You will discuss your progress with each of your supervisors on a weekly basis.
3. You will attend supervision, as well as your classes in an organized and regular fashion. If for some reason you need to miss a class or a supervision, you are to inform me as well as the supervisor.
4. The purpose of this corrective active plan is [to] help you function and to evaluate your continued participation in this training program.
Id.

  Reyes' supervisors continued to report problems with her performance to Fornari. On October 1, 1999, Reyes missed a scheduled supervision with Papilsky; Reyes told Fornari that she forgot about the supervision because she had trouble with time management.

  On October 21, 1999, Loo reported that Reyes' handling of one of her cases had resulted in an irate call from the patient's grandmother; Loo scheduled a supervision to discuss the case, but Reyes failed to show up. According to Loo,
[Reyes] is often late or forgets about supervision. When she comes to supervision she often does not know whether she is to discuss evaluations, psychopharm, family crisis cases.
I have tried to help her organize her thoughts, and even tell her specifically what to do in her meetings with patients, but she seem to have tremendous difficulty obtaining information for diagnosis.
Fornari Aff., Ex. 3.
  On October 24, 1999, Goodman reported that Reyes had missed supervisions without canceling, and that she often failed to return phone calls and pages. Regarding Reyes' performance, Goodman made the following points:
• In supervision, she is unfocused, does not seem to grasp concepts and introduces irrelevant and unrelated material.
• She cannot follow a line of thought, process it nor carry it out to a logical conclusion.
• [T]he process of supervision does not seem to be effective in ameliorating her deficits, given her lack of capacity to appropriately absorb and process the supervision and give relevant feedback.
• She has many silly, giddy, inappropriate mannerisms which are quite disconcerting.
• She appears to have a significant cognitive processing impairment which interferes with her learning capabilities and, of course, her performance as a child psychiatrist/therapist.
• [She] lacks the usual expected competency of a first year Child Psych[iatry] Fellow.
Fornari Aff., Ex. 4. Goodman later informed Fornari that Reyes had failed to prepare reports on five patient consultations that had taken place in August, September and October, 1999.

  Based on these reports, Fornari decided to limit Reyes' workload by placing a temporary moratorium on new intake evaluations assigned to her; the problems nevertheless persisted. On November 18, 1999, Goodman reported that she had received more complaints regarding Reyes "than I have sum total in all the year of supervising." Fornari Aff., Ex. 5.

  Negative reports of Reyes' performance were not limited to her supervisors. On December 10, 1999, a psychology extern wrote to express her "difficulty and frustration in working with [Reyes] on a case that [she] referred for a psychiatric evaluation." Fornari Aff., Ex. 5. In addition, the Coordinator of Children's Services for the Mental Health Association of Nassau County — an organization that frequently referred clients to North Shore — wrote Fornari to complain that Reyes had not come to work on the day of a scheduled appointment. Fornari Aff., Ex. 6. When Fornari asked Reyes why she missed the appointment, ...


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