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Hill v. Kaleida Health

October 30, 2009

TIFFANY HILL, PLAINTIFF,
v.
KALEIDA HEALTH, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: William M. Skretny United States District Judge

DECISION AND ORDER

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff commenced this action pro se by filing a Complaint in this Court, alleging that her former employer, Defendant Kaleida Health, discriminated against her on the basis of race in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et seq. ("Title VII"), and the New York Human Rights Law, as codified in the N.Y. Exec. Law §§ 296 et seq. ("NYHRL"). Defendant has moved for summary judgment. Plaintiff opposes Defendant's motion. Plaintiff has also filed a motion to appoint counsel. For the reasons discussed below, Defendant's motion for summary judgment is granted, and Plaintiff's motion to appoint counsel is denied.

II. BACKGROUND

A. Facts

The following material facts are undisputed and taken from the parties' declarations, affidavits, exhibits, and respective Local Rule 56.1 statements of facts.*fn1

Kaleida Health ("Kaleida") is a not-for-profit health care provider. (Def.'s Statement, ¶ 1.*fn2 ) Plaintiff Tiffany Hill ("Plaintiff"), an African-American woman, was first employed by Kaleida as a part-time Licensed Practical Nurse ("LPN") on August 14, 2000. (Docket No. 1, Pl. Compl., ¶ 4; Def.'s Statement, ¶ 27.)

On March 23, 2003, Kaleida promoted Plaintiff to the position of full-time Staff Nurse after Plaintiff obtained her Registered Nurse ("RN") certification. (Def.'s Statement, ¶ 28.) Plaintiff received an increase in pay as a result of the promotion. (Def.'s Statement, ¶ 28.)

On February 20, 2004, Plaintiff "bid" on an open RN Medical/Surgical position on 8 West at Millard Fillmore Gates Hospital ("8 West"). (Def.'s Statement, ¶ 30.) Eight West is an "acute medical/surgical floor." (Def.'s Statement, ¶ 35.) Additionally, a "bid" is how Kaleida employees apply for internal positions that are available within the organization. (Def.'s Statement, ¶¶ 25-26.) Article 42 of Kaleida's Collective Bargaining Agreement explains the bid process. (Def.'s Statement, ¶ 26.) Under this Article, priority is given to the most senior qualified applicant. (Def.'s Statement, ¶ 26.)

Plaintiff was the successful bidder for the position on 8 West, and began working there on March 22, 2004. (Def.'s Statement, ¶ 30.) But after 30 days on 8 West, Plaintiff exercised her right to return to her prior position as Staff Nurse in the Skilled Nursing Facility. (Def.'s Statement, ¶¶ 31, 35.)

i. Emergency Department Critical Care RN Position

On May 21, 2004, Kaleida posted a position for a Critical Care RN in the Emergency Department at Millard Fillmore Gates Hospital. (Def.'s Statement, ¶ 32.) This position requires at least one year of clinical work experience as an RN in the acute medical/surgical field. (Def.'s Statement, ¶ 33.) Staff nursing in a Skilled Nursing Facility does not constitute acute medical/surgical experience. (Def.'s Statement, ¶ 34.)

In June 2004, Plaintiff bid on the posted position. (Def.'s Statement, ¶ 35.*fn3 ) At the time, Plaintiff had one month of acute medical/surgery experience, from her employment on 8 West. (Def.'s Statement, ¶¶ 30, 35.)

Despite Plaintiff not having the necessary work experience, the Nurse Manager of the Emergency Department at Millard Fillmore Gates Hospital, Bunny O'Brien, interviewed Plaintiff for the position. (Def.'s Statement, ¶ 36.) O'Brien interviewed Plaintiff at the request of the Human Resources Department, which was assisting Plaintiff in bidding on available positions. (Def.'s Statement, ¶ 36.) O'Brien further stated that, in the past, she interviewed individuals for positions in the Emergency Department so that those individuals could "shadow" on the job, which allowed them to see what the job entailed, and gain an understanding for why medical/surgical experience was necessary. (Def.'s Statement, ¶ 36; O'Brien Aff., Docket No. 24, Pt. 3, ¶ 9.)

O'Brien scheduled Plaintiff to "shadow" the Emergency Department RN position, but Plaintiff did not report on the date of her scheduled shadow. (Def.'s Statement, ¶ 36.) Plaintiff did, however, report the following day, seeking to shadow. (Def.'s Statement, ¶ 36.)

Defendant did not offer Plaintiff the position. (Def.'s Statement, ¶ 37.) Instead, Defendant offered the two available positions to Cynthia Baker and Adrienne Barth, both of whom had at least one year of work experience in the acute medical/surgical field. (Def.'s Statement, ¶ 38.) In fact, Baker had 18 years of critical care experience, and Barth previously worked in the Emergency Department on a part-time basis. (Def.'s Statement, ¶ 38; O'Brien Aff., ¶¶ 12-13.) Plaintiff concedes that both Baker and Barth were more qualified than she. (Def.'s Statement, ¶ 39.)

ii. Other Bids on RN Positions

From April 22, 2004, through December 21, 2004, Plaintiff bid on 31 additional RN positions at Kaleida. (Def.'s Statement, ¶¶ 42, 46; Docket No. 25, Ex. AA.) Plaintiff did not meet the minimum requirements for 17 of the 31 available positions. (Def.'s Statement, ¶ 47.) Sixteen of the available positions required at least one year of acute medical/surgical experience. (Def.'s Statement, ¶ 47, parts a-c.; Docket No. 25, Ex. AA.) And Plaintiff's bid for the position of RN in a clinical setting required at least five years of experience as an RN in a clinical setting. (Def.'s Statement, ¶ 49, part d; Docket No. 25, Ex. Z.)

Additionally, two positions were never filled (Docket No. 25, Ex. AA*fn4 ); one position, bid number 14207, was filled on the day Plaintiff submitted her bid (Def.'s Statement, ¶ 54); five positions were awarded to employees with greater seniority than Plaintiff (Docket No. 25, Ex. AA*fn5 ); two positions were awarded to African-Americans (Docket No. 25, Ex. AA*fn6 ); and one position, bid number 15260, was awarded to an "internal" applicant (Docket No. 25, Ex. AA*fn7 ).

iii. Nurse Manager Position at Waterfront Health Care Center

In September 2004, Plaintiff applied for the position of Nurse Manager at the Waterfront Health Care Center ("WHCC"). (Def.'s Statement, ¶ 55.) WHCC is part of the Kaleida Health system. (Def.'s Statement, ¶ 1.) Plaintiff was awarded the position. (Def.'s Statement, ¶ 56.) The WHCC employee handbook contains a sick policy, which requires employees to notify WHCC if they are unable to work due to illness no later than two hours before their scheduled shift. (Def.'s Statement, ¶ 59.) The handbook further provides that absent employees who fail to notify WHCC about their absence will be suspended for the first violation. (Def.'s Statement, ¶ 59.) The second violation will result in termination. (Def.'s Statement, ¶ 59.) Plaintiff received a copy of the employee handbook. (Def.'s Statement, ¶ 58.)

On November 29, 2004, Plaintiff resigned from her position as Nurse Manager. (Def.'s Statement, ¶ 59.) Plaintiff, however, remained with WHCC, electing to become a per diem RN. (Def.'s Statement, ¶ 60.)

Following her resignation as Nurse Manager, Plaintiff was absent from work on three separate occasions and did not provide WHCC with advance notification. (Def.'s Statement, ¶ 63.) Specifically, Plaintiff was absent on February 19, March 4, and March 5, 2005. (Def.'s Statement, ¶ 63.) WHCC listed Plaintiff as a "No Call/No Show." (Def.'s Statement, ¶ 63.)

By letter dated March 8, 2005, Tosca Y. Martin, Director of Human Resources, notified Plaintiff that WHCC was terminating her employment due to her three unexcused absences. (Docket No. 25, Ex. Y.) Plaintiff's termination was effective immediately. (Docket No. 25, Ex. Y.)

B. Procedural History

On July 20, 2005, Plaintiff filed a complaint with the New York State Division of Human Rights ("DHR"), alleging that Defendant discriminated against her on the basis of her race by denying her RN positions and by terminating her employment, all in violation of the New York Human Rights Law, as codified in the N.Y. Exec. Law §§ 296 et seq. ("NYHRL"). (Def.'s Statement, ¶ 3; Pl. Compl., ¶ 9; Docket No. 25, Ex. A, ¶ 3.) On the same day, Plaintiff also filed charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). (Pl. Compl., ¶ 10.)

On April 30, 2007, the DHR issued a "Determination and Order After Investigation" ("Order"). (Docket No. 25, Ex. C.) In the Order, the DHR found "no probable cause" to believe that a violation of the New York Human Rights law occurred. (Docket No. 25, Ex. C.) Plaintiff did not appeal the DHR's ...


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