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Struchen v. Olean General Hospital

May 7, 2010

JOAN M. STRUCHEN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
OLEAN GENERAL HOSPITAL, JENNIFER BENTLEY, AND KAREN KNIGHT, DEFENDANTS.



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

DECISION AND ORDER

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff Joan M. Struchen commenced this action on November 12, 2008, alleging that Defendant Olean General Hospital ("OGH") discriminated against her based on her disability and retaliated against her in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101 et seq., and the New York State Human Rights Law ("HRL"), N.Y. EXEC. LAW §§ 290 et seq. Defendants Bentley and Knight are alleged to have aided and abetted OGH's discrimination. The Complaint asserts five causes of action.

On January 30, 2009, Defendants filed a motion pursuant to Rules 12(b)(1) and (b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, seeking dismissal of a portion of the first cause of action and of the second through fifth causes of action in their entirety. (Docket No. 8.) Struchen responded to the motion to dismiss (Docket No. 10), and then moved for leave to file an amended complaint (Docket No. 11). Defendants filed a reply in connection with their motion, which includes a response to Struchen's motion to dismiss. (Docket No. 12.) The motions are fully briefed and, having reviewed the arguments, this Court concludes that oral argument is unnecessary. For the reasons that follow, Defendants' motion for partial dismissal is granted, and Plaintiff's motion for leave to amend is denied.

II. BACKGROUND

A. The Complaint

Plaintiff commenced employment at Olean General Hospital in 1991 and last held the position of Cardio-Pulmonary Licensed Practical Nurse. (Docket No. 1 ¶¶ 10-11.)

In approximately 1995, Plaintiff was diagnosed with "Intermittent Explosive Disorder." (¶ 14.) She advised OGH of her diagnosis in April 2005, at which time Defendant Knight informed her that her condition would be documented as a disability.

Prior to advising OGH of her condition, Plaintiff received a performance evaluation on October 26, 1999 that raised issues regarding inappropriate comments (¶ 15), a written discipline on April 18, 2001 for reporting the actions of two co-workers to a manager (¶ 16), a disciplinary write up on June 25, 2003 for making a comment to co-workers about another employee's absence from an assigned post (¶ 17), and a disciplinary write up in May 2005 for making improper comments on March 24, 2005 (¶¶ 18-19).

After Plaintiff advised OGH of her condition, she was sent to OGH's Employee Health Department for evaluation, and Defendant Knight advised her that, should future disciplinary incidents occur, Human Resources would evaluate the incident in light of Plaintiff's disability before disciplinary steps were taken. (¶¶ 22-24.)

On or about October 12, 2005, OGH adopted a three step program for employee conflict resolution. The individuals involved in an incident were first to offer and accept an apology. If that did not resolve the matter, the conflict was to be reported to a supervisor who would attempt to mediate a resolution. If the second step was unsuccessful, the supervisor would report the matter to a manager for investigation and possible discipline. (¶ 25.)

On January 19, 2006, a co-worker backed a chair into Plaintiff in a small work area. Plaintiff told the co-worker, Ms. Backhaus, that because she was wider than Plaintiff, she should be careful in the future. Plaintiff then reported the incident to Defendant Bentley as a possible safety issue, and was told to keep it to herself. The following day, Plaintiff apologized to Backhaus. Despite offering an apology, Plaintiff received a disciplinary write up for this incident on February 3, 2006. She was told she had to talk to Human Resources, but no such meeting occurred. (¶ 26.)

On March 8, 2006, Plaintiff corrected Ms. Backhaus regarding the placement of electrodes on a patient. Backhaus disliked being corrected, verbally abused Plaintiff, and then broke down sobbing. Backhaus reported the incident to Defendant Bentley and a disciplinary meeting was held on March 10, 2006. (¶ 28.)

As a result of the January 19 and March 8, 2006 incidents, Plaintiff was terminated on March 10, 2006. Plaintiff contends that her termination was discriminatory because OGH failed to properly investigate the incidents in accordance with its conflict resolution policy and failed to ...


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