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Tate v. Orthopaedics-Indianapolis, P.C.

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

March 19, 2014

NINA CASSIDY TATE, Plaintiff,
v.
ORTHOPAEDICS-INDIANAPOLIS, P.C., Defendant.

ENTRY ON DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

WILLIAM T. LAWRENCE, District Judge.

This cause is before the Court on Defendant Orthopaedics-Indianapolis, P.C.'s, motion for summary judgment (dkt. no. 37). The motion is fully briefed, [1] and the Court, being duly advised, GRANTS IN PART AND DENIES IN PART the motion for the reasons, and to the extent, set forth below.

I. STANDARD

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) provides that summary judgment is appropriate "if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the admissible evidence presented by the non-moving party must be believed and all reasonable inferences must be drawn in the non-movant's favor. Hemsworth v. Quotesmith.com, Inc., 476 F.3d 487, 490 (7th Cir. 2007); Zerante v. DeLuca, 555 F.3d 582, 584 (7th Cir. 2009) ("We view the record in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and draw all reasonable inferences in that party's favor."). However, "[a] party who bears the burden of proof on a particular issue may not rest on its pleadings, but must affirmatively demonstrate, by specific factual allegations, that there is a genuine issue of material fact that requires trial." Id. Finally, the non-moving party bears the burden of specifically identifying the relevant evidence of record, and "the court is not required to scour the record in search of evidence to defeat a motion for summary judgment." Ritchie v. Glidden Co., 242 F.3d 713, 723 (7th Cir. 2001).

II. BACKGROUND

The facts that follow are those taken in the light most favorable to the Plaintiff, Nina Cassidy Tate. Additional relevant facts are included in the Discussion section below.

Orthopaedics-Indianapolis, P.C. ("OrthoIndy") is a full-service orthopaedic practice with several locations in central Indiana. Tate began working for OrthoIndy on June 17, 1991, as an administrative assistant. She worked in a variety of positions while at OrthoIndy including as a patient litigation specialist from 1997 until July 2009.

From 2007 through October 2008, Tate was supervised by Lil Koopman, vice president of clinical services. She had a great working relationship with Koopman and believed Koopman was a good supervisor. In October 2008, however, Linda Reddington, corporate counsel for OrthoIndy, became Tate's new supervisor. While the two had an amicable working relationship at the start, their relationship quickly deteriorated, and by early 2009, Reddington began to identify several issues with Tate's job performance.

Concerned about Reddington's comments regarding her job performance and conduct towards her, in April 2009, Tate went to Koopman for advice but received no response. She subsequently met with Koopman in June 2009 to discuss what she believed to be continued discriminatory and harassing behavior. These concerns were relayed to then-CEO of OrthoIndy John Martin; however, no further action was taken.

On July 27, 2009, Reddington gave Tate her first negative annual performance review in her tenure as an OrthoIndy employee. In the review, Reddington criticized Tate for lacking attention to detail, making various clerical errors, and failing to be proactive in her job responsibilities. Reddington also noted that Tate had been accustomed to working with little supervision and was struggling working in a team environment. This performance review was given shortly after Reddington promoted Tiffani White, a significantly younger employee, to a position supervising Tate, despite her lack of experience with OrthoIndy and other hospitals. Notwithstanding Tate's qualifications and experience at OrthoIndy, Reddington did not consider Tate for this position because she said Tate was "old school."

Tate subsequently filed a charge of age discrimination with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") on August 4, 2009. Within a month, however, Tate reached an agreement with OrthoIndy. A settlement agreement was entered into on September 3, 2009, whereby OrthoIndy agreed to transfer Tate to an administrative assistant position where she would be supervised, once again, by Koopman if Tate agreed to dismiss her pending EEOC charge. Thus, per the agreement, Tate was given a fresh start in her new job at OrthoIndy and began working in her new position in early September 2009.

Two weeks later, however, her job changed, and Tate began splitting her administrative assistant duties between Koopman and Amanda Gleason, who worked in the Human Resources ("HR") department. Soon after Tate began working for her, Gleason began collecting feedback on Tate. On September 24, 2009, Gleason placed an Employee Feedback Form in her personnel file, criticizing her for inappropriate use of company email. This was Tate's "first warning." Gleason also began an informal 60-day evaluation of Tate, soliciting feedback from Tate's coworkers including Alicia Hoover, Amy Urbanski, and Becky Miller. This feedback, however, was never provided to Tate, even though other employees in the HR department were provided with their feedback and given the chance to review and sign the form. On December 30, 2009, Gleason ordered a review of Tate's phone calls, resulting in a "second warning" on April 1, 2010, for an abnormal number of personal calls received to her business phone. Again, this warning was never given to Tate.

Tate continued to work in her dual position, and was never given any formal indication that her performance was deficient. Nevertheless, Koopman and Gleason felt that Tate performed poorly for the entirety of 2010, resulting in Tate receiving a subpar annual performance evaluation in December 2010. The review indicated that Tate was unable to complete her duties without assistance, her work had to be double checked by co-workers, errors were still being made, and she was not fully engaged in her work. Koopman and Gleason thus put Tate on a Performance Improvement Plan ("PIP"). The PIP identified several problem areas, goals, and objectives, as well as additional training that Tate needed to complete. The PIP indicated that Tate needed to meet with her supervisors on a regular basis to evaluate her progress; however, these meetings took place only sporadically.

Gleason and Koopman issued Tate another Employee Discipline Report on February 25, 2011, her "third warning, " placing her on a 30-day probationary period. The February report indicated that Tate was still making filing errors, needed to reduce her turnaround time regarding reference checks for potential employees, had not mastered the badge-making system, still needed to receive directions regarding how to complete tasks, and lacked advanced computer skills. During this meeting, Gleason and Koopman expressed to Tate that "this job may not be a good match for her skills and interests" and decided to investigate "what other opportunities might be available within the company."

At the end of the thirty-day probationary period, Gleason and Koopman decided to restructure Tate's position to be more suited to her strengths - they did "not feel that Nina's skills sets [were] suited to multitasking, complex reporting and computer skills, and project management." She was thus transferred to HR full-time, and her duties in the administrative department under Koopman were eliminated. This change in job duties served as Tate's "fourth warning." Gleason, however, continued to see problems with Tate's performance and placed an Employee Feedback Form, serving as Tate's "fifth warning, " in her personnel ...


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