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Aaron v. St. Vincent Anderson Regional Hospital, Inc.

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

April 25, 2019




         This cause is before the Court on Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment [Dkt. 32] filed on October 18, 2018, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 and Local Rule 56.1. Plaintiff Kristen Aaron brings this action against her former employer, Defendant St. Vincent Anderson Regional Hospital, Inc. (“St. Vincent”), alleging that she was terminated because of her sex and disability in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”) and the Americans With Disabilities Act (“ADA”), respectively. Plaintiff also alleges that St. Vincent retaliated against her for exercising a statutory right in violation of Indiana law.[1] For the reasons detailed below, we GRANT Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment.

         Factual Background

         Plaintiff's Position and Job Duties

         St. Vincent is a hospital in Anderson, Indiana, that provides a wide range of healthcare services. Since 2007, St. Vincent has also offered a Clinical Program for Radiology (“the Program”). Radiology students in the Program study in both the classroom and clinical setting to become certified Radiology Technicians, also referred to as Medical Imaging Technologists (“Techs”). Ms. Aaron was first hired by St. Vincent in 1996 and became the Clinical Coordinator for the Program in July 2007.

         As Clinical Coordinator, Ms. Aaron's primary job responsibilities included supervising the clinical education of radiology students, evaluating the students' progress in clinical areas, and maintaining professional educational requirements. Her duties also included, in relevant part:

• Promot[ing] the Radiology Program …
• Work[ing] closely with the Program Director, physicians, and other professional associates to provide in-depth and extensive training for students enrolled in the Radiology Program …
• [D]evelop[ing] and implement[ing] … program goals, program assessments, clinical objectives, and clinical evaluation system …
• Evaluat[ing] and facilitat[ing] clinical education effectiveness.
• Facilitat[ing] and/or provid[ing] appropriate and adequate clinical instruction for the students …
• Participat[ing] in meetings and serving on committees consistent with goals of the educational program …
• Provid[ing] or facilitat[ing] student guidance and academic counseling as appropriate …
• Report[ing] to the Radiology Program Director and Radiology Director. Ex. 2 to Aaron Dep. at 2-4.

         As the Clinical Coordinator, Ms. Aaron was also responsible for overseeing the relationship between the Techs and the radiology students in the clinical setting. Ms. Aaron supervised the students but had no managerial responsibilities over the Techs. She was responsible for the students' online computer testing and she performed their evaluations. Ms. Aaron taught classes, including patient care, positioning, ethics, and image evaluation. She spent time with the students, both in the classroom and the clinical setting, and she wrote tests and graded papers.

         When Ms. Aaron first started as Clinical Coordinator, she reported to two Program Directors, Craig Mitchell and Mark Adkins. The Techs also reported to Mr. Mitchell. In 2009 or 2010, Ms. Aaron began reporting solely to Mr. Adkins, but the Techs continued to report to Mr. Mitchell until November 2016, when he transferred from St. Vincent. Mr. Adkins remained Ms. Aaron's supervisor until her termination on April 27, 2017.

         Plaintiff's Disability

         Ms. Aaron suffers from an autoimmune disease that causes gastroparesis, skin problems, joint and muscle pain, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome, and decreased kidney function. Compl. ¶ 6; Aaron Dep. at 103. While employed by St. Vincent, she never provided documentation or a written diagnosis of her autoimmune disease. Ms. Aaron also never reported that she was unable to perform any of her job duties due to any disability nor did she ever request any leave covered by the Family Medical Leave Act. Aaron Dep. at 35-36, 77, 103-04.

         Ms. Aaron also did not seek any accommodation for any physical concerns, illnesses, or disability, other than a work space evaluation. In 2014, as a result of her chronic pain, she had her workspace evaluated by an occupational therapist, who made recommendations regarding the proper heights for her chair, desk, and computer monitor. Following the evaluation, Ms. Aaron was permitted to make the adjustments recommended by the occupational therapist. Ms. Aaron admits that she never made a request for any medical or physical accommodation that was rejected by St. Vincent. Aaron Dep. at 35-37, 77.

         Mr. Adkins was aware that Ms. Aaron suffered from ongoing health issues and, according to Ms. Aaron, because she tried to schedule her personal medical appointments late in the day to limit the amount of work she missed, he “did not have a problem with it.” Aaron Dep. at 31. Mr. Mitchell, however, made a comment to Ms. Aaron on one occasion in 2013, stating that her colleagues in the Program “were not happy with [her] not being there” due to her doctor's appointments. Aaron Dep. at 32. Thereafter, at Mr. Adkins's direction, Ms. Aaron began keeping a log to account for her time to protect herself from further complaints regarding her absences.

         Early Issues Within the Program

         Throughout Ms. Aaron's tenure as the Clinical Coordinator, animosity had existed between the Techs and the radiology students stemming from the circumstances surrounding St. Vincent's acquisition of the Program from another local hospital. Tensions between the two groups intensified throughout the years, and in 2013, an anonymous letter was sent to St. Vincent alleging that a radiology student who had left the program the previous year had been “railroaded.” Aaron Dep. at 29. The escalating tensions prompted Mr. Mitchell to schedule a meeting in December 2013 to discuss the situation with Ms. Aaron, a male clinical radiology instructor, and a female senior Tech. According to Ms. Aaron, at that meeting Mr. Mitchell said, “I'm tired of this shit. Work it out. If you don't work it out, we'll just end our affiliation with the program.” Aaron Dep. at 11-13. Thirteen months later, following January 2015 meeting, Mr. Mitchell approached Ms. Aaron privately and told her she “would regret it if [she] did not side with him” at a future meeting. Id. at 47. Ms. Aaron reported these incidents to Executive Director of ...

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