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Seneff v. Indiana University Health, Inc.

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

May 3, 2019

MARLA SENEFF, Plaintiff,
v.
INDIANA UNIVERSITY HEALTH, INC., Defendant.

          ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          James Patrick Hanlon, United States District Judge

         Marla Seneff brought this age-discrimination suit after Indiana University Health, Inc. (“IU Health”) terminated her employment. IU Health has filed a motion for summary judgment under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a). Dkt. [36]. For the reasons that follow, that motion is GRANTED.

         I.

         Facts and Background

         Because IU Health has moved for summary judgment under Rule 56(a), the Court views and recites the evidence “in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and draw[s] all reasonable inferences in that party's favor.” Zerante v. DeLuca, 555 F.3d 582, 584 (7th Cir. 2009) (citation omitted).

         A. Ms. Seneff's employment with IU Health

         Ms. Seneff started working at Methodist Hospital-which later became part of IU Health-in 1979. Dkt. 39-16 at 4 (Seneff Dep. at 19). She started as a radiology technologist and then worked as an ultrasound technologist. Dkt. 39-16 at 4-5 (Seneff Dep. at 19-20). Around 1994, she became the Team Leader for IU Health's Radiology Ultrasound Department-a position she held until her termination. Dkt. 39-16 at 5-6 (Seneff Dep. at 20-21).

         As Team Leader, Ms. Seneff's responsibilities included supervising, training, and disciplining employees. Dkt. 39-16 at 21, 76-79 (Seneff Dep. at 76, 176-179). Her supervisor was Wendy McDougall, the manager of the radiology department. Dkt. 39-16 at 7 (Seneff Dep. at 38); dkt. 39-17 at 2 (McDougall Dep. at 10).

         B. The incident before Ms. Seneff's termination

         On February 22, 2017, Ms. Seneff was helping Michelle Davis, a newer employee, get experience with certain types of exams. Dkt. 39-16 at 24-25 (Seneff Dep. at 79-80). When Ms. Seneff had trouble with a scanning machine, Ms. Davis said that it worked fine the day before. Ms. Seneff responded: “well it doesn't seem to be working today.” Dkt. 39-16 at 28-29 (Seneff Dep. at 84- 85). Upset by that comment, Ms. Davis went to a bathroom and cried. Dkt. 39-18 at 40-41 (Davis Dep. at 40-41).

         Two other employees told Ms. McDougall that Ms. Davis was upset. Dkt. 39-17 at 28-29 (McDougall Dep. at 60-61). Ms. McDougall found Ms. Davis and asked her what happened. Dkt. 39-17 at 29 (McDougall Dep. at 61). Ms. McDougall then met with Ms. Seneff. Ms. McDougall yelled at Ms. Seneff, told her that Ms. Davis was upset, and told her to go home-with no opportunity to explain. Dkt. 39-16 at 33-34, 60 (Seneff Dep. at 89-90, 128).

         As she prepared to leave, Ms. Seneff saw Ms. Davis again and apologized twice, then said that she was going home. Dkt. 39-16 at 36-40 (Seneff Dep. at 92-96). This conversation also upset Ms. Davis, causing her to cry again. Dkt. 39-16 at 38 (Seneff Dep. at 94); dkt. 39-17 at 33 (McDougall Dep. at 74).

         Ms. McDougall then called and told human resources representative Darrell Daniel what happened. Dkt. 39-17 at 34-36 (McDougall Dep. at 75- 77). She followed that call with an email asking for advice about “the appropriate number of days for suspension for an employee incident that happened.” Dkt. 39-14. Mr. Daniel recommended Ms. Seneff's termination. Dkt. 39-17 at 39 (McDougall Dep. at 81). Ms. McDougall went to her direct supervisor, Todd Stanley, and tried to prevent Ms. Seneff's termination but was unsuccessful. Dkt. 39-17 at 41-44 (McDougall Dep. at 83, 86-87, 89). Ultimately, Mr. Daniel, Mr. Stanley, and IU Health COO Parveen Chand approved Ms. Seneff's termination. Dkt. 39-17 at 41-44 (McDougall Dep. at 83, 86-87, 89). IU Health terminated Ms. Seneff when she returned to work on February 27, 2017. Dkt. 39-16 at 52-53 (Seneff Dep. at 113-14).

         C. Ms. McDougall's comments about Ms. Seneff and other employees

         The day before the incident between Ms. Seneff and Ms. Davis, Ms. Seneff and Ms. McDougall attended a supervisor meeting. Dkt. 39-16 at 42, 64 (Seneff Dep. at 98, 133). Ms. McDougall said in a mean tone that she missed Ms. Seneff's birthday-“the big one”-and that maybe Ms. Seneff could retire early. Dkt. 39-16 at 64 (Seneff Dep. ...


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