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Marshall v. Ascension Health

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

July 25, 2019

ASCENSION HEALTH, et al. Defendants.



         Plaintiff Stacy Marshall (“Marshall”), by counsel, brought this action against named Defendants Ascension, St. Vincent Medical Group (“SVMG”), and St. Vincent Salem Hospital, Inc.[1] (See Compl., ECF No. 1.) Pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., Marshall alleges Defendants (1) harassed her based on her gender to create a hostile work environment; (2) discriminated against her based on her gender; (3) retaliated against her for complaining of harassment and discrimination; and (4) caused intentional infliction of emotional distress. Defendants move for summary judgment on all claims. The Court, having considered the Motion, finds that the Motion should be GRANTED.

         I. Background

         A. Marshall's Employment

         Stacy Marshall began work as a Registered Nurse at Washington County Memorial Hospital in 1987. (See Dep. Stacy Marshall (hereinafter Marshall Dep.) 21:20-24, ECF No. 36-5 at 4-5; Answer 4, ECF No. 11.) In 2010, when Ascension acquired St. Vincent Health, Inc., Washington County Memorial Hospital became St. Vincent Salem Hospital. (Id. at 22:17-21.) St. Vincent Salem is a wholly-owned subsidiary of St. Vincent Health, Inc., which is not a party in this matter. (Decl. Dana Muntz (hereinafter Muntz Decl.) ¶ 5.) St. Vincent Health, Inc. is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Ascension. (Id. at ¶ 6.) SVMG is a separate subsidiary of Ascension. (Id. at ¶ 7.)

         Around 2013, Marshall began reporting to Brittney Garloch (“Garloch”) and Kevin Lyles (“Lyles”). (See Marshall Dep. 33:2-34:1, 38:10-12; Decl. Brittney Garloch (hereinafter Garloch Decl.) ¶ 4.) Both Garloch and Lyles reported to Dana Muntz (“Muntz”), who at all times relevant to this matter was Chief Nursing Officer and Administrator for St. Vincent Salem Hospital. (Marshall Dep. 38:12-25, ECF No. 36-5 at 13; Muntz Decl. ¶ 2-3, ECF No. 36-1 at 2.)

         B. Marshall's Discipline Related to Noel Putman

         In 2009, shortly before Ascension acquired St. Vincent Health, Marshall started working with Noel Putman, a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (“CRNA”) in St. Vincent Salem's Surgery Department. (Marshall Dep. 24:1-6; 45:17-46:13.) Put-man, at all times relevant to this matter, was employed by SVMG. (Id. at 46:23- 47:20.) Putman is the only CRNA employed by St. Vincent Medical Group serving St. Vincent Salem. (Marshall Dep. 47:12-25, ECF No. 36-5 at 17; Potter Decl. ¶ 6, ECF No. 36-3 at 2.)

         On or around August 23, 2013, Putman complained to Garloch that Marshall was putting unsolicited notes in his locker and had argued with him unprofessionally in the workplace. (Marshall Dep. 75:10-76:12; Garloch Decl. ¶ 5, Ex. 1.) Garloch, Lyles, and Valerie Potter, then Human Resources Manager for St. Vincent Salem, spoke with Marshall and directed her to stop putting notes in Putman's locker, to act appropriately in the workplace, and to avoid communication with Putman unless specifically related to a patient. (Decl. Valerie Potter (hereinafter Potter Decl.) ¶¶ 3, 6- 7, Ex. 1, ECF No. 36-3 at 2-3.)

         On or around September 18, 2013, Marshall stopped to talk with Putman about his “nerve to complain about her” to Garloch. (Marshall Dep. 78:19-25, 85:9-15, ECF No. 36-5 at 39, 42.) Putman subsequently complained to Garloch again about Marshall, claiming Marshall had “cornered him to discuss their interpersonal conflict.” (Garloch Decl. ¶ 6, Ex. 2; see also Potter Decl. ¶ 8.) Garloch admonished Marshall about maintaining professional boundaries in the workplace. (Id.) Marshall responded she wished to help Putman “fix his personality.” (Id.) Garloch then escalated the issue to Muntz, reporting the multiple complaints from Putman alleging that Marshall was harassing him. (Decl. Dana Muntz (hereinafter Muntz Decl.) ¶ 8, ECF No. 36-1 at 3.) Potter and Muntz determined Marshall had disregarded specific instructions to avoid speaking with Putman regarding personal issues. (Potter Decl. ¶ 9, ECF No. 36-3 at 3; Muntz Decl. ¶ 9, ECF No. 36-1 at 3.) On or around September 19, 2013, Potter and Muntz jointly issued another warning to Marshall reiterating their instructions to not speak with Putman outside of patient matters. (See Muntz Decl., Ex. 1, ECF No. 36-1 at 8.)

         On or around April 15, 2014, Putman and Marshall had a disagreement in the operating room during which Putman told Marshall, “Don't tell me how to do my fucking job.” (Garloch Decl. ¶ 8, ECF No. 36-2 at 3; see also Potter Decl. ¶ 10; Muntz Decl. ¶ 10.) Putman later apologized to Marshall. (Garloch Decl., Ex. 3, ECF No. 36-2 at 11.) Two days later on April 17, 2018, Marshall spoke with Garloch about the incident in the operating room. (Id.) Putman separately reported to Garloch that Marshall had confronted him again to discuss their ongoing personal conflict. (Id. at ¶ 8.) Garloch reported the issue to Muntz and Potter, who determined Marshall was making the work environment uncomfortable for her co-workers. (Muntz Decl. ¶ 11, ECF No. 36-1 at 3; Potter Decl. ¶ 10, ECF No. 36-3 at 3.) Subsequently, on April 21, 2014, Muntz and Potter issued a written warning to Marshall for continuing to disregard instructions not to speak with Putman except about patient care. (Muntz Decl. ¶ 11, Ex. 2; Potter Decl. ¶ 10, Ex. 3.)

         On May 5, 2014, Potter, Muntz, Garloch, and Lyles held a meeting with Putman and Marshall to address their persistent issues. (Muntz Decl. ¶ 12; Garloch Decl. ¶ 9; Potter Decl. ¶ 12.) During the meeting, Putman read from a prepared statement explaining his belief that Marshall had romantic feelings toward him and that he felt harassed. (Muntz Decl. ¶ 13; Garloch Decl. ¶ 9; Potter Decl. ¶ 13.)

         Shortly after, on May 15, 2014, Putman again expressed concerns about Marshall to Muntz. (Muntz Decl. ¶ 14, ECF No. 36-1 at 4; Potter Decl., Ex. 4, ECF No. 36-3 at 14.) Putman described several instances in which Marshall engaged in personal conversations with him in direct contravention of Muntz' and Potter's orders. (Potter Decl., Ex. 4.) In response, Potter and Muntz met with Marshall on or around May 20, 2014 and directed her to take a leave of absence and seek counseling from St. Vincent Salem's Employee Assistance Program (“EAP”). (Muntz Decl. ¶ 16; Potter Decl. ¶ 13.) The meeting is recorded in both Muntz' and Potter's contemporaneous notes. (See Muntz Decl., Ex. 4; Potter Decl., Ex. 4.) Marshall began EAP counseling on May 20, 2014 and returned to work three days later. (Marshall Dep. 133:11- 136:19, ECF No. 36-5 at 69-72.)

         On or around January 29, 2015, Marshall again approached Putman to ask why he was mad at her and why he could not forgive her. (Marshall Dep. 146:17-150:9.) Putman reported the incident to Muntz that same day. (Muntz Decl. ¶ 17, Ex. 5, ECF No. 36-1 at 4-5, 17.) On February 2, 2015, Muntz and Potter again met with Marshall and Putman to discuss Putman's complaint. (Muntz Decl. ¶ 18; Potter Decl. ¶ 14.) Marshall admitted speaking to Putman despite Muntz and Potter's continuing instructions, but stated the discussion regarded a patient's IV. (Muntz Decl. ¶ 18; Potter Decl. ¶ 14.) Muntz and Potter both determined that Marshall acted inappropriately, in part because they believed there would be no reason for Marshall to ask a nurse anesthetist such as Putman about an IV. (Muntz Decl. ¶ 18; Potter Decl. ¶ 14.) The meeting is recorded in Potter's contemporaneous notes. (See Potter Decl., Ex. 5.) Muntz and Potter issued Marshall a written warning to Marshall and placed her on unpaid suspension. (See Muntz Decl., Ex. 6; Potter Decl., Ex. 6.)

         Following the January 2015 incident, Potter and Muntz determined Marshall and Putman should be separated. (Muntz Decl. ¶ 21; Potter Decl. ¶ 17.) Because Putman could only perform his work as a CRNA in the Surgery Department, and because he was the only nurse anesthetist serving St. Vincent Salem, he could not be transferred. (Muntz Decl. ¶ 22; Potter Decl. ¶ 18.) Consequently, St. Vincent Salem ordered Marshall to transfer to an available position in a different department. (Marshall Dep. 155:6-156:18, ECF No. 36-5 at 82-83; Muntz Decl. ¶ 23; Potter Decl. ¶ 19.) Marshall chose the Medical/Surgery Department, where she started work in late February of 2015 and where she did not have contact with Putman. (Muntz Decl. ¶ 23; Potter Decl. ¶ 19; Marshall Dep. 161:23-162:23.) She worked approximately the same number of hours in her new role and received the same hourly rate. (Marshall Dep. 40:5- 13, 161:11-15; Potter Decl. ¶ 20, Ex. 7.) St. Vincent Salem filled Marshall's previous position in the Surgery Department with a female nurse whose salary, according to Marshall, saved the hospital $30, 000 per year. (Marshall Dep. 183:8-184:14.)

         Shortly after her transfer to the Medical/Surgery Department, Marshall began working in the Emergency Department. (Marshall Dep. 162:25-163:9.) There, she occasionally interacted with Putman. (Potter Decl. ¶ 21.) Around that time, Potter received complaints that Marshall was making her coworkers uncomfortable by gossiping and speaking about her relationship with Putman, and Putman complained to Potter that Marshall was defaming him to employees within the Emergency Department. (Id.) Potter and Muntz interviewed numerous employees in the Emergency Department, including Marshall, to investigate the matter. (Muntz Decl. ¶ 25; Potter Decl. ¶ 22.) Marshall admitted to Muntz and Potter that she “had spoken with several people about her history with Putman and asked them to pray for her and for Putman.” (Muntz Decl. ¶ 25; Potter Decl. ¶ 22.) Consequently, Muntz and Potter, citing Marshall's continued failure to follow instructions regarding appropriate workplace conduct and interactions with Putman, terminated Marshall's employment effective August 14, 2015. (Muntz Decl. ¶ 26; Potter Decl. ¶ 23; Marshall Dep., Ex. 16.) Marshall filed her Charge of Discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on April 4, 2016. (Marshall Dep., Ex. 19.)

         C. Marshall's Allegations of Harassment

         Marshall alleges her first negative interaction with Putman occurred when he yelled at her during her training. (Id. at 51:6-52:7.) Marshall admits the harassment was not sexual at first. (Id. at 50:16-51:9.) Marshall also alleges Putman treated many of his coworkers poorly and it was widely known that he had, as she describes, “anger management problems.” (Id. at 57:7-59:4.)

         Marshall states she first knew that Putman's interactions with her “moved from that beratement then [sic] on to the sexual type” when he allegedly stared at her with a “beet red” face and, after Marshall inquired of him, stated, “you're my problem.” (Id. at 61:15-62:13.) Additionally, Marshall states Putman made sexual remarks to her on at least two other occasions. First, when she said she was going to “take all of this off, ” referring to heart monitor leads hooked up to patient, to which Putman allegedly responded, “I've been waiting to hear [you] say that for a long time.” (Id. at 67:22-68:5, Ex. 19.) Second, when Putman leaned over her shoulder and said, “I see something, ” which Marshall believes referred to his view down her shirt. (Id. at 107:18-108:22.)

         Aside from these two specific exchanges, Marshall makes more general allegations. Namely, she claims Putman “dart[ed] in front of her” approximately five times. (Id. at 63:8-10, 65:4-10.) She alleges Putman stared at her from down the hallway approximately five times. (Id. at 65:11-16.) She also alleges Putman would “flip [her and her coworkers] off” (id. at 66:17-20, 67:14-15) and strike her worktable to get her attention (id. at 188:3-189:19). Without other factual allegations, Marshall summarily asserts that harassment from Putman happened consistently during her time at St. Vincent Salem. (See, e.g., id. at 210:12-17.)

         All of this behavior ostensibly occurred prior to Marshall's discipline on August 23, 2013. (Id. at 68:14-17.) However, Marshall could not recall whether she reported any of these interactions with Putman to either Garloch or Lyles prior to that time. (Id. at 68:18-69:8.) The only evidence of a formal complaint by Marshall to her supervisors regarding Putman comes from May 5, 2014. (Id. at 106:6-111:7; see also supra Section B, p. 4.)

         D. Marshall's Excluded Allegations ...

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