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Goldstein v. Brigham & Women's Faulkner Hosp., Inc.

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

January 23, 2015

LORI JAN GOLDSTEIN, Plaintiff,
v.
BRIGHAM AND WOMEN'S FAULKNER HOSPITAL, INC. and MARY RAY MAZAKA, Defendants

For Lori Jan Goldstein, Plaintiff: Howard I. Wilgoren, LEAD ATTORNEY, Law Office of Howard Wilgoren, Boston, MA.

For Brigham and Women's Faulkner Hospital, also known as, Faulkner Hospital, Mary Ray Mazaka, Defendants: Eugene J Sullivan, III, LEAD ATTORNEY, Patrick H. Foley, Holtz & Reed, LLP, Boston, MA.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

DOUGLAS P. WOODLOCK, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

This is an action alleging employment discrimination by defendants Brigham and Women's Faulkner Hospital (" Faulkner" ) and a Faulkner supervisor, Mary Ray Mazaka. The plaintiff, Lori Jan Goldstein, was a Spanish language interpreter at Faulkner whose employment was terminated. She alleges that the defendants discriminated against her on the basis of race, color, national origin, and gender, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, and Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 151B, by providing unequal compensation compared to similarly situated employees who are not members of her protected classes, creating a hostile work environment, and terminating her. The defendants have moved for summary judgment on all counts.

I. BACKGROUND

A. Factual Background

1. Goldstein's Employment at Faulkner

Goldstein is a Hispanic female and American citizen of Honduran descent who was born in Mexico City. She was employed as a Spanish language interpreter and language coordinator at Faulkner, a hospital in Boston, from approximately January 2001 until March 2009. As the language coordinator, Goldstein supervised and assigned other interpreters, was involved in the hiring process for interpreters, and by her own report made the hospital more welcoming to non-English-speaking patients by increasing the size of the language services department.

As part of her employment, Goldstein had the ability to access patient records by way of the Meditech system. Faulkner provided training for employees, including Goldstein, on patient confidentiality and compliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (" HIPAA" ), Pub. L. No. 104-191, 110 Stat. 1936 (1996) (codified as amended in scattered sections of Titles 18, 26, 29, and 42 of the United States Code), in accessing patient records. Goldstein signed a confidentiality agreement in 2007 and again in 2008 that stated that her access to confidential information was limited to a " need-to-know" basis in order to perform her job responsibilities.

Mazaka became Goldstein's supervisor in 2005. While Goldstein was under the supervision of Mazaka, she received several written warnings. In January 2008, Mazaka issued a " final written warning" to Goldstein for using the Meditech patient record system to access the medical record of a Faulkner employee, and for permitting a college student who was the son of a fellow employee to observe an interpreter's appointment with a patient. Both actions, Mazaka indicated, violated HIPAA and internal policies. In February 2009, Mazaka issued another " final written warning" to Goldstein for reporting to work impaired, with slowed and slurred speech and a lack of balance, after which she was sent home.

Goldstein faced final discipline again in 2009. In March, Goldstein used her work log-in and password to access the medical record of a patient, Etelvino Andrade, on the Meditech system. Goldstein accessed the record because she was checking to see if the patient, whom she knew personally, was in the hospital. She believed she had authorization to access the record because she had been designated as the patient's next of kin previously.[1] She did not access the patient record in furtherance of her job responsibilities.

Faulkner terminated Goldstein's employment in March 2009 following the Andrade incident. The defendants contend that Goldstein was terminated because of her unauthorized access of this patient record and because of her prior disciplinary issues, as documented in the written warnings she received.

B. Procedural History

1. Goldstein's Allegations of Discriminatory Conduct

Goldstein asserts that she formed a belief that she was being discriminated against on the bases of race, national origin, and gender by Mazaka in 2007.[2] At that time, she complained to Ed Liston, the Vice President of Behavioral Sciences, who did not investigate the complaints; she complained a total of seven or eight times prior to her termination in 2009.[3] She contends that her supervisor, Mazaka, gave preferential treatment to other employees,[4] that she was paid less than similarly situated employees who are not members of Goldstein's protected classes, that she was not given enough hours to be considered a full-time employee for benefits purposes, and that she was unlawfully terminated on the basis of her membership in certain protected classes.

2. Administrative Proceeding

Goldstein filed a complaint with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD) and the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on November 24, 2009.[5] On Goldstein's complaint,[6] the MCAD conducted an investigation and concluded that there was a lack of probable cause for the allegations.[7] Since the defendants admitted that they had not terminated anyone outside of Goldstein's protected class for the same or similar reasons, the MCAD determined that Goldstein had made a prima facie case for discrimination based upon race and national origin in her termination. But the MCAD also determined that the defendants had provided legitimate, non-discriminatory reasons for terminating her employment, and that Goldstein had failed to demonstrate that those reasons were a pretext for discrimination.

Similarly, the MCAD concluded that Goldstein had not demonstrated that she was subject to disparate treatment based upon her race, national origin, or gender. Finally, the MCAD determined that Goldstein " failed to present any information upon which a reasonable fact finder could believe that [Mazaka] is individually liable for discrimination against her based on Race, National Origin and Sex." The MCAD accordingly dismissed Goldstein's complaint on November 30, 2011.[8] The EEOC adopted the findings of the MCAD, dismissed Goldstein's complaint, and issued a right-to-sue letter on July 23, 2012.

3. Judicial Proceeding

Goldstein filed her initial complaint in this court on October 22, 2012 without the assistance of counsel, along with a motion to proceed in forma pauperis (" IFP" ), which I granted. The early life of this case was plagued with some hurdles relating to Goldstein's IFP status and difficulties communicating with the United States Marshals Service -- regarding service of her complaint on the defendants -- and thereafter with her counsel. The plaintiff, through counsel, ultimately filed her amended complaint on October 18, 2013. Following the conclusion of discovery, the ...


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