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Kuznarowis v. Tobey Hospital and Southcoast Health Systems, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

June 28, 2018

Lee Kuznarowis, Plaintiff,
v.
Tobey Hospital and Southcoast Health Systems, Inc., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM & ORDER

          NATHANIEL M. GORTON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This case involves allegations of discrimination by Tobey Hospital (“the Hospital”) and its operator Southcoast Health Systems, Inc. (collectively “defendants”) against Lee Kuznarowis (“Kuznarowis” or “plaintiff”), a registered nurse, . Plaintiff asserts that defendants 1) violated the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (“ADEA”), 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq., (Count I) 2) discriminated against him based on age in violation of M.G.L. c. 151B § 4, (Count II) 3) violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., (Count III) 4) discriminated against him based on gender in violation of M.G.L. c. 151B § 4, (Count IV) 5) retaliated against him in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-3(a), (Count V) 6) retaliated against him in violation of ADEA, 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq., (Count VI) and 7) retaliated against him in violation of M.G.L. c. 149 §185 (Count VII).

         Defendant moves for summary judgment on all claims. Because no genuine issues of material fact exist as to any claim, defendant's motion for summary judgment will be allowed.

         I. Background

         In 1993, the Hospital hired Kuznarowis, then 33 years old, as a Respiratory Therapist. He began working as a Registered Nurse at the Hospital in approximately 2000. He was first assigned to the Intensive Care Unit as an ICU RN but then reassigned to the Perioperative Department. In 2013 and 2014, his staff performance evaluation rated him between a “good, solid performer” and an “excellent performer”.

         Lynn Bordwick (“Bordwick”), the Perioperative Department Nurse Manager at the Hospital, became plaintiff's manager in 2006. Bordwick informed the Post Anesthesia Care Unit (“PACU”) that length of stay was a concern and that patients should be discharged from PACU once they met clinical criteria.

         In October, 2013, plaintiff applied for a Team Leader position at the Hospital, for which he was qualified. Bordwick was responsible for hiring the Team Leader. Tara Ignacio (“Ignacio”), a female nurse with less experience than plaintiff was ultimately selected for the position.

         In August, 2014, Ignacio yelled at Kuznarowis to move a female patient along more quickly. Kuznarowis responded that he was charting and that he would move the patient when he was finished. Kuznarowis complained of Ignacio's behavior to Sue Gillis (“Gillis”), the lead RN.

         In October, 2014, plaintiff, Bordwick, Associate Chief Nursing Officer Susan Mangini (“Mangini”) and Human Resources representative Janet Peirce (“Peirce”) met to discuss Bordwick's concerns about plaintiff. Bordwick told Mangini that Kuznarowis tended to keep his patients longer than other RNs and that her prior experience indicated that extended patient stays and missing documentation were indicative of possible drug diversion. The parties dispute whether, during that meeting, plaintiff was accused of having a substance abuse problem. At the conclusion of the meeting, Kuznarowis was placed on leave.

         On November 20, 2014, plaintiff was terminated. The person hired to replace him in PACU was Scott Rounseville, a male five years older than Kuznarowis. Mangini prepared a complaint against Kuznarowis which a Southcoast HR manager filed with the Board of Registration in Nursing (“BORN”) in December, 2014. Plaintiff maintains that the Hospital used manipulated data to demonstrate that he was dispensing more controlled substances than the other nurses. He argues that the standard deviation analysis used by the Hospital to document deficiencies in his performance was attributable to the entire staff, not solely to his practices.

         On September 8, 2015, Kuznarowis filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”). In July, 2016, plaintiff brought this suit against defendants. They subsequently filed their pending motion for summary judgment which is the subject matter of this memorandum.

         II. Analysis

         The role of summary judgment is “to pierce the pleadings and to assess the proof in order to see whether there is a genuine need for trial.” Mesnick v. Gen. Elec. Co., 950 F.2d 816, 822 (1st Cir. 1991). The burden is on the moving party to show, through the pleadings, discovery and affidavits, “that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A fact is material if it “might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A genuine issue of material fact exists where the evidence with respect to the material fact in dispute “is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Id.

         If the moving party has satisfied its burden, the burden shifts to the non-moving party to set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine, triable issue. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324 (1986). The Court must view the entire record in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and indulge all reasonable inferences in that party's favor. O'Connor v. Steeves, 994 F.2d 905, 907 (1st Cir. 1993). Summary judgment is appropriate if, after viewing the record in the non-moving party's favor, the Court determines that no genuine issue of material fact exists and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.

         A. Timeliness

         Under the relevant statutes of limitations, plaintiff is required to file a charge of discrimination within 300 days after the unlawful employment practice occurred. 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(e)(1) (“. . . within three hundred days after the alleged unlawful employment practice occurred . . .”); cf. 29 U.S.C. § 626(d)(1)(B) (“. . . within 300 days after the alleged unlawful practice occurred . . .”); M.G.L. c. 151B, § 5 (“Any complaint filed pursuant to this section must be so filed within 300 days after the alleged act of ...


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