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Krupien v. Ritcey

Appeals Court of Massachusetts, Suffolk

September 26, 2018

TERESA KRUPIEN
v.
ELIZABETH ANNE RITCEY & another. [1]

          Heard: March 1, 2018.

         Civil action commenced in the Superior Court Department on March 19, 2015. The case was heard by Robert L. Ullmann, J., on a motion for summary judgment.

          Scott C. Gladstone for the plaintiff.

          Jessica L. Shaffer, Assistant Attorney General, for the defendants.

          Present: Trainor, Kinder, & Henry, JJ.

          HENRY, J.

         The plaintiff, Teresa Krupien, an employee of the Chelsea Soldiers' Home (the home), brought this action in Superior Court against the home's chief operating officer and acting superintendent, Elizabeth Anne Ritcey; and the home's human resources liaison, Faith M. Kirkland (collectively, defendants). Krupien alleges that Kirkland and Ritcey substantially burdened her right to the free exercise of her religion in violation of the Massachusetts Civil Rights Act, G. L. c. 12, §§ 11H and 111 (the MCRA). Ritcey and Kirkland barred Krupien from the home's campus, which includes Krupien's church, during an investigation of a claim by another employee that Krupien injured that employee's wrist while transferring a patient from a bed to a wheelchair. The stay-away directive, [2]until subsequently modified, prohibited Krupien from attending her church for thirty-seven days, including Christmas. The sole issue before this court is whether the defendants, State actors, are entitled to qualified immunity.[3] We conclude that they are not.

         Background.

         In reviewing a grant of summary judgment, we view the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Curtis v. School Comm. of Falmouth, 420 Mass. 749, 753 (1995) .

         Krupien began working at the home, a Commonwealth facility, in 1994. The home's campus includes the Quigley building, from which the home operates. Also on the campus are the St. Michael's Chapel (chapel) and several other buildings. The chapel serves both patients from the home and outside persons. The buildings are distinct and not connected above ground; they are connected through an underground tunnel.

         On December 21, 2013, a coworker of Krupien's, Marlene Ravanis, alleged that Krupien injured Ravanis's wrist while they were moving a patient into a wheelchair. Shortly after the alleged incident, Ravanis reported the allegation to the charge nurse, Beth Moon, and to the nurse supervisor, Michele Nickerson.[4] Nickerson interviewed Ravanis and asked her if she felt uncomfortable working with Krupien. Ravanis replied, "No," and declined Nickerson's offer to move to a different part of the home. Although Ravanis repeatedly asserted that her wrist was bruised, Nickerson did not observe bruising on Ravanis's wrist on December 21, 2013, nor the following day. Ravanis and Krupien worked together uneventfully for the remainder of the shift, including when Ravanis again asked Krupien to help her move a patient, which they accomplished without incident.

         On December 23, 2013, Kirkland learned of the alleged incident between Ravanis and Krupien when Ravanis gave her a medical record indicating "possible tendinitis" and recommending that Ravanis remain out of work for ten days. Kirkland reviewed written statements, interviewed Ravanis and Martin, and discussed this medical record with Ritcey. Kirkland did not know or ask Ravanis if Ravanis had a work-related need to enter the chapel, if she took patients from the home to the chapel, or if she herself attended the chapel. Kirkland did not review Krupien's personnel file.[5]

         Kirkland advised Ritcey what should be done -- that Krupien should be given a stay-away directive. As a result of her discussion with Kirkland, Ritcey suspended Krupien with pay and signed a letter that stated:

"I am ordering you to refrain from entering the property of the Chelsea Soldier[s'] Home and from contacting any of its employees. Failure to heed my directive will result in contacting appropriate law enforcement ...

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