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Desai v. University of Massachusetts

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

November 12, 2019

CHARU DESAI, Plaintiff,
v.
UNIVERSITY OF MASSACHUSETTS, MEMORIAL MEDICAL CENTER, INC., UNIVERSITY OF MASSACHUSETTS MEMORIAL MEDICAL GROUP, UNIVERSITY OF MASSACHUSETTS MEDICAL SCHOOL, UMASS MEMORIAL HOSPITAL, MAX ROSEN, M.D., DARREN BRENNAN, M.D., STEPHEN TOSI, M.D., & KARIN DILL, M.D., Defendants.

          ORDER AND MEMORANDUM ON DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS (DOCKET NO. 25)

          TIMOTHY S. HILLMAN DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Charu Desai (“Plaintiff”) filed this action for discrimination and defamation against the University of Massachusetts, Memorial Medical Center, Inc., University of Massachusetts Memorial Medical Group, University of Massachusetts Medical School, UMass Memorial Hospital, Max Rosen, M.D., Darren Brennan, M.D., Stephen Tosi, M.D., and Karin Dill, M.D. The University of Massachusetts Medical School (“Defendant Medical School”) moves to dismiss all claims against it. (Docket No. 15). Because Plaintiff has established plausible entitlement to relief on her discrimination claims, the Court denies Defendant Medical School's motion to dismiss these claims. Because Plaintiff has failed to allege any facts showing that Dr. Rosen defamed her in the context of her employment with Defendant Medical School, the Court grants Defendant Medical School's motion to dismiss the defamation claim.

         Background

         The following facts are taken from Plaintiff's complaint and assumed true for the purposes of this motion. Plaintiff worked at the University of Massachusetts Memorial Medical Center, Inc. (“UMMC”) for twenty-six years. (Docket No. 23 at 1, 3). Her employment agreement with UMMC required Plaintiff to “receive, and maintain, a faculty appointment” with Defendant Medical School under a “Dual-Employment” arrangement. (Docket No. 23-2 at 2-3, 5). Her agreement also specified that, if UMMC terminated Plaintiff “for any reason, the related employment relationship with the Medical School shall also terminate unless [Plaintiff] has a new or continuing agreement with the Medical School or is a tenured faculty member.” (Docket No. 23-2 at 5-6).

         In 2012, Max Rosen, M.D. (“Dr. Rosen”) became the Chairman of the Department of Radiology at UMMC and Defendant Medical School. (Docket No. 23 at 3, 6). The following year, a group of senior radiologists complained to Dr. Rosen that they were being paid less than younger and less experienced employees performing substantially the same work. (Docket No. 23 at 6). Dr. Rosen did not address these concerns, and several radiologists over the age of 40 subsequently left UMMC. (Docket No. 23 at 6, 7).

         In March 2016, Dr. Rosen hired Karin Dill, M.D. (“Dr. Dill”), a white woman with less experience than Plaintiff, to serve as the Division Chief of Chest Radiology. (Docket No. 23 at 7). Plaintiff believes that Dr. Dill received a “significantly greater” rate of compensation than she. (Docket No. 23 at 7). She also alleges that other newly hired young, white radiologists performing substantially the same work as Plaintiff received a higher rate of compensation than she despite having less experience. (Docket No. 23 at 8).

         In 2017, Plaintiff asked for twelve “academic days” (i.e., days in which she would have no clinical duties) a year to accommodate her cardiac arrhythmia, which still caused her to suffer from shortness of breath. (Docket No. 23 at 8). Dr. Rosen refused this request, even though he had allowed younger and less-experienced employees to designate up to one and a half days per week as academic days. (Docket No. 23 at 8). Plaintiff also asked for a home workstation for weekends when she was on-call. (Docket No. 23 at 8). Again, Dr. Rosen refused this request despite allowing younger and less-experienced employees to work from home on UMMC workstations on weekends and weekdays. (Docket No. 23 at 8-9). Finally, Plaintiff asked to have fewer days on-call. Dr. Rosen denied her request and began to pressure her to leave or reduce her work schedule to part-time or locum tenens. (Docket No. 23 at 9).

         On March 14, 2018, Dr. Rosen gave Plaintiff a letter informing her that her “employment with UMass Memorial Medical Group[1] and the University of Massachusetts Medical School will terminate on March 17, 2019.” (Docket Nos. 23 at 10, 23-3 at 2). The letter was on joint letterhead from the UMMC and Defendant Medical School and thanked Plaintiff for “efforts and contributions on behalf of the Medical Group and the Medical School.” (Docket No. 23-3 at 2). Dr. Rosen cited Plaintiff's poor quality of work as the reason for her termination. (Docket No. 23 at 10).

         After exhausting her administrative remedies before the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Plaintiff filed a complaint with this Court. Defendant Medical School moves to dismiss for failure to state any claim against it upon which relief may be granted. (Docket No. 25).

         Legal Standard

         In evaluating a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the court must accept all factual allegations in the complaint as true and draw all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor. Langadinos v. American Airlines, Inc., 199 F.3d 68, 69 (1st Cir. 2000). To survive the motion, the complaint must allege “a plausible entitlement to relief.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 559 (2007). “[A] plaintiff's obligation to provide the ‘grounds' of his ‘entitle[ment] to relief' requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Id. at 555. “The relevant inquiry focuses on the reasonableness of the inference of liability that the plaintiff is asking the court to draw from the facts alleged in the complaint.” Ocasio-Hernandez v. Fortuno-Burset, 640 F.3d 1, 13 (1st Cir. 2011). “[W]here the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged-but it has not ‘show[n]'-that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)).

         Discussion

         Defendant Medical School contends that Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 8 and 12(b)(6) compel dismissal because Plaintiff has failed to allege facts “reveal[ing] a cognizable claim against” it. (Docket No. 25 at 6). Plaintiff has raised seven claims against Defendant Medical School: (1) discrimination based on race and national origin in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1963, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-1 et seq.; (2) discrimination regarding wages in violation of the federal Equal Pay Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 206(d), 216; (3) discrimination based on disability in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12132; (4) discrimination based on age in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. § 216(b); (5) discrimination based on race, national origin, age, and disability in violation of the Massachusetts' Fair Employment Practices Act, M.G.L. c. 151B § 4; (6) discrimination regarding wages in violation of the Massachusetts Equal Pay Act, M.G.L. c. 149 § 105A; and (7) defamation. Accepting all factual allegations in the complaint as true and drawing all reasonable inferences in Plaintiff's favor, the Court determines that Plaintiff has stated plausible discrimination claims against Defendant Medical School but has failed to state a plausible defamation claim.

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