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Odeluga v. PCC Community Wellness Center

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

April 1, 2015

DR. CHINYERE ODELUGA, Plaintiff,
v.
PCC COMMUNITY WELLNESS CENTER, DR. JENNIFER ROSSATO, DR. PAUL LUNING, DR. ALEXANDER WU, and DR. ANTOINETTE LULLO, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

JOHN W. DARRAH, District Judge.

Plaintiff Dr. Chinyere Odeluga brings this action against her former employer, PCC Community Wellness Center ("PCC"), and Drs. Jennifer Rossato, Paul Luning, Alexander Wu, and Antoinette Lullo (the "Individual Defendants"). Dr. Odeluga's Third Amended Complaint alleges: race discrimination against PCC, pursuant to Title VII; harassment and hostile work environment against PCC, pursuant to Title VII; national origin discrimination against the Individual Defendants, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1981; and age discrimination against PCC, pursuant to the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"), 29 U.S.C. § 623. Defendants have moved for summary judgment, and the matter has been fully briefed.

LOCAL RULE 56.1

Local Rule 56.1 "is designed, in part, to aid the district court, which does not have the advantage of the parties' familiarity with the record and often cannot afford to spend the time combing the record to locate the relevant information, ' in determining whether trial is necessary." Delapaz v. Richardson, 634 F.3d 895, 899 (7th Cir. 2011) (internal citation omitted). Local Rule 56.1(a)(3) requires the party moving for summary judgment to provide "a statement of material facts as to which the moving party contends there is no genuine issue." Rule 56.1(b)(3) then requires the nonmoving party to admit or deny each factual statement proffered by the moving party and, in the case of any disagreement, to specifically reference the "affidavits, parts of the record, and other supporting materials relied upon." See Schrott v. Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., 403 F.3d 940, 944 (7th Cir. 2005). Rule 56.1(b)(3)(C) further permits the nonmovant to submit additional statements of material facts that "require the denial of summary judgment."

A litigant's failure to dispute the facts set forth in its opponent's statement in the manner required by Local Rule 56.1 deems those facts admitted for purposes of summary judgment. Smith v. Lamz, 321 F.3d 680, 683 (7th Cir. 2003); see also Bordelon v. Chicago Sch. Reform Bd. of Trustees, 233 F.3d 524, 527 (7th Cir. 2000) (the district court has discretion to require strict compliance with its local rules governing summary judgment). Accordingly, to the extent that a response to a statement of material fact provides only extraneous or argumentative information, this response will not constitute a proper denial of the fact, and the fact is admitted. See Graziano v. Vill. of Oak Park, 401 F.Supp.2d 918, 937 (N.D. Ill. 2005). Similarly, to the extent that a statement of fact contains a legal conclusion or otherwise unsupported statement, including a fact that relies upon inadmissible hearsay, such a fact is disregarded. Eisenstadt v. Centel Corp., 113 F.3d 738, 742 (7th Cir. 1997).

BACKGROUND

Unless otherwise noted, the following facts are undisputed. Dr. Odeluga is a black, Nigerian-born female, over forty, who is now a citizen of the United States. (Def's R. 56.1 Stmt. of Material Facts ("SOF") ¶ 1.) PCC is an Illinois not-for-profit corporation and a federally-qualified community health center that operates eleven clinics on the west side and near-western suburbs of Chicago. (Id. ¶ 2.) Dr. Jennifer Rossato is a family medicine physician who was employed as an attending physician at PCC from 2008 to 2013. (Id. ¶ 7.) Dr. Paul Luning is a family medicine physician and is currently PCC's Chief Medical Officer. (Id. ¶ 3.) Dr. Alexander Wu is a family medicine physician and an employee of PCC. (Id. ¶ 4.) Dr. Tamajah Gibson is a family medicine physician and an employee of PCC. (Id. ¶ 5.) Dr. Antoinette Lullo is a family medicine physician and a former employee of PCC. (Id. ¶ 6.) Between 2010 and 2011, Dr. Wu, Dr. Gibson, and Dr. Lullo were the co-directors of PCC's Maternal Child Health Fellowship Program. (Id. ¶¶ 4-6.)

PCC Maternal Child Health Fellowship Program

PCC offers a twelve-month Maternal Child Health ("MCH") Fellowship Program, beginning in late July of each year. (Id. ¶ 19). The program is designed to help family medicine physicians in providing direct clinical services to high-risk women and children. (Id. ¶ 9.) The MCH Fellowship clinical training focuses on: (1) women's health maintenance and family planning; (2) prenatal risk reduction and community-based care; (3) family-centered birthing, active labor management, and operative obstetrics and neonatology; and (4) follow-up care for high-risk babies. (Id. ¶ 10.) MCH fellows must also participate in weekly didactic sessions and complete a Best Practice Guide and research project. (Id. ¶ 11.) Training also includes a requirement that fellows must manage the labor and delivery floor at the hospital. (Id. ¶ 12.) Fellows have various duties, including delivering babies (both vaginally and via C-Section), assisting on-call residents, and working in one of PCC's outpatient clinics. (Id. ¶¶ 14-15.)

Fellows can be evaluated by the attending physicians with whom they work. (Id. ¶ 16.) Evaluations can either be written, using a fellowship evaluation form, or oral. (Id. ¶¶ 16-18.) If a fellow completes all of the requirements of the program, then PCC will provide the fellow with a Certificate of Completion. (Id. ¶ 19.) Upon completion of the program, the fellow should be able to obtain Level 2 privileges at a hospital. (Id. ¶ 20.) Level 2 privileges mean that a physician is qualified to perform C-Sections and other obstetric procedures. (Id. )

Dr. Odeluga's Employment as a MCH Fellow

Dr. Odeluga applied to the MCH Fellowship in December of 2009 and was accepted into the 2010-2011 fellowship class. (Id. ¶ 21.) Dr. Odeluga's employment agreement with PCC stated that she would begin her fellowship on July 22, 2010, and end on July 25, 2011. (Id. ¶ 22.) PCC allowed Dr. Odeluga to delay her start date until October 1, 2010, because she gave birth in June of that year. (Id.; see also Pl.'s Stmt. of Additional Facts ("PSAF") ¶ 3.)

Not long after Dr. Odeluga commenced the fellowship, PCC co-directors began receiving complaints about her performance from attending physicians, nurses, and residents who worked with her in labor and delivery. (SOF ¶ 23.)[1] In order to address the complaints, the co-directors instituted a "Performance Improvement Plan" in November 2010. (Id. ) The plan addressed five principle issues: Timeliness, Communication/Visibility, Vigilance, Decision Making, and Teaching. (Id. )

In January 2011, the co-directors met with Dr. Odeluga to assess her performance in light of the improvement plan. (Id. ¶ 24.) Evaluations from attending physicians indicated that Dr. Odeluga continued to be late to her duties at the hospital and at the outpatient clinic. (Id. ) The evaluations also noted that Dr. Odeluga was slow in attending to patients, failed to notice when significant issues were arising, and had difficulty recognizing high-risk situations like high blood pressure, increasing magnesium levels, or prolonged low heart rate. (SOF ¶ 25.) The evaluations also pointed out problematic instances with Dr. Odeluga's performance in the operating room. (Id. ¶ 26.) They reflected that Dr. Odeluga was uncertain about length and depth of her incisions, had poor suturing technique, and "frequently" dropped needles in the operating field or left needle tips uncovered. (Id. ) Additionally, the evaluations complained that Dr. Odeluga failed to "call out" the surgical instruments she needed, instead relying on the attending physicians to do so. (Id. ) Finally, the evaluations pointed out that Dr. Odeluga failed to recognize tissue landmarks during surgery, including failure to "recognize the difference between the bladder and the uterus." (Id. ) In concluding the performance review with Dr. Odeluga, the co-directors notified her that she needed to show significant progress by February 23, 2011 in order to be on track to graduate. (Id. ¶ 27.)

In March 2011, the co-directors again met with Dr. Odeluga to discuss her continuing performance issues. (Id. ¶ 28.) In a memo dated March 8, 2011, the co-directors reflect Dr. Odeluga's continued tardiness and her failure to recognize abnormal fetal heart rates. (Id. ¶¶ 28-30.) The memo mentions an example of when Dr. Odeluga "lacked urgency" in responding to a "persistent fetal bradycardia alarm on a laboring patient." (Id. ¶ 30). The memo also cited instances of complaints from attending physicians that Dr. Odeluga failed to order the correct workup on a patient, had difficulty remembering basic obstetrical knowledge, and had trouble managing multiple patients simultaneously. (Id. ) The complaints also indicated that Dr. Odeluga became very defensive when the co-directors tried to question her about these examples. (Id. ¶ 29.)

In April 2011, the co-directors created an academic probation program for Dr. Odeluga to address Timeliness, Communication/Visibility, Vigilance, Clinical Decision Making, Teaching, OR Skills, and Faculty Evaluations. (Id. ¶ 31.) At that time, Dr. Odeluga was informed that failure to comply with the academic probation program would result in immediate termination from the MCH Fellowship. (Id. )

In May 2011, the co-directors met to review Dr. Odeluga's performance under the academic probation program. (Id. ¶ 32.) The evaluations continued to raise concerns about Dr. Odeluga's performance. (Id. ¶¶ 32-33.) For example, Dr. Odeluga had fallen asleep in the middle of a patient exam. (Id. ¶ 32.) Another evaluation noted that she had fallen asleep in the back of a labor room, allowing a resident to deliver a baby unsupervised. (Id. ) Still more evaluations showed that Dr. Odeluga had continued problems with prioritizing, seeing post-partum patients before seeing a high-risk patient in labor. (Id. ¶ 33.) The evaluations indicated that Dr. Odeluga failed to recognize when Pitocin was required for active labor management, was inefficient in directing activities in triage and labor and delivery, failed to review patients' history before procedures, gave Vicodin to a patient with a history of substance abuse, and provided incorrect histories on patients. (Id. ) After their review of Dr. Odeluga's evaluations in May 2011, the co-directors decided that she was not meeting criteria for promotion as a Level 2 provider and would not be a candidate for graduation from the fellowship. (Id. ¶ 34.)

On June 2, 2011, Dr. Paul Luning informed Dr. Odeluga that her participation in the fellowship had been terminated. (Id. ¶ 35.) Dr. Odeluga appealed her termination in a letter dated June 21, 2011. (Id. ¶ 39.) Dr. Odeluga then met with Robert Urso, the Chief Executive Officer of PCC. (Id. ) After learning that Dr. Odeluga did not begin her employment until October 1, 2010, despite the employment agreement's start date of July 22, 2010, Urso agreed to reinstate her contract. (Id. ¶ 40.) Dr. Odeluga's contract termination date was extended from July 25, 2011 until September 30, 2011, which was documented by an August 8, 2011 letter. (Id. ¶¶ 40-41.) The August 8, 2011 letter also stated that Dr. Odeluga was not on track to graduate from the MCH Fellowship Program by the end of her contract term, meaning that no Certificate of Completion could be provided. (Id. ¶ 42.)

Dr. Jennifer Rossato

Dr. Rossato did not work directly with Dr. Odeluga during her fellowship. (Id. ¶¶ 47-48.) She did not work in the same PCC clinic as Dr. Odeluga. (Id. ¶ 48.) The majority of their interactions occurred at West Suburban Medical Center. (Pl.'s Resp. to SOF ¶ 47.) Dr. Odeluga testified that Dr. Rossato discriminated against her because she "nudged" her to hurry up and see a patient whose fetal heart monitor was dropping. (SOF ¶ 49.) In a January 22, 2011 evaluation, Dr. Rossato wrote that Dr. Odeluga failed to notice the dropping fetal heart rate and was slow to respond when told to attend to the patient. (Id. ¶¶ 50-51.) In a February 7, 2011 evaluation, Dr. Rossato noted that Dr. Odeluga was sleeping while a resident helped a patient labor. (Id. ¶ 52.) In a May 7, 2011 evaluation, Dr. Rossato described a situation in which Dr. Odeluga had blood and fluid on her shirt following a delivery, and failed to change it for hours while seeing other patients. (Id. ¶ 53.)

Dr. Alexander Wu

Dr. Odeluga believes Dr. Wu discriminated against her in a number of ways. (Id. ¶¶ 54-56; see also Pl.'s Resp. to SOF ¶¶ 54-56.) She testified that Dr. Wu discriminated against her because he allowed another fellow to perform a C-Section on one of Dr. Odeluga's patients. (SOF ¶ 54.) Dr. Wu testified that, on that occasion, Dr. Odeluga did not recognize that the laboring patient required a C-Section, so he gave the surgery to the fellow who recognized the need for the procedure. (Id. ¶ 56; see also Pl.'s Resp. to SOF ¶ 56.) Dr. Odeluga also testified that Dr. Wu required her to obtain written evaluations from all of the attending physicians with whom she worked. (SOF ¶ 56.) Dr. Odeluga further testified that Dr. Wu discriminated against her because he would not make eye contact with her. (Id.; see also Pl.'s Resp. to SOF ¶ 54.) Finally, Dr. Odeluga testified that Dr. Wu discriminated against her because he told her, in an October 5, 2010 meeting, that "You Nigerians like to be ...


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