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Marcial v. Rush University Medical Center

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois

May 18, 2017

MARICEL MARCIAL, Plaintiff,
v.
RUSH UNIVERSITY MEDICAL CENTER; DR. MICHAEL KREMER; in his individual capacity, RAY NARBONE; in his individual capacity; and JILL WIMBERLEY, in her individual capacity, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Susan E. Cox Magistrate Judge

         For the reasons discussed below, the Motion to Dismiss filed by Defendant Rush University Medical Center [37] is granted in part and denied in part; the Motion to Dismiss filed by Defendants Raymond Narbone, Michael Kremer, and Jill Wimberly [40] is also granted in part and denied in part. Counts I, II, III, IV, V, VII, IX, and X of Plaintiff's Amended Complaint are dismissed without prejudice.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Maricel Marcial (“Plaintiff”) is a 44-year-old Asian woman of Filipina descent. (Dkt. 5 at ¶ 9.) In 2012, Plaintiff, who had previously worked for fifteen years as a registered nurse, enrolled in the Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (“CRNA”) program at the Rush University Medical Center (“Rush”) College of Nursing. (Id. at ¶¶ 10-11.) The CRNA program consists of a didactic program and a fifteen-month clinical course of study. (Id. at ¶¶ 12-13.) Plaintiff completed the didactic program with a 3.6 grade point average (on a 4.0 scale); Plaintiff did not experience any issues during her first six weeks of the clinical program. (Id. at ¶¶ 12, 15.) In June 2013, Plaintiff began being supervised by Defendant Jill Wimberly (“Wimberly”). (Id. at ¶ 16.) On the first day that Plaintiff began working under Wimberly, Plaintiff alleges that Wimberly began engaging in “unprofessional behavior” toward Plaintiff, including providing false statements and accusations in Wimberly's evaluations of Plaintiff, and falsely telling another CRNA that Plaintiff had “tried to overdose a patient” on Fentanyl. (Id. at ¶¶ 17, 20.) Plaintiff claims that the dosing error was actually Wimberly's fault, and that Wimberly was attempting to blame her own mistakes on Plaintiff. (Id. at ¶ 20.) Plaintiff immediately reported Wimberly's conduct to Defendant Dr. Michael Kremer (“Kremer”) (the CRNA Program Director) and Defendant Ray Narbone (“Narbone”) (the Director of Operating Room Services). (Id. at ¶¶ 18-19.) Both Narbone and Kremer failed to take corrective or investigative action regarding Wimberly's false evaluations of Plaintiff. (Id. at ¶¶ 18-19.) Later, Plaintiff met with Kremer and Dr. Judith Wiley (the Associate Director of Rush Anesthesia Program), and “reported that she was being bullied and harassed” by her supervising CRNAs. (Id. at ¶ 22.) Kremer did not investigate Plaintiff's claims, told her that it would be a “Herculean task” to succeed in the CRNA program, and expressed that he was more likely to believe the faculty of the CRNA program over Plaintiff. (Id. at ¶¶ 23-24.)

         Plaintiff alleges that these misrepresentations continued to be spread among other supervisory CRNAs, which created increased “harassment and bias.” (Id. at ¶ 25.) In August 2013, Plaintiff requested a two week leave of absence due to the emotional distress that the alleged harassment and discrimination were causing her. (Id. at ¶ 26.) Kremer informed Plaintiff that she could not return until January 2014 if she took her proposed leave of absence, but promised her a “fresh start” when she came back and that “he would do his best to make sure that [Plaintiff] would not be placed with CRNA Wimberly upon her return.” (Id. at ¶¶ 27-29.)

         In October 2013, Plaintiff contacted Narbone to discuss her return to the CRNA program at Rush; Narbone told Plaintiff that she was “emotionally unfit” to return to the program, and that CRNA would “look at [her] differently” and struggle to evaluate Plaintiff objectively. (Id. at ¶¶ 30-31.) Narbone further stated “I don't suppose you are the youngest in your class, so why waste your time on something that will make you miserable?” (Id. at ¶ 32.)

         When Plaintiff returned to the CRNA program in January 2014, Wimberly began supervising Plaintiff within two weeks of her return, despite the promises of a “fresh start.” (Id. at ¶ 33.) Kremer required daily evaluations of Plaintiff on her return. (Id. at ¶ 34.) Plaintiff's evaluations contained “false negative feedback” from Wimberly and other CRNAs that went uninvestigated when Plaintiff reported them to Kremer. (Id. at ¶¶ 35-37.) In February 2014, Plaintiff's requests to be transferred to a different clinical site were denied. (Id. at ¶ 41.)

         On April 8, 2014, Plaintiff submitted a complaint to Shanon Shumpert (the Director of the Compliance Office) alleging “abuse, mistreatment, and discrimination.” (Id. at ¶ 42.) Following a “brief break to address stress-related medical issues, ” Plaintiff was cleared to return to the clinical area, but Dr. Kremer refused to allow her to return because of her pending claim of discrimination. (Id. at ¶ 44.) Rush offered Plaintiff a five-week training period begin in early May 2014. (Id. at ¶ 46.) On May 29, 2014, Plaintiff was dismissed for the day after a CRNA inaccurately questioned the medication dosage Plaintiff gave to a patient, and Kremer ordered Plaintiff not to return to her clinical training. (Id. at ¶ 49.) The following day Plaintiff provided a detailed rebuttal of the CRNA's “false evaluation” and “false statements, ” but Kremer informed Plaintiff that she would receive a “No Pass” grade, which effectively meant that Plaintiff could not continue with the clinical portion of the CRNA program. (Id. at ¶¶ 50-51.) Plaintiff was formally dismissed from the CRNA program in February 2015. (Id. at ¶ 52.) Plaintiff alleges that “other minority students in the program at Rush have been discriminated against in the same manner as Plaintiff, and that other similarly-situated employees who were not Asian, Filipina, or over 40 years old were treated more favorably and disciplined less severely than Plaintiff. (Id. at ¶¶ 54, 59, 67, 75, 110.) Plaintiff filed charges of discrimination with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”), and the EEOC issued a Notice of Right to Sue on March 16, 2016. (Id. at ¶ 56.)

         The Plaintiff filed the instant suit on June 10, 2016; the operative complaint in the case brings the following claims: 1) race discrimination under Title VII against Rush (Count I); 2) national origin discrimination under Title VII against Rush (Count II); 3) age discrimination under the ADEA against Rush (Count III); 4) retaliation under Title VII against Rush (Count IV); 5) retaliation under the ADEA against Rush (Count V); 6) intentional race and national origin discrimination under Title VI against Rush (Count VI); 7) tortious interference with contract against Kremer, Narbone, and Wimberly (collectively, “the Individual Defendants”) (Count VII); 8) tortious interference with prospective economic advantage against the Individual Defendants (Count VIII); 9) retaliatory discharge under Illinois law against Rush (Count IX); and 10) breach of contract against Rush (Count X). Both Rush and the Individual Defendants moved to dismiss Plaintiff's claims against them. Those motions are fully briefed and ripe for disposition.

         DISCUSSION

         I. LEGAL STANDARD

         Defendants have moved to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). In ruling on a motion pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) the Court must treat the allegations in the complaint as true and give the Plaintiff the benefit of any reasonable and favorable inferences from those allegations. Anicich v. Home Depot U.S.A., Inc., 852 F.3d 643, 646 (7th Cir. 2017.)

         II. RUSH'S MOTION TO DISMISS

         A. Employment Discrimination and Federal Retaliation ...


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