United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
OPINION AND ORDER
L. ELLIS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Mohammed Mahran, an Egyptian Muslim, filed this employment
discrimination suit against Defendants Advocate Health and
Hospital Corporation (“Advocate Health”) and
Advocate Christ Medical Center (“Advocate
Christ”). The Court granted summary judgment to
Advocate on Mahran's complaint, except as to claims for
religious discrimination based on a failure to accommodate.
Doc. 52. Advocate now moves for summary judgment on any
religious discrimination claim Mahran has under Title VII of
the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”), 42
U.S.C. § 2000 et seq., and the Illinois Human
Rights Act (“IHRA”), 775 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/1-101
et seq., based on Advocate's alleged failure to
provide reasonable accommodations with respect to prayer
breaks. Because Mahran cannot establish all the elements of a
failure to accommodate claim, the Court grants Advocate's
motion for summary judgment.
Mahran's Background and Employment at Advocate
April 10, 2013, Mahran contacted Rolla Sweis, Advocate
Christ's pharmacy director who is Jordanian Orthodox, to
apply for a pharmacist position at Advocate. Advocate hired
Mahran as a registry pharmacist, effective November 18, 2013.
Mahran reported to Judith Brown-Scott, Advocate Christ's
pharmacy manager and an African American Christian. Both
Sweis and Brown-Scott knew that Mahran was an Egyptian
Christ's pharmacy department includes approximately 150
to 160 pharmacists and technicians. Sweis estimated that
about 80% of the pharmacy staff is diverse, and about 90% of
that diverse group is Middle Eastern, containing between
thirty and forty-five Muslim employees. At the time of
Mahran's employment, Branka Milicev, who is Yugoslavian
Orthodox, was the clinical manager of the department, and
Chris Boyle, a caucasian Christian, was the evening
supervisor. Boyle could not discipline, hire, or fire
employees, but Mahran did not have direct knowledge of this.
connection with his onboarding process, Mahran acknowledged
receipt of Advocate's Associate Handbook in October 2013.
The handbook provides that Advocate employees are to
“treat all people with respect, integrity and
dignity.” Doc. 35 ¶ 16. It also includes
information about Advocate's Equal Employment Opportunity
policy, general and sexual harassment policy, non-retaliation
policy, and reporting mechanisms. Advocate's conflict
resolution program encouraged employees to engage in detailed
discussions with other employees with whom a conflict
existed, while also providing different avenues for
resolution of conflicts, including focused approaches led by
the human resources department, arbitration, and mediation.
has a corrective action policy that provides for progressive
discipline, including level 1 and 2 warnings and a level 3
final warning. Advocate could omit disciplinary steps
depending on the seriousness and details of the infraction.
Additionally, a supervisor could give employees a performance
deficiency notice (“PDN”), which identifies the
employee's specific deficiencies, a corrective action
plan, a time frame for demonstrating acceptable performance,
and the consequences of failing to do so.
hired Mahran for an initial ninety-day probationary period.
His job required him to make certain decisions on his own,
which Mahran testified encompassed verifying orders,
including after a technician prepared them, providing
recommendations to nurses and doctors, and adjusting
medications for dose and frequency based on a patient's
lab work. Additionally, pharmacists at Advocate considered
the appropriateness, safety, and efficacy of patients'
drug therapy regimens and provided clinical expertise on
pharmaceutical therapy. Initially, Mahran worked both day and
night shifts and rotated between the central pharmacy and
February 24, 2014, upon the conclusion of his probationary
period, Brown-Scott evaluated Mahran, giving him an overall
rating of meets expectations and the same rating in seven of
eight categories. With respect to job accountabilities,
Brown-Scott found that Mahran approached expectations, noting
that he needed to develop his inpatient pharmacist skills to
better oversee drug therapy at the hospital and that he had
knowledge deficits arising from his limited exposure to
inpatient staffing. She wanted Mahran to take an active role
in learning more about the care of critically ill patients
and those with a wide range of illnesses.
April 20, 2014, Advocate hired Mahran as a full-time
pharmacist. In his August 23, 2014, review, Brown-Scott rated
Mahran as meeting expectations while noting that he should
“have open and candid communications and handle
difficult conversations with the appropriate party when
necessary.” Doc. 35 ¶ 38. Mahran was disappointed
in his April 2015 performance review, which found he met
expectations, because he believed he should have received an
overall rating of exceeds expectations.
August 13, 2015, and April 2016, Mahran received various
warnings regarding failures to verify orders and the
cherry-picking of orders. Mahran disagreed with these
warnings and believed he received them in retaliation for
having reported racial and religious discrimination. After
Brown-Scott issued a level 3 warning in April 2016 for
Mahran's failure to verify a more complicated order
despite having received counseling on the issue, Mahran
complained to Advocate's human resources department. On
April 25, human resources deleted his level 3 warning and
noted that a PDN, which Brown-Scott had issued on April 8,
would better address Mahran's behavior. The PDN stated
that Mahran's failure to consistently demonstrate the
expected levels of performance and remedy the identified
performance deficiencies within twelve months could lead to
his termination. Mahran refused to sign the PDN on April 11
because he disagreed with its substance. The PDN had an
initial feedback date of May 9, which Advocate extended, and
follow-up meetings occurred on May 5, May 25, and June 18.
4, Mahran again received a level 3 warning, this time for
leaving the pharmacy before the relief pharmacist arrived
and, therefore, failing to perform the proper hand-off to
that pharmacist. Sweis indicated such behavior could cause
Advocate to lose its pharmacy license. In response, on May 7,
Mahran sent a certified letter and email to Advocate's
corporate human resources department in which he claimed the
PDN and May 4 final warning stemmed from religious, racial,
and ethnic prejudices. He explained that, with respect to the
incident that prompted the May 4 final warning, he had seen
the relief pharmacist arriving, left the hand-off information
on the computer, and told the lead technician he did so in
event that the relief pharmacist did not see the information.
Mahran met with Caitlin Malito, a human resources consultant,
and Sweis to discuss the May 4 final warning on May 18.
Malito did not find evidence that Advocate had failed to
follow its policies or procedures in connection with Mahran.
22, Brown-Scott reminded Mahran to work his assigned shifts,
including those requiring ICU order oversight, and asked
Mahran to seek approval of any schedule change requests so as
to ensure he did not remove himself from overseeing ICU
orders. Mahran denied seeking to change shifts. Brown-Scott
also reassigned Mahran a module on documenting medication
histories that she thought would help him comply with the
PDN. On June 9, Mahran told Malito that the situation in the
pharmacy department was getting worse. Malito sought to
schedule a conflict resolution session with Mahran and Sweis.
After the session, Mahran learned that Sweis wanted to uphold
the final warning. On June 21, Mahran indicated that he
wished to proceed before an arbitration panel. Jeremy
Sadlier, the human resources director, informed Mahran that a