355 F.3d 444 (6th Cir. 2004), 02-3898, Hedrick v. Western Reserve Care System

Docket Nº02-3898
Citation355 F.3d 444
Party NameHedrick v. Western Reserve Care System
Case DateJanuary 09, 2004
CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

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355 F.3d 444 (6th Cir. 2004)

Joanne HEDRICK, Plaintiff-Appellant,

v.

WESTERN RESERVE CARE SYSTEM and Forum Health, Defendants-Appellees.

No. 02-3898.

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

January 9, 2004

Argued: Oct. 21, 2003.

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Ira J. Mirkin (argued and briefed), Barry R. Laine (briefed), Green, Haines, & Sgambati, Youngstown, OH, for Appellant.

Domenic A. Bellisario (argued and briefed), Law Office, Pittsburgh, PA, for Appellee.

Before MARTIN and SUTTON, Circuit Judges; MILLS, District Judge.[*]

OPINION

RICHARD MILLS, District Judge.

A suit alleging both age and disability discrimination.

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Joanne Hedrick worked for Western Reserve Care System as a registered nurse for twenty-two years before taking a medical leave of absence. When she attempted to return to work, Hedrick alleged that Western Reserve Care System and its holding company, Forum Health, discriminated against her on account of her age, in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (29 U.S.C.§ 621 et seq.), and on account of her disability, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq.) and Ohio Revised Code Chapter 4112.

Upon completion of discovery, the district court granted summary judgment in Western Reserve Care System's favor on all three of Hedrick's claims against it and denied Hedrick's motion for partial summary judgment.

We AFFIRM the judgment of the district court.

I. BACKGROUND

Joanne Hedrick was born on June 10, 1948. Hedrick received an associate's degree in nursing in 1973 and, thereafter, became employed as a general duty staff nurse by the Youngstown Hospital Association, i.e., the predecessor of Western Reserve Care System ("WRCS"). As a general duty staff nurse, Hedrick performed typical bedside nursing functions for WRCS.

During the late 1980's, Hedrick was diagnosed as having osteoarthritis in her left knee. In the early 1990's, her condition progressed, and Hedrick was diagnosed as having and was treated for osteoarthritis in both knees. Since her initial diagnosis, Hedrick has been treated by her family physician, Dr. L. Kevin Nash, and by her orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Raymond Duffett.

On December 1, 1995, Hedrick fell and broke her leg which necessitated surgery (performed by Dr. Duffett) and a medical leave of absence from work in order to recuperate. On April 29, 1996, Dr. Duffett released Hedrick to return to work without any restrictions effective June 1, 1996.

However, on May 3, 1996, Hedrick visited Dr. Nash and expressed her reservations about her ability to return to work as a general duty staff nurse because she was concerned that she would be unable to perform her duties. Although he did not initially share Hedrick's reservations regarding her ability to return to work as a general duty staff nurse, Dr. Nash subsequently reversed his opinion and agreed that Hedrick would be unable to resume her bedside nursing duties. On July 1, 1996, Dr. Nash wrote a letter to Sue Yoder, WRCS's director of nursing, in which he reported that "Ms. Joanne Hedrick has been making a very slow recovery after her devastating fracture of the left femur. Joanne has shared with me that she does not believe that she is going to be able to return to bedside nursing, and frankly I share her reservations."

On July 16, 1996, Hedrick underwent a functional capacity evaluation in order to determine her ability to return to work and, if it was determined that she was able to return to work, the limitations, if any, she would have. This evaluation indicated that Hedrick would be unable to return to her previous position as a general duty staff nurse at WRCS because of her physical limitations in bending and lifting and due to the pain in her knees. As a result of this evaluation, Dr. Nash wrote to Jon R. Steen, WRCS's human resources director, on August 7, 1996, and requested that Hedrick be considered for other positions.

In July or August 1996, Hedrick asked to be placed upon WRCS's list of employees who claimed to have permanent work

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restrictions.1 This list was commonly referred to as the "ADA list." Once an employee was placed upon the ADA list, WRCS attempted to find suitable employment for those employees who could no longer perform the duties of their regular positions. On September 24, 1996, Dr. Nash wrote a letter to Steen regarding Hedrick's precise limitations and reported that Hedrick was able to conduct daily activities for short intervals, to walk short distances, and to stand, drive, and perform desk work for short periods of time. Upon receipt of Dr. Nash's letter and pursuant to her request, WRCS placed Hedrick on the ADA list, and subsequently, WRCS began identifying job vacancies which corresponded with Hedrick's background, skills, and medical restrictions.

In late September 1996, Ann Marie Ondo, WRCS's employment coordinator, informed Hedrick of an opening as a referral center scheduler. Hedrick interviewed for the position with Lorraine Nelson and Mary Pat Foley, and during the interview, one of the interviewers asked her about her physical limitations. Hedrick responded that she would be able to fully perform the job's requirements. However, upon learning of the salary, Hedrick indicated that she was not interested in the position because the salary was too low. Although it is unclear whether the position was formally offered to Hedrick, it is clear that Hedrick understood that the job was hers if she wanted it and that she specifically told Nelson and Foley that she would not take the position.

Later that same month, Ondo informed Hedrick of an open quality assurance position. Hedrick interviewed with Nelson for the position in November 1996, and, again, Nelson asked her about her physical limitations because the position involved some walking and lifting. Hedrick responded that she did not believe that her physical limitations would be an issue and that, although she may not walk as fast as others, she could get from point "A" to "B." Ultimately, WRCS selected an applicant other than Hedrick for the quality assurance position.

In January 1997, Ondo informed Hedrick of four case manager vacancies in the department of medicine. Hedrick interviewed for the positions with Dr. Paul Bunn who also asked her about her physical limitations because the positions entailed a fair amount of walking. Hedrick, again, responded that she would have no problems fulfilling the duties of the positions, and Dr. Bunn assured her that she would not be hired for her leg work and that the hiring decision would be based upon experience and knowledge. In February 1997, Ondo informed Hedrick that the four case manager positions were filled by other more qualified applicants.

About a week later, Ondo informed Hedrick that another qualify assurance position was vacant, and Hedrick expressed an interest in the job. Although Hedrick was initially scheduled for an interview in March 1997, Nelson advised her that she would not have to interview for the position because she had recently interviewed for another quality assurance position. In late March or early April 1997, Ondo advised Hedrick that she had not been selected for the position. Thereafter, Hedrick and Ondo continued to communicate regarding various vacancies at WRCS, but Hedrick was not interested in any of these vacancies.

In August 1997, Carol Olson contacted Hedrick regarding a temporary assignment as an admissions nurse. Hedrick accepted the position and returned to work

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with WRCS on August 25, 1997, at no loss of earnings or benefits.

After receiving a right to sue letter from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Hedrick filed a timely suit against WRCS and its parent corporation, Forum Health, in federal district court on March 17, 1999. Hedrick's Complaint contained three Counts: Count I alleged a cause of action pursuant to the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12131et seq.; Count II alleged a cause of action pursuant to Ohio Revised Code Chapter 4112 which prohibits discrimination on the basis of handicap; and Count III alleged a cause of action pursuant to the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"), 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq.2

At the close of the discovery period, Hedrick moved for partial summary judgment on the issues of whether she was "disabled" within the meaning of the ADA and whether WRCS had failed to reasonably accommodate her disability. WRCS and Forum Health, in turn, moved for summary judgment on each of Hedrick's claims against them. The district judge referred the cross-motions for summary judgment to a magistrate judge who filed a report and recommendation which recommended that summary judgment be entered in WRCS and Forum Health's favor on all three of Hedrick's claims and also recommended that Hedrick's motion for summary judgment be denied.

Hedrick filed objections to the magistrate judge's report and recommendation with the district judge, but the district judge denied her objections, adopted the magistrate judge's report and recommendation, denied her motion for summary judgment, and entered summary judgment in WRCS and Forum Health's favor on all three Counts of Hedrick's Amended Complaint. Thereafter, Hedrick filed a timely notice of appeal.

II. ANALYSIS 3

A. STANDARD OF REVIEW

We review a district court's order granting summary judgment de novo. Equitable Life Assurance Soc'y v. Poe, 143 F.3d 1013, 1015 (6th Cir.1998). Summary judgment is appropriate where "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). The...

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