400 F.3d 466 (6th Cir. 2005), 03-4650, Kocak v. Community Health Partners of Ohio, Inc.

Docket Nº03-4650.
Citation400 F.3d 466
Party NameSuzanne D. KOCAK, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. COMMUNITY HEALTH PARTNERS OF OHIO, INC., Defendant-Appellee.
Case DateMarch 11, 2005
CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

Page 466

400 F.3d 466 (6th Cir. 2005)

Suzanne D. KOCAK, Plaintiff-Appellant,

v.

COMMUNITY HEALTH PARTNERS OF OHIO, INC., Defendant-Appellee.

No. 03-4650.

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit.

March 11, 2005.

Argued: Dec. 1, 2004

Page 467

ARGUED:

Douglas L. Winston, Berger & Zavesky, Cleveland, Ohio, for Appellant.

Linda C. Ashar, Wickens, Herzer, Panza, Cook & Batista, Avon, Ohio, for Appellee.

ON BRIEF:

Douglas L. Winston, Berger & Zavesky, Cleveland, Ohio, for Appellant.

Linda C. Ashar, Thomas J. Stefanik, Jr., Wickens, Herzer, Panza, Cook & Batista, Avon, Ohio, for Appellee.

Page 468

Before: SILER, SUTTON, and FARRIS, Circuit Judges. [*]

OPINION

FARRIS, Circuit Judge.

Whether one is or is not pregnant at the time does not control whether one can allege discrimination under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e(k), or section 4112 of the Ohio Revised Code. We nevertheless affirm the decision to enter summary judgment against Plaintiff Suzanne D. Kocak.

I.

BACKGROUND

The following facts are not in dispute: Kocak resigned from her position as an obstetric nurse at Defendant Community Health Partners of Ohio, Inc. by letter dated January 22, 1999. Pregnancy complications motivated her resignation. She delivered her child in March of 1999. She applied for a part-time nurse position with Community Health in January of 2000. She was not hired and did not file a charge of discrimination either with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or the Ohio Civil Rights Commission. She reapplied for a position as a part-time nurse in May of 2001. Her co-workers voiced vehement opposition to her rehiring, stating that they found her difficult to work with, unreliable, and not a "team worker." Kocak was not hired.

Certain disputed conversations and events in 2001 formed the basis of a charge of discrimination with the EEOC and OCRC in September 2001. In her deposition, Kocak testified that on June 4, 2001, Elizabeth Finnegan, a personnel manager at Community Health, asked Kocak whether she was pregnant or intended to have more children. Kocak also testified that Finnegan told her at an unspecified time thereafter that Melanie Meyer, Kocak's former supervisor, would not rehire her because of the complications in scheduling caused by her past pregnancy.

On the basis of these 2001 events, Kocak filed a charge of discrimination with the EEOC and OCRC in September 2001, which states that the alleged discriminatory action--failure to hire--occurred in June 2001. Kocak received a right to sue letter from the OCRC on July 16, 2002, and this lawsuit followed.

II.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

We review the district court's entry of summary judgment de novo, Farhat v. Jopke, 370 F.3d 580, 587 (6th Cir. 2004), and will affirm if "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" as to an essential element of the non-moving party's case. Id. (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)). "Genuine" issues are those which could persuade a reasonable person to return a verdict for the non-moving party. Id.

III.

DISCUSSION

1. The PDA Claim

Congress amended Title VII in 1978 to add the PDA, which reads in relevant part:

The terms "because of sex" or "on the basis of sex" include, but are not limited to, because of or on the basis of pregnancy,

Page 469

childbirth, or related medical conditions; and women affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions shall be treated the same for all employment-related purposes ... as other persons not so affected but similar in their ability or inability to work ....

42 U.S.C. § 2000e(k). "[I]n using the broad phrase 'women affected by pregnancy, childbirth and [sic] related medical conditions,' the [PDA] makes clear that its protection extends to the whole range of matters concerning the childbearing process." H.R. Rep. 95-948, 1978 U.S.C.C.A.N. 4749, 4753 (emphasis added).

We understand that Kocak claims to have offered direct evidence of discrimination--in fact, she proceeds solely on a theory of direct evidence. We have held that a plaintiff states a PDA claim if she offers direct evidence that, in treating a plaintiff adversely, the defendant was motivated by discriminatory animus. See Ensley-Gaines v. Runyon, 100 F.3d 1220, 1224 (6th Cir. 1996). Even direct evidence of discrimination is irrelevant, however, unless the alleged discrimination is because of sex. See Oncale v. Sundowner Offshore Servs., Inc., 523 U.S. 75, 81, 118 S.Ct. 998, 140 L.Ed.2d 201 (1998) ("Whatever evidentiary route the plaintiff chooses to follow, he or she must always prove that the conduct was not merely tinged with offensive sexual connotations, but actually constituted ' discrimina[tion] ... because of ... sex.' ") (emphasis and alteration in original). Discrimination "because of sex," under the PDA, must be "because of or on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions." 42 U.S.C. § 2000e(k). The threshold question, therefore, is whether Kocak qualified for protection under the PDA at the time of her application for a nursing position in May 2001. 1

Defendant contends that Kocak is not protected by the PDA because she was not pregnant at the time of Community Health's decision not to rehire her in 2001. In support of its argument, Defendant seizes on Cline v. Catholic Diocese of Toledo, 206 F.3d 651 (6th Cir. 2000), wherein we announced the prima facie test for a claim under the PDA when a plaintiff chooses to proceed by circumstantial evidence: that "(1) she was pregnant, (2) she was qualified for her job, (3) she was subjected to an adverse employment decision, and (4) there is a nexus between her pregnancy and the adverse employment decision." Id. at 658 (emphasis supplied).

Kocak was not pregnant at the time of her 2001 application; she did not bear any children during the period of her application (in fact, she had not done so for approximately two years); and no medical conditions related to pregnancy manifested themselves during the time of her application. The district court concluded from these facts that Kocak was not protected by the PDA at the time that Community Health did not hire her.

This was error. The Supreme Court has held that the PDA prohibits an employer from discriminating against a woman "because of her capacity to become pregnant." Int'l Union, United Auto., Aerospace and Agric. Implement Workers of Am. v. Johnson Controls, Inc.,

Page 470

499 U.S. 187, 206, 111 S.Ct. 1196, 113 L.Ed.2d 158 (1991); see also Walsh v. Nat'l Computer Sys., 332 F.3d 1150, 1160 (8th Cir. 2003) ("[Plaintiff] asserts that she was discriminated against ... because she is a woman who had been pregnant, had taken a maternity leave, and might become pregnant again. 'Potential pregnancy ... is a medical condition that is sex-related because only women can become pregnant.' ") (quoting Krauel v. Iowa Methodist Med. Ctr., 95 F.3d 674, 680 (8th Cir. 1996)). In an analogous context, we have...

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153 practice notes
  • Equitable Prescription Drug Coverage: Preventing Sex Discrimination in Employer-Provided Health Plans
    • United States
    • Louisiana Law Review Nbr. 70-1, October 2009
    • October 1, 2009
    ...added). [138] See Griffin v. Sisters of St. Francis, 489 F.3d 838, 844 (7th Cir. 2007); Kocak v. Cmty. Health Partners of Ohio, Inc., 400 F.3d 466, 470 (6th Cir. 2005); Walsh v. Nat'l Computer Sys., Inc., 332 F.3d 1150, 1160 (8th Cir. 2003). [139] In re Union Pac. R.R. Employment Practices ......
  • Pregnant employees, working mothers and the workplace - legislation, social change and where we are today.
    • United States
    • Journal of Law and Health Vol. 22 Nbr. 2, June 2009
    • June 22, 2009
    ...work...."). (67) 123 CONG. REC. 29658 (1977). (68) 42 U.S.C. [section] 2000e(k) (2008); Kocak v. Cmty. Health Partners of Ohio, Inc., 400 F.3d 466, 469 (6th Cir. 2005). (69) H.R. PEP. 95-948, at 5 (1978), reprinted in 1978 U.S.C.C.A.N. 4749, 4753. (70) Walsh v. Nat'l Computer Sys., 332......
  • Complimentary discrimination and complementary discrimination in faculty hiring.
    • United States
    • Washington University Law Review Vol. 87 Nbr. 4, July 2010
    • July 1, 2010
    ...(60.) 42 U.S.C. [section] 2000e-2(a) (2006). (61.) Id. (62.) Amini, 440 F.3d at 359 (quoting Kocak v. Cmty. Health Partners of Ohio, Inc., 400 F.3d 466, 470 (6th Cir. 2005)). But see Martin J. Katz, Unifying Disparate Treatment (Really), 59 Hastings L.J. 643, 651 (2008) (arguing that there ......
  • Snider v. Schmidt, 081220 MIWDC, 2:19-cv-00134
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 6th Circuit Western District of Michigan
    • August 12, 2020
    ...the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56; Kocak v. Comty. Health Partners of Ohio, Inc., 400 F.3d 466, 468 (6th Cir. 2005). The standard for determining whether summary judgment is appropriate is “whether the evidence presents a suffic......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
148 cases
  • Snider v. Schmidt, 081220 MIWDC, 2:19-cv-00134
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 6th Circuit Western District of Michigan
    • August 12, 2020
    ...the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56; Kocak v. Comty. Health Partners of Ohio, Inc., 400 F.3d 466, 468 (6th Cir. 2005). The standard for determining whether summary judgment is appropriate is “whether the evidence presents a suffic......
  • South Texas College v. Arriola, 021121 TXCA13, 13-19-00222-CV
    • United States
    • Texas Court of Appeals of Texas
    • February 11, 2021
    ...Workers of Am. v. Johnson Controls, Inc., 499 U.S. 187, 206 (1991); see Kocak v. Cmty. Health Partners of Ohio, Inc., 400 F.3d 466, 469-70 (6th Cir. 2005). In Johnson Controls, the Supreme Court concluded that an employer's policy barring all women, except those who......
  • Parker v. Horton, 081820 MIWDC, 2:18-cv-00080
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 6th Circuit Western District of Michigan
    • August 18, 2020
    ...the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56; Kocak v. Comty. Health Partners of Ohio, Inc., 400 F.3d 466, 468 (6th Cir. 2005). The standard for determining whether summary judgment is appropriate is “whether the evidence presents a suffic......
  • 620 F.Supp.2d 524 (S.D.N.Y. 2009), 08-CV-0205 (CM), Reilly v. Revlon, Inc.
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 2nd Circuit Southern District of New York
    • May 12, 2009
    ...to pregnancy that occur after the actual pregnancy. Infante, 2006 WL 44172 at *4 (citing Kocak v. Cmty. Health Partners of Ohio, Inc., 400 F.3d 466 (6th Cir.2005)). Postpartum depression is a condition related to pregnancy and accordingly falls within the PDA's protections. See id. The seco......
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5 books & journal articles
  • Equitable Prescription Drug Coverage: Preventing Sex Discrimination in Employer-Provided Health Plans
    • United States
    • Louisiana Law Review Nbr. 70-1, October 2009
    • October 1, 2009
    ...added). [138] See Griffin v. Sisters of St. Francis, 489 F.3d 838, 844 (7th Cir. 2007); Kocak v. Cmty. Health Partners of Ohio, Inc., 400 F.3d 466, 470 (6th Cir. 2005); Walsh v. Nat'l Computer Sys., Inc., 332 F.3d 1150, 1160 (8th Cir. 2003). [139] In re Union Pac. R.R. Employment Practices ......
  • Pregnant employees, working mothers and the workplace - legislation, social change and where we are today.
    • United States
    • Journal of Law and Health Vol. 22 Nbr. 2, June 2009
    • June 22, 2009
    ...work...."). (67) 123 CONG. REC. 29658 (1977). (68) 42 U.S.C. [section] 2000e(k) (2008); Kocak v. Cmty. Health Partners of Ohio, Inc., 400 F.3d 466, 469 (6th Cir. 2005). (69) H.R. PEP. 95-948, at 5 (1978), reprinted in 1978 U.S.C.C.A.N. 4749, 4753. (70) Walsh v. Nat'l Computer Sys., 332......
  • Complimentary discrimination and complementary discrimination in faculty hiring.
    • United States
    • Washington University Law Review Vol. 87 Nbr. 4, July 2010
    • July 1, 2010
    ...(60.) 42 U.S.C. [section] 2000e-2(a) (2006). (61.) Id. (62.) Amini, 440 F.3d at 359 (quoting Kocak v. Cmty. Health Partners of Ohio, Inc., 400 F.3d 466, 470 (6th Cir. 2005)). But see Martin J. Katz, Unifying Disparate Treatment (Really), 59 Hastings L.J. 643, 651 (2008) (arguing that there ......
  • Defining the protected class: who qualifies for protection under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act?
    • United States
    • Yale Law Journal Vol. 117 Nbr. 6, April 2008
    • April 1, 2008
    ...(quoting Kravel v. Iowa Methodist Med. Ctr., 95 F.3d 674, 680 (8th Cir. 1996)); see also Kocak v. Cmty. Health Partners of Ohio, Inc., 400 F.3d 466,469-70 (6th Cir. 2005). (34.) Other scholars have examined standing doctrine more broadly and the inconsistent way that courts have related que......
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