Equal Emp't Opportunity Comm'n v. Grane Healthcare Co.

Decision Date06 March 2014
Docket NumberCIVIL ACTION NO. 3:10-250
CourtU.S. District Court — Western District of Pennsylvania
PartiesEQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY COMMISSION, Plaintiff, v. GRANE HEALTHCARE CO. and EBENSBURG CARE CENTER, LLC, d/b/a CAMBRIA CARE CENTER, Defendants.

JUDGE KIM R. GIBSON

MEMORANDUM OPINION
I. INTRODUCTION

This matter comes before the Court on cross-motions for summary judgment filed by the parties pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 56. (ECF Nos. 92, 95). The Plaintiff seeks partial summary judgment on threshold issues relating to liability. (ECF No. 95). The Defendants move for summary judgment with respect to all claims brought against them. (ECF No. 92). For the reasons that follow, the Plaintiff's motion for partial summary judgment (ECF No. 95) will be granted in part and denied in part, and the Defendants' motion for summary judgment (ECF No. 92) will be denied.

II. BACKGROUND

Grane Healthcare Company ("Grane") is an organization maintaining management contracts with several different entities. (ECF No. 115 at 1-2 ¶ 1.) Ross Nese ("Nese") serves as Grane's President. (Id. at 2 ¶ 6). Len Oddo ("Oddo") is Grane's Chief Operating Officer. (Id. at 2 ¶ 2). In that capacity, Oddo implements Grane's managementcontracts. (Id. at 2 ¶ 4). He also serves as the Vice President of the Ebensburg Care Center, LLC ("ECC"). (Id. at 2 ¶ 3). Oddo reports to Richard Graciano ("Graciano"), who serves as Grane's Chief Executive Officer ("CEO"). (Id. at 2 ¶ 5).

During the fall of 2009, Grane purchased the LaurelCrest Nursing and Rehabilitation Center ("LCNRC") from Cambria County. (ECF No. 115 at 2 ¶ 7). In connection with the purchase, the ECC was designated to become the owner and operator of a new facility known as the Cambria Care Center ("CCC"). (Id. at 2-3 ¶ 8). This arrangement was scheduled to become effective on January 1, 2010. (Id.).

Grane has a management consulting agreement with the CCC. (ECF No. 115 at 3 ¶ 9). According to the agreement, Grane was responsible for recruiting and hiring more than 300 employees to staff the CCC and care for its 200 residents. (Id. at 5 ¶¶ 16-17). To fulfill that obligation, Grane invited the LCNRC's employees to apply for positions with the CCC. (Id. at 5 ¶ 18). The application process began in October 2009, when the LCNRC's employees were informed of the impending sale. (Id. at 6-7 ¶¶ 20, 23). Beth Lengle ("Lengle"), Grane's Vice President of Nursing Services, was in charge of processing the applications. (Id. at 5-6 ¶ 19). Individuals interested in applying for positions with the CCC were instructed to report to a conference room located within the LCNRC in order to complete the required paperwork. (Id. at 8 ¶ 28). Pennsylvania's Older Adults Protective Services Act [35 PA. STAT. § 10225.101 et seq.] requires covered healthcare facilities to consider the "criminal history record[s]" of all prospective employees in connection with the application process. 35 PA. STAT. § 10225.502(a)(1). In accordance with that mandate,Lengle reviewed the "criminal history record" of each individual seeking employment with the CCC. (ECF No. 115 at 18 ¶¶ 56-57).

Grane typically requires every applicant to undergo a test for illegal drugs. (ECF No. 115 at 10 ¶ 33). Registered nurse Deborah Hoover ("Hoover"), a nurse consultant for Grane, was responsible for administering the tests conducted on the LCNRC employees seeking employment with the CCC. (Id. at 10 ¶ 34). Urine samples submitted by the applicants were screened for illicit substances. (Id. at 11 ¶¶ 37-39). Forms provided to the applicants requested information about their medications. (Id. at 115 ¶ 35). When an applicant's drug test yielded a positive result, Lengle crosschecked the test result with the list of the applicant's medications to determine whether the positive finding was attributable to a prescribed medication. (Id. at 12 ¶ 41). An applicant was deemed to have passed the drug test if his or her disclosed medications corresponded with the positive test result. (Id. at 12 ¶ 42). Grane maintained a policy of refusing to hire any applicant who was using a controlled substance without a prescription. (Id. at 11 ¶ 40).

Corporate Care Services ("CCS") was contracted to conduct pre-employment physical examinations of the CCC's incoming employees. (ECF No. 115 at 8-9 ¶ 29). LCNRC employees interested in being considered for positions with the CCC were instructed to complete pre-placement evaluation forms provided by CCS. (Id. at 9 ¶ 30). Each form solicited information about an applicant's medical history. (Id. at 9 ¶ 31). A separate portion of the form was designed to record the results of a physical examination. (Id. at 9 ¶ 31). Every applicant was required to undergo a medical examination, regardless of whether he or she was seeking to become a member of the CCC's medical staff. (Id. at19 ¶ 60). Charlene McFeeley ("McFeeley"), a nurse practitioner employed by CCS, performed physical examinations of the LCNRC employees who were seeking employment with the CCC. (Id. at 20 ¶¶ 63-64). After examining each prospective employee, McFeeley provided a written indication as to whether the individual was able to perform the "essential functions" of his or her desired position. (Id. at 20-21 ¶ 65). Healthcare facilities such as the CCC are required to screen employees and contractors "with direct consumer contact" for tuberculosis. 35 PA. STAT. § 448.806(D.1)(5). Tuberculosis screenings were performed as a part of the CCC's application process. (ECF No. 115 at 18 ¶ 55).

More than 300 LCNRC employees applied for positions with the CCC. (ECF No. 115 at 21 ¶ 68). The applicants were examined by McFeeley during the fall of 2009. (ECF No. 98-3 at 5). Grane ultimately hired roughly 225 of the applicants to work for the CCC. (ECF No. 115 at 21 ¶ 68). Although most of the successful applicants were offered positions in person, there were situations in which individuals were offered positions by telephone. (Id. at 21 ¶ 69).

The CCC began its operations on January 1, 2010. (ECF No. 115 at 5 ¶ 16). Shortly thereafter, several unsuccessful applicants for employment filed charges of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"), alleging that Grane and the ECC had violated the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 ("ADA") [42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq.] by conducting pre-offer medical examinations of prospective employees and declining to hire some of them because of actual or perceived disabilities. (ECF No. 116-24). The EEOC commenced this action against Grane and the ECC on September 30, 2010,seeking injunctive and monetary relief to remedy the alleged violations of the ADA. (ECF No. 1). Grane and the ECC answered the EEOC's complaint two months later. (ECF No. 8). On September 14, 2012, the EEOC filed a motion for partial judgment on the pleadings. (ECF No. 60). Grane and the ECC responded to the motion by seeking permission to amend their answer. (ECF No. 64). The motion for partial judgment on the pleadings was denied without prejudice in a memorandum opinion and order dated March 15, 2013. (ECF No. 86). Grane and the ECC filed their amended answer three days later. (ECF No. 87). The parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment on July 8, 2013. (ECF Nos. 92, 95). Those motions are the subject of this memorandum opinion.

III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Summary judgment may only be granted where the moving party shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact, and that a judgment as a matter of law is warranted. FED. R. CIV. P. 56(a). Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, the Court must enter summary judgment against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish an element essential to his or her case, and on which he or she will bear the burden of proof at trial. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). In evaluating the evidence, the Court must interpret the facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, drawing all reasonable inferences in his or her favor. Watson v. Abington Township, 478 F.3d 144, 147 (3d Cir. 2007). The burden is initially on the moving party to demonstrate that the evidence contained in the record does not create a genuine issue of material fact. Conoshenti v. Public Service Electric & Gas Co., 364 F.3d 135, 140 (3dCir. 2004). A dispute is "genuine" if the evidence is such that a reasonable trier of fact could render a finding in favor of the nonmoving party. McGreevy v. Stroup, 413 F.3d 359, 363 (3d Cir. 2005). Where the nonmoving party will bear the burden of proof at trial, the moving party may meet its burden by showing that the admissible evidence contained in the record would be insufficient to carry the nonmoving party's burden of proof. Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 322. Once the moving party satisfies its burden, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party, who must go beyond his or her pleadings and designate facts by the use of affidavits, depositions, admissions, or answers to interrogatories showing that there is a genuine issue of material fact for trial. Id. at 324. The nonmoving party cannot defeat a well-supported motion for summary judgment by merely reasserting unsupported factual allegations contained in his or her pleadings. Williams v. Borough of West Chester, 891 F.2d 458, 460 (3d Cir. 1989).

IV. JURISDICTION AND VENUE

The Court has jurisdiction to entertain the EEOC's claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(f)(3), and 42 U.S.C. § 12117(a). Venue is proper under 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b).

V. DISCUSSION

Title I of the ADA contains provisions governing the conduct of covered employers in relation to their current and prospective employees. 42 U.S.C. §§ 12111-12117. Title I's anti-discrimination provision, codified at 42 U.S.C. § 12112(a), provides that "[n]o covered entity shall discriminate against a qualified individual on the basis ofdisability in regard to job application procedures, the hiring, advancement, or discharge...

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