LaRochelle v. Wilmac Corp.

Decision Date27 September 2016
Docket NumberCIVIL ACTION 12-CV-5567
Citation210 F.Supp.3d 658
Parties Mary LAROCHELLE, et al., Plaintiffs, v. WILMAC CORPORATION, et al., Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Eastern District of Pennsylvania

Nina B. Shapiro, Lancaster, PA, for Plaintiffs.

Angela Allen Cronk, Burns, White and Hickton, Jeffrey S. Adler, Burns White LLC, West Conshohocken, PA, for Defendants.


Stengel, District Judge.


The plaintiffs, Mary LaRochelle, Sandra Riker, Emilia Shearer, Candice Galbreath, and Nicole Vasquez brought this employment discrimination action against Lancashire Hall, Wilmac Corporation, Wilmac Health Care, Inc., and McWil Group Limited (collectively "Defendants"). The plaintiffs were formerly employed at Lancashire Hall, a nursing home, as Certified Nurse Assistants ("CNA"). The plaintiffs bring claims under Section 1981 of the Civil Rights Act of 1866 ("Section 1981"), Title VII of the Civil Rights Act ("Title VII"), the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act ("PHRA"). Plaintiffs also bring claims for wrongful discharge under Pennsylvania state law. Defendants filed four motions for summary judgment regarding the claims of plaintiffs LaRochelle, Riker, Shearer, and Vasquez. For the reasons that follow, I will deny summary judgment with respect to LaRochelle's Title VII retaliation claim, Vasquez's Title VII retaliation claim, and Shearer's ADA retaliation claim. Defendants' motion as to all other claims is granted.


Although the plaintiffs shared the same employer, their allegations of discrimination are factually unique. Therefore, the facts underlying the claims of each plaintiff are set forth, individually, below.

A. Mary LaRochelle

Plaintiff Mary LaRochelle ("LaRochelle") is a forty-seven year old African American female. Doc. No. 291 ¶ 23. LaRochelle was hired by Lancashire Hall as a CNA beginning on June 15, 2010. Doc. No. 64-22 ¶ 1. Lancashire Hall is a nursing facility in Lititz, located in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Doc. No. 29 ¶ 47. Both parties agree that LaRochelle was hired on a PRN (as needed) basis. Doc. No. 84-23 ¶ 2. According to LaRochelle, she worked 11:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11:00 p.m. to 7:30 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights. Id. ¶ 4. On September 1, 2010, Lancashire Hall decided that full time, part time, and PRN staff would only be permitted to work full shifts. Doc. No. 64-2 ¶ 4.

Soon after she was hired, LaRochelle claims a co-worker, Teddy Bernard, began to harass her. Doc. No. 84-2 ¶ 27. Bernard was hired on June 29, 2010, shortly after LaRochelle was hired. Id. According to LaRochelle, Bernard came up from behind her and wrapped his arms around her while pressing his body against her and touching her breasts. Id. LaRochelle also states Bernard said "let's hook up" to her. Id. Bernard purportedly grabbed LaRochelle's hips and made sexual comments. Id. LaRochelle alleges she complained about Bernard's behavior to Human Resources Director Tonya Garcia, Administrator Michael Stuck, and Corporate Vice President of Human Resources Tom Shugars. Id. Following her complaints about Bernard's behavior, Bernard's advances apparently intensified and he threatened her saying, "Since I have your attention it would be in your best interest to do what I want." Id. LaRochelle says she asked Elizabeth Woland to reassign her to a different wing, but Woland told her that because she was PRN she had to work where she was assigned. Id.

In September 2010, LaRochelle was working on the Rehab Wing under the direction of Charge Nurse Baron Geib. Id. In front of Geib, Bernard allegedly slapped LaRochelle on the "behind" and said to "give me some of that ass." Id. LaRochelle told Bernard to remove his hands and Geib laughed and said, "Teddy keep your hands off our House Nigger." Id. LaRochelle went to Night Supervisor, Donna Astree, to tell her that she would like to call the police and file a report for assault, but Astree told LaRochelle that she "was not allowed to call the police because the matter had to be handled in-house." Id. LaRochelle gave a written complaint to Astree who assured that the complaint would go to Human Resources. Id. LaRochelle then reported the incident to Garcia who told LaRochelle that she had to follow the "chain of command." Id. On September 22, 2010, LaRochelle spoke with Stuck at 3:15 p.m. about Bernard's behavior toward herself and other female employees, and about Geib's alleged racial harassment. Id. Following investigation and suspension, Bernard was fired by Defendants on July 6, 2011. Doc. No. 64-2 ¶ 28.

According to LaRochelle, Geib told her that he was going to request that LaRochelle work on his wing because she did not talk " ‘ghetto’ like every other Nigger there." Doc. No. 84-2 ¶ 38. Geib said to LaRochelle that she was "going to be Rehab's House Nigger." Id. LaRochelle told Geib that she was highly offended and went to Supervisor Harold Go's office to report Geib's statements. Id. LaRochelle claims Go told her that Geib was "just joking and that Plaintiff shouldn't take it so seriously." Id. LaRochelle told Go that she was not happy with that and Go said to her that he would speak with Geib. Id.

According to the Defendants' employee handbook, an employee who is "absent from work for two (2) unexcused days without giving proper notice to the facility will be considered as giving their voluntary resignations (abandonment of job)." Doc. No. 64-2 at ¶ 9 (citing Ex. E, Wilmac Family Handbook). Defendants' schedule reflects that LaRochelle was scheduled to work shifts on October 1, 2010 and October 2, 2010. Id. at Ex. D. The Defendants state that LaRochelle did not call or show for her October 1 and 2, 2010 shifts and therefore LaRochelle was terminated from her employment. Doc. No. 64-2 at ¶ 9. LaRochelle disputes her termination, stating that she was terminated on the morning of October 1, 2010, before her 11:00 p.m. shift began. Doc. No. 84-2 at ¶ 7. LaRochelle states that prior to her termination, she went to Director of Nursing Elizabeth Woland with a written statement of the discrimination and harassment mentioned above. Id. LaRochelle maintains that Woland tore up LaRochelle's statement and threw it in the trash. Id. After LaRochelle left Woland's office, Woland telephoned LaRochelle to tell her that her "services were no longer needed" and that she was terminated from employment. Id.

B. Sandra Riker

Sandra Riker is a white female born in 1964. Doc. No. 29 ¶ 46. On May 19, 2009, Riker was hired as a CNA at Lancashire Hall. Id. at ¶ 47. In February 2009, Riker reported a work injury to her thumb as a result of a combative patient. Doc. No. 85-44 ¶ 3. The injury did not result in time lost from work or light duty and Riker did not collect workers' compensation for that injury. Id. Around two years later, on June 23, 2011, Riker left a note under the door of the Human Resources Director, Tonya Garcia, reporting co-worker Teddy Bernard for sexual harassment and patient abuse. Doc. No. 66-25 ¶ 4. Riker's June 23rd note states that "Teddy Bernard came up behind me, hugging me (from behind) & saying ‘You know you still my girl.’ Because this behavior has largely been ignored by licensed staff I fear retaliation for my concerns." Def.'s MSJ Ex. E. In response to Riker's note, on June 27, 2011, Garcia contacted Riker. Def.'s MSJ Ex. F. Riker explained the incident with Bernard to Garcia and advised Garcia that she did not want Garcia to look into the incident further, but rather she just wanted the nurses to know what to do if someone reports an incident to them. Id. Riker also stated that she felt comfortable working on the floor with Bernard, but that she was going to talk to Bernard herself to let him know she felt uncomfortable with the situation. Id. Riker revealed that many other employees felt uncomfortable working with Mr. Bernard, but she would not give the names of those employees to Garcia. Id. A few days after her conversation with Riker, Garcia launched an investigation of Bernard which spanned from June 30, 2011 through July 1, 2011. Doc. No. 66-2 ¶ 10. Garcia took statements from several of the employees working with Bernard. Id. ¶ 11. Bernard was suspended following the investigation. Id. ¶ 14. On July 6, 2011, Bernard was terminated. Id. ¶ 16.

Riker contends that the June 23, 2011 letter to Garcia was not the first time that she had reported Bernard. Doc. No. 85-4 ¶ 4. The first time that Riker says she brought up concerns regarding Bernard's behavior was around June 2010. Id. Riker told RN Supervisor Donna Astree that Bernard would "yell and scream at Plaintiff Riker so loudly that the incident caused Plaintiff Riker panic attacks and ‘horrific memories of her ex-husband.’ " Id. On September 26, 2010, Riker reported to Garcia and Administrator Michael Stuck that Bernard had sexually harassed another co-worker, Joanne Leon-Jeremiah, after Leon-Jeremiah had told him to "stop touching her and stay out of her personal space." Id. Additionally, Riker reported that Bernard had brought in alcohol for a resident patient and had conspired with that resident to accuse Leon-Jeremiah of abusing the resident. Id. According to Riker, Garcia told Riker that she would only accept Riker's statement once Riker "was an actual sexual assault recipient of Teddy Bernard and not just a third party victim of harassment."Id. (citing Riker Resp. to Interrog. p. 15 Ex. N).

Riker also requested that Linda Davis, a Staff Development member, provide her a copy of the company's sexual harassment policy and for Davis to identify the compliance officer by name and provide a phone number for the officer. Id. Riker claims the name and phone number of the compliance officer was never provided to Riker and that the company's Handbook was missing pages for sexual harassment policy. Id. When Davis asked Riker why Riker wanted the policies, Riker states she told her about Bernard's behavior. Id.

Riker alleges...

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