NEEDREPLACE, Case No. 3:12CV2741.

CourtNew York District Court
Writing for the CourtJEFFREY J. HELMICK
Citation7 F.Supp.3d 731
Docket NumberCase No. 3:12CV2741.
Decision Date21 March 2014
PartiesPatricia STANLEY, Plaintiff, v. NORTHWEST OHIO PSYCHIATRIC HOSPITAL, Defendant.

7 F.Supp.3d 731

Patricia STANLEY, Plaintiff,

Case No. 3:12CV2741.

United States District Court, N.D. Ohio, Western Division.

Filed March 21, 2014

Motion granted.

[7 F.Supp.3d 733]

R. Kevin Greenfield, Greenfield, Killam & Frank, Toledo, OH, for Plaintiff.

Drew C. Piersall, Zashin & Rich, Columbus, OH, Matthew J. Karam, Office of the Attorney General—Employment Law, Columbus, OH, for Defendant.

JEFFREY J. HELMICK, District Judge.

Patricia Stanley filed her civil rights action against Northwest Ohio Psychiatric Hospital pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 2000e (Title VII). The hospital has moved for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a). (Doc. 40). Stanley has filed a response (Doc. 46) and the hospital has filed a reply. (Doc. 47).

I. Jurisdiction and Venue

The Court has jurisdiction over this action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331. Venue is properly before this Court under 28 U.S.C. § 1391 and N.D. Ohio R. 3.8.

II. Facts

The undisputed facts establish Patricia Stanley is a former therapeutic program worker for the Northwest Ohio Psychiatric Hospital located in Toledo, Ohio. Stanley worked for the hospital from May 24, 2010, until she resigned on November 27, 2012.

[7 F.Supp.3d 734]

This case involves an inexcusable event which occurred between Stanley and Robert Ackerman at approximately 6:00 a.m. on August 25, 2011, in the hospital.

The hospital is a state psychiatric facility operated by the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (department). The facility has two human resource employees: Lois Mason–Williams, who is the director, and Rachel Watson, who is Mason–Williams's subordinate. The final decision-making power concerning discipline lies with the hospital's Appointing Authority, Chief Executive Officer Dr. Mychail Scheramic, who was the CEO of the hospital at the time of the incident.

The hospital maintains its own police force, headed by Chief Richard Bingham. The police officers possess arrest powers, but refer criminal activities to the Ohio State Highway Patrol, who have the first right of refusal on criminal matters. The hospital police conduct administrative investigations and investigate employee and patient complaints. At the time of the incident, Officers David Rocco and Kyle Hodge were assigned to the shift in question.

Robert Ackerman worked at the hospital from May 6, 1991, until he resigned. I note there is a conflict in the evidence regarding Ackerman's resignation date. Ackerman's employment record reflects an August 29, 2011 date, while several other documents reflect an August 31, 2011 resignation date. This conflict is immaterial to the disposition of this case. Ackerman was a ward nurse for five years and worked as a nurse supervisor for the remaining years of his employment.

Stanley began working at the hospital on May 24, 2010, as a therapeutic program worker. Stanley was assigned to the third shift, which was from 11:00 p.m. until 7:30 a.m. As a therapeutic program worker, Stanley assisted patients with their care and documented the care provided in patient notes.

When Stanley began working at the hospital, she underwent orientation. During her second day of employment, Stanley received an “EEO Overview” conducted by former training officer Tom Ohns, which concerned several topics including sexual harassment. Although the department maintains a separate sexual harassment policy, Stanley does not remember receiving this policy. The hospital is permitted to maintain separate policies so long as the facility meets the minimum guidelines set forth by the department. Stanley believes the hospital's sexual harassment policy was distributed to her after the Ackerman incident.

Despite the training and policies, sexual discussions were common on the third shift and Stanley admits to engaging in such talk. “I felt comfortable enough to,” Stanley conceded. Other hospital employees attested hearing Stanley having sexual discussions.

The hospital requires two therapeutic workers to be assigned to each unit per shift. At the time of the incident, Stanley and therapeutic worker Rindy Crosby were assigned to Unit 400. At least one registered nurse was required to be at each unit per shift. Dennis Rodgers and Laurie Grant were the registered nurses assigned to Unit 400 on the night of the incident. The registered nurses reported to third shift Nursing Supervisors Robert Ackerman and Mary Hampton. Ackerman and Hampton reported to one of two Clinical Nurse Managers, who reported to Director of Nursing Kathy Anthony, who reported to CEO Scheramic. Ackerman was the third shift supervisor the night of the incident; Hampton was not working.

[7 F.Supp.3d 735]

Stanley's lawsuit is based strictly on the August 25, 2011 incident. She has not raised any sexual harassment concerns with any hospital employee prior to the incident. Stanley testified she had not heard Ackerman make any inappropriate sexual comments to other employees prior to the incident.

Stanley thought Ackerman was “cool” and an “all right” guy prior to the incident. He never made any inappropriate comments towards her with the exception of inquiring about her brassiere size during the early part of her pregnancy in February/March 2011. Stanley found the comment to be “weird,” but did not report the comment or tell anyone about the remark.

Stanley gave birth on July 3, 2011. The night of the incident was the first time she had seen Ackerman since she had returned to work from maternity leave. When she started work at 11:00 p.m. on August 24, Stanley reported in at the supervisor's office. Ackerman asked her if her nipples had gotten darker. Stanley responded by saying, “Oh my gosh, Bob,” and reported to her unit. Stanley does not recall anyone being present when Ackerman made this statement. The next time Stanley saw Ackerman was at approximately 6:00 a.m. on August 25.

Ackerman began talking to Stanley about her labor at the nurse's desk. Stanley was seated in a chair, with Crosby sitting to her right taking notes on a computer. Ackerman was sitting in a chair across from Stanley and Crosby. Rodgers was in the doctor's office, while Grant was at the nurse's station. Rodgers's view of the nurse's desk was obstructed and he did not witness the interaction between Ackerman and Stanley. Grant could see Ackerman and Stanley through the glass wall at the nurse's station. Grant did not hear or see anything inappropriate. Stanley describes this interaction as a twenty to thirty minute conversation regarding her childbirth, interspersed with questions and comments Stanley found offensive. Stanley testified “some of it was normal and then some of it was really gross.”

The first thing Ackerman did during this conversation which Stanley found offensive was to grab her stomach and ask her something to the effect of “did the doctor forget one in there.” Crosby scolded Ackerman for his actions. Later, Ackerman asked if Stanley had stretch marks, and if so, if they were red or white. Stanley redirected the question to Crosby, and said, “Why don't you ask Rindy? She has three kids.” Ackerman next asked her, “Do you still get wet down there now?”

Ackerman then asked Stanley if her breasts had gotten larger. Stanley responded, “I don't know.” Ackerman said, “I have a way of checking,” stood up behind Stanley as she was seated and grabbed her right breast. Stanley looked at Crosby and asked her, “Did you see what Bob just did to me?” Crosby responded by throwing her hands in the air and shaking her head. Crosby did not see Ackerman's hand contact Stanley's breast, but did view his hand moving away from her chest.

Ackerman immediately left the area and went to the doctor's office where Rodgers was working. Ackerman was in the doctor's office for a few seconds and then left the unit. After Ackerman left, Stanley went to the doctor's office and explained to Rodgers what had happened. Rodgers began obtaining information regarding the incident. Rodgers asked Stanley if she needed to go to the hospital, which she declined. Rodgers offered to contact third shift Police Officer David Rocco, or the administrator on call. Stanley declined as she wanted some time to think about what had transpired. Rodgers offered to walk Stanley to her car, which she declined.

[7 F.Supp.3d 736]

After reporting the incident to Rodgers, she talked to Grant, who allegedly “snickered” in response. Stanley's shift ended and she called her mother and sister on her way home from work to discuss the situation. Stanley recalls consulting the hospital's sexual harassment policy after the incident.

Stanley reported the incident at the beginning of her next shift at 11:00 p.m. on August 25 to Nursing Supervisor Mary Hampton. Prior to Stanley's report, Hampton testified she had never received any reports of any sexually inappropriate behavior from female employees about Ackerman. In response, Hampton contacted third shift Police Officer Kyle Hodge. Hodge testified he had never previously investigated Ackerman, had never received any reports of Ackerman engaging in inappropriate sexual behavior, had never heard Ackerman make any sexual comments, and no employee had approached him after the incident to complain of Ackerman engaging in similar behavior. Hodge's report reflects he received Hampton's call at 3:50 a.m. on August 26. Stanley provided a statement she prepared to Officer Hodge and Hampton, which Officer Hodge then transposed onto a statement form. Hodge interviewed Stanley at 4:45 a.m. on August 26. Officer Hodge obtained a statement from Hampton at 5:15 a.m. and a statement from Grant at 5:40 a.m.

Hampton reported the incident to Kathy Anthony when Anthony reported to work on August 26. Hodge turned his initial findings over to Chief Bingham. Hodge considered the incident to be a “big case,” and “had to be taken care of in a swift manner.”

After Stanley returned home...

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