Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Upah v. Mercy Medical Center

United States District Court, N.D. Iowa, Cedar Rapids Division

April 8, 2019

LISA UPAH, Plaintiff,



         This matter is before the Court on Mercy Medical Center's (“defendant”) Motion for Summary Judgment. (Doc. 11). Lisa Upah (“plaintiff”) timely filed her resistance (Doc. 12), and defendant timely filed a reply (Doc. 18). For the following reasons, the Court grants defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment on all three claims.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff worked as a credentialing coordinator at Mercy Medical Center from July 5, 2016, through January 17, 2017. (Docs. 11-2, at 1; 12-1, at 1). Before her employment at Mercy Medical Center, plaintiff had worked in the healthcare industry for twenty years and had worked as a credentialing coordinator at her previous places of employment. (Doc. 11-3, at 6-7). While working at Mercy Medical Center, plaintiff alleges that she experienced stress and anxiety as a result of the workload and treatment by her supervisors. (Doc. 12-2, at 1). Plaintiff felt that she was required to work overtime to complete tasks necessary to her role. (Id.). Plaintiff's supervisor, Bev Dawson, “was very adamant that overtime was not allowed, that it was not budgeted, there was zero tolerance for it.” (Docs. 11-3, at 47; 16, at 1). Plaintiff and Ms. Dawson exchanged multiple emails regarding plaintiff's time entry practices when plaintiff worked unapproved overtime, and instances when plaintiff needed Ms. Dawson to adjust plaintiff's time card to add unreported overtime. (Doc. 11-3, at 77-82, 84-87).

         To alleviate some of the “stress and anxiety” that plaintiff asserts she felt due to her job, plaintiff requested that another employee take over some of her job duties. (Doc. 12-1, at 2). Ms. Dawson denied that request. (Docs. 11-2, at 2; 12-1, at 2). Ms. Dawson also offered to find plaintiff a role elsewhere at Mercy Medical Center, which plaintiff declined. (Doc. 11-3, at 83; doc. 2, at 5).

         On September 23, 2016, plaintiff met with Ms. Dawson to discuss multiple challenges that she was experiencing in the workplace. (Docs. 11-2, at 1-2; 12-1, at 1-2). Following the conversation, Ms. Dawson sent an email “summarizing the meeting and offering solutions to help [p]laintiff perform her job satisfactorily.” (Docs. 11-2, at 2; 12-2, at 2; see also 11-3, at 93-94). On October 21, 2016, plaintiff received a 90-day performance review in which she received “needs improvement” ratings for the Competencies, Resource Utilization/Financial Management/Productivity, and Leadership categories. (Doc. 11-3, at 88-89). For the other categories in the performance review- Service Excellence, Quality Improvement, Continuous Learning, House Orientation, and Initial Orientation-plaintiff's performance was found to be “satisfactory.” (Id.). The evaluation also indicated that additional orientation was needed. (Id., at 89).

         Plaintiff claims that her relationship with Ms. Dawson and other Mercy staff continued to deteriorate over the next few months, from November into December. (Doc. 2, at 6; doc. 11-3, at 20). Plaintiff saw her family doctor on December 16, 2016, who diagnosed plaintiff with anxiety and prescribed her medication. (Docs. 12-2, at 2, 16; 11-3, at 48). Subsequently, plaintiff scheduled an employee assistance program (EAP) appointment at Mercy Medical Center. (Docs. 11-2, at 3; 12-1, at 3; 16, at 3). On December 21, 2016, plaintiff spoke with Carla Schulz, MD, a doctor at Mercy Medical Center, and Nancy Hill-Davis, a human resources specialist at Mercy Medical Center, about perceived harassment by Ms. Dawson, the stress plaintiff alleged she was experiencing, and what plaintiff contended were perceived Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (“HIPAA”) violations by Ms. Dawson. (Docs. 12-2, at 1-2; 16, at 1-3). The same day that plaintiff met with Ms. Hill-Davis and Dr. Schulz, Ms. Dawson sent an email to Ms. Hill-Davis stating that plaintiff's “performance ha[d] actually been declining” since the first 90-day review and seeking guidance on how to proceed if plaintiff did “not pass her second probationary period.” (Doc. 11-3, at 83).

         The events that plaintiff contends violated HIPAA included a conversation between Ms. Dawson and Lisa Brandt-another Mercy Medical Center employee-in which Ms. Dawson generally “sp[oke] poorly” of a doctor's character, and a separate conversation when Ms. Dawson commented to plaintiff about a doctor still living with his mother. (Doc. 11-3, at 23-25). Plaintiff concedes that she did not hear Ms. Dawson comment on medical conditions of any patients or physicians. (Docs. 11-3, at 24; 12-1, at 4).

         At the same December 21, 2016 meeting, plaintiff told Dr. Schulz and Ms. Hill-Davis that plaintiff had not been paid for sixteen overtime hours that she had worked the weekend of December 18 and 19, 2016.[1] (Doc. 11-3, at 26-27). After Dr. Schulz and Ms. Hill-Davis were informed of the unreported overtime hours, defendant paid plaintiff for the sixteen hours of overtime. (Id.). Although Ms. Dawson told plaintiff multiple times that the budget did not allow for overtime, it appears defendant paid plaintiff for all overtime hours she reported. (Doc. 11-3, at 79-82, 84-86, 95). Plaintiff continues to claim that some of her overtime hours were not paid by defendant, but plaintiff cannot provide an estimate of how many hours went unpaid, and she does not have documentation of the extra hours. (Docs. 11-3, at 26; 12-2, at 3).

         Plaintiff was terminated from her position on January 17, 2017, and plaintiff filed a report with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission on January 19, 2017 (“ICRC”). (Docs. 2, at 3-4; 2-1, at 8-15). When plaintiff first filed her report, she did not indicate that she believed she had been discriminated against based on a disability, though she did note that she was diagnosed with anxiety. (Doc. 11-3, at 20). After submitting the report, an ICRC representative called plaintiff, and informed plaintiff that anxiety was considered a disability. (Doc. 11-3, at 20). The representative asked plaintiff if she wanted to change her response on the ICRC report to indicate that plaintiff did believe she had been discriminated against based on a disability. (Id.; see also Docs. 1-1, at 59; 2-1, at 9). Plaintiff stated she would like to change her answer, so the representative modified the form. (Doc. 11-3, at 20-21).

         Plaintiff then requested an administrative release to sue in state court, which was granted by the ICRC. (Doc. 1-1, at 66). Plaintiff filed a complaint in the Iowa District Court for Linn County on November 22, 2017. (Doc. 1-1, at 51-57). After plaintiff amended her complaint to add a Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) claim (Doc. 2), defendant filed a notice of removal to this Court under Title 28, United States Code, Sections 1331 and 1441(a) (Doc. 1). On December 31, 2018, defendant filed its motion for summary judgment on all counts. (Doc. 11).


         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a), “[t]he court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” A court should address both whether there is a genuine issue, and whether the issue concerns a material fact. The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals has noted “that summary judgment is a drastic remedy and must be exercised with extreme care to prevent taking genuine issues of fact away from juries.” Wabun-Inini v. Sessions, 900 F.2d 1234, 1238 (8th Cir. 1990) (citation omitted). The United States Supreme Court has held, however, that when “the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party, there is no genuine issue for trial.” Matushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). “[T]he mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgement; the requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material fact.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986) (emphasis in original).

         When considering a motion for summary judgment, a court must view all the facts “in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion.” Matushita., 475 U.S. at 587 (1986) (citation omitted). The moving party bears “the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion and identifying those portions of the record which show a lack of a genuine issue.” Hartnagel v. Norman, 953 F.2d 394, 395 (8th Cir. 1992) (citing Celotex Corp v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986)). The nonmoving party must then offer ‚Äúspecific facts showing that there is a genuine ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.