United States District Court, N.D. Iowa, Cedar Rapids Division
WILLIAMS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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.
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).
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).
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).
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).
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).
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. (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,
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).
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).
STANDARD OF REVIEW
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
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
“specific facts showing that there is a genuine