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Alves v. AHS Management Co., Inc.

United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division

January 24, 2017

ROBIN ALVES, Plaintiff,
v.
AHS MANAGEMENT COMPANY, INC., d/b/a ARDENT HEALTH SERVICES, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          WAVERLQC-D. CRENSHAW, JR., UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE

         Pending before the Court is AHS Management Company, Inc., d/b/a Ardent Health Services' (“Ardent” or “Defendant”) Motion for Summary Judgment (“Motion”). (Doc. No. 23.) For the reasons stated below, the Motion will be GRANTED.

         I. Undisputed Facts

         A. Plaintiff's Position and Performance

         Robin Alves (“Alves” or “Plaintiff”) began working for Ardent as a Helpdesk Shift Lead on February 17, 2003 and, on November 15, 2004 was promoted to Helpdesk Manager. (Doc. No. 30, ¶¶ 1, 3.) She provided technical support to Ardent's hospitals and health care workers. (Doc. No. 35, ¶¶ 1-2.)

         In March 2013, Ardent hired Steve Penny (“Penny”) as its Vice President of Information Technology and Chief Technology Officer. (Doc. No. 30, ¶ 12.) Alves began reporting directly to Penny. (Id. at ¶¶ 10-11.) In Alves' 2013 performance review, Penny identified several areas that Alves needed to improve. (Id. at ¶ 17; Doc. No. 26-1, p. 52.) On October 20, 2014, Penny informed Alves that her current performance was negative and she still needed to work on the issues he identified in her 2013 performance review. (Doc. No. 30, ¶¶ 19-20.) He told her that she was not a “good fit” for her current position. (Id. at ¶ 20.) The following day, Alves applied for a lower-level position at Ardent as a revenue cycle analyst (id. at ¶ 21) that was “put on hold” (Docs. No. 31-1, 91:22-93:12; 35, ¶ 20).

         2. Plaintiff's Medical Conditions

         On February 23, 2015, Alves was diagnosed with carpal tunnel and scheduled for surgery on March 6. (Doc. No. 30, ¶¶ 31-32.) That same day, she applied for leave under the Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”), by contacting Ardent's third-party FMLA leave administrator, FMLASource. (Id. at ¶ 33.) Alves also contacted Ashley Whitaker (“Whitaker”), an employee in Ardent's human resources department who was responsible for coordinating leave, to inform her of the upcoming surgery, inform her that she had contacted FMLASource, and ask if she needed to provide anything else. (Id. at ¶ 34.) Whitaker told Alves that she would need a doctor's note, which she submitted. (Id.) During this conversation, Whitaker approved Alves' FMLA leave request because she needed surgery right away. (Doc. No. 31-1, 149:19-23.)

         3. Plaintiff's Termination

         In late 2014, Penny spoke with Steven Wilder (Wilder”), a human resources employee at Ardent, about potentially terminating Alves. (Doc. No. 30, ¶ 22.) Penny completed Alves' performance appraisal for 2014 and came to the conclusion that her role was not a good fit for her. (Id. at ¶ 23.) In January 2015, Penny began interviewing candidates to replace Alves. (Id. at ¶ 27.) On February 19, 2015, Penny informed Wilder that he intended to terminate Alves on February 25, 2015. (Id. at ¶ 29.) On February 24, 2015, Alves advised Penny that she would need time off for surgery on her wrists. (Doc. No. 30, ¶ 35.)

         On the morning of February 25, Wilder told Whitaker that Alves would be terminated that day. (Id. at ¶ 38.) Whitaker then told Wilder that Alves had just applied for FMLA. (Id.) Wilder did not inform Penny, prior to Alves' termination, that she had requested FMLA leave. (Doc. No. 31-12, 67:21-68:3.) That same day, Penny and Wilder met with Alves and terminated her employment. (Doc. No. 30, ¶ 39.) Penny never commented to Alves about carpal tunnel and no one said that her termination was because of her carpal tunnel. (Id. at ¶¶ 43, 45).

         II. Standard of Review

         In reviewing a motion for summary judgment, this Court will only consider the narrow question of whether there are “genuine issues as to any material fact and [whether] the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). The Court is required to view “the facts and reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party . . . .” Ferrari v. Ford Motor Co., 826 F.3d 885, 891 (6th Cir. 2016) (citing Cass v. City of Dayton, 770 F.3d 368, 373 (6th Cir. 2014)). Summary judgment in a case brought under the FMLA or the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) may be appropriate if there is no disputed fact on an essential element of plaintiff's claims, such as knowledge of the decision-maker. See ...


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