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Samuels v. Correctional Medical Services, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Central Division, Lexington

June 3, 2014

DONNA SAMUELS, Plaintiff,
v.
CORRECTIONAL MEDICAL SERVICES, INC. d/b/a Corizon, Inc., Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER

KAREN K. CALDWELL, Chief District Judge.

This matter is before the Court upon the Motion for Summary Judgment [DE 19] of Defendant Corizon, LLC ("Corizon"), formerly known as Corizon, Inc., and incorrectly identified as Correctional Medical Services, Inc., d/b/a Corizon, Inc., Plaintiff has filed a Response [DE 26] stating her objections, and Defendant has filed a Reply [DE 29] in further support of its Motion. Having considered the Motion and being adequately advised, the Court concludes that summary judgment in favor of Defendant is appropriate in this matter as set forth in this Memorandum Opinion and Order.

I.

Defendant Corizon provides medical care services to inmates at the Lexington-Fayette County Detention Center ("LFCDC") in Lexington, Kentucky. Corizon provides two medical records clerks at the LFCDC. One of those clerks serves as a part-time employee. The other is a full-time employee. Both are supervised by the Health Services Administrator ("HSA"). Mental health services and other treatment are provided to inmates at LFCDC by Bluegrass Mental Health - Comprehensive Care ("Comp Care"). Corizon's medical records division maintains and stores medical records for all inmates at the LFCDC, and Corizon is the custodian of these records. Employees from both Corizon and Comp Care must work cooperatively with one another to ensure that all have access to accurate medical records.

Plaintiff, who is African-American, began working for Corizon as a medical records clerk on April 4, 2005. She voluntarily resigned on May 9, 2007, but was reemployed on November 19, 2007, as a "PRN" or "as needed, " medical records clerk. Shortly thereafter, Plaintiff became a part-time medical records clerk.

Plaintiff attended Corizon's orientation program, during which she was to become familiar with Corizon's personnel policies and procedures, which are set out in a personnel manual titled Corizon Employee Success Guide (the "Guide"). The Guide includes, in pertinent part, Corizon's Equal Employment Opportunity Policy, Anti-Discrimination Policy, and Corrective Action Policies. The Corrective Action Policy allows, in pertinent part, employees to be informed regarding problems and correct performance or conduct deficiencies before more serious action is taken. Each employee receives a copy of the Guide at the time of hire and an additional copy each time the Guide is revised. Plaintiff acknowledged receipt of the Guide upon hire and the latest version of the Guide on March 30, 2012.

Upon her rehire, Plaintiff received a copy of her medical records clerk job description, which she acknowledged that she read and fully understood. The medical records job description provides that a medical records clerk's essential functions include retrieving medical charts for all healthcare staff or clinics as requested; filing daily all currently used medical records; assuring that charts are counter-signed by a physician and checking charts for completeness; releasing information at the direction of the Medical Records Supervisor, Medical Director, or HSA; securing all active and inactive medical records; answering the telephone, taking messages, and making telephone calls; typing letters, reports, and memoranda; maintaining a roster or appointment book based on scheduled appointments for both on and off-site appointments; ordering, receiving, and maintaining office supplies; adhering to safety and security policies and participate in disaster drills; demonstrating an ability to deal with and respond to stressful situations in a stressful environment; and maintaining regular and reliable attendance.

The medical records job description set forth performance expectations for medical records clerks, including, but not limited to: performance of all clerical duties related to the assembling and maintaining of medical records; maintaining accountability for the location of any medical record on file; taking on direct responsibility to pull records and deliver for clinical use; re-filing medical records upon completion of use; pulling records and performing studies as requested by the Director of Nursing ("DON"); and completing reports and performing other duties as assigned by the HSA.

As a medical records clerk, Plaintiff was responsible for maintaining health records for the sick call, dental and mental health clinics for the entire LFCDC. She was also responsible for refilling records and organizing the files, providing assistance to staff members in locating charts in the medical records department, and updating and filing medical records charts when they were returned from the clinic.

Jonathan Bowen was Plaintiff's supervisor at the time of her re-hire. While under Bowen's supervision, the Plaintiff received generally favorable evaluations annually. She again received generally favorable evaluations when evaluated by her new supervisor Erica Burnside in March 2011. Despite having areas of concern, the Plaintiff's evaluations were generally satisfactory.

In April 2011, Patricia Tomlin became Plaintiff's new supervisor. During Tomlin's tenure, on August 2, 2011, Crystal Shadd, the Director of Comp Care, sent an email to Tomlin stating that when Dana Mullins, Case Manager with Comp Care, sought help from medical records to locate a mislabeled file, Plaintiff was rude and refused to assist her in locating the file. On August 4, 2011, Mullins emailed Tomlin to address issues with the medical records staff, including their negativity and refusal to help her locate a requested file. On August 11, 2011, Tomlin received another email from Shadd about an incident she had witnessed between a dentist and both medical records clerks, one of whom was Plaintiff. Shadd stated that she had observed the dentist ask for a specific chart and that neither Plaintiff nor her co-clerk assisted him in finding the record. Shadd noted that the dentist seemed frustrated when he did not receive assistance. On August 16, 2011, Nicole Marinaro, a Corizon phlebotomist, emailed Tomlin regarding ongoing issues with Plaintiff's rudeness and unprofessional behavior when Marinaro needed assistance with locating charts.

As a result of multiple complaints, Plaintiff received verbal counseling from Tomlin on August 18, 2011. The verbal counseling was memorialized in a memorandum, which indicated that Plaintiff was "expected to treat all staff and departments with dignity and respect" and "to perform [her] job duties which include retrieving medical records when asked, and in a friendly and helpful manner." It also indicated that Plaintiff was "expected to comply with [her] job description which [she] read and signed on 11/11/07 which clearly defines [her] role in retrieving medical records." Plaintiff denied that she had been rude and disavowed all knowledge of the conduct mentioned in the complaints.

During the verbal counseling meeting, Levin Jones, Vice President, Operations, was also present. During the meeting, Jones told Plaintiff that the verbal counseling was just a counseling to let her know what occurred and that it would be removed from her file within six months. The verbal counseling did not result in any change in Plaintiff's employment status. After that meeting, Plaintiff understood that she was responsible for retrieving medical records.

Concerned with what were, to her, anonymous complaints received by Tomlin from jail staff, Plaintiff began her own inquiry and discussed the complaints with Major Hill, who was not a Corizon employee. Almost immediately, on September 29, 2011, a memorandum related to safety and security in the jail setting was distributed to all staff which specifically forbade all Corizon staff, including Plaintiff, from leaving their assigned medical areas unless directed to do so by the HSA or the Director of Nursing ("DON"). At about the same time, a memorandum was issued which required Plaintiff and her co-clerk to stagger their lunch breaks and other breaks to ensure that one of them would be available at all times during weekday working hours (7:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.) to pull charts requested by the medical staff.[1] This requirement effectively forbade Plaintiff and the other medical ...


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