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Loyd v. Saint Joseph Mercy Oakland

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

September 10, 2014

ANITA LOYD, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
SAINT JOSEPH MERCY OAKLAND et al., Defendants-Appellees

Argued July 29, 2014

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Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan at Flint. No. 4:12-cv-12567, Gershwin A. Drain, District Judge.

ARGUED:

Joseph T. Ozormoor, Grosse Pointe Farms, Michigan, for Appellant.

Daniel J. Bretz, CLARK HILL PLC, Detroit, Michigan, for Appellees.

ON BRIEF:

Joseph T. Ozormoor, Grosse Pointe Farms, Michigan, for Appellant.

Daniel J. Bretz, Anne-Marie Vercruysse Welch, CLARK HILL PLC, Detroit, Michigan, for Appellees.

Before: BOGGS, CLAY, and GILMAN, Circuit Judges. GILMAN, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which BOGGS, J., joined.

OPINION

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RONALD LEE GILMAN, Circuit Judge.

Anita Loyd, an African-American woman, worked as a security guard for 25 years at Saint Joseph Mercy Oakland/Trinity Health Hospital in Pontiac, Michigan before being terminated in July 2011 following an incident with an agitated and combative patient. Loyd was 52 years old at the time of her termination. She alleges that the hospital fired her because of her age, race, and sex, whereas the hospital contends that she was discharged for a major violation of hospital policy. The district court granted the hospital's motion for summary judgment on all of Loyd's claims. For the reasons set forth below, we AFFIRM the judgment of the district court.

I. BACKGROUND

Although Loyd had been employed as a security guard at the hospital since 1986, her disciplinary record was not unblemished. In 2001, for example, Loyd received a written warning for failing to help restrain a patient under circumstances very similar to the 2011 incident that led to her discharge; i.e., she questioned the authority of the medical staff to have the patient restrained. The record also shows that Loyd received a written warning in 2004 for refusing to work overtime hours.

Two more incidents involving Loyd occurred in 2010. In the first incident, Loyd left work due to illness without first obtaining permission from her supervisor, which constitutes a minor infraction under the hospital's discipline policy. The second incident involved Loyd abandoning her post without excuse or permission, which is a major infraction under the hospital's policy. In that incident, Loyd was found sitting on the porch of a house near the hospital while on duty. Loyd admitted to the underlying conduct, but claimed that her intent was to connect with the surrounding community. The hospital placed Loyd on final-written-warning status following this second 2010 incident.

Loyd and the hospital disagree on the details of the June 2011 incident that led to her termination. According to the hospital, Loyd was dispatched on June 16, 2011 to a room containing a female psychiatric patient. The patient was agitated and combative, and the medical staff needed

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help in restraining her. But instead of helping to restrain the patient, Loyd asked the patient why she was in the hospital. Loyd told the patient that she could leave the hospital if she had been admitted for a drug-related or alcohol-related (as opposed to a psychiatric) reason.

Mark Bott, one of the nurses on duty, then began to argue with Loyd. Loyd maintained that drug-related and alcohol-related admissions were different from psychiatric-based admissions. She also demanded to see the patient's admissions paperwork in order to determine whether the patient had been " petitioned and certified" (a hospital term for " involuntarily admitted" ). Loyd's actions exacerbated the patient's condition to the point where the patient tried to pull an IV out of her own arm. Two other security guards, Pete Kowalak and David Sikorski, eventually succeeded in restraining the patient. Loyd made no attempt to help Kowalak or Sikorski.

Although Loyd concedes that the June 16, 2011 incident occurred, she disputes the hospital's version regarding a number of the details. Loyd admits that she talked to the patient and told the patient that she (Loyd) would find out from the medical staff whether the patient could leave. She further admits that she walked out of the patient's room and asked a nurse, Sonya Moak, whether the patient had been petitioned and certified. Loyd denies, however, that she failed to help restrain the patient. She also denies that the patient became more combative as a result of Loyd's actions.

Following the incident, the hospital began an internal investigation. Moak drafted and filed an incident report with the hospital's Potential Error Event Reporting System (PEERS), which is a part of the hospital's quality-assurance review system. Ryan Hernandez, the hospital's human-resources representative, then took statements from witnesses. Two of the witness statements were provided by Kowalak and Sikorski. Kowalak's statement, dated June 20, 2011, explained that

[w]hen I arrived on this call I observed that . . . Loyd was discussing the patient's situation. She stated that there was no petition ordered. I also heard . . . Loyd state to the E.R. staff that coming to the ER for drugs or phsych [sic] problems were two different things[,] at this time writer [Kowalak] had stepped out of the room.

Sikorski's statement, dated June 17, 2011, recounted further details:

Upon my arrival to E.R. 19, Anita Loyd was already in the room, talking with the patient. Also in the room were R.N. Mark Bott and one other person whom I don't know. At one point I overheard Loyd tell the patient that she did not have to stay if she did not want to. Loyd went on to ask the patient, " What you in here for?" The patient replied that she " had a problem with drugs." Loyd then went and made a statement, " Drugs and alcohol is different than psych." " You can't keep her here, she can sign herself out." Bott was obviously agitated by these remarks and told Loyd, " You can't tell her that." " She has to stay." " You have no business talking to her." " She has a petition against her." The patient then demanded to see the petition. R.N. Moak was now standing at the room door and said to the patient, " Let me get it." Moak left the area and came back with the patients [sic] chart. Moak did not see the petition on the chart. Moak then got on the phone and asked someone if the patient was petitioned. Moak hung up the phone and stated that the social worker had signed a petition and that the patient was " unable" to leave. The

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patient then became upset and stated that she was leaving. The patient then grabbed her I.V. and tried to pull it out of her hand. Bott then grabbed the patient and prevented her from pulling out the I.V. Bott pushed the patient down onto the bed and started to put on the restraints. At this time, Kowalak and I assisted Bott in restraining the patient. Loyd did not assist in the restraint. After the patient was restrained, Kowalak and I left the room. Loyd stayed in the room with the patient.

Hernandez also obtained statements from Bott and Moak about the incident. Both statements confirmed that Loyd had questioned whether it was proper to restrain the patient. Bott, however, did not sign his statement until August 2011. The hospital claims that " because Bott works midnights and Hernandez worked days, Hernandez was unable to obtain Bott's signature . . . until weeks later."

Moak's statement is also dated in August 2011. The hospital states that Hernandez interviewed Moak twice (once immediately after the incident and once in preparation for an August 2011 grievance hearing), but that Hernandez recorded only the date of the later interview.

Hernandez eventually prepared a summary of the internal investigation that contained witness statements from Bott, Kowalak, Loyd, Moak, and Sikorski. The summary also contained a five-line excerpt from the PEERS report that Moak had drafted. That excerpt stated the following:

Nurse requested Security to restrain a " Pit & Certed" patient. Patient becoming agitated and verbally threatening (threatening to leave and threatening to stab staff). Anita tried to deescalate patient. Patient wanted to see petition and stated she came here to stop using drugs. Anita told patient that she could leave if she wasn't suicidal and stated to Nurse that patients that are here for drugs and alcohol are not Psych patients.

Steve Kazimer and Greg Williams, who were Loyd's supervisors, decided to terminate Loyd's employment on July 1, 2011 after reviewing the results of the internal investigation. The discharge notice explained that Loyd had

acted outside the scope of [her] duties and advised a patient incorrectly about the patient's ability to leave the premises. This behavior exacerbated the patient's behavior in a negative manner that resulted in the patient attempting to pull I.V. out & required [hospital] staff to place the patient in restraints. This is a major infraction [and a] violation of the employee discipline policy. Plaintiff is currently on a Final Written Warning therefore this infraction results in discharge from employment effective today 7/1/11.

Loyd subsequently filed a union grievance challenging her termination. The hospital denied the grievance at Step 3 of the grievance-adjustment process mandated by the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) between the hospital and Loyd's union, and upheld Loyd's termination. Following this action by the hospital, the union notified the hospital in writing that it was declining to arbitrate the grievance because " the Union decided[,] based upon the facts and evaluation of the likelihood of success on the merits of the case, that it was unlikely that . . . arbitration would result in the reinstatement of Ms. Loyd."

The hospital posted an advertisement for Loyd's position on July 21, 2011. Although the position was originally offered to a ...


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