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Kochert v. Lindsay Municipal Hospital Auth.

United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma

September 19, 2019




         Now before the Court are the Motion to Dismiss of Defendant Kamil Nemri, MD (Doc. No. 41) and the Partial Motion to Dismiss of Defendant Lindsay Municipal Hospital Authority (Doc. No. 43). Based on the case record, the parties’ arguments, and the governing law, the Motions are granted in part, and denied in part, as set forth below.

         Summary of the Pleadings

         From January 2005 to March 2016, Plaintiff Sheryl Kochert was employed as a part-time “Flex Nurse” by the Lindsay Municipal Hospital Authority (the “Hospital”) in Lindsay, Oklahoma. Am. Compl. (Doc. No. 40) ¶¶ 14-15, 25-26. During this time, Plaintiff’s salary remained stagnant, and she was passed up for promotions and other advancement opportunities afforded to younger, less experienced nurses who were paid the same or a higher wage. Id. ¶¶ 25-26. Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that she was denied the opportunity to apply for a vacant Director of Nursing (“DON”) position and that, without posting or otherwise advertising the position, the Hospital selected a young nurse to fill the vacancy “over older, more experienced nurses.” Id. ¶ 63; see also Id . ¶¶ 17, 138. Plaintiff further alleges that, at some point during her tenure, she became “targeted for the creation of a hostile work environment” by a group of younger coworkers who “routinely met during and after work to discuss employees whom they did not like and wanted to get out of the hospital.” Id. ¶ 61.

         Beginning in 2014, Plaintiff “made multiple complaints to her superiors about her treatment at the Hospital and asserted her rights under Title VII, the Age Discrimination and Employment Act, and the Oklahoma Anti-Discrimination Act.” Id. ¶ 27. Plaintiff additionally complained about the Hospital’s “failure to follow state and federal guidelines” and voiced her concern that substandard conditions at the Hospital, such as “insufficient staffing” and “outdated or malfunctioning equipment, ” created “risks to patients and staff” and impaired Plaintiff’s ability to “perform her job in accordance with state and federal laws.”[1] Id. ¶¶ 20-21. When no corrective action was taken, Plaintiff escalated her complaints to the Hospital’s Board of Directors and to the City Council for the City of Lindsay. Id. ¶¶ 28-29.

         On or about February 19, 2015, Plaintiff met with the Hospital’s Human Resources Manager, who “advised Plaintiff that, if she continued to pursue the issues she complained of, she would be terminated or forced to resign.” Id. ¶ 30. Plaintiff on April 14, 2015, contacted the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) to report the ongoing discriminatory conduct occurring at the Hospital. Id. ¶ 31.

         Plaintiff also lodged complaints against Dr. Kamil Nemri. In September and October of 2015, Plaintiff reported Dr. Nemri to the Hospital’s complaint division for giving orders that would have “violate[d] standards of safety for patient care and discrimination” if followed and for rendering substandard medical treatment to a patient who ultimately died in the Hospital’s care. Id. ¶¶ 34, 45, 48; see also Id . ¶ 139. In October 2015, Plaintiff filed similar complaints against Dr. Nemri with the Oklahoma State Department of Health and the Oklahoma Board of Medical Licensure. Id. ¶ 48, 50. In response, Dr. Nemri “threatened Plaintiff’s job . . . and offered a reward to the employee who divulged who made complaints about him.” Id. ¶ 51; see also Id . ¶ 135. He also “advised Plaintiff to get over the past and move on.” Id. ¶ 136.

         Shortly after making her complaints against the Hospital and Dr. Nemri, Plaintiff experienced “a noticeable reduction in her schedule.” Id. ¶ 32. “Between October 2015 and March 2016, Plaintiffs hours were limited to less than the minimum for a Flex Nurse, her shifts were cancelled, and her hours were given to younger nurses.” Id. ¶ 39. Moreover, Plaintiff was prevented from renewing her Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support (“ACLS”) certification, which she “is required to have” in order to work in the Emergency Room. Id. ¶¶ 40-41. Plaintiff alleges “[o]n information and belief that Dr. Nemri, alone or in combination with others, “actively interfered with and prevented [her] from obtaining the ACLS re-certification.” Id. ¶ 42; see also Id . ¶ 137.

         After refusing to drop her complaints, Plaintiff was terminated from her employment with the Hospital on March 11, 2016. Id. ¶ 59. She filed this action on June 21, 2017.[2] Id. ¶¶ 11-12.

         Plaintiff’s sole claim against Dr. Nemri is for tortious interference with her employment relationship with the Hospital.[3] Plaintiff alleges that Dr. Nemri interfered with her employment relationship in the following ways:

• by “creat[ing] a hostile work environment for Plaintiff, ” Am. Compl. ¶ 134;
• by “threaten[ing] Plaintiff’s job after she complained about him, ” id. ¶ 135;
• by “offer[ing] a reward to [] anyone who divulged the name of the person who made the complaints about him, ” id. ¶ 135;
• by “advis[ing] Plaintiff to get over the past and move on when she complained about discriminatory treatment by Dr. Nemri, ” id. ¶ 136;
• by “actively interfer[ing] with and prevent[ing] Plaintiff from obtaining her ACLS re-certification, ” id. ¶ 137;
• by “participat[ing] in the decision to promote [a younger nurse] to DON, a position that was never posted or advertised for Plaintiff to apply for, ” id. ¶ 138; and
• by “[giving] orders during a mandatory nurse meeting which, if followed, would violate standards of safety for patient care and discrimination, ” thereby “jeopardiz[ing] Plaintiff’s nursing license, ” id. ¶ 139.

         Plaintiff alleges that, as a result of the foregoing conduct, she was: (1) “overlooked for promotions for which she was otherwise qualified”; (2) “placed on a punitive work schedule, ” resulting in “lost time from work”; and (3) “eventually discharged from her employment.” Id. ¶ 140.[4]

         Plaintiff asserts six claims against the Hospital. Specifically, Plaintiff claims that the Hospital: (1) subjected her to unlawful age discrimination; (2) engaged in unlawful retaliation; (3) violated the Oklahoma Anti-Discrimination Act, Okla. Stat. tit. 25, § 1350; (4) is liable under Burk v. K-Mart Corp., 770 P.2d 24 (Okla. 1989), for terminating Plaintiff in contravention of public policy; (5) breached the terms of a settlement agreement she had entered into with the Hospital; and (6) violated Plaintiff’s ...

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